NY1's Budd Mishkin continues his series, "One On 1," with a profile of a man who has been part of the New York newspaper world for more than six decades - Daily News cartoonist and columnist Bill Gallo.
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In a city that's constantly changing, that revives itself with newcomers, and in a business that is perpetually searching for a fresh approach, Bill Gallo IS the Daily News. This year he celebrates his 65th anniversary at the paper.
“For me, a newspaper is an entertaining hour,” he says. “[It’s] hard work, and the harder the work it is on a newspaper for me, the more entertaining it is."
Pass by his office and you'll usually see Bill Gallo doing what he has done since he joined the sports department in 1960 - preparing a cartoon for the next day's paper.
Gallo is know for his work in sports, but he takes on all subjects. Witness Vice President Dick Cheney's recent hunting accident.
"It can't be cruel. It shouldn't be cruel,” he says. “Even his bumbling, it has to be funny. I like to do a cartoon where in a case like this even he would laugh at it."
Still, it is usually through the prism of the spots world that Gallo makes his point, be it funny or serious.
His cartoon about the death of former Yankee captain Thurman Munson in 1979 is perhaps his most famous work.
"I did that in 15 minutes," he says. “Your hand does the work, but the thought is all [in your head]. You really draw with your head, and it's an emotional thing, too. You want to put yourself in their place: ÎWhat about these kids who just heard that Munson died?’ You have to tell a story with this, you can't just draw a picture. There are a million guys who can draw, you know."
Gallo’s office is like a small New York City sports museum, with particular attention paid to his favorites, the boxers. He knew many of them, including the Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
“I went to see him at Deer Lake, where he was training for his last fight, against [Larry] Holmes, and he was very fat. So I drew a cartoon about him carrying his belly in a wheel barrel. He always got a kick out of that," he says. “Ever since that cartoon was drawn, his hello to me is [he makes hand gestures pretending to make a belly]. To this day, he does that."
“When I first met [boxer Jack] Dempsey, he says, ÎYou're not related to Frank Gallo, are you?’” he continues. “I said, ÎYeah, he was my father.’ He said, ÎFrank was a good friend of mine.’ It made me feel 20 feet tall. And because of that we became friends, Dempsey and I."
But of all the stars Gallo befriended through his years at the News, one stands out.
“He calls and he says, ÎGallo? This is Joe.’ ÎJoe who?’ ÎJoe DiMaggio.’ I say, ÎC'mon!’ He wanted company. They always say he wanted to be alone, but that's not true. He wanted company," says Gallo. "I enjoyed his company and he enjoyed my company. The reason it lasted so long was because I never once mentioned the name Marilyn Monroe. If I did, that would have been it."
Bill Gallo was born into the New York newspaper business. His father was an immigrant from Sain, and worked at a paper called La Prenza. He took his son up to the paper as a 7-year-old, and Gallo was hooked.
“The sixth floor was where they printed the paper, and that g-d damned printer’s ink went up into my nose and into my head and my body, and it just stays there,” he says. “That's how I fell in love with it."
But only a few years later, Gallo's father died when his son was only 11.
“It was devastating because my father and I were close. He was close to all his kids,” he says. “It was the most traumatic thing to me. I thought I lost everything."
Gallo says the Marines became his father, made him a man. He served in the Pacific in World War II in a demolition unit. He was at Iwo Jima, and drew about the experience.
Gallo came home and went to Columbia and the School of Visual Arts on the G.I. Bill while returning to the Daily News.
“You suffer guilt feelings for all the guys that didn't make it, for all the guys that lost their legs and arms. You suffer guilt for a while,” he says. “You don't think of yourself as a hero. That's such a stupid name, hero."
Years later Gallo would lead a group of cartoonists to visit troops in another war. It was 1969, and the News, then a staunchly conservative paper, supported the Vietnam War, as did Gallo.
And then he spent 28 days in southeast Asia.
“This was me looking at young kids who I saw as my sons. The legs gone or the arms gone -it just broke my heart to see all that stuff," he says.
Gallo had initially criticized Ali for not serving in Vietnam.
“I was there 28 days, almost a month. When I came back, I said, ÎSon of a gun, that g-d damned Ali is right. He is right. I wouldn't send anybody here,’" he says. “[Did I ever tell him he was right]? Yes I did, because I made cartoons of him criticizing his thinking, and I apologized to him and apologized in print."
But Gallo's work usually showcases the fun aspects of sports, helped out by characters like Bertha and Yuchie. And if it's happened in New York, Bill Gallo has written about it and drawn it.
“Some kids think you can just draw pictures, but you have to know what the hell is going on with the person you're drawing, what the story is. You have to be a reporter," he says.
Gallo is 83. He's been married to his wife Delores for 55 years.
Generations of New Yorkers have grown up on his work. It’s fortunate for them that Gallo fell in love as a young kid with newspapers.
“I got older and I said to myself, ÎI'm not going anyplace but here. This is where I belong,’” he says. “So I never worried once in my life as a kid growing up what I was going to do. I knew I was going to do this."
- Budd Mishkin
|ONE ON 1 EXTRA|
Take a behind-the-scenes look at this week's "One On 1" profile with Budd Mishkin's full, uncut interview in Real Video: