Sunday, November 18, 2007

Charlie Weiss is dead

We're embarrassed to have missed this, but Wilkes-Barre homeless man Charlie Weiss died in early October at a Hazleton nursing home. Charlie was perhaps Wilkes-Barre's best-known homeless resident. Steve Corbett eulogized him on his WILK blog last week.

  • Corbett: When Times Leader colleagues mocked me for writing about Weiss, "I felt like I was being eaten alive by rats in the newsroom."

  • Photographer Gary Clark's memorial page

  • A powerful 2004 All Things Considered piece about Clark's work shooting Wilkes-Barre homeless men


  • Photo by Gary Clark

    24 comments:

    Tom Carten said...

    His obituary was in the newspaper and listed his past employment as "laborer." About fifteen of us were at his service, which was held at the funeral parlor and conducted by Msgr. Joe Rauscher. I don't know how many more came in to pay their respects and left.

    I thought Charlie rated some sort of editorial in one or both of the newspapers, if only because he was the best-known and most colorful of the city's street people.

    From what I could make out from his nephew, who spoke at the funeral, there was none of the rumored money he had loads of.

    May he rest in peace, in the celestial land of golden doorways and well-cut overcoats. He would have it no other way.

    Anonymous said...

    I like Clark's shot of Charlie. He's a decent photographer. I'm not so sure about his reporting skills though.

    Take his shot of "Sam," for example. Okay photo. But the text accompanying it says

    "Sam is forty-nine years old and a Vietnam Marine veteran. He did three tours of duty and was wounded in combat. He was in the Marine Corps for seven years. Sam is sleeping on a park bench and has been living on the street for ten years. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat in Vietnam, but doesn’t receive any help from the Veterans Administration. He said the “VA doesn’t help, I risked my life and what are they doing for me? F**K Bush!"

    Do the math. The war ended April 30, 1975. Sam would have been 15 or just barely 16 at the end of the war. Three tours of duty would have had him joining the army at 12 or 13.

    I suppose it could be a typo (59 instead of 49), but the guy doesn't look 59 considering he's been living on the street.

    I know, what're ya supposed to do, ask for verification? But the guy's saying he's not getting VA benefits and that he suffers PSTD. If it's not true, it feeds into the negative stereotype that Viet Vets still face.

    Anonymous said...

    12 or 13 assumes normal 12 month tours of duty (13 months for Marines). The guy says he was in the Marines for 7 years, so he'd actually be 8 or 9 when he enlisted.

    Anonymous said...

    The guy's a loser. It will take years for Notre Dame to recover from Charlie Weiss. No way that fat bastard is homeless.

    Anonymous said...

    Corbett's piece on Weiss is well-written, yet it grinds on me as do most homeless pieces. It implies failure on society's part, while failing to acknowledge that most "street" people live as they do by choice, free and clear choice.

    There is no reason for anyone to be homeless in this country, unless they want to be. Charlie, as do countless others, want to be. Case closed. Leave them alone. Quit trying to impose your life choices on others.

    Anonymous said...

    He kind of resembles Soprano. Can we get a side-by-side comparison, Mr. Nepamedia?

    Anonymous said...

    He kind of resembles Soprano. Can we get a side-by-side comparison, Mr. Nepamedia?

    Tom Carten said...

    12:26 -- There is no reason for anyone to be homeless in this country, unless they want to be. Charlie, as do countless others, want to be.

    He certainly did. Even in the nursing home, he told his nephew he wanted to get out and get back on the street where he belonged. That was his home and that was where he felt most comfortable.

    It's not our lifestyle, but it was his.

    Anonymous said...

    Charlie led a full, and little known life. He went to private schools and served with distinction in WWII. As a kid, my friends and I would stop to talk to him and he would tell us about his early life and things he saw in the service. In his late 20s, an unconfirmed account goes, he was cheated out of an inheritance by his siblings, an event so traumatic to his view of human nature and material possessions that he "dropped out" and became, voluntarily, homeless. He was a gentleman of dignity and intelligence. When I introduced my children to Charlie, I may as well have been introducing them to a local dignitary.

    Anonymous said...

    Charlie also was mentally ill.
    Believing in consensual homelessness is like advocating having sex with willing 12-year-olds.

    Anonymous said...

    2:16,
    Hardly. Are other optional lifestyles indicators of mental illness? Living on a commune, becoming a monk, cliff diving, living alone in the wilderess, joining the military?
    Just because someone does something YOU don't agree with does not make them "mentally ill."

    Anonymous said...

    Allow me to chime in as a former TL reporter no longer in the area. Like Tom Carten, I was surprised and disappointed that there was not some sort of feature obituary or other special way to mark the death of Charlie Weiss. He was probably one of the most recognizable figures in Wilkes-Barre among people who had lived there for more than a week.

    Not to lionize the long-dead Iseman/Walzer/Corbett/Sayso era, but I have to believe that there would have been something in the paper, a column from one of those guys or a story assigned to a reporter. Iseman and Corbett, especially, both had a fondness for the little guy and the downtrodden.

    The TL had already made clear that it was abandoning its muckraking ways. But skipping a story like this tells me that it is drifting away whatever on-the-streets connection with the community that it might have had.

    That's too bad.

    Anonymous said...

    The TL is, unfortunately, a pale shadow of what it was. The loss of the old TL, with all its faults, is a real blow to the community. It doesn't even deserve to retain the name.

    Anonymous said...

    Anonymous said...
    The TL is, unfortunately, a pale shadow of what it was. The loss of the old TL, with all its faults, is a real blow to the community. It doesn't even deserve to retain the name.

    7:03 PM, November 20, 2007

    Oh please, what planet are you from. Who are you comparing the TL too? The CV? Yeah right.
    If there was a way, I would request a refund from the CV. For the first time in a while, I shelled out the $1.50 for the CV on Sunday and didn't get nothing in return. There was nothing in it, one big fluffy local story and that was it.

    Anonymous said...

    Please do not compare the TL and CV, especially all of you who once worked for one of them. That's what you're all doing here. Right?

    Anonymous said...

    This is 5:32 again. Let me make clear that like most normal people, I believe Iseman is insane and that much of that era is best left on the ash heap of NEPA journalism history. But the death of a colorful character like Charlie Weiss would never have passed out of the newsroom uncommented on in 2000.

    Of course, about 500 column inches of anonymous libel passed out the newsroom each week during that same era in the form of Sayso. Would I swallow the Sayso to get a Charlie Weiss feature obit? I don't know. I shouldn't have to pick. The Old TL and the New TL, though, makes me pick. It went from gutting everyone in town to kneepadding everyone in town.

    Anonymous said...

    Speaking as a reader, the TL was WAY better a couple years back (like 5-10) than it is now. Credit it to whatever you will, but it was a decent newspaper. They actually covered news, as opposed to acting as stenographers. And it was a LOT better than the CV at the time.

    Now, it's a joke. I canceled my subscription a while back. I'm considering a subscription to the CV. I wouldn't say the CV is a "good" newspaper. But it's the best newspaper in town, for what that's worth.

    Anonymous said...

    I'm a TSer, and I'd be the first to say that the TL was the best paper in the region 5 years ago.

    Anonymous said...

    As a reader and subscriber to both the TL and CV, I agree the TL was a far better paper 7 or 8 years ago than it is today. I wasn't a fan of sayso, just didn't read it. While it is nice to know the sting of Walzer is gone, it has lost an edge as the news leader. The CV scoops them way too often.
    It is sad to think that Charlie Weiss passed away and the TL missed the boat on covering it.
    That was a perfect local story for them to cover, but instead they were too busy covering themselves.

    Anonymous said...

    Charlie Weiss was a fuckin' bum. That's all. No more, no less.

    Anonymous said...

    that's why your best writing has likely just been written. if that's all you see, that's all you see. have a nice career, champ.

    Anonymous said...

    Charlie Weiss, like Mr. Peanut, was "Old Wilkes-Barre." If you're a journalist who came to town in 1978 or after, you'll never fully appreciate how much that means, or how much we miss him. He might have been a little nutty, but he was our nut, and we loved him for it...even if he did wear the same pair of socks six months straight. RIP, Charlie

    Charles said...

    In the late 90's I lived in an apartment at 76 Riverside Drive. It was the middle of the summer. A warm night. I had nothing to do so I went for a walk and ran into Charlie on the corner of of Ross and S. River Street. I asked him if he wanted a beer, and he was quite interested. We walked to Boris's bar and talked along the way. When we got there, he would not go inside - referring to some past altercation there where he was thrown out. So, I went in and got an 8 pack of miller pony bottles. We walked back up to Ross Street, sat on the corner and drank beers. He did enjoy them. We talked, and I tried to get his story and understand him and his background. He told me his family owned a building more towards center city WB and that it had a bar that he was also thrown out of in the past. I remember he stunk, but I powered through it for the experience. After we each had a few beers, the conversation devolved into Charlie repeating unintelligible utterances and making no sense at all - just long rambling series of words that looped around and made no point. If you were in WB in the 90's, you knew which hallway Charlie slept in the night before because it stunk for days. May your memory live on forever Charlie. May your stink haunt many a vestibule in the WB.

    Charles said...

    . . . and every time I hear the song Wharf Rat I think of Charlie . . .