Thursday, October 05, 2006

A legend passes

I will get around to blogging about points closer to home in the coming days. God knows, I have some material. (My last trip to Le Marche, for instance, has my head spinning still; some bloggy therapy may be required to make sense of my trip to the cosmic world of black magic and country attorneys.) But alas, this is all for another day.

Today, I wanted to give a small, humble tribute to a journalist I never met, but have tremendous fondness for. Veteran NY Times reporter R.W. Apple died earlier this week at the age of 71. He had a truly fascinating career, parachuting in and out of war zones for four decades. In between, this gourmand would travel the world in search of the finest vintages and most sumptuous dishes. His death is a real loss. His very last article for The Times appeared today, a fitting tour de force in which Apple tells us his top ten favourite restaurants outside the U.S. (a few of which I hope to try out subito). Even better is a Washington Post homage to Apple, quoting friends, rival journalists, and admirers all.

Here's one gem of an anecdote from WashPo:

Jon Randal, author and foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and New York Times, spent many overseas assignments with Apple:

I first met Johnny Apple in Sardi's in Manhattan in 1965 when to my horror I was informed out of the blue that I was assigned to the New York Times Saigon bureau to work under this exceedingly brash young man. Within weeks, I was won over by Johnny's energy, curiosity, speed and willingness to listen, occasionally even to me. He was a superb bureau chief, insistent on sharing the good stories with the other reporters in the bureau.

Over the next 40 years our paths often crossed. We became the best of friends. After I went to work for The Washington Post in 1969, that meant we sometimes competed on the same stories. He never let me or any other reporter forget how good he was. Johnny could sweep into Tehran in the last few weeks before the Iranian revolution in January 1979 and beat me on a story I'd been covering for a good year.

His passions were eclectic and his interests profound. He knew domestic politics as well as any reporter extant but also loved cricket, as well as professional football, baroque music, modern art and Venice, too -- and always the good life. For him that basically meant food and wine.

When we were younger, he would arrange week-long grand tours with two- and three-star restaurants for every lunch and dinner. In recent years, he relented a bit but still would enlist me during his regular Paris sojourns in, say, a three-day investigation of the mysteries of varied recipes for such simple fare as pot-au-feu .

And only last year we journeyed to northern Brittany, where within 24 hours he had us eating at the best fish place in St. Malo, then lunching at a one-star and dining at a three-star restaurant.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Here's another great bit, from Trillan's NYer profile:

Joe Lelyveld, who even as executive editor was not known for demanding a prime position at the trough, once stopped in London when he was the foreign editor and took his bureau chief to dinner—a lavish dinner, as it turned out, since his bureau chief was R. W. Apple, Jr. When the check arrived, Apple reached over to scoop it up. “You better let me take this,” he said. “They’d never believe it coming from you.”

I once suggested to Apple that he bequeath his expense accounts to the Smithsonian Institution. “But the Times has them,” he said. “I turned them in.” He sounded a bit regretful, it seemed to me, that he was not in a position to give posterity an opportunity to inspect some of his more stunning creations. At the Times, the various departments have what is called a cost center—what amounts to a budget line. The foreign desk has a cost center. The editorial board has a cost center. R. W. Apple, Jr., has a cost center.