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Pick of the Day: Toasting a legend the right way

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau finally hung up his wingtips last week after 35 years in a job he won re-election to no less than seven times. Morgy, as the New York tabloids branded him, was 90 years old when he walked out the door.

During his last days in office, a predictable flurry of stories chronicled the highs and lows of his career and his impending departure, but none were better than the Morgy served up by Tom Robbins, the Village Voice columnist who infused his piece with the DA's voice -- his real voice -- as opposed to the sanitized version found in other accounts. Listen to Morgenthau recount visiting his friend, Justice Byron White, at the Supreme Court: "He'd walk down the hall with an open can of Budweiser. He was no b---s---." Or his appraisal of Joe Valachi, the legendary mob turncoat he helped flip in the early 60's: "He was kind of like the doorman, or the elevator operator. He could say I saw so-and-so but he didn't know a helluva lot."

Then there are Robbins' own words. Recounting how skeptics initially dismissed the well-bred Morgy as an "aristocratic guy who wouldn't know a gangster if he tripped over him on Mulberry Street," Robbins writes that he "went on to make more cases against organized crime than the entire Justice Department."

Robbins should know. He's been writing about New York politics, gangsters and corruption for more than 25 years. It shows. Check out his piece in the Village Voice.

By Paul Schwartzman  | January 5, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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