McLeary was a New York City legend.
He was from an era that was long ago. Hard-drinking newsman. He covered the celebrity beat. His favorite film was Sweet Smell of Success with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.
McLeary had sold his soul for a glass of whiskey, Chanel #5 and a great pair of legs.
He had no regrets.
He knew the city and where the biggest names went to fuck each other when nobody was looking.
He paid the doormen and the bartenders and the dry cleaners very well for those types of tips.
Nobody at the office ever questioned his methods or his blue-blood background or why he did what he did.
He loved seeing his name and face in print almost as much as he savored the taste of Jameson on the rocks, the smell of a lady’s clove cigarette or Frank Sinatra playing on his Victrola as rain pounded down on the window of his Central Park West Apartment where he would type up his daily gossip column. The sounds of the fingers on the keys would electrify him. He was a writer even though he never did write that Great American Novel.
He knew things. Things the public wanted to know. And that made him very powerful. The world of gossip had evolved over the years. There used to only be a couple of major players. Now any Tom Dick or Harry with a fucking website could write about who was sucking on one of Miley’s Cyrus’s orifices.
No matter. The real stories. The ones that could sway an election. The ones that could make the earth shake and companies crumble were still in his bailiwick and that was why John McLeary was still one of the most feared men in New York.
Politicians, businessmen, celebrities all made sure to seek him out and throw him a bone of new information, when they saw him to make sure they stayed in his good graces.
The paper paid him handsomely and always made sure McLeary had a comely young intern who could keep him happy, keep up with him at the bar, in the sack and most importantly, keep McLeary out of jail.
“I don’t care how you do it darling. Just do it. That old son of a bitch is a Golden Goose to this rag and if we lose him we all lose our jobs.”
The pretty young interns didn’t mind.
McCleary for all his wrinkles and penchant for dropping big names and repeating stories, was a charmer.
He was old school and knew how a lady liked to be treated. He was also a pleasant drunk. He could take over the bar and tell stories that would make everybody forget about TV and their mobile devices and think back to a golden age. A time when real celebrities roamed the earth and America was a different place. One of old-fashioned ideals.
McLeary’s column was the first one industry folks would read every morning on both coasts to find out who was diddling who and who might be getting fired or hired. Who was feuding and who was a crook. Yellow journalism at its finest.
When his good pal, “The Donald” got elected President of the United States, guess who got a late night phone call?
“Hey old man we did it! Can you believe it? Remember our bet, you promised me a full page column calling me Citizen Trump–you know like the movie- now get off that intern McLeary and get back to work–this is gonna be yuuuuge!”
McLeary, uncorked a new bottle of Jameson, went to the freezer and squeezed some ice-cubes out of the tray into a glass tumbler with the gold Presidential Seal on it from another administration, and another old pal. Poured, sipped, placed the tumbler near the typer, swallowed, smiled. Some traditions are meant to be savored.
The first line was always there. He had thought about it months ago. Like Hemingway had once written, it all starts with one first, true line.
“Where’s the bathroom?”
His office bathroom. Upon that first visit. Years ago. That first meeting before they had got to know each other he asked his loyal secretary Rhona if he could use the bathroom. McLeary knew The Donald did not like drinkers and he had tied one on the night before, like always.
Perhaps, there would be mouthwash in the men’s room. When he got in there the bathroom was not overly fancy. It was like a Country Club. It had a manly scent to it. It smelled like a different era. An old-school smell. Trump Cologne in a bottle. One that you would get in a sports locker-room or golf club-house. Nothing fancy. Musk. McCleary splashed on Trump Cologne to hide the stench of alcohol oozing out of him.
An old, black bathroom attendant named Sam handed McLeary a paper towel to dry his hands. Sam got a dollar tip in the exchange. His simple grey uniform had a Trump logo on it with the name Sam inside a red and white circle.
The first interview was unmemorable, except for at the beginning and end. There was no handshake as the tall, larger than life, fast-talking executive with plenty axes to grind, told McLeary about the crooks and enemies that were impeding his ability to make New York City great again. It was more of a soliloquy than a conversation. Plenty of juicy red meat and big names to spin headlines. The whole while one eye was communicating a story while another eye was giving McLeary a thorough once over. There was no smoking. There was no time for pleasantries. This was business. The business of warfare against one’s enemies and McLeary was being given the ammunition and implicit marching orders to do the bidding of this ambitious businessman.
Before McLeary had a chance to even ask a question, Trump took a phone-call, grimaced and turned to the newsman. “Alright, McLeary…I think you got enough for at least 5 columns, right? And on your way out stop by Rhona’s desk…tell her you like our Trump Cologne…and she’ll set you up with a couple bottles…for you… and your wino friends in the newsroom… they probably need some too, right? Now go.”
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