The media have taken the measure of the man: Chet Curtis was a prince. Smart, caring, funny, calm and comfortable. No argument there.
Chet had many “princely” trappings – a huge salary for the time, what seemed to be an ideal family, a boat, a plane, a Nantucket vacation home. He and Nat were rich and powerful, major players in eastern Massachusetts, and people were as fascinated by them back in the day as folks are today by much lesser celebs. But Chet himself was always down to earth, as interested in those at the lower rungs (inside the station and out) as the senators, governors, international stars and other A- listers with whom they routinely rubbed elbows. He really liked people and took a sincere interest in them. They returned the sentiment.
He was a joy to work with. In the early 80’s, he hosted the Five on Five program I produced and the candidate forums that I oversaw at the beginning of my career at WCVB-TV. In recent years I delighted in his friendship and his wonderful story-telling at dinners and other get-togethers. The Globe’s Kevin Cullen wrote that the outpouring in the wake of Chet’s death was, at least in part, nostalgia for a bygone era, a golden age in television. And so it was.
Our huge Channel 5 contingent, past and present, was temporarily reunited as an extended family at a packed St. Cecilia’s Church in Boston today, bound together by reminiscences of a time gone by.
Do we glorify and exaggerate the good old days? Maybe. But compared to today, the ’80’s and even the ’90’s were worth glorifying. We worked hard, and we were mission-driven. No way would Chet have approved leading the news with Paris Hilton or Justin Bieber as some media outlets have done.
He was smart, a consummate newsman. He could be depended on for hours and hours of informed, easy coverage of all the big events. It must have been his destiny. He often recalled how, in his very first job for an Albany station, he was in the press gallery at the U.S. Senate on that fateful day in November, 1963 when Ted Kennedy, standing at the podium, received the news that his brother the President had been shot. And, as you can see from Chet’s moving remarks last September when he was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, he never forgot how lucky he felt to have been amply rewarded for doing a job he loved to do.
Most of all, he was a proud father and grandfather, and his daughters and grandchildren today reflected well on the quality of the man.
Responding to the effusive media coverage, a friend emailed me to ask whether he really lived up to the hype. I think he did. He will be missed.
I welcome your comments in the section below.