Maybe the best thing about covering politics in this town is people.
There are lots of bad people. Politics sometimes brings out the worst. But they make for interesting stories.
There are good people too. And the best of the best are "Buffalo people." They make for even better stories.
Jim Molloy was one of the good people. He provided good stories to The Buffalo News because of his own story -- and the stories he told. The South Buffalo native and former doorkeeper of the House of Representatives died last week at 75 from complications of diabetes, and it's prompted his many friends to recall him and all the "Molloy stories."
Hear the one about Molloy, Tip O'Neill and the Dalai Lama?
Really. Molloy often told it himself.
It seems the late speaker of the House was held up in the chamber one day while the Dalai Lama was waiting in his office for an official audience. The job of conducting small talk with His Sereneness fell to Molloy. And while the doorkeeper ranked as one of the great talkers of all time, this assignment proved a daunting challenge.
"I'm trying to kill another five minutes while O'Neill is in there, and all the Dalai Lama does is keep smiling," told The News back in 1996. "Finally, he looks down at the cheap watch I got from the credit union and tells me it's a 'beautiful watch.' I told him it was only a cheap watch, but I took it off and tried to give it to him."
Turns out the Dalai Lama was forbidden from accepting gifts without giving in return -- a point that wasn't registering with Molloy.
"So, here I am trying to convince him the watch is no big deal, holding it in front of him saying, 'Here, it only cost $14,' " Molloy said. "That's the exact moment the speaker walks in, spies what's going on, turns to an aide and mutters: 'Geez, Molloy's trying to sell him his watch.' "
Ray Gallagher, the former state senator and NFTA chairman who was a close pal, recalls that Molloy confided that he once found himself in the middle of a Washington spat between the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his feisty wife, Margaret. Because he had calmed that situation so well, President Reagan later asked Molloy to accompany him on a state visit to Ottawa aboard Air Force One.
One thing leads to another. Reagan suggests they call Molloy's mother from the airplane. The former Catherine Hayden received the thrill of a lifetime.
Molloy once told an interviewer that growing up in South Buffalo he thought everybody's father was a policeman or a fireman. So Molloy joined the Fire Department, and worked his way through a succession of government jobs until he supervised the entire House staff.
Over the years, at State of the Union time, he introduced six chief executives: "Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States."
When someone once asked him how he rated a chauffeur, Molloy had a simple answer gleaned from a lifetime of experience: "It's a job."
Still, a sense of humility surrounded him. Gallagher once asked him why he didn't write a book, and took special note of the reply.
"I'm no squealer," Molloy replied.
Just about everyone who met Molloy came away with a story. The late Tim Russert, also of South Buffalo, got Molloy to tell him a few about the old neighborhood in 2005 for NPR's StoryCorps oral history project.
At the end Russert, accurately and prophetically, said this: "The best way I ever described you, James T. Molloy, was as a good man, who knew everybody, and who was always proud of taking care of his own."
"I'll accept that," Molloy replied. "I like that."
So do we.