<EM>En passant</EM>

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

En passant

Two local members of the media passed away this month, Lee Davis two days ago at South­ampton Hospital and Lou Capozzola at his home in Westhampton on August 18th.

I knew his wife Pam, the artist, better than I knew Lou, as she was a client of my office on Main Street because I had the only graphic arts camera for miles around.

But he had a job I always envied, a photo­grapher for Sports Illustrated, which publica­tion observed his passing by re-posting some of his more striking images over the decades.

Lee was another story entirely... we knew one another on several fronts over the past 40-odd years, as good acquaintances, poor business associates and fuhgeddaboudit antagonists when it came to politics.

Though he never liked to admit it, he was an unrepentant Socialist, extreme even for one who'd been a teacher, and, I felt, unfathom­able for the son of a doctor.

But then we were both writers, were genuine locals... during WWII, my mom used to take me to his Dad's practice on the corner of Potunk Lane and Oneck Road for any shots I needed... and we were involved in a number of projects together.

One was great fun... the Friday Afternoon Authors' Guild (FAAG), which met at week's end at The Patio, and whose unabashed raison d'être was imbibition.

(I think it endures under the stewardship of Kay Kidde and Claudia Wasserman, al­ternating Thursday afternoons at Baso's.)

Another was the Westhampton Cultural Con­sortium, of which I was a plank-owner, but it was pretty much Lee's baby all the way.

And as related recently, in the early days of personal computing, Lee and I each had Epson QX-10s, In truth, it was Lee who put me onto a guy up in Bridgeport who was selling the $3250 machines for $2500 out-the-door.

(I still have several of them, including Lee's, stashed in my attic!)

In the '80s when OtBB was a weekly Hampton Chronicle-News column and Editor Michael Pitcher asked if there was anyone in FAAG I could think of he might approach about being the paper's Drama Critic, I was incredulous.

"Didn't Lee Davis jump at the chance?"
"I never thought of him! He'd be perfect...."

And perfect he was... given his background and his love of the performing arts, especially if there was music to go with the words, no one was more suited for the position than Lee.

And in recommending him for the "Drama Desk," I had unwittingly chosen my successor when Pitcher, in one of the most craven acts ever, fired me in December 1988.

When the first issue of 1989 hit the stands, Lee debuted his "Now & Then" column in the upper right of the Letters page where "On The Beach" had appeared for seven years.

It was not a subject Lee or I ever mentioned in one another's presence.

Once in the '90s Lee wrote a column which caused me to seethe to the extent that I had to dash off a caustic Letter to the Editor.

It was after a rant in which he decried "the First Amendment which allows the sale of assault rifles," I pointed out that he meant the Second Amendment, since it was the First Amendment which allowed him "to publish his drivel each week."

Lee actually handled that pretty well... he had a knack for diffusing tricky situations.

Some years later, when the insufferably pre­tentious Editor Douglas MacKaye Harrington of Improper Hamptonian (with which neither Lee nor I was involved), made an egregious diction error, I sent him a light note which began...

"Not to be a language pedant, but...."

Harrington immediately and for all time outed himself as an absolute poseur not by just missing the point and failing to acknowledge his own gaffe, but when he printed my letter, he misspelled the word as "pendant" and compounded matters by making a who-the-hell-are-you-to-question-me response.

I chuckled and let it pass, knowing I owned the man.

Lee, unbeknownst to me, couldn't let it go, and wrote Harrington a wickedly humorous riposte that put paid to the matter.

Lee's health had been in decline for the past several years, and the few times I saw him were when we overlapped at the North Mall "Seniors Center" during rehab sessions.

Sorry to lose you, Lee... and sorry we never really got to talk hockey, Lou.


1. Jeanne Speir said...

This is a week of bad news.

Unrepentent Socialist? Apple Dictionary: "The term 'socialism' has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state communism, and social democracy; however, it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammeled workings of the economic market.The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended toward social democracy.

If this is the case I suppose he politically had some good company in your wife, dear. "Untrammeled workings of the economic market" have put our middle class and this world in a very precarious place.

Thanks for the wonderful links to Lou's photos, Dean.

I am very, very sorry to hear of the passing of this gifted man (our kids played soccer together), and deepest condolences to the family.

I best remember the kindly Lee Davis as a one man cheering squad for The Choral Society of the Hamptons. Many choristers enjoyed his outspoken appreciation of our local choral concerts.

The world is diminished.

Now you keep healthy, babe. We need you!

Yes, dear...

2. Beth Flanagan said...

I first met Lee when accompanying my then-husband to an event associated with the Author's Guild at The Patio and other places in Remsenburg.

I kept running into him over the years at various events and watering holes.

What a kind man he was to me. I shall miss him.

3. Chris Davis said...

No doubt my father was an unrepentant, classic liberal. But "socialist?" C'mon Dean, that was cheap.

Hi, Chris... sorry for your troubles.

I gave serious consideration to le mot juste and my choice was primarily based on the economics aspect.

4. Chris Davis said...

Thanks for the reply, Dean, I'm absolutely certain that you gave your words serious consideration. And thanks also for reminding me of the "Improper Hamptonian" episode, it gave me a much needed laugh.

5. Jackie Bennett said...

My deepest sympathy to Chris Davis. I've never met him but my history with his family goes way back. His grandparents, Doc and Sue Davis were my parents' best friends. Doc and my dad owned a yacht together and my dad always called Doc "Il Pescatore."

I grew up calling him Uncle Doc and Sue was always Aunt Susie to me. Aunt Susie's mother Ma. Lyons was like a grandmother to me. I have so many precious memories of times spent with Lee's wonderful family.

My mother and Aunt Susie were always in kahoots. Because of this, Lee and I shared the same piano teacher and the same orthodontist.

When Lee went off to college and my family dined with the Davises at their home on Potunk Lane, I played Lee's piano while the grownups enjoyed their cocktail hour. It was a thrill to root through all Lee's music when he wasn't home to know about it. Aunt Susie even put me to bed in Lee's room one snowy night when he was away at school and the adults' party lasted a bit too long.

I shared these memories with Lee a few years ago and he was happy to hear them. You know how he loved to reminisce.

The articles Lee wrote for the Chronicle were filled with his memories too, and many times he mentioned my dad fondly in them.

Lee was a treasure to his family and to his mother especially and to our entire community as well. He will be greatly missed.

Thank you, Jackie... don't be a stranger.

6. Liz Wilson Weeks said...

Thoughts of Lee Davis popped into my head a couple of weeks ago, and I finally got around to 'googling' his name this morning. I'm so profoundly sad to hear of his passing. I wish I had the opportunity to tell him how much he meant to me as a teacher, director, and friend all those years ago when I was a kid. Chris, if you're still checking in here, allow me to offer my deepest sympathy. And know that there's warm thoughts of Lee Davis hovering over the Rocky Mountains today.

7. Anne said...

Here it is the end of December 2011 and I just found out about Lee's passing. I will miss him. I knew him as my teacher in the 1960s and later in life as my friend. Chris, your father respected and loved you very much, as I am sure you know - I think Lee viewed life not really from a "socialist" view but more from a humanitarian view. He was a gentleman, a scholar and a wonderful human being. I am sorry he is gone.

Commenting has been turned off for this entry.