Writing about Johnny ‘TV’ Peluso


During the weekends, I’m limited to staying behind a desk at work. I sometimes man the phones. I write breaking news, send push alerts, and manage the station’s social media accounts.

Basically, I turn the cranks and mash the buttons and help make it appear the magic of broadcast and online journalism never takes time off.

Occasionally, the type of story comes along that I’m able to report without going anywhere, either through phone calls or the Internet.

Recently, I received compliments from two people whose opinions I highly respect for this obit I did on a man named Johnny “TV” Peluso.

Johnny "TV" Peluso serving 300 chicken dinners to poor kids -- The Kentucky Post photo courtesy of the Kenton County Library.

Johnny “TV” Peluso serving 300 chicken dinners to poor kids — The Kentucky Post photo courtesy of the Kenton County Library.

Peluso, 92, was a World War II vet, a German prisoner of war, a former mayor of Newport, Ky., and a felon convicted on corruption charges. He was a local legend and throwback to a time when the city just south of Cincinnati was called “Sin City” due to its number of strip clubs and backroom gambling halls.

You can learn more about the man in the piece I wrote by clicking here.

Looking at pics of Peluso back in the day I realized the former politician wasn’t just a character, he was a memory of some of the stories and family I knew growing up — a little bit of sinner and a little bit of saint, which somehow made them larger than life.

There was cousin Jimmy who hustled on the streets of Newport to help his family, the great aunts and uncles who took care of each other there, and the house in neighboring Southgate my great-grandparents lost in the Great Depression. Then there was the rental homes my grandmother shared with some of her 8 siblings until she met my grandfather.

James "Jimmy" Buckley.

James “Jimmy” Buckley.

Listening to stories my grandmother and Jimmy told as I grew up, they all had a little bit of that quality reflected in Peluso’s obit. They weren’t perfect people, but they were real people and they cared about others in their own way. They might not have been wealthy or the best educated, but they were real.

Perhaps the word I am looking for is genuine. They had imperfections and knew it. They knew you knew too. They knew you did too. They were somewhat humble, but unapologetic about it. They knew how the game of life was played and played it without meaning to cause harm to others.

Oddly, the sentiment may be best expressed in a more recent piece of pop culture I really enjoy, The Wire. That series opens with one of the best expressions of the realities of America and the “American Dream:”

Det. Jame McNulty on a stoop talking to a witness at a homicide scene: “I gotta ask ya: If every time Snotboogie (the victim) would grab the money and run away, why’d you even let him in the game?”
Man On Stoop: “What?”
McNulty: “If Snotboogie always stole the money, why’d you let him play?”
Man On Stoop: “Got to. This America, man.”

As I told one of the people who complimented me on the way I wrote the Johnny Peluso obit, I always found the stories of saints kind of boring. It’s the average person, just making their way that kept me sitting at the kitchen table growing up, listening to stories of people just trying to make it.