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The Washington Post buried some big-time news today. On B4 (!), Allison Klein reported that the D.C. Police Department’s spokesperson Sgt. Joe Gentile would be retiring after 40 years. Forty years. No one has been to more crime scenes, stepped up to more microphones or answered more reporters’ annoying requests for interviews with Assistant Chief Alfred Broadbent than Gentile.
I have goose bumps just thinking about this news. I swear.
Gentile was the Cal Ripken of police information. He showed up every morning. He lit one of his scented candles (my recollection is that he favored cigar-scented candles—-but I could be wrong). He closed his door. He took phone calls from reporters. And he became an expert at giving no information at least to some of us. We do tip our hat to all the people he helped us interview. Shit, even after I wrote this and this and, well, this, the man still took my calls. He never yelled at me.
Gentile isn’t a yeller. As the Post reported, he’s a comedian. In this office, his one-liners were legendary. His phone humor tended toward Rodney Dangerfield—-and let’s be honest—-Howard Stern. The man could work blue if you know what I mean!
Still getting Gentile on the phone could be difficult. Often—-maybe most of the time—-he liked to hold court 50 yards and several floors down from his desk. I’m talking about outside the coffee shop across from police headquarters. If you were desperate for some Gentile Time, you’d forget about dialing his office line and just head down to the coffee shop. It became his second office.
So I propose that the shop—-now Firehook—-name its outdoor patio seating after Sgt. Joe Gentile. I know that the man has already been honored with a medal, had the public information office named after him, and has been given a certificate and a 10-minute standing ovation. But naming the outdoor seating after him would be fitting. It was his salon. And perhaps it was where he did his best work—-telling stories with his rusty baritone and telling reporters to call him back one more time with that request.