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Columbia College Today January 2006
Cover Story


 2005 Hamilton Award
 Serendipity and
 John Brecher ’73:
     Wine Expert/



Alumni Profiles





This Issue





Radio and TV Days

Your November issue captured a big chunk of my life!

Bert Kleinman ’63 was one of my upperclass heroes at WKCR, where I spent most of my freshman year, nearly flunking out, and where I invested my time much more judiciously for the rest of my years at Columbia. I also worked for Westwood One for a couple of years.

In my sophomore year, I got a part-time job at the wonderful WNEW, where there was an engineering staff of 39. One of the youngsters on the staff was a nice fellow named Pete Johnson. Some years later, after becoming a full-time WNEW employee, I remember selling him (for five bucks) a five-inch black-and-white Sony TV. He told me he put a new picture tube in it and it became his kids’ TV. Listening to Soterios Johnson ’90 [on NPR] while shaving in the morning, little did I know that not only was Soterios a member of the Class of 1990, but also that he’s Pete’s son and probably watched my TV!

Andrew Fisher ’65
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Not the First

While offering congratulations to Michelle Oh ’06 (November 2005) on becoming CCSC president, I believe it is inaccurate to describe her as the first female CCSC president. If memory serves, Allyson Baker ’95 was elected to the post in spring 1994.

Elliot Regenstein ’94

[Editor’s note: Although CCSC does not have complete records, research indicates that in addition to Baker, Randa Zakhary ’92, Syreeta McFadden ’97 and Alejandra Montenegro ’98 are other women who served as CCSC presidents. We regret their omission from the article.]

Van Doren and Shakespeare

David Lehman ’70’s article, “Mark Van Doren and Shakespeare” (September 2005) was a most enjoyable surprise. It inspired me to read, for the first time, Van Doren’s Shakespeare, Autobiography and some of his Collected and New Poems, 1924–1963. What a thrill to read these works of my old teacher, whose course in the narrative art with its great books and whose class, “Verse,” with its fine classical poems, were centerpieces of my education at Columbia College.

I liked Professor Andrew Chiappe ’33’s course in Shakespeare, but I would have had a merrier time with the Bard of Avon had I read Van Doren’s book. Through his urging, I read Henry IV and discovered the comic hero of Falstaff, finally learning through Van Doren that great Shakespearean characters speak in prose as well as poetry. Sir John, who also can rise to verse at the right time, lives on!

It was most delightful to learn about Van Doren’s life as it moved from the country village of Hope, Ill., to New York City and soon thereafter to Cornwall, Conn., another country setting where he did much of his writing near the company of his family and close to his older brother, Carl, a talented critic and biographer in his own right, who preceded him there. But in returning to his rustic roots, Van Doren stayed within easy traveling distance of his other home in Manhattan and especially Morningside Heights, where in his gracious and courtly manner he brought so many students at Columbia College into the world of great literature. He had a marvelous sense of humor and was a hero to many, including myself.

James M. McDowell ’52
Lakewood, Ohio

Public Opinion Polling

In “Public Opinion Polling and the 2004 Election” (November 2005), Professor Robert Y. Shapiro defends exit polling with spirit. I find it strange, however, that he seems not to consider the possibility that the exit polls in 2004 might have been substantially correct, and that the vote tallies might have been wrong.

For example, there is a column missing from his table on national exit-poll data; it could be called something such as, “Number of Percentage Points That President Bush’s Percent of the Vote Exceeded His Percentage as Estimated by the Weighted Exit-Poll Data.” Of the 18 states cited by Shapiro in his Table 2, 16 of them showed President Bush receiving a greater percentage of the vote than that estimated by the weighted exit polls in those states. The amounts varied from an additional 0.3 percentage points in New Jersey (where he lost) to an additional 12.2 percentage points in South Carolina (where he won). The only one of the 18 states in which his vote percentage was lower than the exit-poll estimation was Hawaii — Virginia was a wash. The simple average (and median) for the 18 states was an increase for President Bush of almost 6 percentage points.

If this shows what Shapiro calls “this net Democratic bias” in the exit-poll data, it can only mean that either large numbers of people were ashamed to tell pollsters that they had voted for the President or that one party successfully manipulated the vote count. In light of the Conyers report on voting irregularities in Ohio and its corroboration by the General Accounting Office, I should think that Shapiro might have addressed these possibilities.

For the sake of American democracy, I desperately want to believe that there was no chicanery. Statistics tells us you can throw 100 heads in a row — but that does not mean that there is no such thing as a weighted coin.

Maxwell E. Siegel ’54
Sussex, N.J.

Professor Robert Y. Shapiro’s piece (November 2005) is interesting. I think most people closely associate pollsters with the media. Given the media’s track record of overwhelmingly liberal political bias, inaccurate reporting, selective reporting, fabrication of stories, and shallow, sensational journalism, there is a general lack of trust that responses will be recorded and reported honestly. So we don’t participate.

James E. O’Brien ’66
Maitland, Fla.

Frosh/Soph Rush

This is a response to your inquiry related to the photographs of student antics about which you were seeking further information (November 2005).

Having started as a freshman on July 4, 1944 (we had tri-semesters during the war years), I returned to campus after naval service in October ’46, thereafter experiencing my first Frosh/Soph Rush.

Your first two photos accurately portray two of the three trials in which the freshmen and sophomores were expected to participate. Batting about the five-foot leather balloon bag was dusty fun. But to penetrate the phalanx of sophomores to capture the blue Columbia beanie at the top of the greased pole had a distinct benefit. If successful, freshmen would then no longer be required to wear the silly things at official functions during the ensuing school year. The third trial was a common enough tug-of-war using an enormous hawser kept by the College for that purpose. Being always outnumbered, passersby would join in and lend a hand to the by-then tiring sophs.

The question posed in CCT was about the “Mad Dash” in the third photo. The sophs, having quick-learned from their experience of the previous year, are sagaciously attired in expendable articles of clothing, and (as is clearly seen in the photographs) are tightly girded and strategically wrapped with bands of surgical tape. Frustrated at losing two (more usually three) of the trials, a melee was programmable. Thus the strippors harassed the strippees (the “dash”) and vice versa, often to the total, all the while being observed with great curiosity by the many onlookers. The well-prepared sophs were able to effectively preserve their dignities. The ignoranti, however, suffered, which was understood to be the way of the world. Thus the beginning of mooning and full frontal nudity — more Columbia firsts.

It would be interesting to contemplate a return of these grand traditions to our coeducational campus life, thus constructing closer and more lasting student and class relationships.

William Lubic ’49
New York City

V&T Memories

I arrived on Morningside Heights as a freshman in 1960 and remained in the neighborhood until 1974. Thomas Hauser ’67’s “V&T Pizza Memories” (September 2005) was a reminder of the importance to me of V&T Restaurant during that period for food (often a salami and eggplant pizza) and camaraderie.

I remember when Robert Taylor, mentioned in Hauser’s article as now being a 40-year veteran of V&T, began there as a waiter and how he quickly learned that, when I arrived, I usually would want to wait for one of the tables being worked by Sam. Not always, though — some of my friends wouldn’t sit in Sam’s section because they couldn’t stand the chatter!

Sam loved political conversation, and he had this disconcerting way of initiating such discussions by saying: “Like you said …” Often, not having recalled uttering the opinions now coming from Sam’s mouth, one was left in the uncomfortable position of either choosing to remain a relatively passive participant in the conversation or, seemingly, arguing against oneself.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Thursday night pizza at V&T became a ritual for me and my colleagues who habitually worked late together that evening. Indeed, after a while, the work schedule became secondary to the need to get to V&T, and the group grew to include several spouses.

V&T, at 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, near the juncture of three police precincts, often had a police car double-parked out front while the officers got food. As if that wasn’t protection enough from criminal depredation, a police officer’s uniform cap was a permanent fixture on the clothing rack that could easily be seen through V&T’s front window.

I am not familiar with V&T’s current owner, Alex Gjolaj. I am a regular, though, at a Troy, N.Y. pizza shop near my office, and, in conversation there, I learned that the shop’s proprietor and some staff members are former employees of Alex at V&T. To further close the circle, Alex’s niece is the proprietor of a pizza shop that I frequent in Albany. We chat on occasion, but I really miss Sam’s “Like you said…”

Leo S. Levy ’64





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