Off Main Street: The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News

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Off Main Street: The offbeat side of the news

Hello, Governor

Being one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted allies isn’t all glamorous.

There are phone calls on Sunday mornings that catch you off guard while you’re standing in the peanut butter aisle of the grocery store.

Howard Zemsky is still not used to this. He recounted the story of one such call for a standing-room-only crowd in a ballroom of Adam’s Mark Hotel this week.

“So I’ll typically answer, instead of saying what I probably should, which is, ‘Hello, Governor,’ I’m thinking, he didn’t really mean to call me, so I answer something like, ‘Hullo?’ And he’ll say, ‘Howard, it’s Andrew Cuomo.’ And I’ll say, ‘Hello, Governor,’ and he’ll say, ‘Is this a bad time?’ ”

Zemsky, who said he would like to meet the person who would tell the governor to call back later, described his casual weekend dress that morning, noting that even when he’s trying to dress up, “I look disheveled.”

“I’m engrossed in the conversation, and there’s a woman and her husband standing next to me. Now, she’s looking me up and down, I’m on the phone saying Governor this, and Governor that, and I’m thinking, what is going through her mind. I look over at her and she leans over to her husband and goes, that poor guy thinks he’s talking to the Governor.”

But Cuomo got the last word: “When someone calls you on the telephone, and asks you, ‘Is this a bad time?’ and you’re standing in your slippers and your bathrobe in an aisle of a grocery store holding a jar of peanut butter, the answer is, yes, this is a bad time.”

Everyone loves Old Pink

The Allen Street Bar and Grill, better know as the Old Pink, has been named one of America’s best dive bars by Maxim magazine in its December issue.

“Cheap beer, a pool table, the best steak sandwich in town made behind the bar, and all the deadbeats you can handle,” said Ryan Twardowski, the reader who submitted the bar.

The icon of Buffalo nightlife has been featured in GQ and InStyle magazines for the same honor.

“To us, it is an honor,” laughs Molly Brinkworth, the Allentown bar’s owner.

Maxim considers “dive bar” a compliment, too. In toasting 31 such bars, it writes, “Heaven has a sticky floor.”

This plea doesn’t hold water

It’s pretty certain that most aspirants for a seat on the Erie County Water Authority Board of Commissioners knew they didn’t stand a chance. The job has long been recognized as a patronage plum and eventually went to Jerry Schad, the counsel to the Legislature majority.

Joseph N. Weiss, a former Clarence Town Board member, who called the interview process a “charade,” offered this brazen appeal to legislators:

“I can write a bigger check than anybody else in that room, if it’s needed to help either one of the political parties, if that’s part of the deal,” Weiss said.

The professed entrepreneur, who said he “started a bunch of multibillion-dollar companies,” offered a few other gems during the course of his roughly five-minute interview:

“I finished a Ph.D. when I was 23 and, politically, when I was 17, my father said: ‘Look, you’re not too bright. You better become a Republican. You’re going to need the county job.’ That’s why I’m a Republican,” he said. “Actually, I’ve been in bed with the Democrats for 23 years. That’s my wife.”

Hard to believe that Clarence voters turned down a chance to re-elect such an entertaining figure to a third term.

Farewell to a chimp

Charlie the Chimp, a primate trained in martial arts who died Nov. 4, will get a proper send-off.

Fans can pay their respects during a memorial service from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Town of Niagara community center, 7000 Lockport Road.

Charlie, 28, was formerly known as Charlie the Karate Chimp and appeared in the 2009 film “Ghost Rider.” He died at his home, the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls.

Written by Jill Terreri, with contributions from Samantha Maziarz Christmann, Harold McNeil and Aaron Besecker. email:

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