Chuck Conconi on how his Playgirl Magazine article about Sally Quinn landed him a gig at The Washington Post –
“I wrote a piece for Playgirl Magazine and in it I basically said … When The Washington Post proud profaned Sally Quinn died each morning on the ABC television news, it was seen in Washington . . .that God and divine retribution did indeed exist. Ironically, she liked it so I had had lunch with her and, all of a sudden, I get a call from The Post.”
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town and we’re talking with and going to talk with a very, very good friend of many years and a legend in journalism in Washington, D.C., Mr. Chuck Conconi. Thank you for being with us, Chuck.
Chuck Conconi: Andy, thank you. I hate for you to say many, many years. I always worry about being known as a legend because legends are great stories but not often true.
A Ockershausen: So many people know the name Conconi and know you but they don’t know and I did not know until we started talking here today where you were born and where you went to school and this was a surprise to me. I always thought you were a native.
Chuck Conconi’s Italian Immigrant Parents and Ohio Coal Mines
Chuck Conconi: No, I’m not a native. I grew up in a town called New Philadelphia, Ohio. My parents were … Mother and father only had eighth grade educations. They were an immigrant Italian kind of family and I … They all worked in the coal mines. Every male in my family, my father, my uncles, they all worked in the coal mines because when they first brought the first immigrants over from Italy, they advertised there’s jobs in America when they got here. It was the coal mines and so they spent their time in the mines. I was the first, I think, male in my family to escape the mines.
A Ockershausen: The coal mines in Ohio or Pennsylvania?
Chuck Conconi: Oh yes, no, no, coal mines in Ohio. Around this area around New Philadelphia, Ohio. It was sort of in Northeastern Ohio but it’s big coal country.
Sometimes the ceilings are low, I mean some of them, what I’m saying is the roof is only like four foot so you’re working bent over all the time and they worked in the … In the old days when they carried these carbide lamps with flames in them and you always think about, God, how awful that was because you have methane that goes in the mines and boom!
My father once told me, he said, “You don’t know what darkness is like until something happens and it all goes. You lose all sense of up or down or sideways.”
A Ockershausen: Oh my God.
From Business to Journalism at Kent State University
Chuck Conconi: So luckily I was the first in my family to go to college. I went to Kent State University in Ohio because …
A Ockershausen: A wonderful school.
Chuck Conconi: Yeah it’s a wonderful school and I had no …
A Ockershausen: Is that a state school?
Chuck Conconi: It’s a state school. I almost flunked out. I was just an abysmal student. I didn’t know what I was doing and finally … You’re going to find this hard to believe. I thought the only thing you could be is an engineer or a businessman, believe it or not, and I knew I couldn’t be an engineer because my math skills were abysmal. So I thought I’ll try to be a businessman.
I kept flunking economics and all those courses and finally, I mean desperation, I have been in my third quarter on academic probation, my last and out the door, and I pick up the school catalog and I’m paging through it and I stumble onto something, School of Journalism. I thought I didn’t know you could major in something called journalism. Believe it or not, I didn’t.
So I went over and the guy took a chance on me and everything clicked, changed everything in my life and I became a Dean’s List student and then I went out to Northwestern Graduate School and my first working experience was in Chicago.
The Medill School of Journalism Master’s Degree
A Ockershausen: Northwestern was a great journalism school …
Chuck Conconi: The Medill School of Journalism …
A Ockershausen: … correct?
Chuck Conconi: Yeah, it’s usually a great …
So it’s usually Columbia, Medill and Missouri, at the time, were considered the three top schools. I didn’t realize that either but I didn’t even know about master’s degrees but some of my friends were going and I went.
A Ockershausen: Northwestern’s big time and having that degree from Northwestern … I’m sure that connected you and then you worked in Cleveland, did you tell me?
Military Service – Fort Belvoir – Supply Clerk to Editor of Belvoir Castle
Chuck Conconi: Before that and I’ll do this very quickly. I get drafted during the Berlin buildup. This is in the sixties and I go to Fort Leonard Wood and long story short, I end up at Fort Belvoir. They’re going to make a supply clerk out of me and I think, “I’m not going to tolerate that,” so …
A Ockershausen: It was perfect with your journalism degree. You’d be in supply.
Chuck Conconi: I went over to the Chief of Information’s office and he says, “I need an editor for my paper,” and he says, “I’ll try to get it changed.” So I come back a couple days later and he says, “Can’t get it changed but I’ve got a suggestion but I’m not going to tell you. You have to tell no one that I told you this suggestion.”
I said, “I know what you want. Nevermind.” So I wrote a letter to Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois who was my Senator and within two days vocal orders came through The Pentagon making me editor of The Fort Belvoir Castle. That’s basically how I got to Washington, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to my job in Chicago and I hadn’t been a very good reporter there and they were reluctant to take me back. They had to because I had been drafted.
I stopped in Toledo and the Toledo Blade …
A Ockershausen: A great paper.
Chuck Conconi: Yeah, great paper, and I was there for …
A Ockershausen: World class.
2 Years – Toledo Blade – 3 Months Cleveland Plain Dealer
Chuck Conconi: I was there for two years. I didn’t like Toledo at all and I accept … I tried to get back to Washington and I’d come down for an interview with The Washington Post and I was treated really badly. They treated me like I was something awful and I walked through across town and I went and interviewed with Sid Epstein who was the City Editor of The Evening Star and he says, “Look kid,” he says, “I like you. Look, I’ll put this on a stack of papers and I’ll have you … we’ll hire you.” I thought, “Oh well, that’s a kissoff.”
I went back and took a job instead with Cleveland Plain Dealer, I was there about three months when Sid calls. Sid Epstein was one of the great editors of all time.
A Ockershausen: Oh, yes, a legend also.
The Evening Star – Back in Washington DC
Chuck Conconi: Sid hired me and then I went on. I covered the Civil Rights Movement. I covered Martin Luther King’s assassination and then I was on my Washington spin.
A Ockershausen: The Star, at that time, was a big force in the city.
Chuck Conconi: Oh, terrific force.
A Ockershausen: A terrific paper because you know the Star owned WMAL and Channel Seven and I worked for them over the years and I loved the paper and loved what it had and then it began its demise, we all felt it that it was unfortunate that The Star was eventually going to go out of business.
Chuck Conconi: I loved that place because, in many ways, it was one of the last of the places as I’d had in Chicago, it was part of like the front page characters. Cigarettes burning on the desk, cigarettes smashed out on the floor, somebody drinking a beer or a shot at their desk while they wrote and we were all … We all thought we were junior Hemingways, all those young guys, and we lived fast and chased women and we did all that kind of stuff.
I was there until, well, right after the Civil Rights Movement, covering the assassination and then I could see when Nixon was elected, this was going to kill the Civil Rights beat so I gave it up and went to the Hill to become a press assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, where we put together Earth Day and that got me in another whole direction.
Freelancing to The Washington Post and the Style Section
Chuck Conconi: Then I, very quickly, I wrote a book with Stew Udall who had been Secretary of Interior under Kennedy and Johnson and then I went off freelancing for a while which is a real tough thing to do and I realized at some point I had a daughter. I had split with my wife. I had a daughter who was getting ready to go to college and I needed a more steady income than you can get and The Star was purchased by Time and asked me to come back. Sid was then made Managing Editor and he really liked me and so I came back and I was there … This was when Time Magazine had this experiment. They were going to have weekly publications within the daily publication and I was working on one from, I don’t know, from eleven to six in the morning, or something like that for Alexandria and Arlington edition.
I was still freelancing and, ironically, I had written a piece on Sally Quinn who was Ben Bradlee’s wife …
A Ockershausen: Aha, Mr. Bradlee.
Chuck Conconi: … and I wrote a piece for Playgirl Magazine and in it I basically said when Sally … When The Washington Post proud profaned Sally Quinn died each morning on the ABC television news, it was seen in Washington …
A Ockershausen: An experiment.
Chuck Conconi: Yes, it was seen in Washington that God and divine retribution did indeed exist. Ironically, she liked it so I had had lunch with her and, all of a sudden, I get a call from The Post. I come over and Ben wants to see me and at this point I’d only been back at The Star for about three months or so and he says, “Well, Sister Quinn and Brother Haynes,” Haynes Johnson …
A Ockershausen: He had worked with you at The Star, correct?
Chuck Conconi: We worked at The Star. We covered the assassination of Martin Luther King together and we flew out of here at two o’clock in the morning on a Braniff cargo jet out of Dulles that night. Anyway, they hired me in the Style Section as a what they call an assignment editor and it was just … It happened like … In fact, I was there a month till someone in the personnel department said, “All we got is your name, address and Social Security number,” and I said, “That’s all you need.” So would you fill out something and I stayed then for thirteen years and I became a columnist, a personality’s column.
A Ockershausen: That was a famous section, the Style Section. It was Ben’s baby.
Chuck Conconi: Ben did a great job with it. It’s a sad reflection today of what it was.
A Ockershausen: It was a great, great section and you had … I know you had some sort of a friction with Tom Shales at one time, did you not?
Chuck Conconi: Oh, no, no. I still see Tom nearly every Saturday.
A Ockershausen: Where is he writing now? He disappeared from the Washington scene.
Chuck Conconi: He’s living out in McLean and he’s sort of isolated himself. The only people he usually sees are my wife and me. We oftentimes go out there on Saturday and watch old movies together.
I used to battle from time to time with Carmody, Jack Carmody, who wrote a …
A Ockershausen: Oh, yes, that’s true …
Chuck Conconi: … who wrote a television …
A Ockershausen: Captain Airwaves, Captain Airwaves. Oh boy.
Chuck Conconi: Tom, and it was the editor of the Sections office which, at that time, was Shelby Coffey and then Mary Hadar. Then there was my office. Then there was Carmody’s, and then there was Tom’s, and he used to negotiate between … between us.
A Ockershausen: But it was a fun time.
Chuck Conconi: It was a great time.
A Ockershausen: The paper was bursting with energy.
Chuck Conconi: The Style Section had a phenomenal cast of people. I was talking to someone earlier today he had a book from The New Yorker and one is the editor of The New Yorker. . . is David Remnick. I remember when David …
A Ockershausen: David …
Chuck Conconi: I remember when he came in and went to work.
A Ockershausen: He was a sports writer, wasn’t he?
Chuck Conconi: He was sports but he also came in to Style. Did a lot of Style. Brilliant guy.
A Ockershausen: Then while you were there, were you teaching then at the University of Maryland?
Chuck Conconi: I did …
A Ockershausen: People would listen to you for advice in journalism.
Local University Connection, WTTG and WMAL
Chuck Conconi: I actually taught two courses out at University of Maryland and I did it for a couple years and then when I really started working at The Post in the Style Section, I had to give it up. I’ve lectured at some time or other at every university in town, Catholic, American, GW, and all of them, but I love to talk about journalism. I love to talk about where it’s going. I’m not sure anymore for you and I and then started doing WTTG television.
A Ockershausen: I remember that …
Chuck Conconi: Then I started doing WMAL.A Ockershausen: You did a show with Chris Core and talk and …
Chuck Conconi: Trumbull and Core, I started that.
A Ockershausen: … a lot of great things, right.
Chuck Conconi: I went through over eleven years or so out here. Nearly every Friday and like you … we had just talked to Mel. After my wife would pick me up and we’d go to the TooJays or the one he and Mo …
A Ockershausen: Two K’s and TooJays. Those were Washington places that we all hung out. When you were down at the paper … Incidentally, one of your ex, not employees, but fellow employee, George Solomon, was sitting in that seat one day with me.
Chuck Conconi: Oh, sure, I know George.
A Ockershausen: He’s doing a great job at Maryland, you know. He’s working in that journalism school and it’s just been great. We’re going to have to take a break now and then be back and talk to him. I’m fascinated but Chuck Conconi, you’ve told me a lot of things. I hope people have realized how much there is you have done and we’ll be right back here on Our Town.
[Commercial] Are you retired or soon will be? Is your will up to date? You don’t want to leave a mess for your family to clean up. I’m attorney Mike Collins, the guy who sends you those invitations to my estate planning seminar. I’ll teach you how to save taxes, avoid probate, protect your heirs from lawsuits, bankruptcy, even divorce court. Keep your money in your family with our innovative reservoir trust. Watch the mail for your invitation. Tuition’s free when you register online at mikecollins.com. That’s mikecollins.com. [End Commercial]
Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
A Ockershausen: We’re talking to Chuck Conconi about Our Town. He’s been a big part of Our Town for many, many years. I didn’t realize his career included Fort Belvoir. That’s a good place, but Chuck, you worked at several of Washington’s leading magazines, am I correct?
Then, The Washingtonian Magazine – Capitol Comments and Now, Washington Life Magazine – Theatre Reviews
Chuck Conconi: Yes, I worked for The Washingtonian Magazine where I was editor at large for about thirteen years.
A Ockershausen: I knew that.
Chuck Conconi: I now write movie, not movie, I mean theater reviews, not movie but theater reviews for Washington Life Magazine. I do that both … Mostly because I love going to the theater and I can’t afford to go to that much of the theater.
In the last two and half years, I’ve written about a hundred and fifty or more reviews.
A Ockershausen: Wow. In Washingtonian, you used to do a … Did you do the Post column about what’s going on? Harry Jaffe and Chuck Conconi.
Chuck Conconi: Harry Jaffe worked for me. I did the front … I ran the front of the magazine called Capitol Comments.
A Ockershausen: Capitol Comments.
Chuck Conconi: Harry did a great job. It’s interesting, was it about a year or two ago, he gave it up because he said it’s not worth … The Post isn’t basically what it was at one time or another and he stopped doing it. I saw Harry just a couple of weeks ago.
A Ockershausen: He’s written a book about the man that didn’t get to be president.
Chuck Conconi: Sanders, yes, Bernie Sanders. He wrote a book on Bernie Sanders.
A Ockershausen: Yeah.
Chuck Conconi: In fact, I do a television thing called Focus Washington where I interview various people around town and I had him in and interviewed him about his book.
A Ockershausen: How do they air that? They just show …
Chuck Conconi: It goes out on You Tube and it goes to …
A Ockershausen: PBS?
It goes to You Tube and all those kinds of places. In fact, I did one of the first ones on Susan Eisenhower and when she decided she was no longer a Republican and when she decided she would vote for Obama. I’ve been doing those. I’ve done, oh, a couple hundred.
A Ockershausen: Do they still live in the area, the Eisenhowers?
Chuck Conconi: Well, no. She has a place in Gettysburg.
A Ockershausen: She’s married to David, correct?
Chuck Conconi: No, no. David’s her brother.
A Ockershausen: Oh, I see.
Chuck Conconi: David’s married … David’s married to …
A Ockershausen: I’m thinking of …
Janice: Julie Nixon.
A Ockershausen: Julie Nixon, right.
Chuck Conconi: Julie Nixon … married to … No, Susan has a … She lives right … She lives now I think at the Colonnade and she has a place in Gettysburg overlooking the farm where her grandfather …
A Ockershausen: Her grandfather had a farm there, right.
Chuck Conconi: In fact, she took us on a private tour of that and a fascinating place and then she just recently bought a place, kind of a summer getaway to be near her grandchildren in Portland, Maine, so she’s a lot of places.
A Ockershausen: She gets around, huh?
Chuck Conconi: She gets around.
A Ockershausen: Did you write for Regardie’s for a while?
Chuck Conconi: No, I don’t think I ever wrote a piece for Regardie’s. I still see him from time to time.
A Ockershausen: How did you get that lucky to miss Regardie?
Chuck Conconi: He had …
A Ockershausen: We see you every year at Regardie’s.
Chuck Conconi: Yeah. Back to School.
A Ockershausen: End of season.
Chuck Conconi: He had one of the best magazines in town. He was a best anywhere. It was a great magazine and had he had more discipline which has always been his problem and he had a wider advertising base which he thought it would exist with the developers and the real estate people. When the bottom fell out of that, boom, he fell out.
A Ockershausen: Fell out.
Chuck Conconi: It’s too bad because he had a brilliant magazine and he had some brilliant people. You mentioned Harry Jaffe. He had some really good people who wrote for him.
A Ockershausen: Brian Kelly.
Chuck Conconi: Oh, Brian Kelly, yes. He’s still the editor …
A Ockershausen: Very good.
Chuck Conconi: … of U.S. News and World Report. Brian was … he had an instinct and he says that, for picking good editors, knowing how to find good editors.
A Ockershausen: Young people.
City News Bureau of Chicago – Journalism Then and Now
Chuck Conconi: I still see Brian from time to time and Brian was a unique editor.
Brian actually came out like I did, out of Chicago. We both had worked at one time for the City News Bureau of Chicago which was a kind of a Ben Heck, Charles McArthur front page thing and it was a crazy place.
A Ockershausen: Fed all the newspapers out there.
Chuck Conconi: Fed all the newspapers, magazines, radio and television. For example, there would be a criminal courts murder trial come in, gone to the jury they’d, “Okay, kid, city press kid. You stay here and get the verdict.” You’d sit there through the night until they came in and then you’d run to the phone.
A Ockershausen: You’d do the legwork.
Chuck Conconi: You did the legwork for them and they had …
A Ockershausen: … but you were learning, learning the business …
Chuck Conconi: It was … it was …
A Ockershausen: … from the ground up.
Chuck Conconi: It was like in the movies, you know, those old movies of the forties and that where they talked just like that. I was lucky enough to get a taste of the old journalism.
A Ockershausen: Your timing was excellent.
Chuck Conconi: It was fantastic.
A Ockershausen: You must get this request because we get it in our business and Janice gets it all the time in her business from young kids that, “How do I get into this? How do I get into that?” They’re always asking the same question. We give them the same answer. “You’ve got to start at the bottom.”
Chuck Conconi: Yeah, you’ve got to …
A Ockershausen: There’s no shortcut.
Chuck Conconi: Except journalism is tougher now. I have a couple of friends who ask me to write letters, one into Northwestern Graduate School, one into Columbia Graduate School and I did and I basically said to both of them, “I don’t know what you’re going to do with this,” and they’ve struggled to find jobs because when I came out of Northwestern with my master’s degree, there were major newspapers throughout to talk to us and we all went to pretty good sized … I went to Chicago’s American which was a … which had been an old Hearst newspaper and I worked out of Tribune Tower. A couple friends of mine went to the Philadelphia Bulletin, Philadelphia Inquirer …
A Ockershausen: Big names.
Chuck Conconi: … The Milwaukee Journal. They went to all the major papers. They don’t do that anymore. They’re aren’t people flying people out to pick people from the journalism school.
A Ockershausen: I blame a lot of the ills of our society with cable television. Being in cable for years, I know what it is but it is so dominant now. There’s so much out there, Chuck, that there’s so many sources. What are we doing in our own house with five or six hundred channels. It’s incredible.
Chuck Conconi: It’s cable. It’s the internet. I look at things. I look at The Hill Paper. I write a column occasionally for The Hill Paper. I look at The Hill Paper and it’s a great thing but you can’t keep up with it all and younger kids now think that they don’t have to read newspapers.
A Ockershausen: I know.
Chuck Conconi: They just don’t do it because we get our news off the internet. What they also forget about in a newspaper is that you page through it and you see stories . . . like you trip over stories. You see stories you had no idea were going to be there when you’re looking.
They go in and they look for something. They read it and go. I do consulting work with a public relations firm here and I remember there’s . . .
A Ockershausen: That’d be Qorvis.
Chuck Conconi: That’d be Qorvis.
A Ockershausen: That’s a big, big firm.
Chuck Conconi: Qorvis MSL now and owned by an even huger, big international operation called Publicis but there was a … We were worried about some of these young kids coming out of school. They couldn’t write so we were hiring someone to come in and teach them some writing. Actually, I brought Harry in because he was teaching for a while at AU and they sat around the table. There must have been fifteen of them and I asked them, “Where do you get your news?” None of them was from the newspapers. Some of them said, “From the Colbert Report.” I said, “That’s entertaining, but it’s not the news.” That was it. They don’t really … It sounds like, “Oh you know in our day we were really smart,” but they’re not doing it anymore and you’re right about, “I’m not sure what happens in journalism today.”
A Ockershausen: Newspaper, I couldn’t exist without The Washington Post. It’s not my favorite politically but I love the paper. I know what it is, how much it means to our town because I grew up with The Star, as you did.
Chuck Conconi: Sure, I loved the Star.
A Ockershausen: The Star was a very important part. The Daily News. I read all three papers. Now I read The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Chuck Conconi: I get seven days a week delivery of The Post and The New York Times at home.
A Ockershausen: I can’t finish The Times. It takes too much time with The Times.
Chuck Conconi: It really is one of the greatest newspapers.
A Ockershausen: Oh, it is, definitely. Fabulous.
Chuck Conconi: Nothing compares.
A Ockershausen: We’re talking to Chuck Conconi, a man who grew up in journalism and we are on Our Town and we’ll be right back.
[Commercial] This is Andy Ockershausen talking to Tommy Jacomo and bragging about his restaurant, The Palm.
Hi, I’m Tommy Jacomo. I want you to come down and see me at The Palm Restaurant. I’ve been here for forty-three years. We have great steaks, great lobsters, great food. Caricatures on the walls. It’s just a fun place to eat and drink. We’re located at 19th and M, just below DuPont Circle. For reservations, call 202-293-9091. That’s 202-293-9091, www.ThePalm.com. [End Commercial]
Announcer: You are listening to Our Town.
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town and we’re talking with Chuck Conconi, a man of great experience in journalism, television, radio. He’s done it all and he was with The Washington Post, The Washington Star. As Chuck knows, we are the Star people and then he got into the PR business with Qorvis.
Chuck Conconi: It was after I left the Washingtonian Magazine. I was in a semi-retired state and then I thought ah …
A Ockershausen: Was that before Jack retired, Jack Limpert?
Chuck Conconi: Yeah, it was before Jack retired. He retired a little after that. It was about the time that Phil Merrill died and Phil was a … he was a bombastic character but a great guy.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Chuck Conconi: He really was a great guy and he was one of the smartest people I ever worked with. We had neighboring offices and sometimes the walls would quiver when he was in a rage yelling at someone and we’ve actually had times when people on the floor above would complain.
A Ockershausen: Was he a writer also?
Chuck Conconi: Phil could write …
A Ockershausen: I know he was a leader.
Chuck Conconi: He was a smart businessman and real estate developer. He amassed quite a fortune.
A Ockershausen: So I hear.
Chuck Conconi: It was interesting. I would walk into his office and I’d be completely prepared on something I knew everything A to Z on and he would invariably ask me a question I hadn’t thought about. He had that …
A Ockershausen: He was laying in wait for you.
Chuck Conconi: He just had that unique talent and he would … One other funny story. One night, my wife and I were at a formal dinner at Villa Firenze House which is the residence of the Italian Ambassador, very elegant place, and we were standing by this food table and all that and my wife worked for years for the U.S. Immigration Service. She’d been a Schedule C Appointee and she worked a lot in Cuba and other things like that and he had been appointed … It was during the Bush Administration and they appointed him Import Export Bank and he was there and he … There was somebody who was connected with immigration.
We’re standing there and talking at the table and he proceeds to get in an argument with my wife who is very calm …
A Ockershausen: Very opinionated.
Chuck Conconi: … and my wife would sit there and “Oh, God,” and she would go back and he was getting louder and louder and louder and here we are in the Embassy Room and people are moving away. They’re moving away because they think somebody … But it was … You had to understand it was … It didn’t mean anything. It was just that he had this flamboyant, flamboyancy, that he was just a marvelous guy. I respected him greatly.
A Ockershausen: He built quite an empire and I think his newspaper has done very well also and …
Chuck Conconi: He owned a lot of buildings in Washington.
A Ockershausen: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Chuck Conconi: Yeah, he owned a lot of buildings in the District. In fact, he owned the … Washingtonian is at the corner of 19th and L. He owned one on both sides, not the building we were in but he owned two buildings kind of across the street from it and he owned a lot of places. I think it was Aspen or one of the ski places. He loved to ski.
Eleanor “Ellie” Merrill
A Ockershausen: Is Ellie still alive?
Chuck Conconi: No, she just died about a month ago.
A Ockershausen: Oh, that’s right. I did read about …
Chuck Conconi: The last time I saw …
A Ockershausen: … and the daughter is running a paper, a magazine.
Chuck Conconi: The last time I time I saw Ellie was a special salute at The Washington Post for a … dear friend of mine he died …
A Ockershausen: The last time I saw her was at the annual luncheon for Washingtonians of the year.
Chuck Conconi: Why am I blocking his name? Bill Raspberry. Bill Raspberry was dying of Prostate Cancer and they had a big thing and she was there. Both she and Haynes Johnson, they both didn’t look very ambulatory. They had canes but Haynes died much sooner. She just died recently.
She was a wonderful woman and when Phil was Ambassador to what was it? Some economics session in Brussels and she went back and forth that she essentially was in … and when he had the federal, the other appointment, she essentially ran the magazine as publisher and she was always a voice of calm and reason. Just the opposite.
A Ockershausen: That’s why they were so compatible, right, because they were completely opposite.
Chuck Conconi: Yes, and as boisterous and as wild as Phil could be sometimes, he adored her and his children. In the end, he was the ultimate family man which you don’t often find in Washington among top figures and especially politicians.
The Washingtonian Magazine Today
A Ockershausen: He was a politician too and had a lot of political clout. I knew that and I loved the magazine and Jack Limpert worked for him for years and a good friend of yours.
Chuck Conconi: Jack worked even earlier. He was there when Lock Phillips, Lockwood Phillips started the magazine, so he went back to almost the very beginning.
A Ockershausen: My personal observation is the magazine has turned too much of a food thing for me. I don’t know if they do hard news like they used to.
Chuck Conconi: I don’t think as much but the food. They used to say two legs held the magazine up, why people subscribed. One was all the restaurant reviews and one was that front of the magazine, Capitol Comments, which was kind of gossipy, I guess, in a way.
A Ockershausen: The gossip was important.
Chuck Conconi: That was important and the restaurants were when you had Ron Schaefer, not Ron. It was … we were just talking about him. Shafner. Shoffner. Robert Shoffner was this restaurant critic. People still buy it for that reason so that’s …that’s what keeps …
A Ockershausen: They do their best.
Chuck Conconi: It was one of … I spoke at some magazine conference and people from New York and all around the country said, “How do you guys do it?” They have a … I don’t know what it’s like now but at that time The Washingtonian had one of the highest newsstand sales anywhere. Anywhere in the. . .
A Ockershausen: Is that right? That’s a good . . .
Chuck Conconi: I mean percentage sale and were among the best of the regional and city magazines so it was a …
A Ockershausen: There are a lot of copycats now in the area . . . there’s only one Washingtonian.
Chuck Conconi: Jack Limpert had the formula down and nobody understood or knew Washington the way he did.
A Ockershausen: We really, really enjoyed working with him on a lot of things. I want to say that this has been so delightful, Chuck, to get caught up with you because you told me a lot of things. I’ve known you and your name forever. You told me a lot of things. I hope our listeners and I know our podcasters. This will be up there forever, Chuck. It goes out in space.
Chuck Conconi: That’s frightening, yes.
A Ockershausen: It’s going to be there forever and it’s been fun right now. I want to make sure that you are aware that you have an invitation to our Launch Party where you will meet your fellow launchers. We hope to have fifty or sixty of them by that time. We’re up to do it the 25th and we’ll have at least twenty five more by that time.
Chuck Conconi: It’s a good milestone number and I love being with you. I’ve known you for so long. We’ve…
A Ockershausen: We go to the same …
Chuck Conconi: … shouted at each other at all the restaurants, Dukes, Mel Krupins, The Palm, where have you …
A Ockershausen: Getting out, you know? We have a saying that Janice and I live by. A lady that was in her late nineties and lived in Cleveland wrote for the Plain Dealer. Her advice to everybody was, “Get up, get dressed and get out.”
Chuck Conconi: Yes.
A Ockershausen: We do it, and you do it too.
Chuck Conconi: I try, I try.
A Ockershausen: Thank you so very much for your time and your experiences that have been great. I hope the audience understands what you’ve been through because I do. It’s been great.
Chuck Conconi: Well, thank you this is …
A Ockershausen: The Star days were wonderful…
Chuck Conconi: This has been a thrill to be able to talk about that.
A Ockershausen: It is and thank you Chuck Conconi and this has been Our Town with Andy Ockershausen and Janice Ockershausen and we look forward to our next podcast. Thank you.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season One, with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town podcast episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how you liked the show or who you’d like to hear from next. Catch us on Facebook at Our Town DC or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to WMAL Radio in Washington D.C. for hosting our podcasts.