I always thought editors of national newspapers would be conservative, self-loathing, schoolteacher-y sorts. Stuffed suits.
Nothing prepared me for Aengus Fanning. Nothing could prepare you for Aengus Fanning. He was a force of nature. He looked like a film star, for a start. And he roared like an Old Testament preacher with a strong Kerry accent when he got going -- usually to the effect of "Fuck the bureaucrats!"
A maverick, he inspired everyone around him with his energy and attitude to life and the paper.
I was immediately in awe of him the first time I met him over two decades ago. He was so charismatic and incredibly loyal, as I soon found out.
I was only in the Sunday Independent a wet week in 1990 when a controversy blew up around me.
I had written an interview with English pop singer Wendy James about the joys of oral sex one week and a hatchet job on the Queen Mother the next.
"You should just see our revered editor's desk. Actually, you can't -- it's buried under a load of mail, ranging from the hysterical hate to the dignified and profound reproach," wrote Emer O'Kelly in my defence. "They are of the opinion that the editor should see fit, without trial by lords temporal or spiritual, to confine Mr Egan, without delay and at editorial pleasure, in the nearest dungeon."
In the middle of all this, I was sitting in Aengus's office on Middle Abbey Street when the phone on his desk rang. He picked it up and, without asking who it was, asked in his profoundly poetic Kerry brogue:
"Is it the blow job or the Queen Mother?"
I knew straight away that Aengus Fanning was the kind of man I wanted to work for. Last year, I asked Aengus the identity of the caller that day. "Oh, it was Dr FitzGerald," he replied.