Albert Amateau retires after a lifetime in the news
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | After a career as a newsman spanning six decades, Albert Amateau retired from Community Media earlier this month.
He filed his last story — a fine profile of Peggy Friedman, the director of the Washington Square Music Festival — for the Wed., Aug. 1, deadline. That is, it was his last story as a full-time staffer.
Amateau, who just turned 80, said he plans to take a few weeks to acclimate to retirement, but then might want to freelance for The Villager and East Villager, such as covering precinct community council meetings or writing obituaries.
As he wrote in a personal piece a few weeks ago reflecting on his career, Albert Amateau began his life in newspapers around 1952 as a copy boy at the World Telegram & Sun, down at 125 Barclay St. A fellow copy boy, Allen Ginsberg, advised him to ditch poetry after seeing a sample of his verse.
But it was the news industry’s gain. Amateau would go on to work for the Lafayette, Louisiana, Daily Advertiser, the Syracuse Post Standard and also Millinery Research, where he covered boxer Emile Griffith, who had a day job in the stockroom of a Sixth Ave. millinery house. He also reported for Women’s Wear Daily and The Westsider and Chelsea Clinton News before coming to The Villager and Downtown Express in 1997.
Amateau wrote The Villager’s Police Blotter, most of the obituaries and covered the full slate of community board meetings and City Council hearings — from St. Vincent’s Hospital to the N.Y.U. 2031 plan. His obits annually won top honors in the New York Press Association’s newspaper contest, one judge once raving of Amateau’s pieces, “I didn’t want to miss a single, delicious word.”
Larry O’Connor, a former editor of his at the Chelsea Clinton News, respectfully dubbed Amateau “The Dean of Community Journalism.”
Amateau was feted at a party last Thursday at Phil Mouquinho’s P.J. Charlton bar and restaurant, at Greenwich and Charlton Sts. Borough President Scott Stringer presented Amateau with a proclamation declaring it “Albert Amateau Appreciation Day.” Stringer noted the veteran scribe had been covering him ever since he was a kid campaigning for his cousin Bella Abzug.
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said Amateau made neighborhood news important, and was always reliable.
“When Amateau said it was so — it was so,” he stated.
Councilmember Gale Brewer also presented the career newsman a proclamation. She recalled how when she was an aide to former B.P. Ruth Messinger on the Upper West Side, she depended on Amateau’s reporting to help fight for tenants’ rights.
Councilmember Margaret Chin said she hadn’t known Amateau that long, but that he was always a really nice guy.
Troy Masters, associate publisher of Gay City News, said that for a straight person, Amateau wrote very sensitively about gay issues.
“He just gets it,” Masters said, adding, “I love him.” Amateau gallantly kissed Masters’ hand.
Mouquinho said his first memory of Amateau was of him being “surrounded by 14 people” at a meeting. The restaurateur said he had no idea what actually went on at the meeting until he read Amateau’s incisive report.
Jere Hester, a former city editor at the New York Daily News who now works at CUNY’s graduate journalism department, cut his teeth at the Downtown Express with Amateau, during an earlier stint by Amateau at that paper.
“Al taught me how to curse like a devil,” Hester said, “and write like an angel.”