VIEWPOINT;AH, TO BE REBORN IN PARIS

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A guy I never met named Michael Getler is now what Lou Gehrig once claimed to be, "the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

While poor, doomed Lou was just being gallant, Mr. Getler has gotten himself named executive editor of The International Herald Tribune in Paris. If there are better jobs in this world, I do not know of them.

The Herald Trib, which is always called that except when it is being called the Paris Herald Trib, is a truly great newspaper owned jointly by the New York Times Co. and the Washington Post Co. It has all the world news plus ball scores and comics and what more do we need?

Mr. Getler, a veteran of 26 years on the Washington Post, will take over in Paris for John Vinocur in July. During those 26 years, Mr. Getler was a deputy managing editor and also had been a foreign correspondent in London and in Bonn. So he has at least a passing notion of the job. Though I was somewhat stunned when his name was first floated for the job, by this brief passage in the Times:

"Mr. Getler... was in Paris yesterday and could not be reached but his office in Washington confirmed that he was visiting the paper and looking at residences. He has not, however, finally declared that he would take the assignment, but Mr. Vinocur said, `I expect him to do it."'

"Expect him to do it? Expect him to do it?" Are you mad, Vinocur? What American newspaperman this side of Herb Caen in age would turn down the chance to run one of the best newspapers there ever was in the best town there still is?

If you are a newspaperman (or newspaperwoman) and have not worked in Paris, you have not yet really lived. Just take that line about Getler's "looking at residences." Why, there you have the true art of life, wandering through empty Paris apartments to check the views (beautiful French women rarely draw the blinds except when they go on holiday in August and pull down the steel shutters!), encountering for the first time the soon-to-be single most important person in your life (the concierge), counting the number of steps down the street to the nearest lead bar, the closest tabac, the most convenient metro, the best taxi stand.

Ah, that first martini in the small bar of the Ritz, the cold beer at Harry's New York, lunch at Brasserie Lipp, the dinner Chez l'Ami Louis (the leg of four-day-old lamb?), your first browse through the boutiques of Dior and Ungaro, the nights at Castel's and Regine, the futbol at Stade des Princes, the rugby at Stade Colombe, the tennis at Roland Garros, the shops of Ste. Honore, the souffle de turbot on rue Lepic, the first rush hour you drive your new Renault around the Etoile, the Bateau Mouche and the young women of Paris who...

Hemingway worked there as a stringer and Harold Ross ran The Stars & Stripes and Thurber was on the Herald Trib and Art Buchwald made his name there and wrote some of his greatest columns and hundreds of lesser figures were sufficiently fortunate to write the two best words in journalism: "Dateline Paris."

John Fairchild ran the office there for five years, succeeding Mr. Perkins who was there 30 years and boasted, "Never spoke a word of French and never will," and I ran the place for four years after John, and our children were born there, and among my successors were Gerry Dryansky, now of Conde Nast Traveler, and phew! let me catch my breath.

But Michael Getler will get to know us all. For no one ever truly leaves Paris behind, only the smoldering ashtrays and empty glasses and the ghosts of our youth.

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