As I enter my 37th year in journalism (shurely shome mishtake) I thought I’d look back on some of the highs and lows and incredible – and not so incredible – people and events I have reported on.
Most impressive celebrity:
That’s easy – Hollywood legend Gregory Peck was a special guest at our Irish of the Century event hosted by Irish America in December 1999.
He stayed in New York at FitzPatrick’s Hotel that weekend and could not have been less demanding or concerned with status.
At the event, he was an incredible magnet to the point where we could not drag people away from him. Throughout he held his poise and was utterly charming and then delivered an emotional speech about his Irish roots.
Olympic Ice skater Nancy Kerrigan who wanted to jump the long line outside at the White House St. Patrick’s Day party demandingly barking at White House personnel “Do you not know who I am?” They were not impressed.
Most interesting interview:
James Watson, Nobel Prize-winner who shared it for identifying and discovering DNA. There has probably never been a greater discovery. Erudite, funny, incredibly insightful, and quite unpredictable it was incredible to meet a man who changed the world in such a profound way.
Charles Manson, who ordered mass killings. (I interviewed him in 1981, his chaplain in Vacaville Prison in Central California was an Irish priest who got me access.) Mad, sick, full of fear and hate. I just wondered how many people took him so seriously as he seemed completely deranged.
Presenting a very expensive Waterford Crystal bowl to Jean Kennedy Smith as Irish American of the Year when it slipped and broke into a hundred pieces. Stunned silence followed by an incredible act of kindness by the late Tom Kennedy of Aer Lingus who raced home to his nearby apartment and returned with a substitute trophy he grabbed from his collection. Disaster followed by decency.
Most incredible insight into famous people:
Several hours chatting with Bono and U2 in their minibus and back at their hotel after a New York gig. Saw how the entire band were able to come down so quickly from being supermen and idols to thousands an hour or two before to four Irish blokes wanting pizza and a beer. Bono had the great knack of interrogating the interviewer too.
Most amazing moment:
Backstage alone with President Clinton in March 1996 waiting to introduce him at the Irish American of the Year presentation, hearing ”Hail to the Chief” being struck up and walking out behind the president as the crowd went nuts. A unique glimpse into the incredible ego trip it must be to be the most powerful person in the world.
The aftermath of 9/11 when learning how many Irish firefighters, cops and ordinary workers had been lost in the massacre.
Hearing from our reporter who had gained an incredibly rare and exclusive interview with Supreme Court Justice William Brennan only to find his tape recorder (this was years ago) did not work. Brennan could not have been nicer telling him to come back the following day.
What 37 years has taught me:
There is a direct correlation between staff loyalty and success of politicians. Check how long people have been working for him or her and it will usually correlate to their achievements,
In the case of Ted Kennedy it was usually forever. It really makes a difference, which is why I will always believe Hillary Clinton, who has a very loyal staff, was never remotely the ogre she was painted as. John McCain too seemed to inspire deep loyalty from staff.
IRA ceasefire August 31 1994 in the gym at the Berkeley Court hotel in Dublin and as the Angelus bell struck it was followed by the announcement of an IRA ceasefire, effectively the beginning of the end of The Troubles.
Learning the IRA ceasefire had broken down and the Canary Wharf bombing taking place in 1996. It looked like the peace process so many had worked so hard for was over but amazingly, thanks to Bertie Ahern and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness it was restored.
Irish president Mary McAleese making best speech I ever heard without notes to a packed ballroom at the Plaza hotel full of firemen and cops after 9/11. I have never heard a better speech in my life.
A county dinner at the Astoria Manor where the host went through every year of the county's existence in New York starting in 1894. White flags were being waved everywhere in the form of napkins and it finally came to an end when the speaker was physically attacked from the floor.