High up in the cocoanut tree

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Watching the world go by. Photo: JH.

Friday, August 25. 2023. A kind of almost rainy day, yesterday in New York. Cooler, meaning into the low 70s and finally the high 60s when there was precipitation getting closer.

Warren Hoge in 1976, the year he was hired by The Times to be a reporter on the metropolitan desk, covering New York-area news. Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

I had other plans to for today’s Diary until I learned yesterday afternoon that Warren Hoge had died when a friend sent the Times obit on him.

He was a very very very nice man, and it made me very sad to read about his death. I can’t remember when we met but it was undoubtedly when I was covering some one of the many institutional black tie dinners that occur here in New York. I did not know him well except our paths crossed a few times over the years and we were both inclined to conversation, personality-wise.

We were probably at the same table. He was with his wonderful wife Olivia. I knew she was wonderful just from her being my dinner partner. I can’t remember our conversation except at one point  I mentioned that I’d written a memoir for Debbie Reynolds.  And suddenly, Warren — who was sitting on the other side of Olivia — responded by telling me how much he LOVED Debbie Reynolds.

Warren and Olivia Hoge in 2017. Photo: ©Patrick McMullan.

To which I responded explaining how much I’d loved her since I was a kid at the movies, and saw her singing “Abba Dabba Honeymoon” with Carleton Carpenter in the MGM musical Two Weeks With Love.

And from there, these two men, Warren and Yours Truly, both well over fifty, started singing the song en duo. We both knew all the lyrics. And it took both of us back (to what wasn’t a bad place to be, compared with this place in the 21st century).

It makes me laugh when I think of that moment. Furthermore, I learned the next time I bumped into him, that when he got home that first night, he still couldn’t get the lyrics to the song out of his head. I told him Same Here.

I knew at the time that he was a journalist, long time with the Times; covering the world scene with its wars and problems. I was not familiar with his overall work although reading about it for the first time it his Times obituary, it was obvious that he had a distinguished career.

Warren Hoge on the Great Wall of China. He reported from more than 80 countries in his career. Credit: The New York Times

As it often is in New York, we never shared a friendship although it was always a hail-fellow-well-met upon running into one another. He had a first rate education in the terms of the time when we were growing up. It made me laugh to read that he got thrown out of Exeter for “gambling.” (He ended up at Yale anyway). His Spirit remains intact over here, and no doubt wherever he was once present. His loss must be profound for those who knew him well, as well as his wife and son.

Here’s Debbie and Carlton again in honor of that moment when at age 10 when Warren and I happened to see the same Saturday matinee film — he in Manhattan and I in Massachusetts  just to give you a sense of that child’s pleasure, and the profound effect it had on us personally to this moment. I am sure he will always rest in peace and never forget the abba-dabba honeymoon in his life.

Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter singing “Abba Dabba Honeymoon” from the MGM musical Two Weeks With Love. Click to watch.

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