Deborah Harkins
(colleague New York Magazine)

He was decidedly non-cranky, our beloved colleague, New York’s music critic back in the magazine’s exhilarating early days. Genial, rather—and agreeably quirky. I never knew why, whenever assistant editor Marion Donnelly came up to our crowded fourth-floor quarters on some earnest mission, he’d rise from his desk, walk over to her, and silently wrestle her to the floor. Or why he’d never give you a back rub (the best ever) if you asked—only if you didn’t ask. Or why he was so generously inclusive: He made me, a strait-laced copy editor, feel not simply comfortable in this officeful of wits, but as if I belonged. (He did love to tease: He’d turn to me whenever anyone said something salty and inquire, affectionately, “Should we read Revelation?” Once, when he was going out to get lunch for several of us, he dramatically refused to order me an American cheese on white, snorting that he’d be ashamed to ask a New York deli man for that abomination. And for many years he loved to pretend that he hated the name I’d bestowed on his historic house—Entwistle—though I knew he was routinely calling it that when he talked with his friends.)

Amiable Alan! It was he who named our office cat Randolf (after, he claimed, a soap-opera actor called Randolph Mantooth; he pointedly changed the ph to an f to preserve Randolf’s pride); he was the one who created the cat’s sleeping quarters, Randolf Park, in a terrarium. (NO Spitting, NO Swearing, went the sign he made for it.) Every day, he’d post a sly Poem of the Day on the blackboard (political rants, puns on office rumors, playful birthday commemorations). He loved to launch into the occasional verse from Gilbert & Sullivan or re-enact the “You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing” scene from The Importance of Being Earnest. If you were lucky, he’d invite you for the weekend to Entwistle, where he was the avuncular host, spending all his time in the kitchen making his famous onion soup and something elaborate from Julia Child while you stayed upstairs listening to Rosenkavalier. Sometimes he’d plunk away at the harpsichord, which he’d built himself from a kit.

He wasn’t cantankerous even on the day he came in after posting what he loved to call “My 95 Theses” on the door of the Village Hall in Grand View-on-Hudson, the river town where Entwistle backed up into a hillside. The document bore his strenuous complaints about town problems that he was urging the mayor to address. I don’t remember whether they provoked any fixes, but he was delighted with his contrarian action, and frequently found a way to grinningly bring those Theses into his conversations.

To work with Alan! What a privilege, what a delight! He stayed bonded to us old colleagues, even though he left us for the West three decades ago. We miss him already.