By Kevin Canessa
Every so often, you sit down, whether it’s at home at the dining room table, or on the couch — or maybe it’s on the bus or at the office — and you read a column that yours truly wrote. For some, it’s easy to relate to what we write because, perhaps, you’ve known me for a long time.
For others, maybe it’s not so easy, and you have to wonder who this guy is that writes about St. Anthony’s, life in Kearny or a plethora of other topics every three weeks or so.
So this week, for a change, the column will be a Top 5 list of sorts — five things about me that may be of interest … or may be a complete and utter snooze fest. So, here it goes.
5. I was born in Christ Hospital, Jersey City, let’s just say a long time ago — in fact, exactly six weeks after Gerald R. Ford became president of the United States following the resignation of Richard Milhous Nixon. The day I was born, apparently, my biological father was at Shea Stadium watching … the Yankees play. This may give you an idea what the year was (Ron Leir, this trivia is for you!)
4. Back in 1997, the movie “Amistad” was being filmed in Newport, R.I., whilst I was a senior at Salve Regina University. One of my classmates and friends was in charge of hiring security to “watch over” the set when filming was stopped.
All we had to do (he hired me, at $22 an hour in 1997) was ensure no one destroyed the makeshift courthouse that had been built on a hill in downtown Newport. It was winter, so we sat in our cars. Once an hour, a walk-around with a flashlight to ensure no one was peeing on the set, either. Because yes, that happened a lot, since Newport has more bars per square mile than any other municipality on this continent — or, at least that was that case 20 years ago.
3. Back in 1986, when the Boston Red Sox went up in the World Series 3 to 2 after a win in Game 5, my mother was offered tickets to both Game 6 and 7 back at Shea Stadium. With the Red Sox up 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning, with 2 out and nobody on base, I started to get up out of my seat, gathered the blanket that had kept me warm most of the night — and tried to head for the ramp to the Shea runway to street level. We were sitting in left-field in the upper deck.
“Sit down now!” my mother screamed at me. “This isn’t over.”
I think I told her I couldn’t bear to watch the Red Sox celebrate at Shea and worse yet, I didn’t want to deal with the four Red Sox fans who were nearby and taunting us after there were two outs.
I sat down, resigned to having to watch those guys win. The scoreboard said, “CongratulationsRed Sox. 1986 World Champions.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Boy was I glad mom didn’t let me (or us) leave.
Oh, and the best thing — the folks who gave her tickets for the following night (which turned into two nights later because of rain) asked for the tickets back.
2. When I lived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., I worked, for a time, at a daily newspaper down there, as a contractor. In the time I was there, I got to interview celebrities who were coming to a local theater for shows — it’s called the Sunrise Theater — and they often got big name acts.
Among the celebs I interviewed, the most enjoyable was Neil Sedaka. But the two most intriguing ones involved Richard Simmons and Bill Cosby.
But it’s not because of who they are. It’s because after interviewing Simmons, he dropped off the planet not too long after — and shortly after interviewing Cosby, well, unless you were without TV or Internet, you know what happened to him.
1. When I was 19, I was an intern at another local, daily publication. In the summer of 1994, I was assigned to cover the City of Bayonne. While I was beginning to learn to be a better writer, I had no experience, really, covering big-ticket happenings. That year, there was a mayoral runoff election in the city between Neil DeSena (who died in 2015) and Lenoard P. Kiczek (who wound up serving just one term.)
My editor at the time, Joseph J. Casey Jr., God rest his soul, sent me on Election Day to the Kiczek campaign’s headquarters — to cover the man who was to lose the election. Well, as luck would have it, Casey sent me to the wrong campaign, because Kiczek won the election, a four-year term as the city’s CEO.
I was by myself. I shook, literally. I had no clue how to handle this. In the past, all I’d have to do was collect the results and report them back to Peter Weiss, God rest his soul, too.
When I got back to the office, it turned out I had 30 minutes to write a 19-inch story. That’s about 1,000 words.
“What do I do?” I asked Casey.
“Write about the damn victory and tell the readers what they said!”
Somehow, I did. And for the first time in my career, I was “above the fold” in three editions of the newspaper. Somehow, I did it. And to this very day, that story I wrote in 1994, shaped me into the writer I am in 2017.
That’s all for now. See you in a few weeks.