There was a link on my homepage today that said something like, “Larry King Has Interviewed The Royal And Reviled.” Unaware of any book Larry King has coming out, I figured he must have died and that, ironically, news of his passing must have been bumped for the bigger story of the week. So I clicked the link and it turned out there’s going to be a tv special honoring his 50 years in journalism. There was one quote in the article that really got my attention. It was from “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace who said about King, “He also works so damned hard. There’s a reason he has been around so long, and it’s that he does the homework. This, too, is key: He never sets out to embarrass anyone — ever.”
I thought it was interesting because Larry King once embarrassed me (cue the blurry squiggly lines)…
Back when I attended the University of Hawaii, the managing editors for newspapers across the country held a convention in Waikiki and our journalism department was assigned the task of creating a daily newspaper covering the convention’s events. Certainly the most interesting assignment I was given was on the topic of the right to privacy in the media. I interviewed leading experts in the field and a couple well-known victims. One was Patricia Bowman, the woman who accused William Kennedy-Smith of raping her and whose private information was aired throughout the media. I remember being surprised by how different she seemed in person from the way she’d been portrayed in the media: rather than some drunk, party-girl floozy, she came across to me as soft-spoken and intelligent. I knew instantly that Kennedy-Smith was guilty (do I need the wink)? The other victim I interviewed (via phone) was former tennis star Arthur Ashe, who had been forced to reveal to the world that he had AIDS when he learned that USA Today was going to publish that information. Ashe died shortly thereafter.
Ok, Larry King had nothing to do with any of that, I just thought it was interesting. Here’s the Larry part:
Larry King was the keynote speaker for the convention and even though I wasn’t covering the event, I decided to take advantage of my press pass and listen in. I took a seat at an empty table in the back corner and a short time later Larry joined me. I probably gave him a polite nod or maybe a simple “hi” like I would anybody else but I typically leave celebrities alone. However, he started chatting me up. Once that door was opened, I thought, “Here’s my chance to get an exclusive!” (Yeah, I was a real fucking Lois Lane. What a dork). We talked for awhile until he was introduced to speak.
He began his speech by saying something about how journalists are always on the job. He then said, “Like just now, I was speaking with this young journalism student named JenÃƒÂ©e and there I was trying my hardest to flirt with her and she’s drilling me with questions like she has a five o’clock deadline.”
Now, I am not one who is easily embarrassed- I take almost everything in stride. But the entire room turned in my direction (oh, they all knew exactly who Larry had been talking to) and they were roaring with laughter. I was absolutely mortified. Sure, if it happened today I’d think it was hilarious but I was still a kid at the time. This was to be my future career and I was forever going to be remembered as the wide-eyed journalism student Larry King hit on even though he was like 150 years old (clearly thinking quite highly of myself that anybody would remember me at all). I dug out as soon as the speech was over but not without hearing one or two “Hey, you could do worse than Larry King” jokes.
So there you go, Mike Wallace. Larry King may not have set out to embarrass me but he certainly succeeded.
Despite my background in tv news, I only watch it about four times a year because it’s all such garbage. Yesterday was one of those days in which I had to rediscover what channel each news station is on and it took me about 45 minutes of listening to ridiculous reporting before I glanced at the tv and realized I’d landed on Fox. I was about to change the channel when it occurred to me that the ridiculousness of their coverage was providing a nice distraction from the horror of yesterday’s tragedy so I kept it where it was. I call it “yesterday’s tragedy” because I haven’t yet decided whether to commit to Fox’s “Campus Massacre,” MSNBC’s “Massacre at Virginia Tech,” CNN’s “Campus Killings” or E!’s “Where Did Hui Go Huang?”
First I’d like to introduce some of the players that were out of Fox’s jurisdiction:
George Bush- I’d like to see his blood work to verify that he’s human. There’s something very unsettling about a guy who talks about how sad he is in such a robotic voice. I think that’s why Clinton was so popular: he had that crackly voice that sounded like he was on the verge of either laughter or tears so he always seemed emotionally involved.
The police spokesperson- Someone asked him about the various crime scenes and he said something like, “I don’t see different crime scenes just one horrible tragedy.” You can be sure if he’s the one heading up the investigation, it will be thorough. Also, he said they didn’t lock down the entire campus after the first two killings because they thought the situation was contained. I don’t know who could possibly think having an armed killer on the loose means they’ve got the situation “contained.” If Jack Bauer had been on the case, he would have ordered CTU’s B-team to “Secure the perimeter- nobody gets in or out unless I say so!” I don’t even know what that means, but I know it saves lives.
The doctors from the hospital- There was a man at the microphone with a woman off to the side and the woman repeatedly interrupted the doctor, often making stupid comments. The poor newspaper reporters probably couldn’t get a single usable quote.
The criminal profiler- He said, “We’re learning more and more about this guy every day.” This was said 24 hours after the shootings.
The school official who wrote the first email sent to students warning them of the danger on campus- He/she made grammatical errors in the email. Maybe it seems silly to nitpick that but they are an institute of higher learning and they did take TWO FUCKING HOURS to write it. It’s enough to drive an English major mad.
Now just some of the many fine players at Fox:
Geraldo Rivera- The anchor asked Geraldo yesterday if George Bush would be visiting the site soon. Geraldo had no information from the White House but of course that didn’t stop Geraldo from giving a long answer about when he thought Bush would visit. That’s because Fox likes to apply the “Your guess is as good as mine- here’s mine” style of reporting. Then Geraldo went way out on a limb and claimed that with all the tragedies Bush has had to deal with, “He’s aged 10 years during his administration.” Either Geraldo is unaware that Bush has been in office for over six years or he thinks there’s a big difference in appearance between six and 10 years.
Stupid random male anchor-He interviewed a couple students who thought the school handled the situation well. He then informed them that many students were dissatisfied with the promptness of the notification but they thought it was fine. So he continued to press the issue. It was like some bad cop film where he was going to push and push until he got the answer he wanted.
Greta Van Susteren- What the hell happened to her face? I seem to recall hearing about her publicly going through plastic surgery but now she’s all crooked and droopy. Add that to the fact that her voice has always been annoying and I’m not quite sure why she hasn’t been forced into print journalism.
Stupid random female anchor #1- She commented on the students being so composed yesterday and asked an expert about this and he said they were probably all stunned. A few minutes later she asked another person why the students were so composed. He said because they were probably all in shock. Then a little while later she asked another person the same question. I was kind of hoping he’d say, “They’re stunned- like your brain. Is that really the only question you have about this shooting that left 32 victims dead??!!”
Stupid random female anchor #2- She read Hui’s note regarding the “debockery” of the other students. She’s an anchor- she should know that word and how it’s pronounced.
So now my quarterly tv vigil is drawing to a close and the magnitude of what transpired will finally start to sink in. But I’d like to thank Fox for once again being what everybody needs during times of sadness: a big joke.