A Newspaper Reader’s Lament
by Joseph M. Fanganello
Editor’s Note: A version of this guest commentary first ran in The Denver Post on July 1, 2007. It reflects the author’s concern about the departure of veteran journalists from the print media and a nostalgia for the days when books were used as research tools and newspapers were a source of information rather than entertainment.
My connection with Denver’s newspapers started with helping my four brothers carry papers in the 1950s in North Denver. My brothers and I used our Schwinns, wagons, sleds and shoulder bags on our earliest jobs. After throwing the Sunday morning route, I usually would have a few extras and would stand at the intersection near the RockyBilt at 38th and Federal so I could sell the extras and buy one of RockyBilt’s "Taka-Homa-Saka" hamburgers. We would rise early, go to the local neighborhood "station" to pick up the bundles of papers, sometimes fold them there (trying to avoid the cost of rubber bands), put them in our paper bags and head off for delivery (my first station manager was Gene Smaldone). Our evening collections often interrupted a subscriber’s viewing of Carmen Basilio or some other fighter on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports on black and white TV.
After finishing law school in the late ’60s, I would go to the Frontier Hotel for lunch where Red Fenwick would hold court with his "Evil Companions Club" — nearly all journalists along with some lawyers.
There are the old names: Bonfils, Tammen, Gene Fowler, Damon Runyon, Gene Cervi, Palmer Hoyt, Jack Foster, Harry Rhoads. They chronicled and put color in Denver’s history.
There were later encounters: Dick Connor (at Regis College in the early ’60s), Gene Amole and John Wolfe at KVOD, bantering, playing classical music and selling whatever they could. My friend and client Jack Skinner built the Polo Club and was smart enough to have Amole describe the views of the mountains from the $70,000 penthouse (now worth millions), along with listening to his birds and helping us wake up. John kept the Denver Symphony and classical music alive for many years. I also read Bob Ewegen during my days at CU Law School in the early ’60s (along with Paul Danish).
One memorable quote from the CU paper: "A thief, a mountebank, no better than a common criminal." Did it describe Eisenhower or Goldwater? I don’t remember. Ward Churchill is not the first person to have caused grief to CU.
Later times included: frequent visits with Gil Borelli, Dusty Saunders and Bob Threlkeld at Ray Longo’s Subway Tavern for decades, with Dusty always playing Louie Prima and Sinatra on the jukebox; sitting in a bar booth with Greg Lopez and his beautiful wife Kathleen Bohland; meeting Patty Calhoun, Lew Cady and Dick Kreck at the Bamboo Hut, the Teller House bar, or dozens of other places. I think Paige used to drink; I never met him but I would see him occasionally at Lodo. His writing still is the best (though Troy Renck is fast-approaching). My past includes suing to recover Palmer Hoyt’s paintings by Paul Gregg from the Hoof and Horn Steakhouse in St. Joseph, Mo., where whiskey sours still reign.
The best was Jack Kisling. I watched his decrepit gray head and stooped shoulders finally burdened by oxygen tanks — that didn’t slow his intake of elixirs at the Teller House bar and Dostal Alley — as we attended the Central City Opera. I helped him in his last days with his signing legal papers as "Kkssllnng." ("I can’t find any vowels," he said.)
There was the brilliant and sweet Jeff Bradley, the music critic whom we lost way too soon. And Sue O’Brien, the always spunky, energetic editor lost to cancer a few years ago. And my countryman Pasquale Marranzino.
Not all of them were in bars; Howard Pankratz was always in the courthouse with pencil and notebook (after I finished a long trial where we lost $1 and won $1, he inquired as to how I would collect my one-third contingent fee).
These people were the core, the hearts and souls of our city. Economics always are an issue, and maybe this purge is necessary to keep the papers in existence. Good newspapers and good journalism are more than entertainment. They are basic education. These losses create an increasing deficit in Denver’s intellectual and cultural fund.
We still have (I hope) Diane Carman, Mary Winter, Kevin Simpson and I am sure many others. I lost my older brother Fred last year, and with the departure of these writers, I feel similar sadness. My words then and now are: "We lost them, but we had them." Would we be less having not had any of them? Oh, yeah. As Tony Soprano would say: "Waddayagonnado?"
Joseph Fanganello’s family has been in Denver since 1894. He is in his 40th year of practicing law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.