Jay Goldin Remembers Johnny Apple
I had a great post-Princeton experience with Johnny Apple that I thought might amuse you. I knew Johnny casually at school: a word exchanged here and there, a "hi ya" or "how's it going?" when we passed under Blair Arch. I wrote an occasional column for The Prince, where he, of course, was The Man.
We had another encounter, a memorable one with a significant affect on my career, nearly seven years after graduation on a street corner in New York City. In late February, 1964 I was walking east on 43rd Street in Manhattan, probably heading back downtown after lunch to my job as a lawyer at Davis Polk. I was already well into my first political campaign, running in the Democratic Party primary election that June for the New York State Senate from The Bronx. At the northwest corner of Madison Avenue I stopped for the traffic light when Johnny Apple strode alongside and also stopped, both of us waiting to cross the street. "Hey, how are you?" he asked. "Whatcha doing?" I told him I was running for the State Senate. "Great," he said. "Anything I can do to help?" I answered rather fliply, "sure, you can get a story about me in The New York Times." Of course, I knew Johnny was a reporter at the paper and a story in The Times, any story, was like gold in a New York political campaign, a nugget in the constant struggle by local candidates for recognition and visbility amid the clamor of city life. "Gimme an angle, what's the story?" he answered, lifting his hand to his chest and moving his fingers in a classic "gimme" gesture. I was desperate. The traffic light was about to change. Here was the chance of a lifetime: a story in The Times! "How about 'a young fellow from The Bronx who is away ten years at school and litigating civil rights cases in Mississippi for the Department of Justice comes back to run for the State Senate as an independent Democrat against the old line political machine'?" I remember how frantic I was to get the best I could come up with on the spot out before the traffic light changed and Johnny was lost in the crowd. He shrugged. "Let's see what we can do," he said. And then the words I'll never forget: "I'm Abe Rosenthal's fair haired boy." Rosenthal, later the editor of The New York Times, was already a well-known figure at the paper and certainly among the political class; he was in charge of the metropolitan news section at the paper. Johnny waved goodbye and in a flash was gone.
I remember momentary elation at my good fortune. Young as I was, I knew the role of fortuity in life and here I'd had a chance to pitch a story to The Times! But as I clutched the subway strap, steadying myself on the train ride downtown, I realized how lame my proposed story line was and how unlikely it was that I'd ever hear a word about it.
The next day, though, my secretary said I had had a call from a Mr. Apple, with the message "we're on, it's a go." Events immediately thereafter are a bit of a blur 42 years later, save that a Times photographer called to say he'd been assigned the story and wanted to arrange to tail me one evening on my political rounds. Most of my evenings in those days were pretty much the same, a frenetic series of stops at multiple locations in my district, a drop in at a church social to smile and mingle, a speech to a synagogue men's club on my experiences in Mississippi, a League of Women's Voters meeting, remarks to a cancer or muscular dystrophy support group in a catering hall or a PTA at a local public or parochial school. Night after night, week after week, always pretty much the same.
The Times photographer, Jack Manning, who had just started at the paper and went on to a long and distinguished career there, suggested the following Saturday night, 4 March, and we arranged to meet.
I essentially had two interests in those years, furthering my still incipient career in public office and meeting girls (I was, after all, 28, single, in New York and with enough money to buy a date a drink). It was a challenge sometimes to mix the two, but I managed. From time to time I'd drag a girl on my rounds in The Bronx. (That must have been, as I think back, a real trip for many of them; sure!) Sometimes after I finished my stops I'd meet a date for a late rendezvous at some appropriate venue, like a midtown bar. Saturday nights, in particular, I'd try to combine both my passions, shlepping an often incredulous date from one exotic destination in The Bronx to another, in dingy basement meeting halls or uninviting social halls or intimidating houses of worship.
(I went on an endless number of blind dates. Jerry Sandler, then a young doctor in training in New York, was a particularly rich source of names, with a seemingly bottomless supply. Whenever I called, usually late at night, he'd recognize the plaintiff tone of my voice: "Goldin," I can still hear him say, "you need some names" and then proceed generously to give me names and numbers. It was not unusual for Jerry to say, "now this one is particularly nice, but you can't say you got her name from me because we still go out from time to time." I'd ask, "how am I supposed to say I got her number?" Jerry would answer, "I don't know, that's up to you." I'd usually concoct some story about my mother having met her aunt at the beauty parlor and while, when I called, some girls said, "I don't have an aunt in New York" and hung up, most, as anxious to meet boys as I was to meet girls, overcame their skepticism and agreed to meet - usually at some well-lit and crowded place!)
As it developed, at the time of my encounter with Johnny Apple I was carrying the name and number of a girl I'd had for weeks. It had come in a call from Dave Lewittes, who with his recent bride, Judy, had met a Vassar classmate of Judy's at a theatre benefit, ascertained that the girl's date meant nothing to her and decided that she and I might hit it off.
On the Saturday night in question, I fetched Diana Stern at her apartment on West 106th Street (near Columbia, were she was a graduate student), told her that her dress was inappropriate for the synagogue stop we were making that night (I remember that it was a simple sleeveless black shift; I said she had to cover her shoulders, so she brought a jacket) and headed up to The Bronx.
I made my several stops, date in tow (with an instruction to her that she should remain inconspicuous in the back of the room), delivered my remarks, did the requisite handshaking, smiled at the old ladies (most of whom were probably 40!) and moved on. After the fourth or fifth stop I was done and Jack Manning said he had his pictures. But, he asked, would I be taking my date anywhere now that my work was finished. Yes, I said, we were going to have a drink at the cocktail lounge of the new Hotel Regency at 61st Street and Park Avenue. He asked if he could come along a get a final picture or two. He did, snapped away and left.
The Times story appeared a week later. It covered the whole top half of the front page of the second section, comprising mostly pictures, with a little bit of text, authored by R.W. Apple, Jr. For a young candidate on the make it was priceless exposure and publicity. (My date was nowhere to be seen in any of the photographs. To this day, Diana, my blind date that night and now my wife of 40 years, insists that somewhere along the way I must have whispered to Jack Manning, "leave her out, she's only a blind date."
Of course, I called Johnny to say thank you. "Nothing at all," he said with his customary brio and panache, classmate to classmate.