ONCE AN ICON; NOW A LEGEND; GOODBYE GARY

It’s time to say a special good-bye to my friend, Gary Wayne Spaulding and his friend Glenroy Wayne Sinclair.

I never met Glenroy but, about five years ago, I was leaving Golden Bowl after widening my horizons at lunch when a nondescript looking chap stopped me: “You’re Gordon Robinson?” he enquired in a soft tone but one that said he already knew the answer.

So, I admitted guilt. “I really like your columns. I especially like the one you wrote last Sunday”.  I’d already forgotten the column and was in somewhat of a hurry to move onto my afternoon nap when something about the voice seemed familiar so I asked his name. “My name is Gary Spaulding” he said without inflection.

Well, I certainly knew THAT name.  All desire for sleep immediately evaporated.  I was honoured to be in the company of a man I’d respected from afar for years much less to be complimented by him so we had a very engaging chat.  Later on as we met more often and I got to know him better, I realized THIS was Gary. He never came across as believing he was anything special but yet he knew what he knew and he knew it better than anyone else.  Ever humble, exceptionally brilliant, socially comfortable everywhere, analytically curious and incisive, Gary Spaulding proved beyond a reasonable doubt that, every now and then, even Kingston College got it right.

And now, the end is near
and so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear.
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
and more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Gary Spalding was to political reporting as Gary Sobers to cricket; Lindy Delapenha to football; and Usain Bolt to track. He combined brilliant, clear, independent thought with down-to-earth pavement pounding. Whatever life had to offer, personally or professionally, Gary had been there; done that.

Regrets, I’ve had a few.
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
and saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
each careful step along the byway.
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Gary could tell you what was to happen at any crucial political meeting; then tell you as it was happening; and confirm it happened after the meeting was over. This was because his sources, embedded at every level of both parties, were also his friends who NEVER had occasion to doubt him. Gary’s sources knew only he would ever know who they were.

It’s now a matter of record that the Gleaner led the way in uncovering the Dudus/Manatt mess and forcing the then JLP Government to capitulate on these matters.  Yes, Peter Phillips started the ball rolling with questions in Parliament but it was the Gleaner who carried a credible fight to government and compelled real change for Jamaica. In that struggle, Gary was front and centre.

(Gary Spaulding; Gleaner; May 10, 2010):

“‘No one (out of the US) has come to me, either in my capacity as a senior minister of government or as [JLP] general secretary…. No one has held any conversation with me on the matter,’….

Samuda’s comments come in the aftermath of a report in the US-based Am Law Daily……that Manatt, Phelps & Phillips insisted it had been involved in talks with government representatives not merely members of the ruling [JLP] here.

Samuda was given the task to look into the issue locally by Prime Minister Bruce Golding following a heated public exchange between senior party members, Brady, an attorney-at-law, and Daryl Vaz, the information minister.

The JLP general secretary subsequently dispatched a statement to the media saying Harold Brady had engaged Manatt, Phelps & Phillips after the attorney was asked by members of the JLP to do so.”

Journalists or lawyers reading the report would’ve notice the exquisitely careful way it was worded; the subtle contradiction between the excerpt’s opening and closing paragraphs; and the strong suggestion there were wheels within wheels.

Four days later, PM Golding admitted “I sanctioned the initiative”. Did he know Gary already knew? Did he know one of Gary’s highly placed sources in the JLP had already fed him with details that could prove embarrassing to government if Bruce didn’t get in front of the story? We’ll never know.

Gary Spaulding; Gleaner; September 17, 2010:

Prime Minister Bruce Golding, the leader of the JLP, and his general secretary, Karl Samuda, have survived to renew battle, following a bruising showdown on Wednesday.

But it appears the fate of Harold Brady, the man at the centre of the latest controversy in the JLP, continues to hang in the balance.

The sore issue of Brady’s membership status, which had unleashed the passion of party officials, was taken out of the hands of the executive.

It’s understood Golding was peeved on Wednesday when most party members refused to make a public statement supporting his position that Brady was no longer a member of the JLP.

It’s understood Brady is prepared to challenge the party in the courts.

How did Gary know so much about the Party’s inner workings and could reveal them at every step of the Manatt scandal without fear of contradiction or “gagging” libel suit? Why was it that he always was several steps ahead of colleagues and competition? Work it out if you can. I’ll say this. Gary Spaulding wasn’t a desk jockey.  Although, like everybody, he was fed information by telephone, he also went out into the field seeking information. And he was prepared to build relationships slowly until the bond of trust and confidence between journalist and source was unshakeable. The thought of Gary Spaulding releasing the name of a source was either stillborn or perished at birth. No matter what the inducement or threat, Gary’s sources were safer from exposure than Donald Trump from sense.

He was a man’s man. He was the girls’ pet.  He was equally comfortable at a posh ceremony as standing beside a street-side box-lunch wagon.

I have been a rover.
I have walked alone.
Hiked a hundred highways;
never found a home.
Still in all I’m happy.
The reason is, you see,
once in a while along the way
love’s been good to me.

Gary Spaulding kept Jamaica up to date with the Dudus/Manatt happenings despite operating through the print media.  His reports and comments helped design the final result.  For that, Jamaica owes Gary a debt of gratitude.  One last thing (said Lieutenant Colombo): I read all over the print media Gary being described as a “veteran journalist”. This grossly undervalues his life contribution.  A “veteran”, according to the Oxford Dictionary is “a person who has a lot of experience in a particular area or activity”. Gary was more than just experienced. He was knowledgeable, brilliant and a top notch performer.  He was the wise man from whom fledglings learned. He was simply the best.

For what is a man,
what has he got?
If not himself,
then he has naught
to say the things he truly feels
and not the words of one who kneels”
The record shows
I took the blows
and did it my way!

The great Paul Anka wrote My Way specifically for Frank Sinatra but, when he brought the song to Frank, it was rejected.  Frank didn’t like the song because he thought it came across as boastful and self-aggrandising. Gary was like that. There wasn’t a boastful bone in his body and, if you didn’t know Gary, you wouldn’t know he was in a room. But he did it HIS way.

Rod Mckuen who died on January 29, 2015 aged 81, was one of America’s foremost poets who also collaborated (mainly with Frenchman Jacques Brel) as a songwriter.  In 1969, Frank Sinatra commissioned an album of Rod McKuen’s songs and poetry which he gave to legendary arranger Don Costa. The resulting recording (A Man Alone) is one of my prized possessions and includes the song Love’s Been Good to Me (covered locally by bassist turned crooner, Boris Gardner).

Rest in peace my friend.  Anybody else at the Gleaner with the initials “GWS”? Please be careful.

Peace and Love

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