“Desuetude,” Jerry enunciated on the phone. “I like how you used desuetude in your last column. Nobody uses that word anymore. Bill Buckley woulda used desuetude, but not a street kid from the Bronx, like you.”
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This was pure Jerry, neither George nor Gerry. Words and phrases counted, his needle at the ready to punctuate hypocrisy, the fatuous, snooty and pretentious players wherever they strutted, even me.
Jerry and I go back, nearly half a century. When The Money Game was published by Random House in 1968, I did something I’ve never done before or after. I dropped Jerry a note through Bennett Cerf: “How about lunch to discuss the book.” I added that he was an S.O.B., that he had written the book I shoulda, coulda done, but I didn’t.
Jerry and I took lunch, monthly, over 45 years, maybe 500 sit-downs, he, always complaining about his food. The only dish he liked was the Ruben’s apple pancake I ordered when we had space at the General Motors Building, 42nd floor. But, Ruben’s is long gone, and wisely I then substituted Cobb salads. Hard to harangue this innocent dish.
Jerry was a wannabe money manager, and I, an also ran writer who complained that my biggest disappointment was I couldn’t make a living writing. Jerry’d look at me quizzically: “Writers carry no leverage in this country. Saul Bellow’s The Adventures Of Augie March, was priced at $2.98 in 1952.”
Never a boring lunch or dinner with Jerry. Our free ranging talk dated back to the Korean War, both of us participants. The fallibility of generals, academics, politicians, money managers and economists got an airing. Merciless CT scans, included Jerry’s doctors, many sent packing.
I’ve managed parts of Jerry’s capital base for decades with never more than an aside when markets headed south. Together, we set his debt equity-ratio, year by year. No need to go to the moon.
I’ll miss the proliferation of emails, so piquant, terse and to the point. Jerry couldn’t write a dull sentence or communication over his lifetime, a great wordsmith. He was witty, incisive, always understated, even brief.
Jerry’s illness wore him down, but never touched his brainpower. He’d shuffle into my office, unannounced, sit in and start talking, a restless psyche always searching for bedrock reality, accomplishment and poetic justice for the gaucheries of the big named players and their spear carriers.
I remember fondly Jerry’s column in The New York Herald Tribune, “The Day They Red-Dogged Motorola.” I shoulda written that piece, too. He described how analysts fell over each other to telephone the news that Motorola didn’t make its numbers. Motorola had to be banged out, tout de suite.
Here’s pure Jerry, a note to my wife, Toni:
“Everything I could tell you, you already know. The wines were great (mine included). I have 2 more Léoville 59’s at home and I can bring 61’s if you want. And Sosnoff was statesmanlike about that creep in The Wall Street Journal. As we say in French, it should only continue.”
I apologize, Jerry, for my faux pas. On his Adam Smith’s Money World TV show, I referred to him as Jerry. So I got the thumbs down gesture, below the camera’s talking heads field of vision.
Jerry! Jerry! Nobody’s left for me to take lunch with anymore!
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