When it’s your last day on the job, assuming you’ve worked at your job for a long time, there will probably be a toast with some sort of alcoholic beverage. You’ll say a few words. Your boss will make some nice remarks. There may be some gentle ribbing. But, all in all, it’s a friendly affair — if you are not Stu Bykofsky.
As we told you last week in an interview with the longtime newspaper columnist, Bykofsky’s last day at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News was on July 12th, 47 years after he joined the Daily News staff. The newsroom marked the day by holding a going-away party for the controversial scribe.
Columnist and Bykofsky friend Jenice Armstrong emceed the festivities, and staffers, editors and top brass looked on as various media personalities who have known Bykofsky for decades — former Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross, Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal, and fellow columnist Christine Flowers, to name a few — waxed on about the man of the hour for about an hour.
It was all in good fun. Well, that is until Pulitzer-winning Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron was summoned to speak.
“I’m not sure she’s a friend,” said Armstrong in introducing Saffron. “But she certainly has an opposing point of view …”
“Stu and I have not been on speaking terms for at least a decade,” Saffron told the gathering, reading from notes for most of her diatribe. “Very clearly, I’m the logical person to offer the opposing view.”
Then she began to air her list of Bykofsky grievances.
Now, Saffron is an avid bicyclist. And Bykofsky is pretty much the guy that avid bicyclists love to hate due to various columns (read: rants) he’s written over the years about bicycling culture in Philadelphia.
So it wasn’t at all surprising that Saffron raised the bike issue to lead her remarks. The crowd chuckled. It seemed like a roast where the temperature had been raised just a bit.
But then Saffron segued her comments about Bykofsky and the bikes into a savage critique of his journalistic ethics, with Bykofsky growing visibly uncomfortable and defending himself.
See for yourself (some strong language follows):
Things got more tense from there.
Saffron brought up the friendship between Bykofsky and a longtime Philly publishing world character by the name of Ted Beitchman, who has a rather checkered history that includes procuring topless dancers for a party while he held a senior position in Ed Rendell’s mayoral administration and a conviction for tax evasion.
Just as one newspaper editor walked over and whispered something to Armstrong, Saffron invoked The Great Stu Bykofsky Thai Prostitution Controversy of 2011. Or, as Saffron put it, “his infamous column about his taste for child prostitutes in Thailand.”
“This is a total fucking lie,” Bykofsky retorted, his arms crossed, as Armstrong’s concern over the mess became more obvious:
At one point, it seemed like Saffron might have been about to genuinely compliment Bykofsky, as she began recognizing his “style,” “voice,” “pacing,” and ability to “deliver a good zinger.”
But it was not to be.
Saffron deftly morphed these comments into an indictment of Bykofsky the “newspaperman” (the key part of that word being “man”) and sexism in the newspaper publishing industry. Stu slapped his head in disgust:
Eventually, shortly after one newspaper editor seemingly tried to shut her down with some premature applause, Saffron finished, and Bykofsky got a chance to respond.
He shouted that “half the things she said were lies” and used the phrase “sack of shit lie” at one point. It was downright uncomfortable. Armstrong did her best to settle him down:
“It was absolutely terrible,” says one newsroom bystander, who asked to remain nameless, of the Saffron speech. “I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
For her part, Saffron chose not to comment for this article, but we’re told that she had absolutely zero interest in participating in the event and only caved after being asked repeatedly to take part.
Reached a few days after Saffron’s speech had a chance to sink in, Bykofsky had this to say: “I can’t decide what I liked best — the demonstrable lies, the careless factual errors, the false impressions, or the guilt by association.”
On Monday, Bykofsky launched his own blog.
We’re pretty sure we know one person who isn’t reading it. OK, two.
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