Ten Minutes With Dan Valenti
A one-man mob scene
Dan Valenti is Berkshire County’s one-man mob scene and arguably its most prolific scribe. The Pittsfield native earned his journalist chops during stints at several New York newspapers, where he was mentored by old-timers who still kept bottles of hooch in their desk drawers. After returning here for good in 1980, Valenti became a local radio host and a newspaper columnist for both The Berkshire Eagle and The Pittsfield Gazette. These days, he keeps the pot boiling through his blog, planetvalenti.com.
What’s your mission, man? To fight the scourge of the age, civic indifference.
Has anyone ever rung your neck? Yes. Literally. I had just signed off the air on my talk show [which ran on WBRK for 14 years until 2006]. As I stepped outside of my studio, a local politician greeted me with a haymaker.
What’s your beef with politicians? Most politicians are people who want everyone to love them. Most possess skin as thin as a wafer and the short-sightedness of Mr. Magoo. As Khrushchev said, a politician is a person who promises to build a bridge, even if there is no river.
What has been your proudest moment as a journalist? Helping break the story of the capture of David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam,” in 1977. Being on the team that was the first to report on the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in 1979. Exposing numerous local stories, too many to count, that the mainstream media would not touch, especially in Pittsfield.
Biggest regret? Moments of failure lead to regret only if you fail to learn from them.
Your biggest flaw? A love of a good, handmade cigar is my only weakness.
In columns, on your radio show, and in blog posts, you refer to a fictional husband and wife of your own creation. Who are they? Joe and Mary Jane are the typical little guy. They are “we the people.” They are lower middle-class, hard workers, solid, family people....They pay their taxes, abide by the law, expect no handouts. They are the most important constituency, yet the most ignored because they don’t have the cell-phone numbers for the people in charge. I try to adopt their concerns and be their advocate. I have the cell-phone numbers of the big shots.
How much grief do you get from moving from Pittsfield to Stockbridge? A considerable amount, which amuses me to no end. I had my offices in Pittsfield for 28 years. It just became too crowded. I became a public figure and the town became too small.
Who are your heroes? Literary: Edgar Poe and George Orwell. Journalistically: Ambrose Bierce and H.L. Mencken. Also, Ted Williams and Stanley Kubrick. My dad, who turned 92 on January 3rd.
What does the world need now more than anything else? Love. I mean it. I don’t mean to be campy or facile. The world needs nothing. People, though, need a change of heart. Until we realize we’re all in this together, we shall continue with the irrationalities of war, violence, wrongdoing, corruption, greed, and the like.