Paging Jimmy Breslin … There was one brief moment of panic that first night when the VIP reception started at the Press Club and there was no sign of Jimmy.
Unbeknownst to us, Breslin had decided to go for a swim at the YMCA, where Lipsher was able to track him down at poolside. We were able to stall for time by presenting the Al Nakkula award winner. A few frantic minutes of changing clothes, and Breslin arrived just in the nick of time.
Later that night, Gil Spencer introduced Breslin with some hilarious stories of what it was like to edit his column.
Then Breslin gave an amazing speech about the need for passion in journalism.
He decried the tendency of a new generation of reporters – raised on watching television – who stared at their newsroom computer screens all day and eschewed the good old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism of knocking on doors and talking to people face to face.
He described his encounter with a young Robert DeNiro, who was playing a role in the movie version of Jimmy’s book, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
DeNiro showed up at Breslin’s apartment door one morning, wanting to know everything the veteran reporter could tell him about his character and the mob. That’s the kind of passion for the job that journalists need to have.
Breslin gave a great talk that night and was funny as well. When DPC President Andrew Cohen presented Breslin with the award – an engraved Swiss pocket watch – he quipped, “Aw, you went and engraved it. Now I can’t hock it.”
We raised $9,000 at that first event, which was just enough to save us a few months later when the club’s boiler died in the midst of a bitterly cold week in January 1993.
I sometimes referred to the replacement as “The Jimmy Breslin memorial boiler.”