On a number of occasions since I exited as host of the Monitor breakfast, people have asked about this morning get-together of press and public figures. The most frequent questions: How did it get started? What do you do? What makes the breakfast different?
Frankly, I never have figured out how I got mixed up in this breakfast business. Back in the late 1970s, that well-known, Hollywood-connected writer Nora Ephron got me to provide this explanation as she put together a story about our group for Esquire Magazine and her book, "Scribble Scribble:"
"I've been engulfed by this thing. I can't tell if I'm running it or it's running me. This week I didn't want five breakfasts, but I must admit I can't say no. This is a sideline that occupies me, interests me, irritates me. If anyone had said to me, the thing you'll be remembered for is your breakfast group, I would have gone into another career. A breakfast group?"
Keeping the breakfast going was no picnic. It was something I had to do besides covering politics and presidents and, for years, running a news bureau. But I soon found that I was picking up a lot of stories for my paper from the breakfasts. Also, as bureau chief, I needed to keep informed on subjects that others in the bureau were covering.
The story of how the breakfasts got started has been told and retold. But for those who missed it, I'll do it again, briefly.
I didn't set up a group. I just had a breakfast. And it wasn't even a breakfast. It was a lunch. Chuck Percy was coming to Washington as a new senator and he didn't know people in the press. So I called up a few of those I traveled with on the campaign trails.
That breakfast made a lot of ripples as Senator Percy told of his plans to run for president. I had another. And another. The second year I did it, people started saying, "You've got something this city needs." I said, "I can't imagine it." But I kept having them.