Jimmy Breslin

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Jimmy Breslin
Jimmy Breslin at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival.jpg
Breslin at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival
Born James Earl Breslin
(1930-10-17) October 17, 1930 (age 85)
Jamaica, Queens, New York City
Occupation Reporter, columnist, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, actor
Notable awards George Polk Award
Pulitzer Prize
Spouse Rosemary Dattalico (1954–1981)
Ronnie Eldridge (1982–present)
Children James Breslin
Kevin Breslin
Rosemary Breslin
Patrick Breslin
Kelly Breslin
Christopher Breslin

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Jimmy Breslin (born October 17, 1930) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and author. He currently writes a column for the New York Daily News' Sunday edition. He has written numerous novels, and columns of his have appeared regularly in various newspapers in his hometown of New York City. He served as a regular columnist for the Long Island, NY newspaper Newsday until his retirement on November 2, 2004, though he still publishes occasional pieces for the paper.


Born in Jamaica, New York, Breslin attended Long Island University from 1948 to 1950 before becoming a weekly columnist for the Long Island Press. His early columns were attributed to politicians and ordinary people that he chatted with in various watering holes near Queens Borough Hall. Breslin was a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune,[1] the Daily News, the New York Journal American, Newsday, and other venues. When the Sunday supplement of the Tribune was reworked into New York magazine by editor Clay Felker in 1962, Breslin appeared in the new edition, which became "the hottest Sunday read in town."[1]

He has been married twice. His first marriage, to Rosemary Dattolico, ended with her death in 1981. They had six children together: sons Kevin, James, Patrick and Christopher, and daughters Rosemary and Kelly. His daughter Rosemary died June 14, 2004 from a rare blood disease and his daughter Kelly, 44, died on April 21, 2009, four days after a cardiac arrhythmia in a New York City restaurant.[2] Since 1982, he has been married to former New York City Council member Ronnie Eldridge.

One of his best known columns was published the day after John F. Kennedy's funeral and focused on the man who had dug the president's grave.[3] The column is indicative of Breslin's style, which often highlights how major events or the actions of those considered "newsworthy" affect the "common man".

Breslin's public profile in the 1960s as a regular guy led to a brief stint as a TV pitchman for Piels Beer, including a bar room commercial where he intoned in his deep voice: "Piels—it's a good drinkin' beer!"

In 1969, Breslin ran for president of the New York City Council in tandem with Norman Mailer, who was seeking election as mayor, on the unsuccessful independent 51st State ticket advocating secession of the city from the rest of the state. His memorable quote from the experience: "I am mortified to have taken part in a process that required bars to be closed." [4]

His career as an investigative journalist led him to cultivate ties with various Mafia and criminal elements in the city, not always with positive results. In 1970, he was viciously attacked and beaten at The Suite, a restaurant then owned by Lucchese crime family associate Henry Hill. The attack was carried out by mobster Jimmy Burke, who objected to an article Breslin had written involving another member of the Lucchese family, Paul Vario. Breslin suffered major concussion and nosebleeding, but survived the ordeal without any permanent injury. The horrible assault may also be attributed to supposition that his novel "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight," as actually based upon Joey Gallo and his attempt to carve a niche from the Lucchesse Family despite their non-recognition by New York City Organized Crime members. Joey Gallo was nicknamed "Crazy Joe," because when early in his career was caught with burglar tools he plead "temporary insanity" before a NYS Judge. The defense was unsuccessful. The beating in Henry Hill's restaurant was in response to the accuracy of his columns pertaining to the Lufthansa robbery.

In 1977, at the height of the Son of Sam scare in New York City, the killer, who was later identified as David Berkowitz, addressed letters to Breslin. Jimmy survived the takeover of the NY Post by Rupert Murdoch. Jimmy's manager Steve Dunleavy looked upon the David Berkowitz letters to Jimmy has the impetus to solidify the NY Post as a New York newspaper and a way to end the bad publicity associated with both the purchase of the NY Post and the reduction in force of many members of the newspaper guild. The NY Post became a tabloid in the British model although Murdoch and Dunleavy were actually Australian. Excerpts from these were published and later used in the Spike Lee film Summer of Sam, a film in which Breslin, portraying himself, bookends. In 2008. The Library of America selected one of Breslin's many Son of Sam articles published in the New York Daily News for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime writing.

In 1978, Breslin, despite having no significant acting experience, appeared in Joe Brooks' feature film If Ever I See You Again in a main supporting role playing "Mario Marino", the assistant to two Madison Avenue jingle composers.[5][6] Breslin's performance received a Golden Turkey Award nomination for "Worst Performance by a Novelist".[7]

In October 1986, Breslin landed his own twice-weekly late night talk show on ABC, Jimmy Breslin's People. However, because many affiliates had already committed to syndicated programming when the new season started a month earlier, the show was often delayed or preempted altogether; even flagship station WABC pushed it back from its midnight slot to 2 a.m., and would occasionally only air it one night a week. Disgusted, Breslin took out a full-page ad in the New York Times announcing that he was "firing the network" and would be ending the show after its Dec. 20 broadcast (at which time his 13-week contract expired).[8]


Breslin has received numerous accolades and awards throughout his career.

In 1985, he received a George Polk Award for Metropolitan Reporting.[9] In 1986, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.[10]


In May 1990, after fellow Newsday columnist Ji-Yeon Mary Yuh described one of his articles as sexist, Breslin heatedly retorted with racial and sexual invective.[11] Asian American and anti-hate groups forcefully decried Breslin's outburst. Breslin appeared on the Howard Stern Show to banter about his outburst and Koreans in general.[12] Following this controversial radio broadcast, Newsday managing editor Anthony Marro suspended Breslin, who then apologized.[13][14][15]

Author and former FBI agent Robert K. Ressler has stated that Breslin "baited Berkowitz and irresponsibly contributed to the continuation of his murders" by trying to sell sensationalist newspapers. In Ressler's book Whoever Fights Monsters, Ressler condemns Breslin and the media for their involvement in encouraging serial killers by directing their activity with printed conjectures.[16]

Works include[edit]


  1. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (July 2, 2008). "Clay Felker, 82; editor of New York magazine led New Journalism charge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ Hauser, Christine (April 23, 2009). "Breslin's Daughter Dies After Collapse". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ Digging John F. Kennedy's Grave Was An Honor: November 1963. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  4. ^ John Buffalo Mailer, Summer of ’69, The American Conservative, May 4, 2009.
  5. ^ "AFI Catalog of Feature Films: If Ever I See You Again". afi.com. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2015-09-16. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  6. ^ Buckley, Tom (1978-06-08). "Paramount Picks Up Tab For Rights to New Musical". The Sun-Telegram (San Bernardino County, California). p. B15. Retrieved 2015-11-15 – via Newspapers.com. (subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ Medved, Harry; Medved, Michael (1980-04-14). The Golden Turkey Awards: The Worst Achievements in Hollywood History. New York City: Perigee Trade. ISBN 978-0399504631. 
  8. ^ Stiffing the Graveyard Shift, Jimmy Breslin Fires Abc : People.com. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Previous Award Winners – Long Island University. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  10. ^ The Pulitzer Prizes | Awards. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  11. ^ Archives, New York Times, May 13, 1990. Retrieved March 9, 2012
  12. ^ Helen Zia, Asian American Dreams, 2000
  13. ^ Kornheiser, Tony (1990, May 9). "The Real Jimmy Breslin". The Washington Post.
  14. ^ Russel, Dorothy Ing (1990, May 13). "Jimmy Breslin, Coward and Bully". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ Jones, Alex S. (1990, May 9). "Breslin is Given 2-Week Suspension". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Ressler, Robert K. (1992). Whoever Fights Monsters. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0312950446. 

External links[edit]