A Rocking Chair Review by Ron Steinman

In a sense, dare I say, welcome to a new way of viewing an exhibition of photos, a new approach to gallery hopping done without leaving your rocking chair. Or is it simply a modern way to look at art without going to a gallery and seeing art or objects in 2D instead of 3D, the mode that defines more deeply what you are viewing.

The Web strikes again as the lazy person’s way to happiness in all things that educate, amuse, titilate and then some, meaning whatever the context, whatever the desire. Many months ago, I could not get to the exhibit of Dennis Hopper’s photos, The Lost Album, at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Dennis Hopper is the fanous actor, now decesased, who carried a cmaera almost everywhere he went, including the sets of all the films he worked on. I had heard much about his wonderful and quirky eye to make me want to see for myself all the interest.

Time and my schedule did not allow me the freedom to wander through the gallery and enjoy, or not, the photos displayed on its walls. Instead, I went online and because of the Internet, I was able to view, perhaps more intimately and easily with more comfort, an exhibition I originally wanted to see in person. The site did not display every picture found in the gallery. Not too bad when I considered that once in the gallery, if I ever went, not all the photos would interest me anyway.

After having indulged my curiosity, I now wonder if this was a new way to visit a gallery, assuming everything I want to see is on the Web? Perhaps. Is it a better way to view photos? Not necessarily, but it works well if you have the patience and the off-hour time, maybe very late at night. The inability to sleep also helps.

Some of Hopper’s photos are throwaways. Others are, well, just there, seemingly nothing more than an image caught by Hopper’s inquiring eye. Many, though, are of the moment. Hopper composed them with his sharp eye and an understanding of his subject. Overall, many of the pictures are daring and go beyond the simplicity of quick-snaps, usually a fault of the amateur street photographer. Most of the pictures, as well, are natural and rarely posed. They are always interesting and demanding of our attention, no matter how odd the angle or the subject within the frame.

My schedule opened up before the exhibitioon closed and I was able to get to the gallery to see the photos arrayed on the walls as the curator hoped I would see them. Despite the convenience of seeing the photos on my computer in my home or office, nothing beats viewing photos, and I am sure any other art, real and true in a gallery as they are meant to be seen. Final thought says clearly that the gallery experience is still supreme, so take advantage of it whenever you can. Sitting at your computer is not a bad way to view art but it should never replace looking at real art under proper lighting in a gallery setting designed for the best in viewing pleasure. \

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The End of Romance Part 4 by Ron Steinman

This page is intentionally blank. It will remain so until there are readers of the novel. When there are readers for “The End of Romance,” I will post new chapters.

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The End of Romance Part 3 by Ron Steinman

 For the first time since I have known him, the executive producer said to anyone who would listen, he saw a shift in the roles on the set. The previous male anchor was affable, wise, almost the wife, and the one who would compromise for the good of the family. Under these changed circumstances, maintaining that mood might be impossible. The would-be anchor lady — I can’t call her a woman because I am not certain she will accept her birth role, no matter her gender — is powerfully aggressive. She dives in and takes over whenever she sees an opening. That doesn’t always sit well with the new guy. He is supposed to be in charge on the set. Yet, the executive producer, despite his tunnel vision, often a by-product of pot, and Four Feathers whiskey, thinks she will develop into the perfect on-the-air wife who is warm, friendly, kind, willing to do anything, well almost anything, for the sake of peace.

         Despite the problems, the show has a good look and feel, and the audience cannot begin to guess all the tensions. Both anchors are intelligent and talented, but don’t put them in the same sauna together. One of them would not come out alive. When they are in front of the camera, they are nearly perfect. Outside in the real world, they do not speak to each other. They never mix socially which speaks loudly of their distaste for the other. They never go to the favored newsroom saloon even if they know the other is drinking elsewhere. To do so would be weak and potentially pandering to the staff that eats and drinks there daily. One of them might make a surprise appearance and force them to be together, if only briefly. Most on staff care only about their weekly paycheck. They have no involvement is what I call the life of the show. They go home at night, or wherever, and that is it until the next cycle. They love scandal, but most will not take one side over the other, at least in public and blow a good deal for themselves.

         Yet, in this day of budding feminism, here’s a woman, this Sally James, who decides she will no longer be a role player. She wants everything her way and she refuses to be submissive. Rightfully so. Good for her. We, her producers, make the mistake in not realizing that women are the biggest audience we have for the show. The women at home root for her at every opportunity, though silently. They cannot let her know how much they care. That would be giving away much of their power. Sally clearly has other plans. She, as the woman anchor has made a choice and a decision. Her choice is to be more aggressive than she has been in the past, both on and off the air. Her decision is to carve a place for herself outside the path a woman usually takes in broadcasting, especially outside the track normally open to a woman. It seems to me Sally wants to, better yet, she insists on doing more herself. She prefers not to use an assistant to find her guests to interview. Once during the Wisconsin primary she wandered through the set, a massive hotel lobby in Milwaukee, looking for fresh name guests for that morning’s show. We happened to be broadcasting near the restaurant where all the politicians had their morning coffee. Though we were on the air one hour earlier than Eastern Time, enough men and women, political operatives and pundits, were also wandering through the lobby on their way to breakfast meetings and strategy sessions. Sally James had no shame. In her bathrobe and still wearing curlers, she approached people to appear live with her that morning. Many said no. Two said yes. She got what she wanted and controlled her destiny by saying the hell with how she looked. Her public appearance, often the mark of a star, meant nothing to her then. After she booked her guests, she turned them over to an associate producer. Sally took the elevator to her suite, dressed, removed the curlers, did a quick study on whom she booked, and returned to the set for the show opening.”

          Morris did not doubt that Sally James had already decided on her next step. There was an unwritten rule that major interviews would go only to the male anchor. She broke that rule, arranging to interview major figures on her own without consulting the producers. It was unusual because it went against common practice. When she hooked a guest, Sally demanded she do the interviews by herself or she would release the guest to another show, or even to another network. We producers feared we would lose the guest, he remembers, and we let he do what she wanted. In the future, she would control her bookings, gathering and coddling guests, as she wanted. Sally won another major battle. We producers were also afraid she might defect. We could not guess where she might go and what she might do next. The other networks did not yet have strong morning shows. There were only three networks and one had no morning show. We found her possible departure to be beyond our consideration. Sally James had become strong, so strong that she established a lifelong pattern of daring her bosses with direct and implied threats to meet her needs to further her career. Morris confided at the time.

         Sally had a theory that she wanted me to understand. She told me about a gathering of women she got together with periodically. “Scare them into capitulation, and they will go to their knees every time,” she told me she told her friends one night at a party in her apartment. The women would wolf down another bag of Owl potato chips, sip their Rheingold Beer, dabble in sips of Tio Pepe Sherry, gobble quarts of vanilla ice cream and giggle their hearts out feeling that their success would be next. Success is truly heady. She and her friends imagined they would run their own network, men would be subservient to them professionally, and, hopefully, good lovers when off the reservation. Their dreams were enough to get them through the evening without too much weeping. That is what Sally told me.”

Robert Morris stops the tape recorder, rises slowly and goes to the mirror that hangs behind the door in his office. His ex-wife gave him the small mirror with a fake gilt frame so he could make sure he kept his tie knotted properly and his hair, though thinning, in place before he went to a meeting or held one in his office. He still used the mirror though the time of everyone wearing suits and ties was slowly ending. The mirror reminded him of her, her beauty, her charm, a mixture of Deep South from Georgia, and Northern New England from Maine. He recalled her body and her refusal to allow herself, in his words, to be, to let the person he thought she was, enough freedom so the two of them could enjoy what each had to give. But she kept her true self in hiding, choosing to dress like an early 20th Century schoolteacher and also thinking like one. It was a marriage not meant to be, but they were suddenly one sweet day in the spring when everything in the world looked and felt perfect. They had been living together, mostly, though they each kept an apartment. He rarely spent any time in his own one room rental. The inevitable happened. After never mentioning marriage, they thought about it simultaneously, and, as if by osmosis, they said to each other without thinking let us get married. They married in a simple ceremony with a few friends and no parents from either side present. Afterwards they went home to her apartment. Starting what they considered a new life, they rented a one bedroom near work and began what they assumed would be the foundation of a full life. Once they were a couple, it started to fail almost from their first night together. It was a memory that Morris hated to relive, but one that he never seemed to bury. He turned from the mirror and walked to the window of his office that overlooked a main thoroughfare. Enough of that, of her, he thought. That was many years ago. Happily, there were no children. My God, he thought, that would have been a terrible mess. Happily was a word he never thought he would use in describing that marriage.

 Robert Morris in Love.

Lest anyone come to the wrong conclusion, Robert Morris had a life outside the news business. He never stopped thinking about his past. He constantly screwed up that life because he could not satisfy his appetite, always needing to try something new, as long as a woman was part of the experience. He did not think he would find any answers to why he did what he did, but he enjoyed going back in time as an excuse for not facing the present. He was not a masochist despite having had a very messy life.

Robert Morris’ recent love affair had about it the feel of a 1930s romantic movie. It had started slowly because Robert, for all his bluster when with other men, was shy with women. A year earlier, he ended, or, that is, his wife had ended his second marriage. His first marriage, the one from more than twenty years earlier, lasted only ten months with an annulment mutually agreed to because of so-called incompatibility. Incompatibility was a lawyer’s reason for ending a marriage between two youngsters who were running from reality. They had passionately consummated the marriage on their honeymoon, followed by ice cream cones at a shop next to the motel. They seemed compatible in bed, but soon there was trouble. He wanted frequent sex. She did not. That is why the relationship ended. The reason for the annulment, a lie, took place in a Mexican courtroom with neither Morris nor his wife present. New York recognized it, and wiped the marriage off the books. The marriage never had a chance of success because neither person, each barely in their twenties, was ready to share life with someone else.

From his second marriage, he had two children, a boy now six, and a girl now four. Both sweet, charming, and like so many children of well-to-do parents who could give their children almost everything except love, both were very bright. Morris missed them and had little chance to see them because his wife had moved herself and the children to Cleveland, a city he rarely visited to get them out of his glare. The marriage had collapsed, as so many others in the business, for a simple reason — because he was never home. On the road, as with many of his contemporaries, he tinkered with other women, the way a stamp collector dabbled in rare stamps. Robert Morris said he never missed an opportunity to score especially when someone approached him, something he believed happened with regularity. He never would admit that he initiated most approaches. The pass, as he called it, worked because of booze, mutual loneliness and long hours. His divorce did not erase the usual inability he had in his dealings with women, but now that he had formally severed his life from his wife, it made his sex life easier. Now there were no strings in a relationship. But he was getting older and the younger women, those who were the most desirable, often had younger men on their minds. It was not golden as he hoped it would be. All this was typical of any male in his mid-forties who lived in the eighth decade of the Twentieth Century and who worked in TV news. At least that is how Robert Morris rationalized it. That is, until Tina came along.

Tina R. was an elegant woman. She worked at the network in an upscale executive office in Human Relations, what Morris used to know as personnel. Human Relations was a corporate catchall to put a face on the often-inhuman relations management had with its employees, especially those who were in a union. Her office had floor to ceiling wraparound windows that let her peek at the unsuspecting tops of people’s heads in the street below. Tina R. through hard work dressed perfectly and was always ready to do battle in honor of her sex. She had become a living clone of the daily style pages of The New York Times, especially, the sycophantic Sunday charity ball and wedding sections. She looked as if she just stepped out of Vogue. Really, though, if you knew her well, she let you know that she took a different approach to buying clothing. If you followed her, you might see her slyly sneaking out of a fashionable, inexpensive boutique on Lower Broadway or the Lower East Side, where she purchased the latest in styles, and even knock-offs, for far less money. When it came to wearing clothing, style came before her pride.

To an outsider, a voyeur, peeping without shame, who might be spying on her for self-satisfaction, she conveyed an air of perfect contentment. On the surface, she carried herself with an ease she supported with a studied, demanding understanding of her, or so she believed. She possessed enough arrogance to make a difference in what she saw in her face in the bathroom mirror each morning, compared to who she was inside her highly toned body. This illusion of her real self, allowed her, if only for a few hours each day, to be the image of perfection as she made her way through the halls of the network. Each morning after her intensive workout in the gym, she stopped at coffee wagon outside network headquarters. She bought an average tasting coffee with skim milk, and a mass-produced homemade, sugar rich muffin. The Slovakian immigrant put her purchase into a pristine, brown paper bag that she carried to her desk. Though the desk was a mass-produced knockoff, a fake, it looked great to outsiders because of its clean lines. Having a cheap, highly stylized desk saved the company money and gave offices for executives an expensive look and feel.

Tina, who loved food, would eat anything put on plate in front of her, yet she never gained weight. She had more energy that most other women she knew. She was always moving even if she had nowhere to go. She had a hard body from hard work, a silicon look without the injections. Robert Morris found that attractive. Her perfectly formed frame with every muscle in place had little room for additional tissue. She carried no excess weight, thus no fat. Because of her high metabolism, she had the physical ability to expend energy without effort. It helped her stay in shape. She looked like a life-sized poster of women body builders that we find pasted to walls in gas stations, and hanging in gyms and health clubs everywhere. Yet, she did not have the excessively sculptured muscles that came from hours of sweaty, heavy lifting. She was an aerobics queen with the stamina of a cheetah. Her workout clothing was stylish and fit her perfectly. She envied her personal trainer’s sculptured body but she refused, as some of her friends did with their personal trainers, to get involved with a man who lacked anything but the ability to order her around while she grappled with crude, cast iron dumbbells. Her personal trainer was socially fumbling, but genuine for all that his muscle-bound brain bought to each session. It was something she enjoyed in a man, but only on a limited basis. Robert Morris was the exception to her rule, because of his intellect. He rarely worked out. It took too much time and energy. But Tina admired him anyway. He was self- assured and tough-minded. Little did she know how he daily had to shore himself up so he would not fall apart in front of her or the people he worked with. Morris sometimes gave into his frustrations by raising his voice, and by bellowing in front of others to make sure his subordinates followed his orders.

Robert Morris’ sudden fits of temper never worked with Tina. Fortunately, she had a low attention span, which meant she always had something new in view before she completed the task in front of her. It meant that Morris and his moods were temporary setbacks as she moved to something new, fresh during the day at work, and night at play.

Her professional demeanor revealed anyone observing her that she was at peace with herself, and confident with the position she had at the network. However, some people sensed that her permanently tweaked mind had a coat of micro thin, black Teflon that allowed her to escape reality and the responsibility that went with it. Her enemies accused her of using her eclectic taste in clothing as a way to overcome her inability to think creatively. In the decidedly man’s world where she existed, being better dressed than the men around her had always been a distinct advantage in the pursuit of her dream. Tina barreled her way to the top mainly because of her intelligence. She understood a hard-nosed mind was different from a creative one. She never admitted to a few good girl friends after drinks that bedding selected men had also been a major help.

When alone, she often thought about her job description. She knew there was nothing in her contract that said she had to hold hands with someone like Robert Morris, a man she soon realized was needy to the core. After all, she was not a priest, less a nun. Thank you, God, for making me the way I am, she thought. She really had important things to do, she told herself silently, quickly, even nodding her head to reaffirm she meant what she thought. She wanted to get on with her corporate life. Robert Morris had been a good time for her, but with all things, that too had to end. She expected that Robert Morris would not mind. He had too many responsibilities outside the network to attach himself to one person for good. The thought of being one woman for one man frightened her. She refused to accept it as a way of life. Tina R.’s tactics were studied, thus mostly perfect. She knew she had to separate herself from Robert Morris. As usual, she was right. She started zinging Robert to make him feel off balance. She knew she had to soon take the opportunity to say what she really thought, things that she has been saving inside her head all the years she had known him, including the time before they became a couple. She had become weary of his, to her mind, whining, and his self-righteous posturing, especially when he had a few drinks. For her, he had outlived his once amusing and contentious presence. She did not fully understand his anger. She did not fathom his fear. She did not grasp the core of his hostility. As she came closer to ending their relationship, she realized she did not want to understand very much about him. She wondered, too, after the yearlong affair, why she thought of him in those ways: hostile, angry, fearful, self-righteous, no longer amusing. She wondered, but only for a moment. She had to get on with her life. Robert Morris no longer fit her plans. It was time to move on.

Now when he talked to Tina on the phone, Robert could hear her laugh. Recently her laugh had become what he called, thin. Not hearty. Not real. He could not see her wide grin, which would have exposed to him the truth of his feelings. When talking to him, Tina tapped her right foot against the floor very quickly. Her fully exposed leg from the thigh down to the tip of her toe jiggled and bounced in alternate patterns almost uncontrollably. She brushed her hair from her forehead in a circular motion. She twirled and twisted it around her forefinger, repeatedly. She stopped and held a length of her hair in her hand, looked at it, and sniffed it. Bored and distracted. She craved immediate attention from elsewhere, anywhere but from Robert Morris.

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Brassai: Paris Nocturne — Book Review by Ron Steinman

Brassai

Paris Nocturne

By Sylvie Aubenas and Quentin Bajac

Thames and Hudson, Inc

308 pages

Brassai was not his real name. Born in Brasso, Hungry in 1899 as Gyula Halasz into a middle class intellectual family, he took the name Brassai as a tribute to the town where he grew up. He arrived in Paris in 1924 after studying sculpture and painting and working in Berlin as a journalist. He lived in the artist’s quarter of Montparnasse and wandered the streets after dark, often alone. In Paris, he wrote and he drew, until, in 1929, he picked up a camera and started taking photos. His fascination with documenting the underside of Paris at night became his passion. So began what would constitute his most important work and his most creative period.

The finely reproduced black and white pictures in this large format book take us through that important period as an artist when he photographed prostitutes, pimps, brothels, opium dens, drugs, homosexuality, gangsters, transvestites, lesbians, lovers, tradesmen, gypsies, chorus girls, and poverty. Henry Miller and Pablo Picasso were his friends. Miller called him “the eye of Paris,” at least for what he photographed. He was also close to the writers Jacques Prevert and Raymond Queneau. His work reflects his sometime dark vision especially when he focused his lens on a face, people in action, a street lamp, and wet cobblestones.

His middle class background tells us nothing of why or how he became a great photographer with more iconic and oft imitated images to his credit in a the short span of four years than most have in a lifetime. In looking at an artist’s life, we often wonder about the impetus of his or her creativity. Brassai said he was seeking, “The very essence of Paris.” His uncomplicated antecedents seem to be all we know about his apparently normal early life. We will never know what attracted Brassai to the nighttime world of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. We will never know what drew him to the dark streets and the private rooms and public spaces where people congregated, ate, drank, and spent their lives in the pursuit of pleasure. There is nothing in his background on why Paris after dark became his outlet for creative expression. He did say, though, “I lived at night, going to bed at sunrise, getting up at sunset, wandering about the city from Montparnasse to Montmartre.” He said “ Taking pictures was nothing other than a pleasure for me.” Perhaps this is all we have to know.

The book chronicles the most fruitful period of Brassies’ creativity. All 296 illustrations in the book, including 214 in duotone, come from 1929-1934. The book by Sylvie Aubenas and Quentine Bajac, with a brief introduction and three clear, incisive essays brings together some of the best known images from Brassai’s books, “Paris After Dark” and “Secret Paris.”

By the time Brassai was at work full time on his photos, other photographers such as Germaine Krull and André Keitesg were doing similar work in magazines such as “Voila” and “Vu.” Many photographers in the Paris of the 1920s and 1930s worked on commission and placed their work in hard-edged police procedurals such as “Detective.” No doubt, these photographers fed off each other in ways they never suspected. What Brassai did was not new, but his approach, his soul, and endless understanding of the Paris nightlife set him apart from his contemporaries. He had an understanding how people acted inside the frame of the camera, an important often-subtle distinction from other photographers at that time.

He used a large Voigtlander Bergheil folding plate, drop bed camera, usually with a tripod. That allowed him to take only four or five pictures a night. Using that camera gave him the chance for long exposures. He had great skill and patience working with artificial light. He had an innate, self-taught understanding of the amount of time it took to get his shot and how deep its focus would be with the resultant odd angles found in many of his street photos. Brassai insisted that he was not a slave to technique. The technique he used came naturally to him and it was not until later in his life that he explored its meaning. But his creativity did not stop when he captured the image he wanted. Because his photos often told the story of decadence better than reams of written words, Brassai spent the time he needed to develop his own prints. Thus, he controlled the photo from its conception to its birth.

On occasion, as was typical of the period, he staged people and scenes, especially couples, paying modest fees for their work and their permission to shoot. He often changed his approach as the night progressed until he got the images he wanted. If he could help it, he left nothing to chance, especially when he had a commission from a magazine. But he did not stage everything. He still roamed the underside of Paris, when required being discreet as possible looking for those images that set his work apart. He called what he did a “ voyage to the end of the night.” However, his wanderings were never without problems. Thugs would steal and wreck his equipment. Pimps would threaten his life. No matter, he continued his trek undaunted.

Look carefully at Brassai’s photos generously arrayed before us in this new book. Appreciate his instinct as created various moods through light and shapes and angles. See how he understands depth and contrast, and how his perspective makes some of his streetscapes appear to be three-dimensional. Feel what he felt when he took the pictures. Welcome what your eye sees. In thinking about Brassi, it should only matter how the photo affects your emotions and the story it tells.

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The End of Romance, Part 2 by Ron Steinman

To: Lew Narren From: Larry Childs Subject: The set

Got your memo. Read your memo. (He thinks: How could I not get it? You delivered it by hand. Big shot walks three offices down and drops it on my desk with an arrogant flourish.) Okay. The set is lousy. Do we have the money to build a new set? Will corporate go for it? More to the point, will corporate understand what you want. I’m not sure a new set is necessary. I do care what our anchors, our hosts as we now call them in the morning, say. I care even if they say nothing, which is most of the time. Talk in the morning is background noise. It is nothing more than that, and often less. Their talk, their breathing, please, is space between commercials. Maybe we do have to change more than the set. Can we change writers so easily? They are union and the union is a pain in the ass. (I know, June, you do not like the language or phrasing, but indulge me, please.) It is impossible to fire anyone. It is impossible to change anyone’s assignment without making it a federal case. For argument sake if we succeed in changing the set, and the people in front of the show and a few behind the scenes, do we change producers and director? Do you want to produce the show? I don’t. More importantly, we must change the lousy coffee and the unimaginative pastries, Danish or otherwise, especially the crummy, jelly filled doughnuts coated with powdered sugar with their horrible aftertaste. Let’s talk.

Reviewing those memos gave Morris the perspective he needed as he reviewed the past. He made himself comfortable, and he started to relive his spoken notes from 1971, not theirs, but notes based on Child’s and Narren’s collective thinking. His hand seemed to fondle the small machine as it disappeared in the flesh of his large, thickly muscled palm. Morris listened to his voice, and like most people, he did not recognize it. Who is that, he wondered? Why, it’s I, he realized. “That is me,” he says half aloud. He knows it is his voice, but he thinks he sounds younger. Hell, he was younger. Well, we were all younger, once. And with that he smiled. His voice sounds astonishingly fresh and surprisingly youthful. Though he hates the sound of his voice, he listens intently.

Our decision is there will be a changing of the guard. We must move the current anchor off the show. We must replace him with someone younger, someone more engaged and engaging, but bland rather than edgy. Someone who cares, or if he does not care, at least should give that impression. When the anchor departs, there will be a palace revolution of sorts. We will not have the beheading, though we should, and it could be severe for everyone. The guy, our anchor, is in the hot seat but he doesn’t know it. We do not think it will be easy to get rid of him. The problem is, we cannot find anything else for him to do on our air at the network. Our research is accurate. We know that he can’t hold an audience in prime time. That is not his place. Getting inside his head is impossible. He doesn’t allow anyone near his mind. Sometimes I think he has sawdust in there instead of a brain. Other times I think the sawdust mixes with water that seeps in through his umbrella like hair and becomes mud, of a sort. Gunk in his head. My thought is terrible, but true. Getting inside him is not a high priority, though not one I would recommend. Attempting that would mean we take his mind too seriously. We might die trying, and death is not worth the trouble. We hear rumors that he has been thinking of quitting. He has more than enough money. He prides himself on being a good person, but we know better. We do not believe he will walk off the set some sunny morning never to return. We did not want to fire him. That would have been too messy. We decided to give him a party in honor of his longevity and loyalty to the network. We did not need an excuse to have a party. It was a way to get the press into the studio, have some cake and wine, show the TV critics our set, and let them sit in the anchor’s chair. Everyone would look good. We knew the anchor would love us for treating him like a hero. All looked well. We knew that positive ink would flow. The wine and food were good. The anchor seemed in good spirits, but then he always did because that’s his one great strength. “When we came to work after the party at five the morning to get the show ready, our heads were still thick from too much booze. I growled at everyone who crossed my line of sight. No one was in a good mood. It was then we found the anchor’s notice on the back deck of the control room. The back deck is where we put the show together each morning. The anchor knew that is where we would find his notice. Despite the party and all the love, he fooled us to our core. The anchor, bless him, had made it official by telling us in writing he would leave in six months. He said eleven years was long enough in any job. He believed his stability — thoughtfully, not his intelligence, which had always been suspect — contributed greatly to the maturity of the program. That was it: maturity. The people in charge no longer cared about maturity, he said. They cared only about competition. “His leaving was the best thing that happened to us that day. We grinned at each other because we never thought his departure would be so easy. He had become an institution but we had to move him. We worried that it would be impossible. He solved the problem for us. In the last few years, he had become lazy. He did his work as if he were asleep, like much of his audience was at that time of day. A man, considered by many to be the world’s champion dilettante, would soon be out the door and on his way to his private retreat. It was time. We felt relieved. But we had no idea our troubles were about to begin.”

Robert Morris turned the machine off and took a sip of cold coffee. He made a face because of its bitterness, and then after a few minutes, enough to catch his breath, he sat back, his face in repose, and restarted his tape.

         “Because a search is not necessary, we name Gil Brandon the new anchor. Gil, who often subbed for the anchor, famous reporter that he is seems more than willing to assume the role of host. The big contract had to help with his decision. His move to morning host makes the transition easier for the new generation that we will wean and raise on the set in front of the camera. To the press we defined Brandon as having a powerful drive to succeed, but without saying it publicly, his other purpose, we felt, was needy and difficult to define. None of us knew what we meant by that, but it sounded good when we discussed him in private meetings. Did we mean he would be pliable and that we could make him in our image? Years before, another correspondent held the job and failed. Now we are going to try again. Maybe this time we will be lucky. We said this guy is a winner. Great voice. Good looks. He is very attractive to women. He will own the air in the morning for ten hours a week. We felt certain that Gil would give new meaning to the cliché, money machine. We wonder if he is selling his soul, but we quickly dismiss that thought. That is his business. He is an adult. His only baggage is that he is a womanizer of major proportions, but we can’t find any other secrets. We hope our vetting has been thorough. We have to make certain his lengthy string of affairs does not get into the tabloids. For a guy with so much hard news experience, he has very thin skin when it comes to his family. Gil wants the world to think he is religious, honest, and home every night for dinner. Can he maintain that fiction, especially with all the rock stars, female cooks, authors, movie stars and sweet, ambitious production assistants who are everywhere in the studio? He makes a room feel like fireworks at midnight. More to the point, his presence reminds us of noon on Sunday in Indiana. He is picnics along the river, high school basketball games, polluted skies, and feint echoes of the Klan on starless nights. We shall see what the audience thinks.”

Morris knows Brandon’s early life was a series of fits and starts defined by never living long enough in the same place to make many friends. Born on an air force base in New Jersey, his father a sergeant and chief mechanic who kept jets in the air, growing to manhood was lonely, but enlightening. After moving around much of his young life, Gil Brandon decided to become a reporter and see the entire world, not the isolated corners the military had exposed him to. Instead of staying in one place and settling down, as his father expected, Brandon moved to make world his home. He did it better and had more success than most. Early in his career, he did not think he would go very far. After all, he never went to college, so his education came from reading AP and UPI reports, magazines and as many newspapers. Gil Brandon’s name held its own surprises. Christened Gilbert J.P. Brandon, the J.P. for Jean Paul was in honor of Jean Paul Sartre. His mother, a great reader, and something of a social rebel, had been immersing herself in some of Sartre’s essays in French at the time of his conception. Though, as he got older and read Sartre himself, Gil realized the ignorance of his audience and decided never to use his middle name. But he did use various derivations when he worked local radio in the Pacific Northwest. First, he was Paul Brandon. Then, Gilbert Paul. Once he worked two jobs in two towns twenty miles apart. On one station during early morning drive, he called himself Paul Jeanette. On the other station, when he broadcast a sports show for two hours, he called himself Jean Gilbert. No one knew the difference. The mountains intruded on each station’s signal, so his listeners in each location heard only the show in their own area. When he started reporting on local television he simplified his name to Gil Brandon and that is how it stuck for more than thirty years. Robert Morris thought back to those days when everything seemed bright, when the world of morning television had hope. It was a time when news ruled, though morning TV had its share of chimps wearing diapers, cute weather girls, many soft features and still low budgets. And Gil needed to find his way.

         “Gil Brandon, as the network’s new host had much to overcome, and much to learn. He has difficult paths to negotiate before he will become successful. He has had to adjust to the freakish morning hours and learn how to sleep on his feet with his eyes open. And he’s had to overcome the woman, Sally James, who thinks she should be sitting in his chair. Sally James! Well, that was not her real name. Names are sometimes odd in TV news, as odd as they are in Hollywood.”

Sally James assumed the name when she started in the business. Her real name is Sondra Witzkoff. She took Sally from Sally Rand, the fan dancer and stripper, an early advocate of women’s rights who believed, because of her beauty and body, that she could do anything and get away with it. James she borrowed from her roommate, because it had the correct old English sound. Her parents were Polish Jews, shopkeepers who fled Warsaw in the early 1930s, thus missing the horror of the Warsaw ghetto. They owned a tailor shop and dry-cleaning store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side dominated then by small groceries, candy stores and a saloon on every corner. To compensate for their poor English, they made their daughter read everything aloud, including the labels on food containers. Sally’s voice hardened into bell-like clarity as a teenager, and it helped her decide to become a broadcaster, despite a minor lisp, something that never bothered her. After graduating from City College in New York, Sally became a reporter for a small newspaper in the Midwest, and then she moved on to TV in Chicago. Dubbed a rising star, she soon went to New York and into morning television. She was tough, self-reliant, a poor writer and everyone realized she was not a very good broadcaster. She thought otherwise. But she had that indefinable something else. She had a knack of coming up with good stories. Reporting was one of her best skills. Her voice was passable, but her cadence, the rhythm she used in speaking was strange, perhaps a result of hearing only Polish, and northern Polish, at that, at home. She adored men, but those in positions of power annoyed her, at times bringing her to the edge of despair. Simply put, they were in her way. There was no room for any of them in her life. Perhaps that is why she had difficulty sustaining relationships. Sally sat next to one of these men for five years every morning. Suddenly, and without what she considered sufficient warning, there was a new clod of a man in her path. Sally took some credit for getting management to think of replacing the other guy, the breathy dilettante who had almost no clue about the real world. That never happened because he left on his own before the producers could remove him. She liked to think she was more like a witch than a sweet angel some thought she had no extraordinary powers in her repertoire. Learning she had to break in the new man did not make her happy. She told her fresh-mouthed, fawning assistant, “it’s going to be like the start of an engagement, but there will be no ring, and no wedding plans. Robert Morris continued listening to the tape.

         “Sally and the new man would have a lot of “feeling out” to do before they could set the date to consummate their on-air relationship. Watching them reminds me of two heavyweights in a boxing ring. They move slowly and lumber clumsily through their roles. They throw some jabs, miss with a few left hooks, dodge a right cross or two but they never connect, physically or intellectually. Being as one spiritually never entered either person’s mind. I thought it would be impossible for either to score a knockout. Though scoring a knockout must have been the fondest wish of each. We know that if the two stars do not hit it off, the show, and the network revenues, will be in serious trouble. Morning television helps pay for the weaker parts of the broadcast day. Brandon, the new anchor, made a big mistake the other day when he answered a nagging reporter’s questions about whether he would sabotage his new partner. A dumb question at best, and one he never should have answered. He did anyway, and at least for him he was somewhat circumspect, when he said, “She’s my partner only in her mind. She has far to go before she earns the right to call herself my partner. Give it time. I like her and respect her.” He could have said more, but fortunately, he did not. He’d never worked that closely with a woman before, but then who had? There are no women sitting in any important chair on any show these days. Anchors were men. Only men. Plain and simple. It did not take long for the nasty, petty bickering on the set between the anchor and everyone else to become obvious to the viewers. In the control room, we saw it happening, but we were powerless to stop it. Power was never our strength when it came to people. As producers, we prefer to manipulate people, rather than steamroll them into submission. Our method is to cajole, rather than beat anyone with a club. We thought the star’s psyches were too fragile for us to intercede. We believed they would eventually sort out any problems by themselves without help from us. We were wrong. Technicians on the floor of the studio saw a little of everything, and often too much of what the audience never saw. They were closest to the action and they loved to gossip because their own lives were so mundane. Running a camera all morning or setting lights all morning or plastering makeup on someone’s skin all morning made these technicians tired of everything fast. They thought themselves jaundiced and were proud of it. They stayed fresh by living off the people they served. Nerves are beginning to fray on the set, mainly when the commercials were running, when, for two or three minutes before the show starts up again, people could relax. Sometimes when the news or weather fills the air, tempers come close to exploding. People have started talking openly about the problem. What they have to say is ugly. The press knows of trouble on our supposedly sane show. Word is the family is starting to disintegrate. Someone from our TV family is talking to the few TV beat reporters. Thankfully, because of a notoriously weak entertainment press there are only few reporters with the nerve to ask the right questions. Most do not know the everyday soap opera hidden from the public. The usually unflappable executive producer is finding it harder to cope with the edgy situation. Some days he spends more time on personality problems then he does on show content. Something of a perfectionist, he detests wasting time on what he calls childish needs. But he does it anyway and he tells anyone who listen, I am only human. Then he would closes his office door, takes another hit on a joint, soothes himself into brief emotional harmony, and gets ready to confront a new crisis. We told him to leave it in the underground parking garage in any empty space. I added that he should, “leave it where no one could see it or find it.” He did not seem to understand a word of what I said. He stared at me and refused to listen.

“Impossible,” he said.

“Impossible,” he fretted.

“Impossible,” he sighed.

Morris recalls that those who ran the show solved nothing. They were not inept. Rather, they had no idea what to do, typical of executives in TV news. But they had ideas about what kind of shows they wanted to see on the air.

         “Our inability to engage with the people in front of the camera has weakened who we are behind the camera. Nothing we do, including our inactivity, works to break the cycle of combat between Gil and Sally. Yet, we are witnessing something of a freak of television. The more Gil Brandon appears on the air, the larger is his audience. He is starting to believe he is king of the airwaves, self anointed, self appointed, Gil Brandon puts Elvis to shame with his aggrandizement. I look at the other producers, and especially the executive producer for any semblance of sanity. I see little in any of them that gives me confidence. We are living in an era of open drugs, and if you are lucky, free love. Light another cigarette. Have another belt of the booze, suck deeply on high grade Mary Jane, retreat into oblivion, and be done with worrying about who has more lines for what story, who turns to the camera first, who leads the show. Lately it seems these anchors, or hosts, or self-anointed stars, or whatever they are, spend their time counting their minutes on the set like professional basketball players do when they count their minutes on the court. Who turns to which camera, which anchor reads which story interests them more than the value of what they are saying. I know the times are changing, but I also know they are not for the better. We no longer have news people. We now have performers. Performers make money. News stars do not. It is that simple. Money means more than accuracy or credibility. I could fight it in my mind, I think, but I would never fight it too hard in the boardroom. I had mouths to feed. I had alimony to pay.

Robert Morris thinks back and acknowledges he enjoyed the money and benefits, executive privilege he called it, that went with producing news shows for a network. He thought about the monster news management had created when it ceded power to the anchor. The anchor brought in commercials. Money ruled. Management caved. After all these years he knows, too, how complicit he had been in clearing the way for some anchors to grab power they had no idea how to handle.

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THE END OF ROMANCE BY RON STEINMAN

What follows today and what I plan to string out over the next twenty to forty weeks will be a novel I call “The End of Romance: Linked Fictional Tales of TV News, Especially in the Morning.” Each section will be about 2500 words. I will title the entries Installment One, Two, etc. This is an experiment in self-publishing. Though I am offering the work in serial fashion and free, if successful, meaning if there are enough readers, I will probably find a way to put it on sale on a variety of platforms for a modest price. But that is anticipating how the work will fare before it appears. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Help the novel live. Enjoy.

The End of Romance: Linked Fictional Tales of TV News, Especially in the Morning                                                                    Episodes, Portraits, Memos, Notes, Journals, Logs, Diaries, Sketches, Monologues, Dialogues, Intimacies, Musings

By

Ron Steinman

Copyright Ron Steinman 2015

                                                               Robert Morris Remembers

Robert Morris is thinking quietly. He assumes he is safe from prying eyes. More than anything, he knows he must protect himself. He must always do this to maintain his mask. He cannot allow unnecessary exposure. Cynical, yes, but learned from a father who trusted no one, not his business associates, not his wife, not his sisters, not his family. Morris is not alone in this way of thinking. Everyone in the business hides his or her personal views, each for his own reasons. Morris is an executive in television news, notorious for its inability to hold anything sacred. His mission today is to let the sunshine in. He knows it is almost impossible to do, but despite too many years of knowing otherwise, he still clings to the hope he might someday succeed. Morris knows the rules. They are simple. Have an open mind, but keep yourself closed to outsiders. It is an axiom that guides life in the big leagues of network news. Failure is never far from success. Failure is part of success. If you fail, don’t always blame yourself. Be aware that people in TV rarely fail by their own doing. Morris knows there is always someone who is ambitious enough to help you over the edge into nothingness. These persons often nearest to you want you to fail. They spend their days pushing you toward the brink, and finally causing you to the jump into the abyss. That is not Morris’ way. Toughness helps to keep one on top. Skepticism makes it easier to survive, especially when attacks come from all sides. When that happens, paranoia can take over and rule a person’s mind. If you are strong, you come to realize that no one does what you do better than you. That is not complicated. It is that simple. In the end, you are the only one who counts. Those who are selfish get to the top first. To stay in the business you have to accept the distrustful world around you. Robert Morris has been doing just that for years. He is a survivor, but he also good at what he does, which is deciding what gets covered in the news division. On this morning, Morris’ mind is taking him back to places he wants to forget, but never can. He knows, though, that history is important if he wants to make the future count. Though he is in middle age, he is too young for dementia. He is too young to exist only for memories, many pleasant and some sour. He does not want those recollections to dominate, or, worse, mock him, in his dreams or when he’s awake. On this day when he is trying to make sense of his life there are too many other things happening that will not allow him to rest. Sometimes Robert Morris feels as if his forehead has hinges that sit inconveniently above his ears. These operate swinging doors, which, when open, reveal a set of working television screens that anyone can access by pushing a button, turning a knob, using a remote control clicker. He can live with that fantasy. He knows in truth, no one can see how his mind works. Just as well, he thinks. He has spent a lifetime protecting his mind from the mad world of TV news. He believes what is in his head is a metaphor for an openness he knows does not exist in the world of television news, especially in the morning, a time where life on the small screen should be transparent. Thirty years in the business, he thinks, teaches a man him to keep his opinions to himself. It is as if he is in deep cover, a refugee from a spy novel. Noisy thinking is always the start of trouble. He silently concludes that he is at it again, thinking, and therefore, somehow exposing heart and mind to distress. It is necessary at best, but, at worst, unnecessary, and usually filled with danger. His long experience tells him that he should never record his thoughts or think aloud. Eavesdroppers are everywhere. But he does anyway. The year is 1999. Robert Morris rises from his comfortable chair and quietly closes his office door. The door closed, he starts to pour his latest views and feelings into his computer. He fills the screen with 14-point type because that is easier to read. In the past, he had used a small tape recorder a vice president gave him as a gift when management thought it might cut back on secretaries. Before that, he wrote on paper in a typewriter. Earlier than that, he used a notebook. He still uses notebooks with pencils that he wears down to a nub before throwing them away. Now he uses a simple program in his company computer to erase anything he has accessed on the Internet, believing, erroneously, the information will not remain embedded on his hard drive, if anyone ever cared to look. It shows how little he really knows about the new technology that is spreading faster than he can grab onto and make a part of his life. A kid twelve years old could set him straight about the reality of privacy and what little he can hide on his computer. Morris still strikes his keyboard in the time-honored, two-fingered method of old-time reporters, of which he was one. Hunt and peck, pound the keys like a jackhammer, look down, look up, but never in either direction for long. He writes with ease. The words come fast. His spelling and grammar are not always perfect, true for most TV journalists, but he knows how to make his copy respectable. That comes from writing maybe hundreds of thousands of words speedily almost without thinking.

          I am again in my office early in the morning before the work day begins. I hate coming in early. I’m here because I have no choice. It is the time when I put my ideas on paper. My thoughts are personal, as they should be. This day is different because I must get some things out of my system. Where to begin? The best way is to listen to my old mini-tapes, the ones I recorded many years ago for dictation every morning thirty minutes before my workday began, as I am doing now. I don’t think they make these cassettes anymore. The Smith-Corona tape recorder is small, really no bigger than a package of Pall Mall cigarettes. I remember how I used to hold it close to my mouth behind closed doors and talk softly into the speaker so no one could hear me. It would have been dangerous then to let anyone hear what I had to say, just as it is dangerous now. The tapes held an hour’s worth of talk. When I recorded meetings in my office and in the conference room I tried to end the meetings before the tape ran out. And so I remember. Nothing much seems to change. Thirty years ago, we faced an aging morning show and an audience we believed would not stick around for more than a few minutes through any one segment. Competition threatened us for the first time. Today our morning show is even older. The audience’s boredom is setting in fast. But we are not alone. All the morning shows are boring, derivative, dull and mostly senseless. I am many years older, thirty to be exact. I already said that. I listen to myself talking. My voice is clear even when I muffle it. My smoker’s rasp adds character to my voice, I think, as an excuse for my not quitting. Now my hair is thinner and my waist expanded beyond good sense. Who am I? I hardly recognize me, but isn’t that always the case? There is much to say and time is soon to run out on my career. When my run ends, I hope I can live the way I want without anyone looking over my shoulder. Ever. The second-guessing wipes out pride and incentive to be creative, to live long and be happy. All of which I want. I like to think what I have inside my head is important. Damn. Down with important. I hate the word important. Everything stored inside me is unusual. I thought it then and I think it now. Unusual is better. Unique. A mystique. Most people in the business talk too much. I kept too much to myself all these years but now I have to let some of it out. It is time for revelations.

Robert Morris paused. He settled into his desk chair, one that cost the company two thousand dollars. He always liked that chair because he never needed it. No one ever needs a chair that expensive just to house your bottom. He found it a good day when he could take something out of company profits in return for what the company took from him. It became a better day when what he did was an unnecessary luxury.

First he reviewed what became known in executive circles as “The Memo.” The following is the internal memo written by VP of News Lew Narren to Robert Morris and Larry Childs that helped change everything in morning news. Morris decided to review it to keep his memory fresh and from drifting, just drifting, as he was apt to do early in the morning.

“From Lew Narren to Robert Morris and Larry Childs. Personal and Confidential. “Let me say that my writing this memo is breaking all the rules of good sense and self preservation. But I don’t care if the word gets out and someone higher up sees it and fires me. I am tired of taking crap from all the wrong quarters. This is about a show that we have the privilege of watching die each morning. We have to do something to stop the suffering. We must make changes on the set to save ourselves from losing the morning war and stem the flow of declining revenues. We must act soon. The reigning host is about to complete his 11th year on the show. Tired and bored, the host is ready to quit. It shows in everything he does, how he dresses, how he conducts interviews, his attitude to the producers in the control room. They are there to serve him, but he doesn’t give a damn. He wants them to bow to him. Even they, men who are normally timid, who need their jobs and enjoy the money and rewards, are starting to rebel against his idiocies. A big public party is in the works to celebrate his success and longevity. There is no competition from the other networks, so his achievement is flimsy. He has all the money he will ever need. I use the argument about money in meetings. The power, that is, the one man in control, his boss and mine, contends that money is not the motivator. Pride motivates those on the air, he says. I don’t believe it, I say back. He has fame. He has met all the interesting and exciting people of the world, or at least the world we project on television. It is time form him to take a prolonged rest and spread his wings elsewhere. I have one problem. I don’t think he has any wings to spread. The anchor strikes me as a cipher. That sense of him may be because I can’t stand his unnatural good looks. He looks unreal, pasted together from old movie magazine covers. Shiny pages in black and white. He looks washed out, especially in color. He’s lost the aura he once had and used to good advantage. Watching him these mornings, no one would ever know he once had been a first class reporter. “In my old Queens neighborhood if someone looked the way he does, he would never last out the day without getting his ass kicked to the Bronx. His face is too sweet. His voice is too rich. He looks like the goy he is. His hair is slick and unreal. We need someone with an ethnic bent to him. I know that is asking too much and it will never happen. If it does, it could ruin the ratings. New York is not America. I guess we need so-called healthy plain. We can’t allow him to go to another network. He can’t do that because his contract prohibits it and he is not strong enough to fight to break it. He can go where he will not damage us. PBS, maybe. Nobody watches PBS. No one cares about bird and animal shows and all that educational crap. Who wants to watch professors pontificate on the unknown when we can give the real goods? We will be better off if he moves to PBS. Anyway, PBS does not have a morning show. Thus, no competition.” Morris knows there is more but it is mostly technical. It seemed to him that Narren had run out of thoughts after his initial outburst. Narren knew that what he wrote was enough to stimulate others in his circle perhaps to come up with some answers.

Later in the day, after he re-read the memo, Robert Morris wrote back: “Can we put him on waivers like they do in baseball and hope that someone picks up his contract just for the sake of having him?” Narren answered with a phone message: “We should be so lucky.” Two days passed and Larry Childs wrote his own memo. He knew he must take care of the morning show, and fast. He realized other people with less ability had similar thoughts. He hoped his memo would be a preemptive strike. After writing it, he delivered by his own hand a copy to Robert Morris and to Lew Narren.

Date: January 10, 1978 Memo from Larry Childs (typed by me) to Robert Morris and Lew Narren. Subject: The Set. “It looks lousy. The damn set with all its dark wood looks like some lawyer’s office in a 1930s gangster film. All corners. Nothing warm or round. I like round. I hate corners. The long shots look terrible. Makes the family shot seem even smaller than it is on most small screens. Too small. Too far away. Too cold. No warmth. The people, our people, our family, dissolve into millions of pixels where you can even see the lines on the screen. Don’t forget, most screens are very small. Who tunes in to watch this stuff? The old saw that no one leaves a Broadway show whistling the set holds, but unless the set looks good, they won’t whistle anything, let alone buy the products we advertise. I wouldn’t watch our show. No way. The set is so distracting that I never pay attention to what our “little” people are saying. Maybe we should put cartoon balloons on top of their heads and translate their murmurs into legible words. By the way, who writes their crap? Or is it more ad-lib? I hate that kind of free-lancing unless the person is unusually glib. It seems these people can’t even order a dozen eggs in their local grocery. Monkeys can do better. We should write their ad-libs. Seriously. No matter. The producers had better write better material because, in the end, if there is no audience, it might not matter what anyone says.”

The flow of memos continued. This time Larry Childs dictated the following note to his secretary, Janice instead of writing it by his own hand. During the day, he never uses his small machine. Today his memo is flaring in his brain. It is too important to speak the words into his tiny machine. Usually when he has words for the record, he buzzes Janice into the office. One long buzz means to pick up the phone. Two buzzes mean come in now. Drop everything and come in immediately. Obedient, she comes in, but with her usual caution and sits in her designated chair on the side of his desk, her wide steno book on her wide lap ready to take down what he says in shorthand. Old enough to be his mother, Janice acts more like his maiden aunt. Very proper about everything, Childs fears dropping curses in front of her, sometimes his only vocabulary. He often wonders how she got a job in news, what with the loud mouths in the business and all the feigned machismo that prevails. Prevails? The real thought is to dominate. To dominate is more like it, with every other word fuck this or fuck that; the words seem to come out of everyone’s mouth, except when the anchors and reporters are on the air. Anchors and correspondents can never use four-letters on the air. The FCC would self-destruct, and, not far behind, the audience would storm the network gates in protest. The fines would be enormous. Outside his office, day in and day out, Janice listens in on every call he receives and makes. She does it openly, as do all the secretaries, using a hand-held earpiece that looks like half a telephone designed for only that, listening to other people’s conversations. Doing it without shame, on his orders, she makes notes, and puts the date and time on each call she records. June holds the “dead” phone extension, to her left ear because she is right-handed. Large and round, the earpiece, attaches to a worn, cloth-covered wire attached to her squat, ugly black phone with two extensions that sits on her desk. Recording in shorthand everything she hears, she listens intently and then types her notes, filing them according to date and time. Janice knew much more than she wanted to know and was the repository of too many secrets for any one person. Over the years, she had become very discreet, with no gossip ever passing her lips. The memo Childs is writing needs Janice’s typing skills. He knows that to dictate it will get it done fast. Though June is loyal, he is never sure how loyal she really is, and when she might decide to make a name for herself by publicly spewing the contents of her memory. More overweight each day, and devoted beyond what Larry Childs thinks, Janice, an unmarried woman, takes great shorthand, types with the best, and is in the office each day before her boss. She leaves her desk after he is on the way to the suburbs, to see his three children and his wife. There, safe at last, he attends school board meetings, the PTA, and his church on Sunday. He plays three on three basketball at the rec center, and in the early evening in fading light, he putters among his roses continuously infested with increasingly hardy Japanese beetles.

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Brian Williams: Thoughts

Once again, the so-called critics and television reviewers, media critics and the like miss what really might be going on with Brian Williams. I speak from long experience as a network producer and bureau chief. No anchor travels alone. He is never out of sight of his handlers. These consist of, depending on the story and the location, producers, writers, a camera crew of two, if not two crews, a unit manager, gophers, drivers, sometimes even an executive from headquarters. No report should ever go out from the field without it being read by the producer in the field. To think that Mr. Williams made things up and broadcast his fancies or fantasies without anyone with him knowing the truth is beyond reason. If he reported the way he did in Iraq and NBC’s investigation shows he engaged in similar false reporting on other stories, his team had to know what was going on. If his traveling team either ignored what he said or went along with him knowing he had massaged the truth, it would be complicit in the lie he told. They then committed journalisms worst sin, telling a lie as enablers who were probably afraid to question the anchor out of fear of his power.

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