He was a Warren guy

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91753c76-059e-49d4-a37b-38fc42e586fbRoger Ailes died today. He was 77 and probably the most famous person ever, to have grown up in Warren.

I met him in 1988 after reading a story about him in the Wall Street Journal. He was already moderately famous, having been a top political consultant to Presidents Nixon, Reagan and GHW Bush.

But until I read the Journal article, I had no idea he was from Warren. The opening story of the Journal piece was how Roger threw a guy into the lobby fountain in a Hyatt Hotel when an argument they were having took a heated turn. He was a Warren guy.

At the time I was the marketing director at Fortune magazine, and I wanted to get him to speak at a conference we were planning for later in the year in Palm Springs. I called him a couple of times but got no call back.

So I called then-Mayor Dan Sferra and asked, “who knows this guy?”

Pappy,” he replied, referring to former Warren cop and then Safety Service Director Steve Papalas. I called Pappy and asked, “how do I get this guy to call me back?” Pappy told me how, and I called Ailes’ office again. I ask his secretary to take down my message verbatim, and she agrees. The message:

“If you don’t call me back immediately, Pappy is going to come to New York and kick your fat ass all the way down Fifth Avenue.”

Five minutes later my phone rang and a laughing Ailes asked, “How do you know Pappy?”

Ailes spoke at the Fortune event, and a casual friendship between us ensued. His office and mine were not far apart and we got together occasionally, in unfashionable places, for a burger at lunch or a shot and beer after hours. It turned out we were also neighbors with a fondness for the same local Mexican restaurant.

We talked about the business we were both in, but the conversation always drifted to Warren; people we knew, old stories, places we loved. We was a Warren guy.

In 1996, when Fox News was founded, he offered me a job as marketing director there. I declined, not so much because I knew my politics wouldn’t be a good fit, but because I thought they had no chance of success. CNN was so dominant that MSNBC was lucky to get a 5-10% share. The world did not seem to want, or need, a third 24-hour news channel. Shows you what I know.

We kept in touch a couple more years, but with Fox’s spectacular success Roger became harder to see informally. He was now living in the world of bodyguards and paparazzi. He also moved to a better neighborhood. We drifted apart.

But in 2003 I needed a pretty big business favor from him, and got it in a heartbeat, without any questions. When I moved back to Warren he supported the Garden District (where he grew up) and has been a generous contributor to many local causes; always without fanfare.

We were worlds apart in politics, but I can say that about a lot of people I like. Politics isn’t usually the deciding factor for how we choose our friends. We look for something more real, more personal, more enduring, and Roger was a Warren guy.

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If you are interested in knowing more about Ailes, who was one of the most successful media executives, ever, I recommend Gabe Sherman’s “The Loudest Voice In The Room: How The Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – And Divided A Country.” Roger hated that book and fought hard to stop its publication. But it has some really interesting stuff in it about his early years in Warren, Ohio U., and in Cleveland working for Mike Douglas. In my view, it is pretty balanced. Credit is given where due, but it is not a love note.

Posted Thursday, May 18th, 2017 under Warren people.

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