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Jimmy Breslin signs off at NY’s Newsday

76-year-old columnist predicts Kerry will win the presidency.
/ Source: Reuters

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jimmy Breslin penned his final regular newspaper column for Newsday Tuesday, capping a decades-long career of controversial and colorful journalism.

“I’m going in another direction. I’ve got this. I’ve got that,” the 75-year-old writer said from his Manhattan home. “I got things.”

Written with a gruff and outspoken love for the city of his birth, Breslin’s columns are peppered with such colorful characters as a bookie named Fat Thomas and Shelly the Bail Bondsman.

In one of his best known pieces, while in Washington, D.C., to cover the funeral of slain President John F. Kennedy, Breslin left the journalistic pack to write about the $3.01-an-hour laborer digging the president’s grave at dawn.

During his career, he has been knee-deep in New York’s biggest stories.

“Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz wrote to Breslin as he terrorized the city in 1977. In the mid-1980s, Breslin exposed a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme involving New York City’s parking violations bureau and, in 1991, he was beaten by an angry crowd while covering racial riots.

He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1986, when he told an interviewer: “I still pursue the art of climbing flights of stairs. Go to the scene. Go ring the doorbell and ask the guy. Nobody does that.”

Seat-of-the-pants journalistsBreslin still complains about today’s journalists. In September, he wrote: “Here are all these reporters typing away on their laptops, and I don’t know how they can ever excite readers with this quick pecking on today’s best technology, so wondrous and it breeds such lifelessness.”

In his final Newsday column entitled “I’m right — again. So I Quit,” Breslin predicted Democrat John Kerry winner of the presidential election. He signed off with the words: “Thanks for the use of the hall.”

In a career that started in his teens. Breslin worked at the Long Island Daily Press, the New York Journal American, the Herald Tribune, the New York Post, New York’s Daily News and most recently three times a week at Newsday.

In the 1960s, he and writers such as Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer were part of a movement called the New Journalism that applied techniques of fiction to nonfiction writing.

His career has not been without its rocky points. In 1990, Breslin was suspended from Newsday after referring to a Korean-American colleague with a racial slur. Earlier this year, the paper rebuked Breslin for relying on his memory of a 1992 interview with a man who denied making the remarks.

Breslin has written more than a dozen books, including the best-selling novel “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” a farce about bungling Mafia hit men.

In 1968, Norman Mailer ran for New York mayor with Breslin as his running mate for city council president. The off-beat ticket was defeated.