10.28.2013

elaine rivera


On her 50th. She was 54.

Elaine Rivera loved people: “Two eyes a nose and a mouth—and all so different!” She loved all kinds of people, from the flower lady in her Bronx neighborhood to the political operatives she covered as a classic New York City beat reporter. Well, that isn’t exactly true. She didn’t love intolerant people—was, in fact, downright intolerant of them. And despite (or maybe because of) her brief marriage and series of long-term lovers, she had her reservations when it came to men. Notably, however, she remained close with almost every one of her exes.
    I met her when she was working at Time magazine on stories like the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, and, less typically, covering celebrities like Christina Aguillera and John F.  Kennedy Jr.  Usually she was a crusader for the underdog, the poor, the victims of racism and hatred. And she really, really cared. She went to the Washington Post after Time, but DC was a bad fit. "I am so outta Virginia, baby. I'm never living in the south again—they can just kiss my Puerto Rican ass," she crowed as she drove back to the home of her heart. She resettled near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and worked as a political reporter for WNYC, leaving to take a journalism chair at Lehman College. The latter moves, trailing many scarves and bags, were particularly astonishing because Elaine’s major bugaboos were technology and bureaucracy.  “This job is kicking my ass,” she would say, no matter which job it was. Now I wonder if the reason she was so exhausted was the liver disease she must have had for years. The only exception, which her more recent journalist friends got very tired of hearing about, was her golden era as a staff reporter for almost a decade at New York Newsday. One wonders what time she had to get to work there, for Elaine was never a morning person.
    Elaine was a party person. She always brought the party hats, whether it was a birthday party—which she adored—or New Year’s or Fourth of July. Confetti, sparklers, flags, balloons, bought at the 99-cent store. Her stories, too, made her the life of the party. One favorite was about the time she was staying over at a friend’s apartment and, mistaking the hall door for the bathroom door, locked herself out of the apartment nude in the middle of the night. Wrapping herself in a rug, she got on the elevator to go downstairs to call her friend, who had slept through the pounding on his door. The elevator got stuck in the lobby. Elaine pressed the emergency button and a woman over the intercom said there was nothing she could do. Elaine, of course, asked her name. “Tookie, Tookie, I’m begging you!” wailed Elaine. “Please call my friend. I’m standing in the lobby in the middle of the night in a rug!”
     Elaine loved being surrounded by celebration and friends, of whom she had an inordinate number. She was always trying to mix them, with varying degrees of success. Well, we’re mixed now, along with her devastated family from Cleveland, in love and in loss. 

The tributes are pouring in:
From Newsday  and Huffington Post
AP
Voices of NY
Lehman
Blog 

14 comments :

nina burleigh said...

Thanks, you captured her well.

retrovixen1 said...

Thank you for this tribute.

cba said...

Oh, no. It can't be.

Maria Eftimiades said...

beautiful claudia.. i thought of the locked out in the nude story last night, how i loved when she told that story..

tammerlindrummond drummond said...

This is beautiful Claudia. You made me laugh and cry. All these years and I never heard the rug story. I remember well the stories about the glory days at New York Newsday.

Adam Cohen said...

Claudia, you really captured Elaine's beautiful spirit -- which of course ran the gamut from a passion to battle oppression to a love of bochinche and 99 cent stores. Such an extraordinary, special person.

otra rubia said...

Beautiful, Claudia. Thank you. She would have loved it so much. What are we going to do without her?

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to curse a lot and then play Jenny From the Block. And cry.

Kate Knapp Artist Blog said...

so sorry to hear of this crazy loss...a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman...when?

Patricia Guadalupe said...

What a great tribute. I was a friend in DC and lived many adventures with her as she cursed being here. She was a fellow Hispanic Link News Service "Linkie" and we laughed a lot. I am so heartbroken.

Claudia said...

I remember Elaine talking so much about you, Patricia. So sorry.

Patricia Guadalupe said...

and about you Claudia! You said it so well that we are all connected in love and grief. I met so many people thru her. It is truly devastating. I'll try as much as possible to remember all the fun and non-stop laughter we had. In the meantime I'm just so so sad, as are we all.
Hugs

D.R. said...

This is too sad for words, but of course you found just the right ones, Claudia. Elaine would have loved your tribute. I expected to always see her at your parties - forever and ever - I guess her presence will be felt for a long time though. What a great legacy to have made so many people laugh, to have done such noble work and to have passed knowledge on to the next generation. An awesome person. Peace to her.

Ava Alexander said...

Thank you for your post. It was nice to hear more about her from friends who knew her well. I had the privilege of meeting Elaine when she came to Lehman College to teach. She was such a wonderful person and inspiration and her students loved her very much: https://everyoneandtheirmotherhasablog.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/dear-elaine/