Tag Archives: Gregory Katz

Remembering Greg Katz

Gregory Katz — a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, noted raconteur, lover of music and baseball and cigars, and longtime (though sometimes part-time) Westporter — died yesterday in London.

He was 67 years old. He had been ill with cancer for several months, and contracted COVID-19.

Greg Katz, in the Staples High School 1971 yearbook.

He made his first headlines not as a writer, but as an athlete. In 1970 Katz — a Staples High School junior, an excellent catcher and the proud possessor of a head of shoulder length, curly hair — petitioned the Staples Governing Board to remove dress code restrictions on athletes. He called them “arbitrary standards of appearance,” which exacerbated social divisions at the school.

After an intense debate, the measure passed 11-6. Katz was free to try out for the team coached by  Brian Kelley, an ex-Marine who still looked the part.

After the University of Vermont, traveling throughout Latin America and writing for the Provincetown Advocate, Katz was in New York City in December 1980.

John Lennon was shot inside the Dakota. Katz’s parents — who owned a home across from what is now Joey’s By the Shore (Elvira’s), where Katz grew up — also had an apartment there.

Katz was the only journalist who could enter the building. He interviewed, among others, the doorman who was witnessed the murder. His story ran in Rolling Stone magazine — the famous edition with Annie Liebovitz’s photo of a naked Lennon and Yoko Ono on the cover.

After writing for USA Today and serving as Latin America bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News (and earning a share of the 1994 Pulitzer for international reporting, with a 14-part series on violence against women around the world) as well as Europe and Middle East bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, he joined the Associated Press in London. In 2013 he was named acting bureau chief. He also appeared frequently on the BBC’s “Dateline London.”

He wrote about popes, politics, refugees and Queen Elizabeth. But he returned to Westport every summer, spending many weeks in a house he and his wife Bea Sennewald owned on Saugatuck Shores, with their daughter Sophia.

Katz loved those summers. He learned to sail at Longshore, and owned a kayak that he often paddled to Cockenoe.

Greg Katz (Photo/Bill Armstrong)

He went to as many baseball games as he could, too. (Of course, he loved covering the Yankees-Red Sox game in London last year.)

He and Bea hosted friends from everywhere, including some of the most noted journalists on the planet. He spent many happy hours on his deck, watching the water and nature.

Neighbor Bill Armstrong said, “His one great fear was that he’d be enjoying his Westport summer — but would get the dreaded call that Her Majesty The Queen had passed away. Greg would then have to rush back to London and spend weeks covering the state funeral and the coronation of Charles.”

Several times a summer, I joined him for breakfast at the Sherwood Diner. He asked about Westport; in turn, he’d chat about his work, covering the latest crisis in the Mideast or Parliament. He was not dropping names; he was describing his life, and what he loved (and hated) about it.

Greg Katz (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The AP’s story on his death quotes Anne-Marie O’Connor, a London-based journalist and author, who covered Haiti and Cuba with Katz in the 1990s. She said, “in addition to being a wonderfully curious reporter, Greg could be riotously funny, and his sense of humor elevated the esprit de corps of his colleagues on the road.”

Ian Phillips, AP’s international news director, described him as a “suave, waistcoat-wearing, straw boater-wearing, gravelly-voice gent … an American abroad but my God how he assimilated! … He managed to capture so much about British society in his writing — the nuance, the singularity, the humor, the tradition.”

He was “a bon vivant” with an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and baseball, added Richard Boudreaux, of the Wall Street Journal. “He could recite the starting lineup of just about any Yankees team going back to the late 1950s, when he was only a kid.”

Greg never lost that “kid” spirit. He had it on the Staples baseball team, and at Woodstock. He had it wherever he wrote, around the globe.

And of course right here by the water, in his home town of Westport.

(For the AP obituary of Greg Katz, click here. For an “06880” story on Greg Katz’s coverage of Brexit, click here.)

Greg Katz

Gregory Katz Tells The Brexit Story

Gregory Katz has covered some big stories in his long reporting career.

Gregory Katz's story on John Lennon's murder ran in the Rolling Stone issue with this now-legendary cover.

Gregory Katz’s story on John Lennon’s murder ran in the Rolling Stone issue with this now-legendary cover.

During the chaos following John Lennon’s murder, the 1971 Staples High School graduate was the only journalist inside the Dakota building. Katz’s interview with the first person on the scene ran in Rolling Stone. It became the definitive account of that night.

Katz earned a share of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. His Dallas Morning News team produced a 14-part series on violence against women throughout the world.

For many years, Katz covered Latin America and the Mideast. Now — ranging all over Europe, as AP bureau chief in London — he’s written about popes, politics, refugees and Queen Elizabeth.

Katz — who owns a summer home on Saugatuck Shores — has been insanely busy recently. But he took time out from his all-Brexit, all-the-time coverage to speak with “06880” about the back story behind that huge story.

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Brexit has been AP’s main focus for the last 3 months. Katz and his staff made a huge story list. They brought in extra reporters from France and Germany, and TV producers from across Europe.

Gregory Katz

Gregory Katz

That enabled them to provide 24-hour coverage on the big night, with feature reporting from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It’s a very hard story to explain. There are many question marks, including how the actual separation from the European Union could — and now, will — work.

Katz traveled to Dover for one report. The White Cliffs and water are beautiful, but he also sensed the residents’ tremendous anger toward immigrants. He’d heard similar sentiments earlier, but found them more widespread now.

The native Westporter spent much of his career in remote places, covering chaotic events. Brexit, he says, was “more of a slow-motion, extended political and business story. It was much more controlled than the sort of reporting I used to do.”

There was very little drama, Katz says, until near the end. “Then it just exploded on the the world’s consciousness. You could see it coming because the financial markets are so sensitive.”

It was clear, Katz said, that the vote would be close. But most people thought the “remain” side would win, so the outcome was stunning.

BrexitBecause of the result, it’s a story he’ll cover for the next few years. For example: What’s the process for taking Britain out of the EU? Will there be major job losses in London and other cities? What will be the status of people from other European nations, who are now working or studying in the UK legally? Of course, there will soon be a new prime minister too.

“It’s a confusing time for a lot of people,” Katz notes. “And it won’t be resolved quickly. The whole AP staff here will be working on various aspects of the story.”

Usually around this time, Katz says, people are quite excited about Wimbledon.

“But no one’s even noticed this year.”

Time Is On Their Side

The music you listen to as a teenager becomes the soundtrack of your life.

I love my soundtrack. And for that I thank Greg Katz.

Greg Katz today — many years after Long Lots.

Greg and I became friends in Long Lots Junior High. The youngest child of a blended, somewhat bohemian family — they had a house right on Old Mill Beach, which was very cool — he introduced me to a wide range of musicians and genres. The Blues Project, Richie Havens, Frank Zappa — Greg was my guide for all of them.

His 1st concert ever was the Beatles, at the Atlantic City Convention Center. He was 11.

His 2nd was the Rolling Stones, the next year. Greg remembers it at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, though his sister thinks it was in Manhattan.

Greg went on to accomplish many things. Music was one — though not the only — motif.

His photo of Buddy Miles performing at Staples was published in the Westport Town Crier.

Gregory Katz’s story on John Lennon’s murder ran in the Rolling Stone issue with this now-legendary cover.

In 1980 — during the chaotic hours following John Lennon’s murder — Greg was the only journalist inside the Dakota building. (His parents owned an apartment there.)

Greg’s interview with Jay Hastings — the doorman who was the 1st person on the scene — ran in Rolling Stone. It became the definitive account of that night.

Greg’s journalism career includes a share of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. He was part of a Dallas Morning News team that produced a 14-part series on violence against women throughout the world.

For many years, Greg covered Latin America and the Mideast. Now ranging all over Europe, he’s written about popes, politics and Queen Elizabeth.

But until Sunday night, the only time he’d seen the Rolling Stones was that elementary school day, in either Brooklyn or Manhattan.

As acting news editor for AP’s London bureau — and with the regular arts reporter on vacation — he assigned the story of the Stones’ 50th anniversary bash at London’s 02 Arena to himself.

The Rolling Stones last Sunday (from left): Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts.

When we spoke earlier this week, Greg surprised me by saying he’d never been a big Mick Jagger fan. “I always thought he was trying to imitate Otis Redding,” Greg said. “And not well.”

Watching Mick live was different.

“He really, really moved well,” Greg said. “He’s fully engaged with the crowd. He looks very fit, and pain-free.”

The crowd ranged from Stones’ contemporaries — in their 60s — to those born 30 years after “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

Greg says there are at least 3 reasons why people in their teens and 20s were there. “They hear a couple of songs, and really get into the rest of the catalog. Jagger is seen as cool, and undamaged by time. And the Stones are really tied into this whole sense of British pride.” They’re the latest attraction in a year that’s included the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, and James Bond’s 50th anniversary.

Greg’s concert highlight was “Midnight Rambler.” A wicked blues harp, Mick Taylor’s “incandescent” lead guitar, the brilliant backing of Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, plus Charlie Watts’ energetic drumming, made for 9 minutes of “crackling intensity,” Greg said.

Another highlight: Jagger and Mary J. Blige’s rock-the-house duet on “Gimme Shelter.”

As for Richards himself — Weston’s most famous resident — Greg said, “he wasn’t flashy. But he looked confident and strong. He seemed really happy.”

Weston’s own Keith Richards.

(On Huffington Post, Greg wrote that Richards’ “survival has surprised many who thought he would succumb to drugs and drink.” The guitarist told the crowd: “We made it. I’m happy to see you. I’m happy to see anybody.”)

The Stones are not Greg’s favorite musicians; he prefers the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. And this wasn’t the best concert he’s ever seen. That would be Brian Wilson and his band performing the entire “Pet Sounds” album.

But, he said, Sunday’s show is among the top 5 concerts he’s seen recently.

I know. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll. But Greg and I like it.

(Click here for Greg Katz’s full story on the Stones’ show.)