They don’t make them like Mario any longer

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Alan Chartock Alan Chartock is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the State Univer­sity of New York, pub­lisher of the Leg­isla­tive Gazette and pres­i­dent and CEO of the WAMC North­east Pub­lic Ra­dio Net­work. Read­ers can email him at alan@wamc.org.

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.

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