Love him or hate him, Jimmy Breslin has been a force of nature in the world of print journalism.
On November 3, after calling the election for Kerry, the headline on his New York Newsday column read: "I;'m right -- again. So I quit. Beautiful."
He wasn't right -- he called the election for Kerry -- but that doesn't matter. The real news was that the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author announced he was leaving his thrice-weekly post as, arguably, New York's most famous columnist and champion of "the; little guy." He won't stop writing -- he's working on at least three new books and is involved in a movie project based on his "The; Church That Forgot Christ," in which he'll also appear -- and he'll contribute a column "from; time to time." But that voice of moral outrage, from one the hardest working muckrakers in the newspaper business, will no longer appear regularly in newsprint.
Jon Kalish, an independent radio producer and freelance newspaper reporter based in New York, first met Breslin when Kalish was a young reporter, and over the years, he's covered Breslin's various headline making exploits. Kalish also learned a thing or two about reporting from Breslin, who taught him the importance of climbing tenement stairs.
In "The; Art of Climbing Tenement Stairs," a half-hour documentary commissioned by public radio station KCRW 89.9 FM and KCRW.com airing Tuesday, November 30 from 2:30 to 3 pm, Kalish talks to Breslin's friends and nemeses, from pal Pete Hamill and investigative reporter Jack Newfield, to the former mayor of New York, Ed Koch. He's along for the ride as Breslin sleeps on the streets with New York's homeless, and talks to the columnist right after Breslin broke the story of the city's Parking Violations Bureau kickback scandal. There's even an excerpt from Breslin's 1986 appearance on Saturday Night Live, in which Breslin tells the story about baseball coach Casey Stengel. Kalish also talks to Breslin's second wife, Ronnie Eldridge, a former NYC council member.