About a week ago David Grima and I met for a couple of beers at the Time Out Pub and we drank a toast to our friend Emmet Meara, who recently passed away.

Meara was one of our strange tribe of local newspaper people, someone with ink in his veins.

When I first started writing for The Courier-Gazette in 1998, I would run into Meara at events that were assigned to me. He was writing for The Bangor Daily News. Later, I ran into him at a cookout at Grima's place in the South End, which involved listening to a lot of old newspaper war stories and uproarious laughter.

I didn't know him as well as the older generation at the papers and would have been content to let them handle the columns about him, but I felt it would be remiss if we let him pass on without sharing a story, which is one of my favorite articles to ever run in The Courier-Gazette.

Stephen Betts wrote the story in July 1983 as he dutifully covered a City Council meeting. I will include the best part below:

"A belly-dancing exhibition during the middle of the city council meeting Monday night received mixed reviews, with comments ranging from criticism to applause.

About 40 people had gathered in the council chambers and a debate was raging on whether the council should enact an ordinance to prohibit dogs from walking on Main Street. In the midst of the debate, Bangor Daily News reporter Emmet Meara walked in and placed an Arabian headdress on Portland Press Herald reporter Larry Ouellette.

Meara exited and then the sounds of Middle Eastern music filled the chambers signaling the entrance of belly-dancer Phenidra Sameh from Belfast.

The event was staged for Ouellette's birthday. The Portland reporter, as well as the councilors and audience members were somewhat bewildered by the display of gyrations in front of them.

The performance lasted for about five minutes before the music died down and Sameh wriggled out of the room.

As she left, most of the crowd applauded. The sentiments of some people, however, were not amusement.

"I don't like to sound like a spoil sport," Councilor Richard Warner said. "I was embarrassed."

"We have to protect the sanctity of the process," Warner said. "It's like a court. You don't rise for the judge, you rise for the process. Some meetings are difficult enough."

Warner also said the performance could not have been staged at a worse time because of the tensions developing over the dog issue.

The exhibitions drew smiles from many people but also frowns. City Councilor Denis Black appeared disgusted with the performance while Councilor Perry looked amused as did City Manager Parks.

Paul Watts, who was addressing the council when the dancing exhibition began, was left speechless afterwards.

"Now I forgot what I was saying," Watts told the crowd as the dancer exited. "I haven't been to a city council meeting in a long time. If I had known what they were like, I would have come a lot more often."

The story that was handed down to me by my elders in the business concluded with the side note that the Columbia Journalism Review gave Emmet a dart for this performance.

As Grima's wonderful Feb. 13 column shows, Emmet could be a trouble-maker, and this business draws those who love mischief. He was one of us and we miss him.

So raise your glass, don your favorite headdress, and enjoy the dance. To Emmet!

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