They don’t make them like Mario any longer
I really miss Mario Cuomo. He was a force of nature. He’s been out of the governorship for a long time now but everywhere I go, someone walks up to me and tells me how much they loved his work on our radio show. Mario was brilliant. He loved his job as governor and the people really loved him. He was truly a religious man. He had been raised and educated in religious institutions. He followed the philosopher Teilhard de Chardin. He was deadly serious but he was also one of the funniest men I have ever known.
People who had second homes in the Berkshires or the Hudson Valley would tell me that they scheduled their Sunday night return trips to New York around the show. Not only was the program on every public radio station in New York, it made it to Boston public radio and really was must listening. I was the interlocutor and it was like riding the wind. He was so much smarter than I could ever think of being but he was never cruel to me. He asked me once if I believed in hell and I answered that I did. He asked me what it was like and I told him that it was right here. He told me that I might make a good Catholic. One of these days I’m going to have to try to figure out what he meant by that.
One time we were talking about something and he asked, “Is that what you really think, Chartock?” I responded in the affirmative and he said the single funniest line that ever came out of his mouth on the show. He said, “Who cares?”
Every once in a while he would get angry at me for a question I raised or something I said and then he would mysteriously disappear for a couple of sessions. Sometimes his people would recommend one of his cabinet officers but that really wasn’t satisfactory so I would ask Alfonse D’Amato to take his place. Inevitably, Mario would return but D’Amato was a terrific replacement, not because public radio people really liked him all that much but because he offered a chance to create some balance with the Republicans and because D’Amato was then and still is quite a character.
Of course, the very best moment I ever had with Mario was shortly after he lost the governorship after trying for a fourth term. Cuomo was holed up in the Governor’s Mansion and when I asked that he come to the station for a last radio program, his staff said nothing doing. My always insightful wife, Roselle, said that she was coming to the station which happened to be having a fund drive. I told her that he had said no but she was convinced that he would come in. As always, she was right. At the last minute, we got the word that he was on his way. As he walked in the fund drive room at the radio station everyone stood and applauded and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. He said, “Do you think I’m Al D’Amato?”
Then he did our program and there was utter silence. To know what he said you’ll have to read my book, “Me and Mario Cuomo,” but just let me say that the phones didn’t stop ringing for hours. Oh, one other thing. When Mario Cuomo stood up to walk out he did something he had never done before -- he hugged me.
People don’t know beans about state government but they do know the real thing when they see it. Mario Cuomo was the real thing. He lost because 1994 was a Republican year and maybe because he stuck to his guns on things like his opposition to the death penalty.
Boy, do I miss Mario; nothing like him around today.
Not only was the program on every public radio station in New York, it made it to Boston public radio and really was must listening. I was the interlocutor and it was like riding the wind. He was so much smarter than I could ever think of being but he was never cruel to me.