Pat Crow, a colleague at The New Yorker and a neighbor—he lived down the street —died last week at the age of seventy-one. Pat was the elder statesman among us local upstate New Yorkers, having made his way to The New Yorker in 1967. In an 2001 interview with the Arkansas Gazette, Pat recalled that William Shawn hired him even though “I think he didn’t know what to do with me.” Pat went on to edit New Yorker contributors Andy Logan, Elizabeth Drew, Calvin Trillin, John McPhee, among many many others.
My wife and I came to know Pat a little more than twenty years ago through a serendipitous conversation in the parking lot of a local Quaker Meeting house. Pat’s then wife Elizabeth struck up a conversation with us, saying she’d heard we worked for The New Yorker, adding she’d worked there once, and that her husband, Pat, still did. After a little more chit-chat we realized we lived right down the street from each other, barely a five minute walk.
When those blurry days arrived at the time Tina Brown was transitioning from editing Vanity Fair to editing The New Yorker, Pat was fond of informing us outliers of what he was hearing and seeing at the office. I was once able to return the favor when a number of other of cartoonists were invited to the office to hear Tina share her thoughts about the cartoons. Tina told the assembled cartoonists she’d like to see, “Cutting edge cartoons — not fuzzy.”
Afterwards as I wandered The New Yorker’s hallways trying to find an exit, Pat pulled me into his office by the elbow, closing his door behind us. John Bennett, another senior editor was also there. Pat wanted to know, “What happened? What did she say?” It was as cloak-and-dagger as The New Yorker ever got for me, and, it was a whole lot of fun.
Pat became our Deep Throat, passing along news he’d heard as part of Tina’s circle of senior editors. Before most of the world knew that Tina Brown had chosen an Ed Sorel drawing for the first cover of her refurbished New Yorker, my wife and I learned the news from Pat. Running into Ed around that time I mentioned the cover and Ed looked startled: “How’d you know that?!” But, of course, I couldn’t reveal my source (until now).
My few lengthy chats with Pat revealed a genteel man, full of mischief. Whatever he had to say he said with a small smile. He seemed amused by conversation, especially concerning anything having to do with the magazine. He was a no-nonsense guy, usually but not always willing to cut to the chase. Reading his lengthy 2001 interview with the Arkansas Gazette I was struck by the way he summed up his approach to the work that came across his desk for thirty years at The New Yorker, saying simply, “You make it good.”
New Yorker lure is filled with tales of staff members passing each other in the magazine’s hallways for years with perhaps just a nod – sometimes a “hello.” Over the years as my wife and I walked our dogs down the road past the hay fields that separate Pat’s home from ours, we’d see his olive green Suburu wagon coming our way. Sometimes he’d pause and we’d chat for a moment; sometimes he’d cruise by and offer a wave. It seemed we were all holding up our end of an Upstate New Yorker tradition.
Read: John McPhee on Pat Crow in the current issue of The New Yorker.