Compiled in 1996, I recall reading this collection then, but his writing has stayed so fresh, they seem new to me, like a city you go back to years later as if seeing it for the first time.
Pete’s a treasure alright, one of our last, fine New York newsmen in the wake of Jimmy Cannon, Murray Kempton and Jimmy Breslin, to just name a few.
One thinks of him as walking history, able to tell you first-hand about Vietnam, Watergate, and the night in June, 1968, when Bobby Kennedy was gunned down.
There’s also a slew of bios…Bob Fosse, Mike Tyson, Jackie Gleason and JFK.
But my favorite of all, is the one on Frank Sinatra that must have inspired his later book, Why Sinatra Matters (2009).
Frank calls him to meet him at Jilly’s, this little honky tonk bar on West 52nd Street his friend, Jilly Rizzo, owns. They’re watching a game in the back room when Pete enters. There are pretty women sprinkled around, like confetti, while the jukebox mewls a tune.
After an hour or so, Frank and Pete, and Frank’s date, a quiet blonde, climb into a limousine.
Right before, a woman asks Frank for his autograph he graciously gives.
“What do you think they do with those autographs?” he said. “Sell them? To Who? Trade them? For what? How does it go? Two Elvis Presleys for one Frank Sinatra? Two Frank Sinatras for one Paul McCartney? I don’t get it. I never did.”
Later on, after dropping the blonde off, walking her to her door, he said, “And women, I don’t know what the hell to make of them, do you?”
“Everyday I know less,” Pete answers.
I’ll agree with that.