Sunday, April 21, 2024

Recalling Yogi Berra, Gone at 90: It Ain’t Over til It’s Over, And Now It’s Over


April 28, 2006: Yogi Berra and his wife, Carmen, came to a pre-screening cocktail for the documentary “Toots,” about the famed restaurateur Toots Shor .

Shor’s granddaughter, Kristi Jacobson made the film, and her producers had invited a select few to join them before the movie was shown as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.

And so to The Beekman Pub, a hidden gem in existence since the mid-1950s, came Walter Cronkite, with his lady friend Joanna Simon; Andy Rooney, baseball legend Yogi Berra and wife Carmen, Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford, famed sportswriter Maury Allen, movie producer David Brown and wife Helen Gurley Brown, and longtime Toots Shor and 21 Club greeter Harry Lavin, who for 27 years was the most powerful man in New York.

Almost all of these people are gone now, with the exceptions of Kathie Lee, Joanna Simon. Harry Lavin retired from “21” last February.

I did talk to Yogi, of course, who was in fine form.

Here is part of what I wrote, a little goodbye to Yogi and to Frank Gifford:

Yogi Berra, who just turned 81, told me he’ll be at Yankee Stadium today and tries to make one game per series at home stands.

“But it interferes with my golf,” he said. “I love my golf.”

Yogi’s memories of Toots Shor’s?

“Lots of sports players all the time,” he said with a grin. “I went there with Mickey, Billy and Whitey. DiMag” — that’s what he called Joltin’ Joe. “Those were the days.”

Boy, were they ever! His favorite celebrity he ever met there? Marilyn Monroe, maybe? Nope. “Jackie Gleason.”

And as long as we’re on the subject, did he really say all those famous Yogi-isms, like “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” and “It’s déjà vu, all over again”?

“My wife tells me I keep saying them now,” he laughed. And grinned. Yogi has the widest grin I’ve ever seen. “I don’t hear it.”

And here’s something weird: Yogi got introduced to Cronkite. If their paths met before, neither one recalled. Joanna Simon said, “Walter, it’s Yogi Berra.” Cronkite shook his hand. “How did that baseball thing work out for you?” he asked. Yogi laughed.

Frank Gifford, looking especially well, approached Cronkite. “It’s Frank Gifford,” Simon said. (Explanation for this announcing: Cronkite, who has all his marbles at nearly 90, is stone deaf. Getting his attention takes a minute.) Gifford extended his hand to Cronkite, who cracked, “Whatever happened to Frank Gifford?”

In fact, the Giffords made a date with Cronkite and Simon to meet up with them on Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Then the Browns, who are up there in the age department, shouted to Cronkite, “See you Sunday!” They were on their way to another event.

Cronkite looked worried. Most of the guests had left for the screening. “We’d better go,” he said, “or they’ll start without us.”

Fat chance.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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