Richard Concannon, who cohosted ‘The Literati Scene’ with his wife, Smoki Bacon, dies at 89
For some four decades, Richard Concannon was best known for the company he kept, and that was fine with him.
He married Smoki Bacon and just like that became the second name in a couple that hosted a radio show, a TV show, and memorable parties en route to becoming a legendary presence in Boston’s cultural and social scene. To his wife’s incandescent vivacity, Mr. Concannon added a counterpoint of more subdued old world charm.
“You don’t think of one without the other,” said Joanna Datillo, a documentary filmmaker who worked with them on “The Literati Scene,” their longtime TV show for interviewing writers. “Behind her powerful social presence there was this gravitas, this person who stuck to the facts, knew the figures. They were complementary partners, interconnected forces.”
Mr. Concannon was 89 when he died Thursday in Massachusetts General Hospital of pancreatic cancer. Because he and his wife often taped their TV show in their living room, fans and viewers felt as if they had been invited into their Beacon Hill home – a place of paintings, photographs, and, of course, books.
“Reading new people with new ideas all the time is something that sort of keeps you alive,” Mr. Concannon said in “Smoki & Dick,” a 2013 documentary directed by Lorena Alvarado. “They tell us when you get to our age we should keep our brains very active. And this happens when you’re reading books on a regular basis.”
First with “Celebrity Time,” and then “The Literati Scene,” Mr. Concannon and Smoki Bacon interviewed scores of authors – and others in the arts, too. They initially were on the radio before moving to TV, where their program aired on local cable channels.
While choosing subjects and preparing shows, it was not uncommon for Mr. Concannon to read four or five books a week.
“He would organize the questions, having done the readings in depth,” Datillo said. “He never cut short a chapter.”
The same might be said of Mr. Concannon’s approach to his own storied life. He had been a Harvard College student and had worked in Texas and New York in the metal business, high-end retail, and commercial real estate before returning to Boston, by way of his 25th college reunion.
It was at the reunion that he met Smoki Bacon, in 1976.
“She fell for him, just like that, and he for her,” said their friend Peggy Dray. “They were a team. If you saw one, you saw the other.”
When they married three years later, the Globe headline called it “a major social event.” The marriage “may have set an attendance record for such affairs, drawing an estimated 800 people to church and reception,” reporter Bill Fripp noted.
And though the ceremony at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard and the reception aboard the Boston Tea Party Ship drew a spectrum of guests – from City Hall and the Social Register, academia and media, technology and even a collector of ancient armor – in the end there would always be just one Smoki Bacon and one Dick Concannon.
“Richard Concannon is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word,” said his stepdaughter Brooks Bacon of New York City. “He was empathetic, thoughtful, kind, considerate. My mother is a sparkling jewel. She needs to be able to sparkle. He was interested in supporting her and making sure she was happy. What she wanted is what he wanted for her.”
Mr. Concannon’s other stepdaughter, Hilary Bacon Gabrieli of Boston, added that “even with his bow ties and arched eyebrows and establishment look, he was very much in the forefront for women and their way in the world.”
That was the case for all generations. “He never treated my daughters any differently than the boys,” Hilary said, though she added with a laugh that “a rare disappointment was that he was unable to pass along his love of poker to my daughters.”
“He was such a rock in all of our lives, such a steady presence,” said John Gabrieli, one of Mr. Concannon’s grandchildren. “He would show up wherever and whenever you needed him, on a moment’s notice. He didn’t need or expect gratitude in return. He was your grandfather.”
Mr. Concannon, he added, “always knew how to say the right thing in any kind of situation. He had a certain grace to him, a quiet dignity.”
With Smoki Bacon, a graphic artist, Mr. Concannon ran Bacon-Concannon Associates, through which they produced their programs. The couple also worked in public relations and event planning.
“Dick was a guy who was just so pleasant,” said his longtime friend Joseph Hill, president of Public Action for the Arts and Education. “I’ve always said that if you didn’t like Dick, you didn’t like yourself.”
The second of five children, Richard Francis Concannon was born in Quincy, a son of Thomas Francis Concannon and the former Margorie Murray.
He graduated from Boston English High School in 1947 and from Harvard in 1951, paying tuition with income from waiting tables in Cazenovia, N.Y., and working as a lifeguard at the Hingham Yacht Club.
An Army sergeant during the Korean War, Mr. Concannon was awarded a Purple Heart for being injured in combat, a part of his life he didn’t discuss. Once when John was a young boy, Mr. Concannon handed his grandson the medal to hold. “He never talked a lot about his service,” John said. “He never was someone who would. He never would talk about himself.”
After the Army, Mr. Concannon worked in Texas, first with a commercial metals company, and then with Neiman Marcus. Later on, he moved to New York State and worked in commercial real estate, ultimately in Syracuse.
“Scrap metal to Neiman Marcus, which is very high fashion, to real estate,” said Bernie McGuire of Dallas, a Harvard classmate and friend who introduced Mr. Concannon to Bacon at the Harvard reunion. “I think it showed that he was not stuck in any one place. He had the ability to disengage with something that he was vitally involved in and then do something entirely different, without any adverse consequences at all.”
Mr. Concannon “was a hard-working guy,” said Paine Metcalf, another Harvard classmate.
“He always seemed to get things done very quickly without patting himself on the back,” Hill said.
The family is planning a private service for Mr. Concannon, who in addition to his wife, two stepdaughters, and grandson leaves two sisters, Geraldine Evans, of Ledyard, Conn., and Joanne Fallon of Hull; and four other grandchildren.
Over the years, Mr. Concannon and Smoki Bacon were a host family for Harvard students, among them Yule Caise, who is now a film director, producer, and writer in Los Angeles.
Mr. Concannon taught him how to properly tie a bow tie and introduced Caise to a Boston he would never have known, particularly when they would slip away from a party and head to a piano bar.
“We’d take a break and do what he really enjoyed doing – listening to some quiet jazz. I really felt like I was living in a different era, in some Gatsby novel,” Caise recalled. “It was almost like a secret handshake into old Boston society, the things he would tell me about with a wry sense of humor.”