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Carrie Carmichael: "California Dreamin'"
Mayer Berliner: "Eggie"
Will Brady: "Alternative"
Phil Demise Smith: "Newfield Still Here"
Gene Roman: A Remembrance

California Dreamin'
Carrie Carmichael

The day Jack Newfield and I passed ourselves off as rock-n-rolling, freeway-cruising Angelenos was one of those historical days that started at the pitch of happiness and anticipation. And ended in a pit.

June 4, 1968 was bright and clear. The kind of day New Yorkers cherish, but Los Angelenos take for granted because they have so many just like that. The brilliant weather reflected our mood. Bobby Kennedy was going to win the California primary that day and go on to win the Democratic nomination. Just a week before we'd suffered the first-ever Kennedy election loss in the Oregon Democratic primary, but California was clearly his.

That Tuesday was a happy, free day. I'd joined the campaign entourage after my marriage to staffer Jeff Greenfield a few weeks before (between the Indiana and Nebraska primaries). I didn't have any assigned duties for the day of the California primary; my new husband had some time between speechwriting tasks; and Jack's column about Bobby's victory was for later.

It was down time. Play time. So my husband and I made sure our clothes were laid out for the party after the victory speech at a hot club called The Factory. Mine was a short one-shouldered bright yellow dress in some petroleum-product fabric and his a moss-green Nehru suit with some interesting rick-racky trim on the collar and down the front.

I doubt Jack gave a thought to what he was going to dance in, but he was looking forward to celebrating. We three New Yorkers decided to start the fun early by taking on the coloration of the indigenous peoples and spending the day driving around Los Angeles to visit the sights there'd been no time to see while the campaign was in high dudgeon.

You can't see the stars on the Walk of Stars outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre if your eyes are on your candidate and enthusiastic supporters are in the way! And you can't tool around L.A. in a convertible with your hair streaming in the breeze without some help if you are a man who grew up in Bed-Sty and compared himself to the Number 4 Train, not a sports car, because he never drove a car in his 66 years. My Upper Westside Manhattan bred then-husband was a driver newly licensed by the State of New York, but inexperienced. So, as a suburban transplant, I was the designated driver, freeway-savvy, happy to help those two play in the car culture for a day.

We got in the rental car outside the Ambassador Hotel and cranked up the radio. "Angel of the Morning" by Dusty Springfield and the bubble-gum rock song "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I've Got Love In My Tummy" blared. We sang along. We oohed at the Pacific Ocean.

We stopped for food and fuel and between verses and mouthfuls, we hashed over the primaries past and the possible strategies of the other Democratic candidates, Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey. We considered who our New York Senator would pick for his cabinet officers when he moved into the White House come January 1969. With a mandate from American voters, we trusted that the first item on Bobby's agenda would be making the Vietnam War history and bringing our boys come from Southeast Asia. After all, Bobby had driven Lyndon Johnson from the Presidency. Was getting out of Vietnam quickly unthinkable? No.

The Robert Francis Kennedy Presidential train had left the station and it was unstoppable!

Except, of course, by a bullet.

In too few hours after the sun set over the Pacific that night my husband and I were back in that rental car. The writer of speeches -- and eulogies -- Ted Sorenson joined our shellshocked vehicle. We'd thrown trench coats over our garish party clothes and stopped and started our way to the hospital where they'd taken the dying senator.

We all have the images of those next few days in our heads. The coffin. The funeral. The grieving. And the slow train from Pennsylvania Station in New York to Washington, DC.

Over the years as the news footage of that week has been repeated, I have always remembered that just a few days before, with Jack Newfield in the sunshine of California and a political season, we'd made detailed plans to be part of a metaphoric train, not the funeral kind.

Jack wrote eloquently over the decades both in his biography of Robert F. Kennedy and elswehere about what our country and the world missed.

Now with Jack's death another voice of ferocity and justice -- gone.

CarrieCarmichael.com

Eggie
Mayer (Mike) Berliner

I was saddened to hear about Jack's death. I was a friend of Jack's during our teenage years and we went on a trip in my first car, a '49 Dodge Coronet. I wish that I could have continued our friendship over the years and I am proud to have been his friend during the years of our youth.

For some reason, going back to my childhood, I have been drawn to reading obituaries. Must have had something to do with that old hack,"if I don't see my name in the obituary column, I know it will be a good day." But today's obit column has significantly more meaning to me.

"Jack Newfield, political gadfly, muckraker author and columnist", died Monday night. What a distinguished career he had and his funeral was attended by the NY cognoscenti (see the article by Jimmy Breslin.)

Now, I'll take you back to the old neighborhood, Bedford/Stuyvesant -- actually Willoughby Avenue bordered by Vernon, Throop and Marcy Avenues. My friends covered about a four-block corridor and we went to Eastern District, Boys High or Brooklyn Tech.

When we graduated high school my father bought me my first car, a '49 Dodge Coronet. Three of my friends and I would embark on our first adventure: a car trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, then onto the Bluenose Ferry to Nova Scotia and on to New Brunswick, down through Quebec, and back home to Bed/Stuy.

One of those friends was a quirky guy we called "Eggie" for some reason beyond me. Jack Newfield was a maniacal Brooklyn Dodger fan like the rest of us but he would love to write stories and always had something sarcastic to say about some political figure of the day.

Years later, I attempted to contact "THE JACK NEWFIELD" to see if the quirky guy of our youth was indeed Jack Newfield. When I read his many obituaries and the coverage of his funeral attended by the big wigs I began to search all the literature about him to see if indeed he was the "Eggie" of our youth from Vernon Avenue.

In the Jimmy Breslin article about Jack he specifically mentioned the old neighborhood -- yes, Vernon/Nostrand Avenues. And there you have it, though I never was able to contact Jack during his illustrious career, I was finally able to verify that "Eggie" and Jack Newfield were one and the same.

That trip to Canada was our first true adventure before going to college, "Eggie" to Hunter and CCNY for me. My other friends went to a fledgling school at the time, The Fashion Institute of Technology, which is prestigious today.

I remember distinctly that "Eggie" was different in many ways and especially that he liked to write short stories. Come to think of it each one of my friends was unique, but we all came together as fanatics for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

And to this day if we could meet again, we would reminisce and remember those great days of our youth and the hope for the future. Jackie Robinson would be our hero forever and we believed in the American Dream for everyone.

Jack Newfield was able to put those ideals on paper and become a true American hero in his own way, not unlike Jackie Robinson. How fortunate we were to have been able to have such lofty ideals and live in an atmosphere where some would reach fruition. It is too bad that I wasn't able to keep the friendship of our youth alive years later, but, I am proud to have known "Eggie".

Sincere personal regards,
Mayer (Mike) Berliner
Lake Luzerne, NY (Willoughby and Throop near Vernon/Nostrand)

Alternative
Will Brady

I've been reading Jack Newfield's writings ever since I first discovered the Village Voice from a beatnik lady who frequented the pharmacy where I stocked shelves when I was age 12.

It wasn't until 1969, however, that I so recalled an article he wrote that I saved it in a scrapbook I'd been keeping. While the book is long gone [alas] one recollection of the piece has stayed with me.

The recollection is that if you are so alienated from the culture in which you live that you cannot stand it, then you had better be prepared to offer some alternative. At the time, this struck me as genius.

It still does. Jack will be greatly missed.

willbradyjournal.blogspot.com

Newfield Still Here
Phil Demise Smith

I am an old friend of Jack's. We met, not through our writing, but through our children. Our friendship was long (17 years) and took us through the many trials and tribulations of family life: from Passover to Passover we shared music, food, sports and even touched upon art which he respected and revered. He often mentioned how he was in awe of Jimmy Breslin who could write a novel, a fiction. Jack could only write what was really happening, but his great modesty and compassion changed the context in which fiction and dreams could be written. He made a difference rather than just dreaming of a difference. He helped create a context in which a text could be created. He wrote a preface to a book of poetry and photographs I had written and collaborated on with Gunter Temech about the homeless in New York (The Lost Supper/The Last Generation). He came to watch my band perform. He came to our house in CT and played basketball in the pool with the kids (and played hard). We ate at many restaurants together (mostly Italian). We always hugged and I called him Jackie (which he accepted because of our friendship and because of Jackie Robinson). I really loved Jack. He was an important person on the planet, but more important to me, he was a kid from Brooklyn and he was my friend. I will really miss him. See you later, Jackie....

Newfield Still Here

there is a new field rising up from the fertile earth
floating above the futile systems and lords of the land

the music of its floatation imagines a ring of potential fairness
where the fight for equality is equal to its peace of mind
and the underdog rises to every occasion

it quietly erupts with the power of a voice that sings
in the face of corruption and disgrace

it leads the fight against the leaden poisons
that peel away the breath of unborn children

it is where the future seat of power unfolds its flowers
and the pain of common sense writes history in the sky

this new field furrows its brow and its columns
with a delicate crop of compassion
that hunts and pecks for the words and doors
yet to be opened by the royal keys of justice

after all is said and done the new field remains
firmly planted in the greener grass of the other side

           Phil Demise Smith

Gene Roman

Mr. Newfield loved two things that are close to my own heart: Brooklyn and the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

One of the reasons I loved his journalism was that he did not have many sacred cows. Unlike many others, he was not afraid to expose the corruption of the likes of Don King or Al Sharpton.

In City for Sale, he and Wayne Barrett showed us the darkness that often lurks under the self-serving statements of noble politicians.

Our Uncle Jack was a mensch who spent his life doing lots of mitzvah's.

Rest in peace!

Gene Roman, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

 

If you have memories of Jack that you'd like to share, please email jmonaco@unet.net.