My Unprintable Elaine Stritch Story (Which I Am Publishing Anyway)

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Elaine Stritch 2 2009
[By Greg Hernandez (Greg in Hollywood) (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]

In the summer of 2008, my last year at WTIC, two great ladies of the stage passed through my studio. The first of these was Shirley Jones.

In those days, my mixed breed — call him a chowbrador — dog Malcolm came to work with me every day and slept in the studio, ignoring pretty much everybody. (Lowell Weicker: “McEnroe, why won’t your dog come over to me?”) The lone exception was basketball legend Rebecca Lobo who seemed to awaken in Malcolm a set of drives that he is surgically unable to act on. Maybe it’s her name.

Anyway, Shirley Jones was 74 at the time, and if she smelled anything like Rebecca Lobo, I could have had a terrible incident on my hands, so I decided to put Malcolm out in the car with the windows open under a shady tree, at least until I could scope out the situation.

It turned out Shirley Jones is a dog person and a PETA person to boot, so I had played the whole thing wrong.

A very short time later, Stritch was in town, trying out her “At Liberty” revue at Hartford Stage and running her local handlers ragged with complicated Starbucks requests whose execution never seemed to make her happy. She was otherwise delightful, and, as I escorted her into the studio, I explained who Malcolm was and why he was there. I told her the story of exiling Malcolm to protect Shirley Jones only to find out it was completely the wrong thing to do.  I told Stritch if she had any qualms about the dog I would instantly bring him out to the …

“Fuck Shirley Jones! My money’s on Malcolm,” La Stritch said gamely and cheerfully.  I’m not even sure exactly what that meant, but the overall sentiment of it was clear.

I am pleased to report that Malcolm is still alive. He’s a few months into his fifteenth year which means that, like Stritch, he has busted through the actuarial tables and that his reunion with her is inevitable and imminent.  He does pretty well most of the time, but traversing the space between the first and second floors of our house has become the equivalent of a K2 trek for him.

His friend Elaine used to open her London shows with the line, “As the prostitute once said, its not the work; it’s the stairs.”


We have named our police officers in such a way as to mess with your big stupid pot-addled head

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From this:

WEST HARTFORD — A 28-year-old man was arrested Monday morning after police conducting a search of his house allegedly found 46 marijuana plants.

Police said they obtained a search warrant for 848 Flatbush Ave. after receiving several anonymous tips concerning the address.

Officers executed the warrant at that address on Monday morning and discovered “a mid-level marijuana grow operation,” Lt. Ted Stoneburner said.

This week on the CMS

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The Scramble welcomes SuperGuest Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics Radio!

Also, a look back at this weekend’s Tony Awards with Frank Rizzo, who writes about theater for the Hartford Courant in his blog, “Behind The Curtain”. Last, the New Britain Rock Cats move is rockin’ the state and the vibrations are strong between New Britain and Hartford. Andrew Zimbalist, Professor of Economics at Smith College, and an expert on the business of sports, takes a cold, hard look.



What makes Canadian humor so funny, ‘eh? On this show, we’ll go beyond the polite accent and discover why Canadians think they’re so funny, how they stack up against American wit, and who has paved the way for Canadian humorists who are making audiences laugh today.



In February, President Obama said helping black men succeed is “a moral issue for our country,” and challenged everyone to do more than we’re doing now. He also tells black men to do for themselves, and not make excuses or blame society for their failures. To that end, he launched a $200 million, 5-year  initiative he’s calling, My Brother’s Keeper. But, Erik Clemons, president of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology in New Haven, says he can’t get  much traction against the forces that keep pushing black men back down and he wants an honest conversation about why. Ta Na Hesi Coates says helping blacks succeed is a whole lot more complicated than telling them to pick themselves up by their boot straps. Read what he says here and then come listen to our show.



 Simonetti - Rothaarige Frau öffnet gespannt den Liebesbrief

A.R. Gurney donated his iconic play “Love Letters” to Connecticut-based Greenwoods Counseling Referrals so they could provide more mental health counseling to those in need. The play will star James Earl Jones and be performed at the Warner Theater in Torrington on June 27. (Don’t forget to buy tickets.) This got us thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to have A.R. “Pete” Gurney talk to us about his career as a novelist and playwright and maybe find a few other people using letters as a literary device. So, that’s what we’re doing.



The Nose gathers ‘round some microphones and discusses all the talk-worthy, interesting, controversial, funny, outstanding news of the week. Call in early and often!


The Baseball Thing

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This first thing you have to do, if you want to ask normal journalistic questions about a big sports project, is prove that you’re a decent American and not some pansy, creampuff college boy who spent his adolescence holed up in a study carrel reading Herbert Marcuse and comic books instead of masturbating to the Mike Andrews/Reggie Smith rookie card like the normal guys.

Well, I had that particular baseball card. What I did with it is my business. If you want a more recent example, last Saturday night at a party, Jim Bouton sought me out and said a whole bunch nice things to me about a radio show we had done 30 hours before that. I glowed all night. Seriously. Jim Bouton made me glow.

I know how this works  In 1998, I opposed the Patriots deal from day one. The Courant, meanwhile, lost control of its bowels. The newspaper issued its first “Extra” in God knows how many decades. “TOUCHDOWN!” read the banner headline.  The editors and publishers behind this shameful breach of journalism had done exactly zero analysis. They were too dizzy from prospective jock-sniffing. A week or so later, the Courant sports section did a jolly list of 100 Great Things About the Patriots Coming to Hartford. Maybe it wasn’t 100. I don’t remember. I do remember that one of the great things was “Bruce Armstrong will beat up Colin McEnroe.” I was asking too many questions, you see. The sports department didn’t like that. They thought an offensive tackle should beat me up.

One more piece of bona fides: I’ve spent my adult life wanting the best for Hartford. Sometimes this has involved cheerleading. Sometimes, criticism. Sometimes it has involved active participation in the creation and performance of culture here. I work in Hartford, play in Hartford, park in Hartford. Tonight I have tickets for Hartford Stage, a Dwight Evans throw from the proposed new stadium.

OK? Jeez!

I still think there are some questions to ask and things not to like about this plan. Some of them will be dealt with in my Sunday column. Here are some others.

1. Will it work economically? Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist laid it out pretty well elsewhere in the Courant. If the city collects $500,000 in rent and pays a couple million in debt service, how does the city not lose money? Mayor Segarra apparently has a few ideas, but so far, they’re just that.  Any idea  that requires state approval is dicey because …

2. What does this do to Hartford’s profile at the Capitol? It’s pretty clear the Dan Malloy wants no part of this initiative. Segarra did not bring him along, and that may have consequences when Hartford wants something else from the state: the legislature and/or the governor. “Really? You need X? Funny. You seem to have $60 million lying around for baseball.”

3. Will it work economically for the Solomons, owners of the Rock Cats? Not that I care about their happiness. But if they finance ten percent of the stadium and quintuple their rent, is the franchise going to be OK? There are good reasons for asking about this.

The team playing in the $12 million Bernie Robbins Stadium in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which opened in 1998, folded in 2009. Wilbur Banks, a spokesman for Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, said now renamed Surf Stadium has hosted youth baseball tournaments and concerts since the team left.

That’s the nightmare scenario. The franchise folds, and Hartford gets stuck with …what?Lord White Elephant

4. What about Hartford’s Moody’s rating?  From the same article:

Moody’s Investors Service cut Ramapo’s rating two steps to A1, the fifth-highest level, in 2012, citing “considerable exposure” to the debt used to fund the stadium and two years of deficits. In October, Moody’s confirmed the grade and assigned a negative outlook.

5. Can we talk about the size and cost of this thing? Paul Doyle’s article today suggests that it’s in line with the trends, but that’s a little sneaky because most of Doyle’s examples are AAA teams. There’s a bigger gap in the economics of AA and AAA than the slight difference in letters would imply.  Also, the next step is looking at how many of these projects can be considered successful. Paul mentions Akron but fails to note that the building, designed for 9400, drew an average of 4220 last season. Here’s a helpful analysis on minor league stadium size. The authors do caution against paying too much for seats you don’t need, which then spreads out into additional maintenance costs.

6. I’m troubled by the degree to which this has been presented as a fait accompli, negotiated in secret and then rolled out with the Council votes supposedly already lined up, sans open public debate. There’s a public hearing Monday night, but, really, what they’re telling us is that its too late to ask questions. This is happening. Well, when was the right time to ask questions? This is antithetical to open, responsive government, and it’s also the way a lot of bad ideas become real things — because there’s nobody in the room asking the hard questions.

7. As a matter of regional policy, it doesn’t really make sense to spend $50 mililon or more in public dollars to move a private business 13.4 miles. If they want a new building, the Solomons should build one. As Ralph Nader said about this on WNPR, maybe it’s time for the capitalists to start acting like capitalists.

8. Bouton is in a terrific documentary coming out later this year. It’s called “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.” It’s the amazing story of a renegade minor league team in the 1970s, and it makes many wonderful points. But for now, consider this one. If we build the stadium and get behind the team, there will come a day when the Hartford nine are piling up wins and charging toward the playoffs, and what will happen? One of the best players will get called up to the Twins. And two more will get moved up to Twins AAA to replace other guys who got called up.  Never forget, the citizens of Hartford will be providing a service not only to the Solomons but also to the wealthy owners of the Twins, who will extend to us all the gratitude and respect you would extend to a paper towel.



The New York Times Is Losing It

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Ask any attorney who handles employment law: this is the dumbest thing the New York Times could have done. Even if its true, it’s a mistake to say it, because (a) it makes them look like they’re panicking and (b) the state of employment law in 2014 militates against both public and private belittling of one’s former employee. (It’s why references in employment have become kind of a joke.)

Piled on top of that is another question. Jill Abramson undoubtedly signed a severance agreement that includes a non-disparagement clause. She can’t say anything bad about the Times, and she can ‘t even say she signed such an agreement. It’ll be tied to her severance package. These have become commonplace. (If you think very hard, you’ll figure out how I know that.)

The question is: did her lawyer negotiate a reciprocal agreement? If so, the Times is in breach.

The Times also seems somehow involved in a less public version of this battle.  This Fox story contains information about two other employees that almost had to come from a Times source close to Sulzberger’s office:

In the Times’ view, compensation questions are complicated. For instance, when Andy Rosenthal took over as the paper’s editorial page editor, he was initially paid less than his predecessor, Gail Collins. It was Sulzberger who appointed Collins as the first woman to hold that job.



My Bad Prediction and the GOP’s Hidden Diversity

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Here is this week’s column.

First things first: So much for my predictive abilities.  My editor Peter Pach tried, on Wednesday, when I filed the column, to talk me out of this paragraph.

Six years later, here is their probable field: Five white men running for the five congressional seats. White men running for governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state. The Republicans are so white, they even found a white candidate named James Brown. The lone exceptions could be lieutenant governor (two credible white women seeking the nomination) and comptroller, where Angel Cadena Jr. has emerged as a candidate after the party chair admitted a month ago, that there was nobody planning to run.

I emailed him: “Well, unless I’m missing something, the ONLY way I could be wrong with any  of those statements would be if the white woman beat the white man in the second district. ” 

And guess what happened?  So they have one more white woman Congressional candidate than I had predicted. Not that that really solves their demographic problem. (Before you email me, yes, I know, the Democrats aren’t really much better.) They also did not choose the one and only person of color seeking office at their convention, the aforementioned Cadena. Sharon McLaughlin — you would have to be very familiar with the Ellington Republican Town Committee to know who that is — jumped into the race at the proverbial last minute and won.

But the other thing I could NEVER have predicted was the allegation by one lieutenant governor candidate that one of her opponents had conducted a whispering campaign about the fact that her husband is black.  Her husband is, in fact, Nigerian. His son, who has the same name, plays in the NFL, for the the Eagles.  All of that is not merely the coolest thing about Penny Bacchiochi. It’s the coolest thing about any of the Republican candidates in Connecticut this year.  And it’s much-needed (if tangential) diversity.  And the theory was that it was being whispered-about as a liability?

Republicans, I just don’t get you.

Phillippe Petit Leads A Sparkling Week on the Show

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Coming up this week on the Colin McEnroe Show:

Monday: The Scramble

Eric Deggans by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Eric Deggans by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Eric Deggans, music critic for NPR, joins us at the start of TV network upfront week. This is where the five major broadcast networks parade their best prospects for next year’s break-out hits in front of advertisers with lots of money. And, does it even matter what the networks are doing when so many others are making content? He’ll talk about that and more. And, we’ll bring you our favorite news of the weekend.


Tuesday: Navigating Our Way Home

Cellphones have the power to find immediately what world travelers in the last centuries spent lifetimes seeking– our place on the map. Hiawatha Bray, tech reporter for The Boston Globe, tells us how history may have been different if our ancestors had today’s technology to help them navigate more accurately. But, this pinpoint precision comes at a price. Where we didn’t used to know how to find ourselves, now we can’t get lost, no matter how hard we try. What was wrong with a map anyway? We also talk to a modern mapmaker and the author of a book about a rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps.


Wednesday: What’s On Your Child’s Reading List

It’s National Children’s Book Week and we’re celebrating with a show on the latest news and hottest books in the world of kids lit. We’ll have librarians and authors including WNPR’s own Jeff Cohen. We’ll get into the banning of books, yes, it is still done, the value of scary and dark books, and how technology is changing the way kids read. And, we want to hear from you. What children’s book changed your life?


Petit in "Man on Wire," photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Petit in “Man on Wire,” photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Thursday: Philippe Petit: We have loved Petit ever since the moment in “Man on Wire” when he says this: “To me it is so simple that life should be lived in the edge of life. You have to exercise in rebellion, to refuse to taper yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year,every idea as a true challenge – and then you are going to live your life on a tightrope.” For this show, the man who walked a wire from tower to tower at the WTC joins us from a studio in New York City for a full-length conversation about creativity. We’re also working on a mind-blowing surprise guest to join him there.


Carolyn Paine by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Carolyn Paine by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Friday: The Nose Actress, comedian and dance troupe leader Carolyn Paine is practically a three-person panel all by herself. She, cineaste/troublemaker James Hanley and culture savant Irene Papoulis will be with us for this conversation.

Fare Thee Well, My Martha

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Martha Dean by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Martha Dean by Chion Wolf for WNPR

It was a bad poll, but it was just one poll.

My guess is that Martha Dean is dropping out for other reasons, although God knows the bad poll didn’t help.

At this stage, it’s all about the delegates, and Dean probably wasn’t finding many who would support her at the convention. (Of course, you can use good poll numbers — if you have them — to sway delegates, so the bad poll was part of a vicious cycle.)

I think the bad publicity about her tax liabilities was also a bitter pill, especially because — to explain the tax problems — she had to talk about her Jarndyce v. Jarndyce custody battle.

And maybe the Newtown Truther stuff stuck with her more than she had expected.

On behalf of all of us snakes and vermin, I say that she will be missed.

I should also admit error. I said she would vault to the Number Two spot in the field instantly. I was wrong. I overestimated the hard core gun constituency in the state. And so did she.