Thingish Things

The Times’s Gail Collins

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jan• 21•12

The New York Times’s Gail Collins was once after someone I worked for. It was terrifying and hilarious.

Ms. Collins was at Newsday then and every day she would call and ask to speak with my boss, who will mercifully remain unnamed. He knew she was after him, and tried to do the long duck.  But he knew that she knew that we knew she would never give up, so it got futily ridiculous.

I was the politician’s press secretary, and every morning and afternoon I would have to tell Ms. Collins on the telephone that, “gosh, I know it’s hard to believe,” but I still had not seen or spoken with my employer. It was pretty much true.  He was avoiding me, the bearer of pink while-you-out notes, like the plague. It was a mini-vacation for me.

Ms. Collins, who was just reaching the top of her game as a liberal columnist, and who was much-feared for her wickedly smart pen, took mercy on me.  Unlike some other leading scribes at the time, she understood the plight  of this twenty-something political flack and laughed through most of our calls.

The situation became so preposterous at some point that my boss relented and called her — after leaving messages for her at the oddest hours of the day — and, as expected, she skewered him to the wall in her next column.  But somehow, through the whole process, there was cordiality. We got feathered, but didn’t feel tarred, if that makes any sense.

I thought about that week-long exchange this morning when reading Gail Collin’s latest piece, which is on Newt Gingrich. It is, as always, cutting to the bone — and wickedly funny. Her pen is so light, yet it can be ruinous to her targets. I don’t share Ms. Collin’s political philosophy, but I am jealous as heck of her writing ability and wit, and forever grateful that she didn’t gut me like a fish in my twenties. I’m not sure I could have recovered from it. 

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