Joey Goldstein, 59, Traffics in talk. Talk, talk, talk. Talk, talk. Talk. He is, gratefully in the view of some, almost the last of a dying breed. He's the chairman of the board of the good-ol'-boy network, an old-style, old-timey, knows everybody, hears (and repeats) all rumors, exaggerates everything, let's have lunch, fast-talking, New York-style sports publicist. Did we forget to say hustler? "I am not a hustler," Goldstein sniffs. "I am a practitioner who enlightens the American populace and brings joy to the world."
Goldstein is a mouth for hire, only a phone call away from any company or person that hopes to use sports as a vehicle to attract attention, as in free attention, via the media. His clients include Bob Hope, corporations such as Mobil Oil, Manufacturers Hanover and RJR Nabisco, and for years, the entire sport of harness racing. He has flacked for almost every sport, including the Saudi Arabian Olympic soccer team. Which is the ultimate irony for a Jewish lad from Conway, S.C. Goldstein, 24 hours a day, has but one thought in his chaotic brain: "I hope for attention in the press."
And at this moment he and Helene, his wife of 31 years, are sitting in a Manhattan eatery with Fred Lebow, the majordomo of the New York City Marathon, another Goldstein client. Lebow is trying to talk, but he has no chance against Goldstein. Finally, in exasperation, Lebow says, "The problem is, you remember everything, like a computer. But you're like an overloaded computer that goes haywire. I hate you, but I can't do without you."
Helene: "When people say something like that, they mean it in a loving way."
Joey: "Yeah, that's right. I'm a person who brings about ambivalence."
Helene: "Well, another word that does come to mind is annoying."
Everybody laughs, because truth often will do that. There are precious few major sportswriters, sports editors, TV columnists, TV assignment editors and sports broadcasters who have not been annoyed endlessly by Goldstein, who wants nothing more than a modest—or, hey, not so modest—mention of whatever person, place or thing he is thumping for. One of Goldstein's best friends, NBC veep Alan Baker, says of his pal, "He's the Jewish equivalent of the Chinese water drip."
Another very close buddy, Dick Schaap of ABC News, says, "Anything you can say about Bob Irsay, you can say about Joey." Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jimmy Breslin snorts, "All we are seeing are the last days of a hustler." And Bob Hope chuckles, then says of Goldstein, "Sounds like a bright fellow. I'd like to meet him sometime."
Goldstein, who desperately wants to be loved, is thunderstruck when told what his friends have said about him. "Why would they try to louse me up?" he whines, which is another thing he does well. Yet, perhaps the truest measure of Goldstein's genius is that over the years, three of his closest friends have been Howard Cosell, New York Post columnist Dick Young and the late, legendary New York Times columnist Red Smith, all of whom hated each other in every direction—but loved Joey.
Goldstein, somehow, can endlessly torment his all-star list of names in the media, yet end up with most of them liking him. Not everyone, mind you. One of Goldstein's rivals, a cowardly fellow who asks not to be identified, fumes, "If Goldstein were found stabbed to death with a bone-handle knife in his back at 3 p.m., by 8 p.m. the list of suspects would be narrowed to 100,000." Far more typical, however, is George Solomon, sports editor at The Washington Post, who says, "I enjoy hearing from Joey."