An unlikely connection turns into a thirty-eight-year-long friendship in O’Shaughnessy’s memorial tribute to Mario Cuomo (1932-2015).
What is the probability of a self-styled “Rockefeller Republican” and a liberal Democratic icon “with too many vowels in his name” becoming the best of friends? Most likely on the low side of the spectrum. But when O’Shaughnessy—“one of the best-known broadcasters in the nation”—interviews Cuomo for the first time in 1977, something genuine clicks between them.
Two years have passed since the death of Mario Cuomo. Not a day goes by that William O’Shaughnessy (known to Mario as “Brother Bill”) doesn’t think of his close friend, and thus, his necessity to create this memoir.
O’Shaughnessy does not follow the typical format found in political memoirs, such as everything…well, political—career, news events, issues, bills, and the list goes on. O’Shaughnessy’s memoir is more of a love letter wrapped into an elaborate scrapbook.
Capturing meaningful snippets of Cuomo’s life, O’Shaughnessy touches lightly on Cuomo’s significant political achievements while spending the bulk of his engaging work on his friend’s contemplative side—starting with Cuomo’s background. A child of immigrants and the son of a Queens greengrocer who dreamed big, Cuomo never forgot the “little man” during the time he served as secretary, lieutenant governor, and three-term governor in his home state of New York.
This concept of “never forgetting the ‘little man’” is the driving theme of O’Shaughnessy’s memoir. O’Shaughnessy, who identifies Cuomo as a gentle person who never forgot his roots and always upheld the underdog, states that Cuomo pleaded “with the American people to see the poor and disenfranchised not as failures and losers, but fellow citizens.” He saw American immigrants, both then and now, not as a “melting pot” but as a “mosaic.”
Cuomo chose his words wisely, using his speeches “to inspire, to probe, to critique, and to provoke.” O’Shaughnessy includes an array of full orations so readers can experience the power of this iconic wordsmith. A spiritual man who had many favorites from whom he loved to quote, Cuomo spoke of the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence, frequently referring to the word “sweetness” to describe people and things.
Cuomo was also not afraid of addressing the media. Always up for a challenging debate, Cuomo was a frequent guest on O’Shaughnessy’s WVOX radio talk show. O’Shaughnessy dedicates a chapter to these interviews as well as one on Cuomo’s comedic moments, since he had an amazing ability to find room for a laugh or two amid discussions on hard issues.
A tribute back to you, Bill, for a job well done from your dearly departed friend Cuomo: “He understands life, he understands love, and he knows how to portray it.”
Truly a work of love, Mario Cuomo: Remembrances of a Remarkable Man is nothing less than inspiring.