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Eagle Entertainment Editor Remembered As Witty And Delightful

Milton Bass, a longtime editor and columnist with The Berkshire Eagle, is remembered as a witty and knowledgeable man who has left a lasting legacy on the area’s entertainment scene. The Pittsfield native died at the age of 91 Tuesday.Milton Bass became The Berkshire Eagle’s first full-time arts and entertainment editor in 1952, a role he would hold for more than 30 years. Overall, the Pittsfield native contributed to the paper for 60 years as a columnist and also published 13 novels. Former Eagle managing editor and current reporter Clarence Fanto remembers “Milty,” as he was known among friends and family.

“Milton was a very keen observer of the human condition,” Fanto said. “He was very funny. He could be sarcastic in a friendly way, not a nasty way. He always had a quick wit about him and he was a very good judge of human character and personality. He always told like it is. He was a truth teller. You always knew where you stood with him.”

Fanto says Bass’ qualities and personality were evident on paper as well.

“In his writing it seemed like he was speaking,” Fanto said. “He wrote the way he talked and he was very authentic in his writing voice as he was in his conversation and speaking voice. He had a real ability to communicate his thoughts in a personal way, in a direct way and often in a humorous way. His writing was a real joy to read.”

Bass wrote about theater, music, television, movies, restaurants and travel. Megan Whilden served as cultural director for the city of Pittsfield for 10 years. Although she only met Bass a few times, she remembers him as a modest, delightful and charming person.

“His legacy is so strong here in the Berkshires because of his thoughtful writing, his intelligence and his support for all aspects of the arts,” said Whilden.

Bass’ influence extends beyond the Berkshires. He covered the jazz scene for the Atlantic Monthly and hired future Bright Lights, Big City author Jay McInerney to write for the Eagle when he was a student at Williams College in the 1970s. Whilden says the area was fortunate to have Bass covering and contributing to the entertainment scene for so many years.

“The people who write about the arts have a huge influence in telling the story about what creative people do, why they do it, how to approach it…all of that is really very essential,” Whilden said. “It’s a big concern these days because the number of writers and reporters who are dedicated to covering the arts is shrinking every day.”

According to the Eagle, Bass was born in Pittsfield in 1923, excelling in chess before graduating from Pittsfield High School in 1940. At 19, he left college to enlist in the Army. Bass was awarded a Silver Star after he and fellow medics crawled across a minefield under German fire to rescue two wounded soldiers in 1944 Holland. The article says his division liberated a Nazi concentration camp, an experience that haunted him for the rest of life.

Bass married the former Ruth Haskins, an accomplished writer who’s been featured on CBS News, in 1960 after meeting when she worked as an Eagle reporter. Bass is survived by his wife and three children.

Jeffrey Borak, The Berkshire Eagle's entertainment editor, who succeeded Bass in 1986 remembers his friend.

In a nod to Bass’ widely read column, Fanto recalls the long career and life of his former colleague.

“His indeed was a ‘Lively World,” said Fanto.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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