C.J.: Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker and WCCO's Esme Murphy go way back

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2013 - 10:20 PM

Minneapolis attorney Clinton Collins remembers Pritzker as “very nice.”

Minneapolis attorney Clinton Collins got educated at Harvard about “the meaning of real wealth” by President Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker.

Collins and Pritzker were students at Harvard a few years before Obama attended its law school.

“She lived in my dorm, Pennypacker, my freshman year. I met her. Nice girl. I was from Denver; I didn’t know a thing about the Pritzkers of Chicago or how much money these people truly had.

“At the end of first semester, Penny had her bags packed and I said, ‘Penny, where are you going?’ ” Collins told me. Pritzker told him she was on her way to her family’s hotel.

“I thought, ‘Oh, her family owns a little ski lodge in Vermont or something like that.’ I said to her, ‘Hey, you’re traveling pretty light.’ And she said, Well, I’m just going over to East Cambridge. Then I said, ‘The only hotel in East Cambridge is the Hyatt Regency.’ She said, That’s where I’m going.

I said, ‘Oh, that’s the family hotel!’

“That was one of the first times I really found out what real wealth was,” Collins laughed. “It blew my mind.”

Collins said they had some classes together. “She was very nice. That was something else — wealthy people were the nice ones. It was the wannabes who were [pains].”

Casually, Collins added, “I was in Pennypacker, Penny was in there, Esme Murphy — I think Esme and Penny were roommates.”

I told Collins that Murphy, the WCCO-TV reporter and anchor who also hosts “Saturday Nights with Esme Murphy” for WCCO-AM, also came from a family with a lot of money.

“Yeah, she did. She went to some hoity-toity, fancy school in Manhattan, very exclusive,” he said.

While confirming that she and Pritzker were indeed roommates at Harvard, Murphy demurred regarding her own family’s assets: “I wouldn’t say that.”

Of Pritzker, Murphy said: “You would never have known her family has so much. She never acted like someone in that kind of position. Extremely down to earth. She never flaunted anything. She is very, very nice.”

Last having seen Pritzker at a Harvard reunion, Murphy doubts that she has mentioned her Pritzker connection on the Saturday talk show.

In another observation, Collins noted that Pritzker tanned well.

“When I first saw her, I thought she was black,” said Collins. “And she told me that often black guys would hit on her. But I was definitely not her color nor her kind [in the financial sense].”

That last comment prompted more laughter from Collins, who was very chatty because he’s home recuperating from surgery.

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