A year or so working as a reporter at 220 E. 42nd Street around 1993 completely changed my life. It was part of nearly four years I spent on the staff at the Daily News, once one of the largest-circulation publications in the world but already in the midst of a long, slow decline. I was honored to have met most of the “oddballs and brilliant people” that my sometime client, mentor, and extraordinary professor of journalism Tom Robbins describes in his wistful remembrance in the New Yorker.
I was humbled every day to be part of a paper going out to hundreds of thousands of readers in the world’s greatest city. I sat behind Jerry Capeci as he worked his FBI sources to figure out who set off the enormous bomb in the WTC parking garage. Gene Mustain and I wrote about that era’s heroin epidemic: “Smack is Back.” Before we moved to the Bronx Bureau with Bob Kappstatter and Rafael Olmeda, my dearly departed friend Raphael Sugarman managed to trade food stamps for drugs in the wintertime on 125th Street and we wrote it up from that seventh floor newsroom.
For two miserable weeks, I filled in for the amazing lobster shift reporter, Tom Raftery; after everyone else went home, my biological clock was so out of whack I could scarcely think, let alone think straight enough to report to the morning editors or write anything coherent. I worked for Don Forst the summer before, then interviewed him when New York Newsday shut down. I “interviewed” Michael Jackson as he munched on sushi with Lisa Marie Presley and reported on the conception of Lourdes Leon. I worked and competed with Rob Speier, the wunderkind who lasted only about a year, was profiled by 48 Hours prancing on 42nd Street, and then left to become a real estate mogul.