The Son Also Rose
Larry Taishoff was a big bear of a man–with both the cuddle and the claws.
It was a description that was self-evident from even a cursory inspection. But it was almost too easy a label for the barrel-chested former B&C president and publisher who died this week after a long and draining illness.
He had one of those eternal Florida tans and a shaggy beard that framed a face that looked like it had done its share of laughing because it had. But he had an imposing, Old Testament, look about him, too, when he wasn't smiling, the sort of man Moses would have sent to the back of the line during the Exodus not to punish him but to provide an intimidating presence to any approaching Egyptians.
I knew him only as a copy boy and cub editor would know the boss of all bosses, which means somewhat distantly.
But I've had time to think about him in the last couple of days and I have to say I respected him for his sense of duty to his father's business, and for bringing to it his talent for making that business grow. I take it on faith and the word of people I trust that he insulated us editorial types from the slings and arrows of outraged advertisers.
His father was the ink-stained journalist with the elbows worn thin from perching them on a desk while the words flowed. I identified with Sol and knew him better, but Larry had his own skill, which was to take his father's legacy and make the most of it according to the dictates of his character.
He could have, and perhaps would have, rather been an actor, with a voice that boomed and a laugh that was unforgettable and indescribable, though that won't stop me from trying: It was part gravelly belly laugh part smoker's "car won't quite turn over" wheeze, accompanied by the ear-splitting smile of the cat who eschewed canary for duck in orange sauce.
His cousin talked Friday of having to talk Larry into cutting station ID's for his Oklahoma station, then having to try to drag "Larry Bob" out of the station three hours later.
His funeral in Washington was at the perfect spot to capture the complicated man. It was at the funeral home of Joseph Gawler's & Sons. Not only a family business, as was Broadcasting/B&C under co-founder Sol Taishoff and son, Larry, but located in Bethesda on an avenue lathered with Cartier, Saks, Gucci, Tiffany, and other symbols of the financial success that Larry enjoyed thanks to the magazine and his skill at making its profits work overtime in real estate and elsewhere.
Then, to make the trifecta complete, Gawler's is located directly across the street from a TV station, in this instance the Fox affiliate in town, which is also appropriate since one of Larry's sons described him as a Fox News Alert junkie.
The funeral was small, with mostly family and friends and a few industry types. I saw the name of NAB President David Rehr in the guest book. Most people in the industry were probably surprised that Larry was even ill. He specifically asked for the privacy he was accorded, choosing not to make his death into an "event."
I respect that too. His life was probably event enough for him, and for several of us mere mortals, lived large and expansively.
Larry could be tough, and was, but he also mellowed with the birth of grandchildren he adored and a mission to spread some of his money around to places where it would do good for other people.
I think that is how I will choose to remember him.
By John Eggerton