Rest In Peace Jimmy Breslin.
I saw him first-hand at his best during the days when Son of Sam was writing Jimmy those crazy letters. I was then a copy boy scouring all incoming mail for yet another letter from the serial killer. Opening mail was never as exciting again.
Breslin was in his prime in the days reporters smoked cigars, drank whiskey (and just about everything else) and cursed a blue streak. I miss those days but I am so fucking grateful I was there to work in the same newsroom as Breslin and the great Pete Hamill.
It’s funny what you remember. Mine is a tiny silly detail. One night, the great Breslin was hungry and the only game in town was the 4th floor cafeteria which defined the term greasy spoon. Breslin didn’t care what he ate. He sent me down for his favorite sandwich–grilled cheese with tomatoes. I thought it sounded decent and began eating them myself and, whenever I do, I think of Breslin.
The thing about Breslin is that he never broke character, at least not around me. He growled, he cursed, and made mysterious references. But he was always Breslin and that was more than enough. A Pulitzer Prize winning columnist who owned this city. God bless….maybe I’ll have a grilled cheese with tomatoes today.
One final note. When writing about Breslin, everyone mentions his early column about JKF’s gravedigger but I always thought Breslin’s most affecting piece of writing was about his dear daughter Rosemary Breslin who died of a rare blood disease at the age of 47. I also knew Rosemary a little, met her in Los Angeles when she worked out there….check out Jimmy’s column below about his daughter’s death.
As it was with the mother who went before her, the last breath for the daughter was made before an onlooker with frightened eyes.
First, there were several labored breaths.
And here in the hospital room, in a sight not distorted by passion, was the mother sitting on the end of her bed, as the daughter once had sat on the mother’s in Forest Hills for a year unto death. They both were named Rosemary. When the mother’s last breath told her to go, the daughter reached in fear, but her hand could not stay the mother’s leaving.
By now, Rosemary, the younger, is married to Tony Dunne. He knew she was sick when he married her. He then went through 15 years of hospital visits, stays, emergencies and illness at home and all he wanted was for her to be at his side, day and night. His love does not run. And now, in the daughter’s hospital room, as it always does, fear and deep love brought forth visions of childhood.
The daughter is maybe 4, sitting on the beach. She wants money for ice cream. The mother’s purse had money to pay the carpenter at day’s end. Earlier, the mother had tried to pay a carpenter by check and he leaped away, as if the check was flaming. The daughter plunged into the purse and found no change for ice cream. With the determination that was to mark every day of her life, she went through that purse, tossing large bills, the carpenter’s money, into the air, digging for ice cream change. She sat there infuriated, throwing money into the sea wind. The mother was flying over the sand trying to retrieve it.
Another labored breath.
Then I could see her later, and with even more determination. Typing a script with tubes in her arms. Writing, rewriting, using hours. Clearly, being attacked by her own blood. She said that she felt great. She said that for 15 years.
I don’t know of any power that could match the power of Rosemary Breslin when sick.
Suddenly, the last breath came in quiet.
The young and beautiful face stared into the silence she had created. Gone was the sound of her words.
The mother took her hand, and walked her away, as if to the first day of school.