Ed Garvey (second from right) was on the first episode of WeekEnd, in October 1991. Joining him (left to right) are Bill Kraus, fellow panelist and former Gov. Lee Dreyfus press secretary, WeekEnd Executive Producer and Anchor Dave Iverson, and panelist and former Republican state Rep. Margaret Lewis.
In June 1997 I received a signed, 5x7 glossy photograph of Ed Garvey in the mail. Garvey appeared as a weekly panelist in those years on the Wisconsin Public Television Friday night news program I produced, WeekEnd.
“To Andy, a friend who fired me,” the inscription read. He was referring to my decision to place his TV appearances on hiatus after he announced he was running for governor against Tommy Thompson.
The signature was classic Garvey. A forkful of Irish humor accompanied by a twist of the knife. Sending the photo was a wacky, warm way to, for the time being, disconnect our relationship, a relationship that was built on weekly topical discussions that led to his appearance on Friday nights.
Ed didn’t agree with my decision to let him go. He thought it was premature. If it were up to Ed, I believe he would have continued to appear as a panelist right up to Election Day. It was the lawyer in him; and he was a great one.
Yes, Ed could twist the knife. Many years before trolling was in the political lexicon, Ed was a master of it.
Ed in trolling mode was an explosive mixture of humor and balls. Fast forward from his last night on the WeekEnd political panel to the closing minutes of his one-hour gubernatorial debate on Oct. 16, 1998 with Thompson.
Pre-show, Ed won the coin toss to determine the order of closing statements. Of course he chose to close last, after Thompson. That was the night Thompson test-drove a new slogan that would serve him well in the final weeks of the campaign: “Wisconsin! A place where eagles soar and Harleys roar!” Camera cuts to Garvey.
“And I hope this isn’t a bore!” a grinning Garvey mocked his opponent without missing a beat.
Was it disrespectful? Or was it Ed being Ed? You can guess where the partisans came down on that one.
Ed was the consummate, modern-day progressive. When I think of him I think of Madison’s other liberal lion, the late editor of The Progressive magazine, Erwin Knoll. Erwin said something to me one night after I watched him appear from our satellite studio as a panelist on the PBS NewsHour. Once off the air I said, “Erwin. They stacked three conservatives against you tonight.”
“Andy,” he said. “I’ll take those odds anytime.
So would Ed.
Ed loved people. At least the people he loved. And his charming, intelligent wife Betty was one of them. She told a story one night at a WeekEnd dinner party that showcases my favorite characteristic of Ed: Underneath all the bombast, the legal swagger, the verbal sharpshooting, Ed was able to laugh at himself. Here’s the story:
It was a long walk from the rural county fairgrounds pavilion to the woman’s car, but Ed and Betty weren’t going to miss a chance to pick up a vote so they followed her. Ed had just delivered a stem-winder of a campaign speech to a large, raucous crowd. The surrounding grass was filled with row after row of parked cars.
The woman had asked Ed and Betty if they’d be so kind as to come to her car so she could introduce them to her husband. It was hot out. The warm breeze was dust-filled and, as Betty told it, they passed endless rows of cars on what seemed like a never-ending hike. Finally, at the outer edge of the parking spaces, they arrived to their destination and approached the waiting spouse.
“Honey? This is the Garveys!” the woman announced. Then she pointed to Betty.
“And this is how I want to get my hair cut!”
No one in the room laughed harder than Ed that night.
Farewell Ed, you warrior. I’d give anything to witness the berating you’re giving St. Peter right now about his admission policies.