Johnny was eulogized by eight friends, two stepchildren, four Presidents (Carter, Clinton and both Bushes sent written notes), 22 restaurateurs, 20 wineries and a piano player. The over-stuffedness of it all was, of course, appropriate although I must say that while the food provided by the grieving restaurateurs was delicious (especially the oysters), it was on the skimpy side. Apple would have wanted more. He was more gourmand than gourmet, as a journalist as well as an eater, and his antic enthusiasms provided plenty of grist for the eulogists.
Looking about, I noticed that many of the Boys on the Bus, the cast of characters from Tim Crouse's lovely book about the 1972 press corps, were in the house David Broder, Jules Witcover, Hedrick Smith, Carl Leubsdorf. It was Crouse who once described reporters as shy egomaniacs. There was nothing shy about Apple, though, and that was his greatest strength as a journalist. He was the furthest thing from a cynic; he was an utter enthusiast, perpetually amazed and gratified that he'd been allowed to spend his life savoring the feast of public life. "By his standards," Calvin Trillin said, “nobody worked hard enough." Todd Purdum, the master of ceremonies, noted that Apple had 73 front-page stories in just his first year at the New York Times.
One of his eulogists I think it was his editor and pal, Joe Lelyveld (oops, why didn't I note this?) closed by saying that Johnny would live on through the stories told about him by other journalists. I have two. One is more an image than a story. I met Johnny on my first trip to Iowa of my first Presidential campaign in 1975. I was working for Rolling Stone and trailing an entertaining if futile Oklahoma populist named Fred Harris; Johnny and I were the entire press corps. We traveled in a camper. Fred often went barefoot, sang country music songs and, in the evenings, dispensed Jack Daniel's in a manner that can only be called liberal. One evening we pulled into a white Victorian farmhouse straight from central casting, surrounded by corn close in, like a fence around the house and barn corn as high as an elephant's eye, rustling delicately in a slight breeze. The sun was setting; you could smell the dark, chocolaty soil. Fred's aunt and uncle clambered out of the house; I remember them carrying trays of food, but that can't possibly be true. Johnny stepped out of the camper, blinked twice, a bit stunned by the perfection of the moment, turned back and said to me, "Welcome to America, kid."
A few years later I attended a screening of the film All the President's Men. Johnny was there too, no doubt with his beloved wife Betsy. When it was over and the lights came up, Johnny was drenched in sweat. Sweat was pouring off his forehead; his entire shirt was wet. "That's the best movie I ever saw!" he said. Thinking back on it, I suspect Johnny loved the movie so much because it celebrated the things he did asking questions, taking notes, asking more questions, flipping through his notebook, writing, making his typewriter crackle like marbles bouncing across a cement floor, polishing what he wrote, arguing with editors, being a general pain in the ass. The things he did, the things we do not as brilliantly as the early Woodward and Bernstein, not as well as Johnny in full flight, but just as hungrily, just as passionately. Johnny was a lucky man; his memorial service today served to remind those of us in the tribe how very lucky we are, too.