Twenty-one years ago I got a phone call from my publisher, Ray Bard. “Roy, a man in Denver just bought 350 copies of your book from a bookstore in Denver and then faxed the receipt to my office with a question scribbled on it.”
“What was the question?” I asked.
“He wrote, ‘Is this enough for you to arrange a meeting with the author?’”
A couple of weeks later, the man arrived in Austin and we spent a day talking about every subject on earth. I was glad I met him.
That night, Pennie asked, “What does he do for a living?”
That’s when it occurred to me that I knew almost nothing about the man’s personal life because every time I asked him a question about himself, he would take our conversation in a new direction.
A few days later I received an email from my mysterious friend. “Cancel whatever plans you have for March 10 and be in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York at 7:00 PM. Trust me.”
We had no idea what we were walking into, but Pennie and I decided it would be a fun adventure, so we flew to New York.
A small army of security men stood guard at the doors of the Grand Ballroom as hundreds of tuxedos and long-gloved evening gowns flowed like water across the lobby.
We were given a small book with twelve hundred names listed in alphabetical order. It was a seating chart.
Barlett, Donald L. – TIME
Behar, Richard – FORTUNE
Bloomberg, Michael – Bloomberg News
Brady, Ray – CBS
Through the open doorway I saw an arctic plateau of crystal stemware and white china on snow-white tablecloths.
Pennie placed her finger in a precise spot on page nine. “This is the place where our names should have been.”
We stared at that spot for a long time and waited for our names to magically appear alongside a table number. An insert fell from the booklet onto the floor. I picked it up. It was a note from Bill Clinton, President of the United States.
“Pennie,” I whispered, “I just realized something.”
She looked at me. I continued.
“There was no salutation on that email. It didn’t say, ‘Dear Roy and Pennie.’ It just started with the words, ‘Meet me.’”
Pennie had a question mark in her eyes.
“I think he clicked my email address by mistake.”
Everyone else was in the ballroom now and we, conspicuously, were not.
Pennie smiled and said, “No problem, we’ll go have a nice dinner and then have a few days of fun in New York.” Not wanting to attract attention to ourselves, we began moving quietly toward the door that led onto the street. That’s when we heard a shout.
We froze like we’d been hit with a spotlight while trying to sneak over a prison wall. With all my heart I expected him to say, “What are you doing here?” But what he said was, “Did you have a good flight?”
Before we could reply, the air sang the song of a wine glass being struck repeatedly by a butter knife. That’s when our friend grabbed Pennie’s hand and said, “Follow me.”
He led us to a table on the stage where the trophies were to be presented. It was like sitting onstage during the Academy Awards. Pennie and I were the guests of honor at a dinner party Roving Reporter Rotbart was throwing for all his journalist friends. The next year he threw his party on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and the year after that it was at NASDAQ.
Twenty-one years later, when his daughter Avital needed to design a book for her senior thesis in college, I happily volunteered to let her prepare our long-overdue guidebook, Secrets of the Wizard Academy Campus.
We will be distributing copies during our extravaganza on May 2nd. The roving reporter says he’s planning to be there.
Roy H. Williams
When Michael Bloomberg decided to start a financial news organization in 1989, his first hire was Matt Winkler, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal. As Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief, Winkler made Bloomberg News into a global news juggernaut. This week, our own roving reporter Rotbart sits with Matt in his New York office to discuss his journey from zero employees to more than 3,000 and ask, “What did you learn from that experience?” MondayMorningRadio.com.