Helen Thomas’ Westport Connections

The death this weekend of Helen Thomas — legendary dean of the White House press corps — has a Westport angle.

Longtime Westport obstetrician/gynecologist Danny Adler met her at a press function in the early 1980s. Despite vastly different occupations, they struck up a unique, distant friendship that lasted through their lifetimes.

Danny was introduced to Helen by his son, William Adler, a UPI correspondent in Washington, D.C.  Danny wanted to meet her because he sensed they were kindred spirits: progressive, outspoken, feisty and unafraid of making people mad.

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas

William cautioned his father not to get his hopes up about connecting with Helen — after all, she was the busiest, hardest-working journalist in Washington, arriving at work before her much-younger colleagues, and staying in the office until the wee hours.

But Danny and Helen hit it off immediately.  They exchanged phone numbers. And when Danny was home in Connecticut they had occasional  long chats about politics. He encouraged her to “give ’em hell” — and she always did.

Helen was impressed by Danny’s knowledge of history and international politics. (A voracious reader, he harbored a secret wish to be a political correspondent, not a doctor).

Dr. Danny Adler

Dr. Danny Adler

Their friendship continued for decades — eventually moving to email. It was easy for Danny to remember their birthdays. He was born on August 3, 1920. She was born a day later, that same year. Danny died 7 months ago.

The fact that Helen Thomas made time for someone she met incidentally — and established such a strong connection — adds private testimony to her public greatness.

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William Adler — who grew up in Westport, and has returned here to live — has his own Helen Thomas story. In 1983, as UPI spokesman, he asked her to help him get a group of Latin American editors into the White House for a private reception with President Reagan.

The date was set. But right before the visit the U.S. invaded the small island of Grenada.  Press secretary Larry Speakes wanted to cancel the editors’ visit, but relented on the grounds that Helen Thomas could not ask the President about the invasion.  William passed Speakes’ condition on to Helen, who tacitly agreed.

The editors were ushered into a reception room. Helen immediately scooted to the front, charged up to Reagan and shouted, “Mr. President, what’s the latest from Grenada?”

(One more Helen Thomas-Westport connection: Current resident Allan Siegert worked with her in Washington in the 1980s.)

10 responses to “Helen Thomas’ Westport Connections

  1. Dan, There are more Westport connections.

    I knew Helen back in the seventies when my (late) husband and I were reporters in Washington. He was Ken Alvord, who covered the White House for NBC and its owned and operated stations in the Carter and Reagan years. A former NBC -er myself, I covered the White House and Capitol Hill as owner of my own news service.

    I have many good memories of Helen as a colleague and friend (and her occasional ride home to the apartment she shared with her husband Doug Cornell.

    Her more recent outburst regarding Jewish people, of which I am one, was upsetting and regrettable but her pioneering reportage should be the legacy she leaves behind.

    Lynn Flaster Westport

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Eric William Buchroeder

    Uncanny…..what a great lady and an icon of seeking the truth. We need a new game “Six degrees from Westport!!!!!” RIP Helen Thomas!!!!!

  3. Holly Wheeler

    RIP Helen Thomas. The great Helen Thomas.

  4. Gary Singer

    Helen was a fine journalist, and apparently a nice person. I’d love to know why she felt the “Jews should leave Israel and move back to where they belong . . . Poland or maybe Russia.”

  5. Eric William Buchroeder

    Gary, let’s hope it was because she felt that they should never have been ejected from those countries in the first place.

  6. Gary Singer

    Eric, isn’t that like saying Trayvon shouldn’t have gone out for Skittles
    in the first place?

    • Eric William Buchroeder

      Gary, if TM was able to rerun the tape and change things I’m sure he would (if he could). The tragedy is Zimmerman and his ilk don’t have a clue what went wrong and they had the gun.
      Eric

  7. There are many reasons she might have said it, but in a life in which her accomplishments far outweigh her faults, maybe we should dwell on those at this point?

  8. William Adler

    I think it’s possible that her outburst, which was followed by her resignation, reflected that something was wrong with Helen. As outspoken as she was about journalistic issues, it would not be like her (or anyone from a news organization like UPI) to spout off personal or prejudiced views. When I was at UPI they used to tell us not to even put a political sticker on our personal cars – to keep church and state strictly at bay, so nobody would ever think we were inclined to be anything less than objective.