Goodbye, Joe

JoeFranklin

Remembering Joe Franklin, a beloved friend to New York City and the arts.


Saturday, February 10, 2007. It’s the long night before the 59th annual Writers Guild Awards, hosted by Tina Fey in New York City’s legendary Hudson Theatre.

We’re suddenly one presenter down and need a replacement. My co-conspirator and mentor in producing the Awards (and now my good friend), then-WGA East president Chris Albers, sees Joe Franklin crossing the street in Times Square.

Chris, a gifted comedy writer and ever charming, introduces himself to Joe and explains that we need someone to present a couple of news-writing awards in, oh, 18 hours. Would Joe would be kind enough to show up… tomorrow night… for free… and read some hastily-prepared copy and hand out a couple of statuettes… untelevised? Joe says it’s fine, he’d be delighted and honored, and takes the information. (I’m not sure he even writes it down.)

The next night, as the Awards are about to begin at the Hudson, Chris and I aren’t certain Joe is even going to show up; Chris’s conversation with him had been so casual. And then…

There’s Joe, all smiles and “how can I help?” I hand him cards with copy he hasn’t yet seen (and I’d written an indistinct blur of hours ago). Soon, Joe is announced. He takes a crisp walk to to the lectern. Glancing at the cards in front of him, he smiles (actually, smiles brighter) and slides into delivering the copy with commitment and uncanny naturalness. This is just the perfunctory hello and he already owns the moment, the words and the room with his friendly and familiar Joe Franklin-ness.

Then, Joe starts to take a little unscripted “stroll down Memory Lane”. Chris and I look at each other, a little worried about where (and when) this might be going. But after EXACTLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT Of PLEASANTLY-TANGENTIAL-ANECDOTE TIME…

…Joe gracefully segues back into the copy, saying — communicating — that unlike him, news writers don’t have the luxury of time and retrospect to frame the stories they tell. They have to process and report instantly. And, unlike the stories he tells, much of the news they report isn’t good news. “Compared to what you people do, my job is easy,” he tells them. Joe is wrapped around the moment and, therefore, it’s wrapped around him. He gives the news writers the dignity and celebration they deserve alongside their entertainment-writing colleagues. JOE FRANKLIN NAILS IT.

And he does it for nothing more than love.

Joe was generous, professional and gifted in ways that weren’t always obvious. He loved entertainment and he loved New York City. He shared his passion and joy with those lucky enough to sit with him, and with all of us at home. He was an old-school local broadcaster. He was parodied, but he was never a joke. He was the real deal and a mensch.

Joe, when you called us your friends, you meant it. Enjoy your stroll down Memory Lane. It just won’t be the same here without you.

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JoeFranklinWGAAwards22 Joe Franklin at the 59th annual Writers Guild Awards at the Hudson Theatre
New York City, February 11, 2007

& May

Mike Nichols and Elaine May were what “grown up” funny sounded like, floating through an open door on a cloud of Kent cigarette smoke. The sound was black and white with silver silences. Except for the recording of their Broadway revue, their albums offered no audience to cue laughter with laughter. They were desiccant-dry and precise as a tonearm stylus. Their characters were immediate, vivid, finely tuned in lilting disharmony. They were a knife and a fork, politely, delicately stabbing and slicing, feeding me food I’d never tasted and would forever crave.

And the movies… The movies.

Farewell, Mike. Thank you for sending up Vanguard.

Nichols & May

Something Beautiful

I live in Brooklyn Heights, just across the river from where the towers stood. This lyric is the first thing I could write after that day. It speaks obliquely to my visceral experience, which remains somewhere beneath and beyond cognition, aching for the soft light of all available beauty. Jody Gray wrote the haunting music and produced this demo, exquisitely sung by Laura Berman.

“Something Beautiful” was later covered by Bobbie Eakes, the title track on her 2005 album, alongside songs by Paul McCartney, Van Morrison and others.

Somewhere in the cartons in the corner of the attic
Somewhere in the dust and the debris
In the interference, silent in the static
There must be something beautiful
Must be something beautiful
There must be something beautiful
To see

Sometime in the wasted days of discontent and fear
Straining under too much gravity
Waiting for a single ray of sunlight to appear
There must be something beautiful
Must be something beautiful
There must be something beautiful
To be

Look out the window, listen at the door
Is no one coming ‘round, coming ‘round no more?
Check the telephone, turn on the radio
What was it that someone said not that long ago?

Look out the window, listen at the door
Try to remember what you’re listening for
Check inside the pockets of what you used to wear
Find something, find something you forgot was there

Somehow in the billions of signals in the sky
As they paint their tangled filigree
A cry of pain passes through a mother’s lullaby
There must be something beautiful
Must be something beautiful
There must be something beautiful
Set free

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In Answer to Your Question, My Special One, on Valentine’s Day

OR: IF DOROTHY PARKER HAD WRITTEN FOR HALLMARK

Logic of the bio kind,
A pheromonal torrent,
First summoned our surrender
To nature’s wanton warrant.
Deeper, deeper, deeper, down
We fell into our thrall.
But love? I love you now as then…
Hardly, if at all.

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