Add another regret to my list.
A few years ago I interviewed Uwe Reinhardt for this magazine. Our conversation was placed on our website here. It hints, but only hints, at the measure of the man: his brilliance, kindness, humor, and zest for life. After the filming, he and I and the cameraman talked for another hour or so; just three guys chewing the fat, except that one of us was a most-sought-after and much-honored world-renowned intellectual.
This James Madison Professor of Political Economy at Princeton University appeared regularly on Sunday news shows. Major publications, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, sought him out.
Yet, he always made me feel like we were buds. He was one of the most genuine human beings you’d ever want to meet.
I discovered that some 20 years ago when I started working for this magazine. Uwe was the first heavy-hitter I interviewed. I was nervous as hell, but he quickly put me at ease.
We did a lot of laughing that day after the video interview, the kind that heals the soul. Uwe was a wonderful raconteur and surprisingly talented mimic. He and I vowed that we’d go and grab a Belgian ale at one of Princeton’s historic taverns. Some day.
When my wife Kate died a few years ago, one of the ways I tried to deal with my grief was to make a list of the most interesting people I could find and just have a beer with him or her. Guess who topped the list? But for one reason or another (Uwe was always traveling to speaking engagements all over the world) this beer summit never came off.
Uwe Reinhardt died today at age 80, and while others will mourn his intelligence, I will miss his humanity. And his humor. I will get that Belgian beer tonight and toast an original.
R.I.P. Uwe Reinhardt.