Thursday, August 07, 2003
Kobie, Jerry and Arnold. Three men and three distractions from the less than glorious vicissitudes of terror and imperial entanglements all beautifully gift-boxed for media digestion by an army of handlers, advance people and PR flacks. What a summer! I’m nostalgic for shark attacks!
Could it get any crazier? Well, yes, I guess it could and it likely will because young American boys are still dying every day.
As questions about the war, Saudi’s, Presidential and National Security Advisor inattention and North Korea drift from the schedules of the always time-constrained 24 hour news channels, valuable time is devoted to the Brownian motion of celebrity candidates and rough interracial athlete sex.
In a manner akin to David Letterman’s Brush with Greatness audience routine, I must confess to prior relationships with two of the three gentlemen mentioned. No, not the kind of relationships that spring rapidly to the dirty minds of my Internet readers. Kobie has never bruised my neck. Jerry has never given me a personal check. And, Arnold has never invited me for moonlight ocean skinny-dips. But, two of these men have shared regular three-dimensional space with this Blogger at different times and places.
The first, Jerry Springer, entered my world at two different points in my early professional career in Cincinnati, Ohio.
As a young copy boy working for the Cincinnati Enquirer, I clearly remember one summer Saturday night when a noisy bustle of men erupted into the newsroom with a personal check for all to see. I don’t recall the particulars, but I remember looking at the check as I stood next to a gleeful City Editor who personally typed the Front Page story about a wayward local Democrat.
A young longhaired and Boston-accented upstart Democratic City Councilman, fresh from Bobby Kennedy’s Presidential campaign, was becoming a local media darling and a threat to the unrocking boat of Republican Cincinnati. Somehow, shortly before that noisy group of check-bearing men entered the old Enquirer offices on Vine Street, this young Councilman ended up at the Presidential Motel (which had been the White House Motel until Richard Nixon spent the night during the presidential campaign of 1968) in northern Kentucky where he paid for the services of a prostitute with a personal check. Somehow this personal check rapidly made its way into the editorial hands of the city’s Republican newspaper and equally rapidly into Sunday morning newsprint.
With pluck, brass balls and the non-direct mayoral election of a then City Manager form of government, Jerry overcame the career ending publicity through apologies, shameless family exploitation and more publicity to become the non directly elected Mayor of Cincinnati and launch a lucrative TV career.
As Jerry’s struggles forced him into the vineyards of radio and TV commentary we intersected again, though this time personally, as I had grown from copy boy to television director.
I directed many of Jerry’s early television efforts, auditions, commentaries and studio news interviews for the broadcasting company that ultimately began his syndication career.
I am sure that Jerry doesn’t remember me for Jerry only had eyes for other on-camera or important people. Brusque and snide with crewmembers, Jerry’s bud would blossom when a news anchor or other perceived VIP entered the studio. From off camera to on, it was like watching Aunt Bea do a dirty Vegas nightclub act. Before the cameras Jerry was sober and boyishly cheerful. He would brush a Bobbyesque curl from his eye and give an earnest answer. Off camera and still with the VIP, he exploded with jokes and fussy concern for VIP well being. With lights out and only a crew present, Jerry snapped on the sour puss and the ugly demeanor. I can only imagine his foibles have been reinforced with age and heavy infusions of cash.
Much later in my television career, part of my weekly duties involved the assembly of Washington DC’s edition of PM Magazine.
Maria Shriver, at that time, had just gone from involvement with PM Baltimore to national reporting for PM Magazine. Eunice Shriver, Maria’s mother, sister to President John F. Kennedy and wife of McGovern vice presidential running mate Sergeant Shriver, would call the PM Washington office almost daily to push Maria and her current story. These daily calls became a running joke.
PM Washington was a local version like any other city’s show and had local stories and national ones. Locals had no say in selecting the daily national stories. Mrs. Kennedy-Shriver was lobbying the wrong people. The PM secretary who took poor Eunice’s calls with sugary sweetness, a slumming society babe who would later marry the right wing heir to a then drug and book store empire, never informed Maria’s mother of this distinction.
Every Thanksgiving, in furtherance of her hapless lobbying effort, Eunice Kennedy-Shriver invited the PM Washington staff to a cocktail party at their home in the old Nelson Rockefeller estate on Foxhall Road in Northwest Washington. This was always a fun annual adventure for the staff.
Each year, with the invitation’s arrival, arguments would erupt over the meaning of the word “casual”. Is that casual casual or Kennedy casual? It was always fun to watch those who had insisted upon casual casual gape as we entered the vast Shriver domicile.
From its outside appearance the old Rockefeller house resembled a suburban two story on growth hormone.
The Catholic Shrivers, in an attempt at suburban verisimilitude, added a molded concrete Virgin Mary Shrine to the house’s front yard. Inside, the overlarge rooms were stuffed with the furniture, bric-a-brac and paintings that only a wealthy legacy can provide. The house, though large and beautifully appointed, did, to the Shriver’s credit, have the burnished worn edges of a real home.
As Maria’s then teenaged siblings raced about casually, Sarge and Eunice worked the room urging guests toward the temporary bar set before a vast oil painting of a deceased New York Cardinal and Kennedy family friend.
I would usually gawp at paintings and bric-a-brac that included several Old Masters and a small bronze copy of the Robert Berks bust of JFK that resides at the Kennedy Center.
One year, in particular, guests included the yet to be syndicated Oprah, aloof and odd in a lime green leopard print body wrap, and Maria’s new date the pre-Terminator and post Myra Breckinridge Arnold.
I remember Arnold for his small stature, perfect gums and little else.
I am 6 feet tall and though I didn’t whip out a tape measure to nail Arnold’s stature, I was surprised he didn’t quite reach my forehead. But, if his stature didn’t impress his teeth sure did.
Over the years I have remarked to many people about Arnold’s perfectly pink healthy gums. If dental hygiene were an indicator of good government Arnold would get my vote.
As I watched a post Leno Arnold take reporter questions with the assistance of a bevy of “last question” shouting media handlers last evening, my thoughts drifted back to my unmemorable cocktail conversation with the handler-less bodybuilder. “I have plenty of money”, “I don’t care about anything” and “Children need books” uttered in a thick Austrian accent, sadly, were not conversational gambits from that cocktail party of yore but were uttered yesterday by the just announced candidate. Years ago Arnold’s philosophy had not yet broadened to the pleasant murk of his currently assisted Executive depths. Who, watching Arnold hype his latest movie in Iraq, could have doubted yesterday’s “surprise” decision?
I wonder what Eunice thinks? Would she agree that Jerry and Kobie’s chances would also be better in California? Does she miss the shark attacks?