This has been a tough week for those of us in the Inner Circle and for everyone who cared about journalism in New York. We lost Larry Sutton on Saturday (June 17, 2017) and this morning (June 23) news came that Gabe Pressman died. So if you’re saying prayers for Larry, add one for Gabe.
I knew Larry for more than 25 years. We were both reporters at City Hall in the 80s. But I really got to know him when I joined the Inner Circle, where Larry became the president and later the chairman of the writing committee. But he was much more than that. He did just about everything. He wrote most of the show. He wrote a lot of the songs. He created all the videos. He dealt with the teleprompter. If the union allowed him to hoist the lights, he probably would have done that too. He did it all because he had so much talent.
Here is the Inner Circle’s tribute to Larry’s many great performances on stage.
Let me describe a typical writing committee meeting. We’d meet on the 2d floor of City Hall on Saturdays at 10 am. People would straggle in and eventually we’d order breakfast from the local deli. Larry’s order was always the same: egg sandwich. By now it was 10:30 and time to get to work — after chatting a bit. We’d throw out some ideas, a few jokes and invariably get off on tangents that had noting to do with the show. By 11:30 breakfast had arrived. We ate. Now it was noon, We’d toss around more ideas. Larry dutifully typed them all down, even the dumb ones. By 1 o’clock we had had it. Larry took the material, such as it was, and was back next week with pages of script. That’s how good he was. And he loved doing it.
He was a natural writer. I found that out early on. There was a time where, for some reason, we both ended up covering an event with Vanna White. He was writing for the News, I was with The Post. I can’t remember why it was so important for the world to know what Vanna White had to say that day, but we both ended with stories. When I read Larry’s I thought to myself, “Oh no, I can’t write.” He was a natural. I can’t imagine Larry doing anything else but writing. He wouldn’t have been a very good insurance salesman. Hey, want to buy term life. No. I don’t blame you. Let’s go have a drink. He was made to be a write and reporter.
He didn’t mind hustlers and con men. But he couldn’t stand the self-important, the braggarts and the blow-hards. And since he spent a lot of his career covering politics and entertainment, he had a ball skewering a lot of blowhards. But in a nice way. Larry couldn’t be mean. His friend Larry Celona told me there was an editor at the Daily News who caused them both lots of grief. Larry Celona would curse him out. Larry Sutton would, er, chastise him. “The worst thing Larry would say about him is the nicest thing I would say,” Celona told me. That’s just the way he was.
When the News went on strike in 1991, some people crossed the picket lines. When they all returned there was considerable tension. This is from a clipping I found. “I had some tense moments with a couple of the scabs. “My attitude toward them is that I’ll deal with anyone on a professional level but don’t expect to be my friend,” said reporter Jerry Capeci. Another reporter, Larry Sutton said, “It was awkward for the first 20 minutes. And, well, you can say we were all cordial to one another.” That was Larry. He was born without the genes that carry negative or mean thoughts.
He had his private side. He never asked for anything. But he made everyplace he worked better, The News, People Magazine, Time-Life, even OK magazine. And he kept friends from each of them going back decades because hanging out with Larry made your life better, funnier. He loved his family — and his extended family. All of you. I miss him. I know we all miss him. But I also know Larry, if he were here, would tell us, to remember the good times. tell some jokes and stories. have a few drinks and realize we still have a show to put on. Goodbye Larry, thanks for everything.