A Tribute to Barry Farber

Barry Farber died this week, one day after his 90th birthday. His daughter’s tweet says he was live on the air the day before he passed, and that he viewed death as a place he hadn’t gone to yet, like Finland or Estonia.

Many things will be said about this brilliant man by men and women who knew him better than I. Even the New York Times will acknowledge the life and work of one of the earliest pioneers of talk radio. Much will be made of a man who broadcasted live almost every day for 60 years, taking time out only to run for Mayor of New York City for example.

Or they will praise the obvious genius of a man who spoke over 20 languages, who wrote books, and advised the mighty–in business, politics, and broadcast journalism.

His close friends and family will have the most intimate and touching stories to tell to memorialize him. As for me, I have my own personal perspective.

In 1986, I was introduced to Barry Farber over lunch by one of the investors in a show I had brought into New York about the legendary diarist Anais Nin. And without any hesitation whatsoever he tried to help a young actress/writer on her journey and promote her.

He encouraged me to sit in with him on his show at ABC studios, and encouraged me to weigh in on his famous nightly talk show. He, I, and his co-host at the time would then walk late at night to an ice cream place they loved. And they talked about the world. I listened.

Through the years, I would see Barry perhaps once every few years, talk to him briefly on the phone in between, occasionally email to fill him in on my latest novel. Always, he was an encourager.

Yes, Barry Farber was brilliant, articulate, a precision-thinker with uncanny wit. But, he was also a gentleman. No matter the argument, there was a grace about him on his show, and in person. There was a profound respect for his fellow man.

He personally guided me into an understanding of Israel, the Israeli people, and that remarkable country–whose leaders he knew very well, for a very long time. I gained a world-view and appreciation from my exposure to him, both in person and on the air.

I learned to extend my hand out to others, to help them accomplish their goals. He unselfishly helped me, when he did not even know me, and I learned to help others in like kind.

Mostly, since I admired him, and his grace under fire, I gained the ability in my writing to face some of the toughest issues and people in the world today. If you know me, or my work at all, you have an inkling.

So, how do I say thank you to someone I barely knew? To someone who touched my life by chance a long time ago, but whose influence was profound and enduring?

As I said in the previous Blog, you live, ’til you die. I am quite confident Barry Farber did just that–if his daughter’s tweet is any indication. He was a country boy who “died with his boots on.”

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