Year ago tonight I was in New York City, at this place, where the Drum Major Institute was holding its annual benefit and giving out its Drum Major For Justice Award to, among others, The Wire's Producer and Creator, David Simon. The Wire had just finished up its fifth and final season with a story arc about the decline and fall of newspapers. From the old notebooks:
During film introducing DMI and its work to the crowd, Simon comes down from the stage to watch. Leans on nearest column, putting his right shoulder solidly into the lean, left hand in hip pocket. No jacket, no tie, blue and white striped shirt coming untucked. Big, bulky guy with huge bald head.
Film ends. Awards presented. Simon last to get his.
Simon begins by saying that apparently this is his year for getting attention. The Wire was on for four years and during that time he learned that you can make fun of cops, you can make fun of teachers, you can make fun of politicians, drug dealers, and longshoremen, and "nobody really gets exercised." But in the fifth season he found out that if you make fun of reporters "all of a sudden they can't stop talking about you."
In addition to tonight's award, Simon picked up two others recently. The University of Texas gave him a William Randolph Hearst Award. He grins, gets a real kick out of the irony of that one. "Even better," an organization like DMI out in California gave him the Upton Sinclair Award.
"This is really good stuff," Simon says, because in 1934 Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California on one of the most Progressive platforms ever. "Damn near Socialist." He was going to win. But his "great antagonist" was Wm. Randolph Hearst. "Hearst and his papers engaged in the kind of glorious character assassination that typifies American journalism of the 1930s and certainly no time after that."
Some people in the movie industry didn't want Sinclair governor either. Irving Thalberg, for one. Made fake newsreels showing actors dressed as hoboes getting off trains at California stations and being "interviewed" and telling the "reporters" they were coming to California because after Sinclair was elected they would never have to work again.
So Simon has his two awards on a shelf together and says, "I'm waiting for them to kick the shit out of each other."
Don't know why I bother to keep a notebook when everything turns up online eventually, except that I get to find out I take pretty good notes. All of Simon's acceptance speech is on YouTube.