The Newspapers & Rico the Baker
Pittsburgh’s old morning newspaper was the small dog in town—feistier, funkier, more colorful, more daring and, compared to the larger afternoon paper, far more fun.
Its “personnel department” was Agnes who worked in an alcove full of office machines from the Roosevelt years. The Teddy Roosevelt years.
Ray took over. He was bright, funny, had a comfortable office and told great stories. Babe worked for the paper’s charities and sat outside his door. Her regular visitors were Sonny, who repped sneakers to high schools and whose brother ran a legal book in Vegas; Radio Rich who lived at the Y and ran errands; and Tony, a sort of PA whom she called “T” long before TV’s Tony Soprano.
Anyone could stroll into the city room: the guy in an open shirt with a sister forever on death’s door, the wanderer with an FM voice who roamed from desk to desk, and the husky unemployed (and notorious) steelworker who turned up in my office the morning I zinged him in a cartoon.
Everyone had nicknames. One was “Rico the Baker” who brought in home-made bread. He was a lifelong bachelor, looked like a Greek Orthodox priest and hit on any woman in a skirt. His favorite evening pick-up line was, “What do you like for breakfast?”
One day I borrowed Rico’s car. I made an illegal U-turn and a county cop directing traffic stomped over and yelled, “Gimme your owner’s card!” I looked under the visor. Nothing. I opened the glove compartment, and about 500 unpaid traffic tickets burst onto the front seat, the floorboard and me.
The cop stared at the pile and said, “Your friend isn’t any better than you! If I wasn’t so goddam busy I’d write you up. Get the f*** outta here!”
Now the paper has Human Resources.