Punch Lines

 With the passing of New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, I was reminded of the time I interviewed him for Manhattan, inc. some 20-odd years ago for a series of profiles about chairmen of New York’s arts institutions. He was chair of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I live right across the street, so it’s very convenient,” he quipped. “I sometimes think that’s why they gave me the job.” The rap on “Punch” was that he was no publishing genius, and really rather dull, but I decided to put aside any preconceived notions and see if I could find out in our hour-long chat what made him tick. I found him to be a sweet man who answered my questions with mild, Reaganesque self-deprecation. I came away still wondering, is this a cover? Is he smarter than he lets on, or just an average bloke who’s been thrust upon the throne of greatness? In any case, what broke the ice was when I got him talking about his favorite haunt in the museum: the medieval arms and armor room. Something about the name Arthur, he said (cue quiet chuckle). I got the feeling that nothing would make him happier than to spend all his days wandering among those metal suits of old, as opposed to dealing the suits who inhabited the boardroom. His spirit lives on in his eponymous gallery that showcases an incredible collection of arms and armor, to this day one of my favorite parts of the Met as well.