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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.

Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing

Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for Governor in 1958 was partly an upstate revolt against the continued domination of party affairs by the Nassau Republican organization. Rockefeller was a man who always had bigger fish to fry, and throughout his almost 15 years as governor, he often went out of his way not to step on the toes of the touchy Nassau GOP. That’s why Nassau is the only large New York county without a state office building. Respect the turf.

Just before taking office, Rockefeller announced that State Senator William Hults would be Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, but not until the end of the 1959 legislative session, so that Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and a sliver of Hempstead wouldn’t lose their Senate representation until 1960.

Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’

The Nassau County district attorney’s (DA) office makes a cameo appearance in Empty Mansions, an incredible book about Huguette Clark (1906-2011), the Manhattan-raised heiress whose generosity and eccentricities were legendary.

Now that Ryan Murphy, a creator of television’s “Glee,” has optioned Empty Mansions’ film rights, I imagine a scrum of top actresses are vying to play Clark.

‘Irish Writers In America’ Has Tales To Tell

Professor John Phelan, one of my favorite teachers when I was at Fordham University, foreshadowed my future as a newspaper pundit.

In critiquing one of my papers, Phelan wrote at its conclusion that I sounded “like Jimmy Breslin sounding off at the bar.” I was thrilled. Breslin, a Daily News columnist at the time, was an idol of mine. Alas, I recall the grade I received on that assignment tempered my initial enthusiasm.

The reason I’m sharing his anecdote is because the City University of New York’s (CUNY) television station interviewed Breslin and 22 others for its Irish Writers in America series. All of them are archived at Sitting through a few of these critically-acclaimed conversations is a fitting way to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

“Irish Writers in America features 23 cultural icons most people would give anything to sit down and have a chat with,” wrote Sheila Langan, of Irish America magazine. “Watching these unusually quiet and intimate portrayals, mostly free of narration or any bells and whistles, it’s almost as if the viewer has been invited to do just that.”

Besides watching Breslin’s segment, I would also recommend the one with novelist Alice McDermott, who grew up in Elmont, and the conversation with Pete Hamill, another legendary Daily News columnist, and the author of more than 20 books.

Breslin wrote Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game?, a look at the 1962 New York Mets, and The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, a novel adapted into a 1971 film. Yet Breslin is perhaps best known for having Son of Sam write letters to him while Breslin was covering Son of Sam’s murderous rampage for the Daily News in 1977. Those parts of his life are covered in the interview, along with his 1969 bid for New York City Council president. Breslin’s mayoral running mate in that year’s Democratic primary? Norman Mailer.

McDermott’s Charming Billy won the 1998 National Book Award for Fiction, and in her CUNY sit-down she talks about attending St. Boniface elementary school in Elmont, Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead and the State University of New York at Oswego.

Her big break, she explains, came when a friend who personally knew literary agent Harriet Wasserman recommended that Wasserman review 100-plus pages McDermott had written. McDermott said she was stunned when Wasserman, who represented best-selling authors such as Saul Bellow, called her after reading the initial material, and asked if McDermott could send her more pages. McDermott’s That Night, a novel about a doomed teenaged romance on Long Island in the 1960s, became a major motion picture in 1992, and soon thereafter its author said she received offers to write about teenaged angst. Following the publication of At Weddings and Wakes, McDermott adds, multiple requests for stories about the dynamics of Irish-American families came her way.

Hamill, in his interview, talks about how he was the oldest of seven children born to a mother and father who were Belfast natives but did not meet until they were in the United States. He touches briefly on his decision to stop drinking, and how it enabled him to become a better father and a more productive, and perceptive, writer. Two must-reads: Hamill’s 1994 memoir, A Drinking Life, and 2004’s Downtown: My Manhattan, which memorably chronicles the city’s storied past.

Hamill is today a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. Amid the changes in the media business, he says he’s impressed with the students who want to pursue a journalism career.

“I think the news will always be a part of our lives in this country,” Hamill said, adding later, “No matter what the means of delivery of the news, there’s going to be talent in the room, and passion among those with the talent.”