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DONN ESMONDE/NEWS BOOK REVIEWER


The last bone from the National Wingfest was picked clean days ago, yet Drew Cerza was still smiling Thursday as he walked into a downtown restaurant. Success breeds happiness.Cerza runs the National Buffalo Wingfest. An estimated 66,000 people came over Labor Day weekend. It was the biggest crowd in the Wingfest's three years and confirmed its permanent place on the Buffa…

GEEZ, YOU could have fooled us.And for all we know, you did.There was a panel discussion the other day on where to put the new convention center. A task force, working with consultants, decided it should go near the downtown Hyatt, the Mohawk site. Some people are grumbling about the official choice.Somebody asked why the public didn't get a say before nine possible sites …

A DAY CARE center with her name on it is fine. There's at least $50,000 in seed money coming from the $2.55 million court settlement to build the memorial in the community where she lived.That's not the community that's in danger of forgetting her, though. More than anywhere else, Cynthia Wiggins will remain a household name on Buffalo's East Side.She needs to be memoriali…

Dennis Gorski's promise to keep county taxes running in place for three years is a nice start, a step in the right direction and all those other good things.But it won't make a whole lot of difference to a family with a $130,000 house in Orchard Park.As Gorski -- and every suburban homeowner -- knows, the big chunk of the local tax bill isn't county taxes, it's school taxe…

He walked three miles a day to get there. And three miles home.Some days, the summer heat baked the room where he and the others sat.Sometimes he didn't have enough money for lunch.Yet he -- and 13 other budding entrepreneurs -- kept coming to the building on Main Street, every day for 17 weeks.Monday, the labor bears fruit. Christal Smith opens his business, a non-alcohol…

It was more than a year ago, on the East Side, at the wake of a man who'd been his mentor and guide. Someone asked Romental Ray, then 16, what he wanted."I'd like to live in a nice, quiet neighborhood," he said. "And have the chance to go to college."To most 16-year-olds, such things are a given. He said it wistfully, as if making a wish upon a star. With good reason. Days…

We greeted news of the snowbound ineptitude of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with profound smugness. We basked in the Big Meltdown this week. And now, respites exhausted, the realization sets in: There are nine more weeks of winter.We put up a front for the world: tough, character-heavy types who barely shrug as snow cakes our eyelids and cold welds our top and bottom li…

The defining moment of the campaign, and maybe of something larger, came one afternoon this summer in South Buffalo.A volunteer was gathering petition signatures for Barbra Kavanaugh -- unendorsed, politically progressive and openly gay. The man at the door made a connection."Wait a minute. Isn't she that dyke?"Uh, yeah. But she's Irish, too."OK. I'll sign."For Ms. Kavanau…

It has been kicked around, knocked down, vilified and ignored.Body blow after body blow brought Buffalo to its knees.Post-industrial blight, government-subsidized suburban flight and a lack of creative leadership all conspired against it.It is old, it is poor. It lacks the generous boundaries that ensure massive property tax revenues in newer cities. It has few large compa…

HE STARTED OUT as a young man with the potential to play in the NBA. He ended up as just another reckless fool with a gun. Like other fools with guns, he did more damage and caused more pain than he can ever repair.Ritchie Campbell, who never controlled his life the way he controlled a basketball game, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 1/2 to 26 years in prison. He will pay…

There's a lot of lamenting lately about the state of American heroes. We keep hearing that we choose the wrong people when we regard athletes as role models.The suggestion is that we stop making heroes out of people simply because they can throw a ball through a hoop or fling an oblong object 60 yards.All of which misses the point.Despite O.J. Simpson's fall from grace, …

Her youngest biological child is 29 years old. Yet there are two sets of swings in the back yard of her home in Williamsville, and a sandbox, and a pool. And that is just the tangible evidence of the love and care given the past 27 years, from the seemingly bottomless well of compassion in Christa Walser's heart.She died last month at age 60, which means this ought to be a…

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH By Dick Russell Carroll & Graf 824 pages, $27.95ON SEPT. 20, 1963, Richard Case Nagell walked into the State National Bank in El Paso, Texas, and fired two shots into the ceiling. A story in the next day's El Paso Times called it an attempted robbery by a Korean War hero who had gone around the bend.What the story didn't include was Nagell's hi…

LAST WEEKEND, we got a surprise of sorts. The Democratic presidential candidates got together for a forum at Shea's Buffalo Theater. There was Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown and the old war horse, Gene McCarthy. And seated next to McCarthy, to the puzzlement of many, was another man.Last weekend, Buffalo met Larry Agran. The Invisible Candidate.For much of the national media -…

THE NEWS came as a shock, as sudden death always does. For family and friends, it put everyday concerns in trivial perspective and made daily routine untidy and dumb.Thursday, the day after Bill Hoyt collapsed and died at the Assembly in Albany, his staff members here still answered the phone "Assemblyman Hoyt's office." Among the office paperwork was a letter from him to …