Thursday, October 29, 2009


Save the cover story on sex for later, and make sure you read the fascinating behind-the-scenes piece on David Letterman. But first go to New York Magazine's feature on the new Hamlet on the Hudson, Rudy Giuliani.

The story will have local appeal since its scene-setter is Giuliani's recent appearance in Kingston (and quotes Ulster County GOP Chairman Mario Catalano). Even better, it tries to get into Giuliani's head in the wake of his poor showing in last year's presidential campaign and how it has impacted his political future and business ventures.

I came away from it believing Giuliani won't run for governor, given the quicksand atmosphere at the state Capitol.

One of the classic lines in the story involves Giuliani's favorable assessment of Albany because of its golf courses.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The letters race

It's been nearly 35 years since I got out of the prediction business following a few years of picking high school football games under the name of Major Hoople. So I'm not about to start prognosticating now about next week's elections. But decades of observing the flow of campaign letters to the editor have taught me this: Rarely is there a correlation between the amount of favorable letters about one candidate over another and the actual number of votes each ultimately receives.

The two contests drawing the most mail this year are the Ulster County Court judge race between incumbent Democrat Deborah Schneer and former Republican District Attorney Don Williams, and the race for Dutchess County Legislator between incumbent Democrat Joel Tyner and GOP challenger Pat Dealy.

After an early "lead" for Williams, the letters in the last week or so have been heavily tilted towards Schneer. Tyner has maintained an edge over Dealy from the start, although it's close.

The problem with most of the letters on both sides is that they smack of an organized effort. Save for several letters from those who have had personal experience with Williams, the writers pretty much rehash the same themes: Williams tough, but fair; Schneer more judicial experience; Tyner a hard worker; Dealy a candidate who will listen to the constituents.

The Freeman typically provide a considerable amount of space to squeeze in as many letters from all sides as possible. As previously noted, we never use them all. But we do feel it's our obligation to publish plenty of letters. I must confess, however, each year I authorize the extra space, then I wonder if it's worth it, so similar are most of the missives.

Maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps readers are studying the letters closely and making a final decision based on their contents. We'll never be sure.

My advice to candidates and their supporters (although it's too late for this year): Say something unique. We'll take it as a given that they're honest and dedicated and nice to their parents. To paraphrase Chris Matthews from his Sunday morning TV program, tell us something we don't know.


Fifty years ago, if you were a kid growing up in New York City, Soupy Sales was the man.

If you never heard of him, you're forgiven for wondering how someone named Soupy could ever be considered the man. You're further forgiven if you scratch your head after learning that Soupy was an after-school children's TV show host who made his name by taking pies in the face (and tossing them at big name celebrities like Frank Sinatra).

But if you saw Soupy on TV, you know he was more than that.

Soupy had an adult patter that fit just perfectly into a young baby bommer's sensibility. He was a comic whose jokes, often filled with double-entendres, went over Mom and Dad's heads, but hit home with the kids.

Check him out on YouTube, where there are several clips of his work. In particular, look for the byplay between Soupy and his "pets" White Fang, Black Tooth and Pookie. Don't ask. Maybe he won't translate to those who don't know him. I say, just look back and enjoy.

Soupy Sales died last week. A part of my youth went with him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mail time

*Word to the wise: If you haven't yet sent in your letter to the editor supporting the candidate of your choice, it's probably not a good idea to waste your time now. We already have many, many more letters than space will allow. And that takes into consideration plans to open more room for letters in the days ahead. That said, want to bet we'll get letters e-mailed as late as the day before the election (maybe even on Election Day itself)? It happens every year, as if we are waiting for 11th hour mail to fill holes in the paper.

*Yes, I did stick through the entire Yankees-Angels game last night, and I'm glad I did. It wasn't just that the Yankees won the pennant, something that this Bronx native grew up believing was the norm. But in the aftermath of the clincher, in the perfunctory trophy presentation ceremony in the clubhouse, Kenny Albert of Fox was brilliant. No kidding. He calmly did the introductions, deftly asked questions of the key people, didn't make himself part of the party, and, best yet, dispatched of New York City Mayor Bloomberg with nary a word. It's not that I dislike Bloomberg. But he obviously had no place on the podium in the midst of the celebrating players, manager and upper management. And after they stepped away, Bloomberg remained to Albert's left, obviously waiting to be interviewed. Sorry, mayor, this wasn't your moment. Bloomberg finally got the message and exited. The mayor will have his moment if there's a ticker tape parade and speeches at City Hall. Sadly for him, that likely will occur after next Tuesday's election.

*Speaking of Fox, Joe Buck was excellent behind the mike. No forced humor. Just first-rate play-by-play and, with Tim McCarver, solid analysis. The one who doesn't add anything to the Fox broadcast crew is Ken Rosenthal.

*If you don't catch CBS Sunday Morning each week at 9 a.m. you're missing one of television's most intelligent and informative programs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Picking the wrong fight

*President Obama and his advisers have it all over me in plotting political moves, so it's not from a position of strength that I disagree with them. But it says here their war with Fox News Channel is a bad idea. The New York Times goes behind the scenes of the decision here. In the old days, when people "fought" with newspapers, cooler heads would say, "Don't argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel." Don't know the cable TV equivalent, but the short of it is Obama can't win and Fox will get the last word.

*Speaking of Fox, Don Imus seems rejuvenated ever since his simulcast switched from obscure RFD-TV to the Fox Business Network. Not only is the show breezier, Imus is no longer covering his face with his cowboy hat, and he actually appears interested in what's going on. Beyond that, the TV production on Fox Business is far superior to RFD, and even better than when he was on MSNBC.

*There was a time not all that long ago when I'd watch the Yankees' post-season games from beginning to end, even if it meant late into the night and wee hours of the morning. But I took in only an inning of two of Game 4 Tuesday night because I had a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call Wednesday. And I watched less than that in Game 5 without a similar excuse. Not even a guilty conscience over the decision. What's up with that?

*Memo to Ralph W. Emerson: Sign your real name and our editor or I will engage you in a discussion. If you don't have the courage to tell us who you are, don't bother to write, we won't take you seriously.

Friday, October 16, 2009


*Coming next week to the Freeman's lineup of syndicated columnists is Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. His liberal slants will replace those of Marie Cocco, whose column no longer is being offered to us by their syndicate. For those keeping score at home, our liberal columnists lineup is made up of Ellen Goodman, Susan Estrich, Bill Press and Robinson. Conservatives are Kathleen Parker, Jonah Goldberg, Cal Thomas and Froma Harrop. Leonard Pitts, Mitch Albom and Andy Rooney are considered moderates.

*Imagine what it's like sitting in studio for an interview with WFAN-YES broadcaster Mike Francesa. He asks you a question. Then, while you're answering, he's turning the pages of a newspaper, seemingly distracted and uninterested with the guest's answer. See for yourself on the YES simulcast. But that all fits Francesa's M.O.: It's all about him. Not sure? Listen to him ask an unending, bad-for-radio question, first, then catch his "I agree" (as if his approval is required) when a guest offers a point of view.

*I don't pay attention to the NFL until Thanksgiving. I don't pay attention to the NHL until Jan. 1. I don't pay attention to the NBA.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the air and in print

*Norman Chad long has been one of the funniest guys in print. If you've never caught up to his work, check out this column from the Washington Post, which ought to tickle New Yorkers, even those who, unlike Chad, root for the Yankees.

*There's the bad ESPN (Chris Berman, Around the Horn, endless self-promotion, glorification of showboat athletes, failure to credit other sources of breaking news) and the good ESPN (Bob Ley, Outside the Lines, Sports Century, PTI). Add to the good ESPN a documentary series called 30 for 30. It's 30 hour-long films produced by high-powered filmmakers. Aired so far: Peter Berg on the Wayne Gretzky trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles, and Barry Levinson on the Baltimore Colts Marching Band (and how it was instrumental in getting pro football back in Baltimore after the Colts left town). See your DVRs.

*Speaking of PTI, co-host Tony Kornheiser, who made his bones at Newsday, The New York Times and the Washington Post , is particularly strong as a radio talk show host in Washington. He took a break from a prior radio program when he picked up the Monday Night Football TV gig. But now that he's free of that, he's back on the air on ESPN 980 in D.C. If you want witty, incisive commentary on sports and, better yet, movies, TV, politics and the like, you can load up his podcast daily on ITunes. As a fellow baby boomer with similar tastes, Kornheiser's "old guy radio" has personal appeal for me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn in the valley

*I guess I don't get out of the house enough on weekends. I'm not always clued in to what people are doing in the great outdoors. For example, a Sunday drive to New Paltz to entertain the granddaughter found what seemed like half the world there either picking apples, taking hayrides, gathering pumpkins, hiking near Minnewaska (parking lots were filled by midday) or otherwise enjoying a spectacular autumn afternoon by just looking at the leaves. A band played and old-fashioned sack races were going on in Hasbrouck Park in front of the old Campus School. Traffic on the main drag in the village was backed up for about a mile. A farmer's market was going on down by the river and the streets were filled. It had been so long since I headed up across 44-55, I wondered if the Mountain Brauhaus, a favorite restaurant dating back three decades, was still in business. I should have known better. It was packed. Up and over to 209, the story was the same: apples, pumpkins, hayrides, leaf-peeping. What a glorious day. And I didn't even get to the free Levon Helm concert at Gill's Farm. It takes an afternoon like this one to remind me why I settled in the Hudson Valley.

*I'm late on a couple of TV recommendations, so keep your eye out for repeats. One is the reality series Jockeys on Animal Planet, the other a two-hour documentary on the family that built the Los Angeles Times (and the city of Los Angeles by extension), called "Inventing LA."

*Hard to imagine a baseball announcer worse than the Yankees' John Sterling, but TBS' Chip Caray gives him a run for his money. What a terrible job he did calling the Yanks-Twins series. And this from a guy with an exceptional baseball broadcasting pedigree: His late granddad was the legendary Harry Caray and his late dad was the solid Skip Caray. Wasn't Chip paying attention?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who's on trial?

*Our justice system is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it makes you wonder. For instance, David Letterman is allegedly blackmailed. Now the lawyer for the man under arrest is trumpeting his desire to get Letterman on the stand to reveal more - as Letterman might call it - "creepy" things about him. Sounds like a warning to Letterman - legalized blackmail, if you will. The lawyer makes no bones about fighting for his client, even if Letterman, the victim of the alleged crime, suffers, too. See how it plays out in today's New York Times account.

*Nothing like settling in for an early night in front of the TV to watch the Yankees open the playoffs. Imagaine: A 6:07 p.m. first pitch. Nine innings before bedtime in this day and age of late starts and post-midnight conclusions. Sorry, Charlie. At 6:30 or so, the power went out in Woodstock. Maybe next time.

*Levon Helm's on Imus tomorrow morning. WABC-77 AM or Fox Business Network on TV. Starts at 6 a.m. Then at 2 p.m. Sunday it's a free concert by Levon and the band at Gill's Farm. Check our paper for details.

*Chatted with a local political type the other day about the relative quiet surrounding this year's local campaigns. Sure, it will pick up as Election Day nears, just as it always does. But it says here that with only a couple of countywide races, neither particularly contentious, and thoughts of most people focused on jobs, money, health care, terrorism and general brain overload from assorted other national issues, the local contests really do appear to be afterthoughts.