Pearl’s friends hope for accurate movie
By Ghanashyam Ojha, Daniel Pearl Fellow
Berkshire Eagle Staff, July 30, 2006
PITTSFIELD — Sixteen years ago, he left Berkshire County and later started at The Wall Street Journal. Four years ago, he was killed.
But people here still cherish their memories and friendships with Daniel Pearl, especially when they hear something new about him.
Pearl, who started his journalism career from the North Adams Transcript and The Eagle, made his comeback into those old memories of Berkshire County residents when they heard that Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie would play the role of Pearl’s wife, Mariane, in an upcoming Hollywood movie. Jolie’s husband, actor Brad Pitt, is a producer of the film.
The movie, based on the book “The Mighty Heart,” written by Mariane soon after her husband was killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, is supposed to reflect Pearl’s life, his love for Mariane and his life as a journalist.
Glenn Drohan, editor of The Advocate in North Adams and someone who remained a lifelong friend after working with Pearl in his early days at the Transcript and The Eagle, said he is skeptical but hopeful about the upcoming film.
“Hollywood has a way of trivializing truth and glorifying spectacle, and I doubt that Angelina Jolie, however glamorous, can match Mariane Pearl’s natural beauty and intelligence,” he said. “Still, if this movie brings some recognition of Danny’s integrity, humor, zest for life and compassion for all humanity — and with luck, much-needed money to the Daniel Pearl Foundation — it will be worthwhile.”
Drohan said he is still coping with his grief over Pearl’s brutal death, which was reported by his captors on Feb. 21, 2002.
“Danny brought joy wherever he went and taught me a lot, not only about good journalism, but also about appreciating life on so many levels,” he said. “I’ve always said Danny collected friends like cooks collect recipes — and kept all of them. That is evidenced in part by the music festivals throughout the country on or near his birthday. His memory lives and is cherished in the Berkshires, Atlanta, Washington, California — wherever he lived or worked.”
John Barrett III, the mayor of North Adams, who calls Pearl the brightest journalist he has ever met, said he hopes the movie will tell the complete story of Pearl.
“It should reflect Danny’s life, beginning from graduation to the tragedy he met in Pakistan,” Barrett said.
Barrett fondly remembers Pearl’s “mischievous” side. The mayor recalled one humorous event in which Pearl disguised himself as a woman so as to report on a male dance revue and then broke the story in the Transcript.
“I just loved his sense of humor,” Barrett said. “Therefore, I find ‘mischievous’ as an appropriate word to describe him.”
Barrett, who has served as mayor for more than 20 years, said, “Lots of journalists came and went in my 23-year career, but Danny didn’t go. He is still in North Adams.”
Daniel Bellow of Great Barrington, another of Pearl’s friends who worked with him at The Eagle, is pleased to hear about the movie but concerned how the film might define Pearl and how it will negotiate his death.
“I am interested to see how they will handle it,” Bellow said.
Although Bellow began his journalism career with a dream to become a foreign correspondent, he changed his mind
after Pearl’s death.
“Danny’s death changed my life. It changed my perspectives [in how I] look at the world,” said Bellow, who worked at The Eagle and is now a real-estate agent and potter. He is also a freelance writer.
Lewis C. Cuyler, who was the business editor at The Eagle when Pearl joined as a reporter, said Pearl’s story should be told to the world.
“I am so glad he is being celebrated, and the world should know about Danny as a journalist,” he said.
Unfolding those past memories, Cuyler said, “You know, I was in my late 50s and he was in his early 20s. … To my surprise, he got it. He was very respectful.”
Nick Noyes, who became Pearl’s friend when they worked at the Transcript, has been organizing an annual musical program coinciding with Pearl’s birthday in October ever since he was killed.
Noyes invites Pearl’s friends, some people who know Pearl and some who want to know about him.
“It’s a kind of informal gathering,” said Noyes, who works as the public relations director at the Berkshire Visitors Bureau in Adams.
“I just want to keep the memory of Danny and hold this kind of musical program because the entire world celebrates it as the World Music Festival in Danny’s memory,” Noyes said.
Ghanashyam Ojha can be reached at email@example.com.