The "New Yorkiest" New Yorker
Updated: Mar 20
(10.17.1930 – 03.19.2017)
Stella Watch Company is a New York Brand. When we created our first model, the Felix, our inspiration was to create a quality timepiece with a cool, casual vibe that anyone, from the office worker to the bartender, could wear. We were inspired by the people around us, the melting pot of classes, races, accents, and colors. They say you know you’re from New York when your doorman is Russian, your grocer is Korean, your deli man is Israeli, your building super is Italian, your laundry guy is Chinese, your favorite bartender is Irish, your favorite diner owner is Greek, your cabbie was Pakistani, and your newsstand guy is Indian. You get the idea, all hard-working everyday people who came to New York to make a living and maybe enjoy a little bit of the good life. And no one understood them more than Jimmy Breslin.
Breslin was a legendary New York City newspaper columnist who had a talent for finding and telling the stories of these everyday New Yorkers. He was known for his gritty, street-level reporting and his ability to connect with his readers on a personal level. In 1986 Breslin won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for “columns which consistently champion ordinary citizens”. He would famously say that he merely applied a sportswriter’s sensibility to his columns. Avoid the scrum of journalists gathered around the winner and go straight to the loser’s locker room. This is where you find your story. Below are some of Breslin’s most well-known columns that told the story from the common man’s perspective.
“A Death in Emergency Room One” (New York Herald Tribune, 1963), famously conveys the despair of John F. Kennedy’s assassination through the lens of the doctors who hopelessly tried to save his life in the emergency room of Parkland Memorial Hospital.
“It’s an Honor” (New York Herald Tribune, 1963), a second story about the death of John F. Kennedy, this time focusing on Clifton Pollard, the man who earned $3.01 an hour and dug Kennedy’s grave on his day off.
“Part of a Cop’s Past Lies Dead” (New York Daily News, 1980) tells the story of the police officers who responded to John Lennon’s homicide.
Breslin's writing style was deceptively simple with a rhythm that was direct and crunchy. He specialized in sparse, straightforward prose, that at times could be savagely funny:
—"The first funeral for Andrew Goodman was at night and it was a lot of work. To begin with, they had to kill him."
—"Football is a game designed to keep coal miners off the streets."
—"The auditorium, named after a dead Queens politician, is windowless in honor of the secrecy in which he lived and, probably, the bank vaults he frequented."
Breslin developed a larger-than-life persona with his hard-hitting, gut-punching journalism. He was the guy everyone wanted to share a beer with down at the pub, yet he was so consumed by life’s injustices, he barely had time for personal grooming let alone day drinking. When he wasn’t punching out the latest “rage against the machine” column, he was showing up at civil rights marches and rallies everywhere from New York to Alabama.
Born in Jamaica, Queens in 1928, Breslin took his first gig as a copyboy for the Long Island Press and never looked back. He was quoted as saying “I’d never take a job in a place where you couldn't throw cigarette butts on the floor. I was hooked on this writing for newspapers and magazines”. He went on to work for several other papers throughout his career and from 1978 – 1988 he was a columnist at the New York Daily News. While Breslin was holding court over the newsroom at E 42nd street, one Jack Maselli (my dad) worked in the basement in the stereotype department. I don’t know if Jimmy and Jack were grabbing beers after work, but I like to think of my pop artfully converting Jimmy’s sharp wit into a times roman masterpiece with perfect kerning and spacing. I hope you’ll excuse me for making the connection.
Jimmy famously once said, “A wise shoemaker sticks to his trade and maintains a mouthful of nails”. We launched Stella three years after Jimmy’s death but I like to think he would approve of us sticking to our trade. As for the mouthful of nails, I respectfully eschew the idea.
Jimmy sells Beer
The Stella Breslin is in honor of this "New Yorkiest" New Yorker. Its the everyday watch for the everyday man (or woman) who just steps out the door and tries to be the best he can be. Available in three distinct colorways; Raspberry, Silver, and Classic Blue. I think Jimmy would have gone for the pragmatic Silver version. What do you think?
For Further reading:
A List of Jimmy Breslin's Articles
New York Times Obituary, Jimmy Breslin
List of Jimmy Breslin's Pulitzer Prize Winning Articles
Jimmy Breslin and The Son of Sam
Breslin was also a prolific novelist
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I'll leave you with one final Breslin Quote:
"Life never was long enough to provide time for enemies"