Even in a newsroom packed with colorful, larger than life characters like Steve Dunleavy, Roger Wood and future London tabloid legend Kelvin MacKenzie, Vincent Musetto always stood out as one of the most memorable people who worked at the old New York Post. All the wild, wonderful and crazy stories people tell about Vincent – dancing on desks, blowing a trumpet in the office, screaming outrageous Page One headlines – are completely true. I know. I was there.
I first met him in the 1970s when he was on the Post copydesk. But it was in the early 80s – after he became a managing editor – that he really hit his tabloid stride. For five years, he and I came to work every morning at 6 a.m. and put out all seven afternoon editions of the Post (the paper ran 18 hours of editions then and sold nearly a million copies a day). I produced the stories and he made them come alive with the genius of his headline writing.
The most famous was the one everyone always remembers him for: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. It all started when he saw a police slip about a man being murdered and beheaded during a robbery at a bar in Queens that might have featured topless dancing. He told me excitedly that he had a great headline if I could just confirm the topless dancing part. I sent a reporter (Maralyn Matlick) to the closed club, she saw a sign inside advertising topless dancing – and, just like that, journalistic history was made.
Vincent always claimed that wasn’t his favorite headline though. The one he liked the most was GRANNY EXECUTED IN HER PINK PAJAMAS. There were so many other classics too like I SLEPT WITH A TRUMPET; KHADAFY GOES DAFFY and MAYHEM IN THE STREET (which became part of the opening credits on Saturday Night Live)
All this attention made him famous as the face of tabloid headlines back then. David Letterman had him on his show and People magazine ran a big feature on him too. For Vincent – who was really a quiet, shy man in private – I think all this adulation made him a bit uncomfortable. In any case, by the late 80s, he had stopped writing Page One headlines to pursue his real love: the foreign cinema. He became a serious movie critic for the Post until he retired a few years ago.
Lots of other memories of Vincent come flowing back to me now. Even in his 70s, he still looked like a hippie from the Woodstock generation . He wore jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers everywhere. He could be volatile at times (I remember him smashing a trashcan into another executive’s office door and also once literally dismantling another Post staffer’s chair who he was mad at) – but he was really a sweet adorable guy that everyone in the newsroom loved. I don’t think I ever had a cross or angry word with him despite all the high pressure, stress-filled situations we shared over the years.
The last time I saw him was at a memorial service for our longtime Post editor Roger Wood a few years ago. He was the same old Vincent Musetto that I remembered. Even showed up at the church in his customary sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers. I got to spend a lot of time with him that day at the church and a lunch afterward – which I’m really grateful for now. We always shared a special bond together. Even had the same birthday – although the dates were separated by several years. Vincent used to always kid that we must be twin brothers, but it just took me longer to be born. Vincent Musetto, he was one of a kind. I’ll miss you, brother.