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NEWS, MAN



NEWS, MAN

By Ann Piccirillo

 

          It’s been a really long time since I watched the news on T.V. which is really sad, because growing up the evening news was a staple in my house. The other night before dinner I turned on Channel 7. Then switched to Channel 2; then to Channel 4. I felt like my T.V. was stuck on the “Entertainment Tonight” channel because nothing but beautiful people spoke to me from behind the scratched screen of my old “fat” screen T.V.

          I can’t help it; I grew up being fed news by men who more resembled my cranky uncles who drank too much the night before than Robert Redford at Sundance. I mean, who better to deliver bad news to the tri-state area in the 70’s than a man with the last name “Grimsby?” And is any newscaster named Roger anymore? Are Rogers banned from network news? (I also loved Roger’s co-anchor, Bill Beutel; he and Roger Grimsby were, to me, the Felix and Oscar of network news.)

Not to be too critical, but one channel had a newscaster whose name was completely unpronounceable. I had an urge to shout at the T.V. “Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel please.”  I promise I’m not being prejudicial; it’s just that if you grew up in Jersey then you have the curse of the “Jersey Tongue”—we have a hard enough time pronouncing words balanced by an equal amount of vowels and consonants; take away the vowels and our tongues become literally screwed.

          Whereas I celebrated the grimness of Grimsby, my father knelt at the altar of Cronkite. Personally, I found his eyebrows a little too unruly for me; Roger seemingly employed a little bit of manscaping; albeit he’d manly deny it. Anyway, on my very first business trip to Philadelphia in 1987 the hotel erred in my reservation and graciously upgraded me to a suite that was adjacent to Walter Cronkite’s. He was there to cover the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, and I was attending a conference called “Managing Lawyers,” an oxymoron if there ever was one. Anyway, when I heard our suites were mates, I became obsessed with meeting him. How could I not? I lingered, I dawdled, I aimlessly walked the hall—all to no avail. However, late at night, I could hear him shuffling around his room.  

One morning while on my way to the conference, I noticed on the floor outside the door to Walter’s room was a Room Service tray littered with the remnants of his breakfast. Of course I had to stoop to see what the great Zeus of news fed himself. The marmaladed remains of whole wheat toast crusts; a bloated English Breakfast teabag drooling and dribbling all over the crumpled white linen napkin; a glass filmed with the pulp strings of freshly squeezed orange juice. As I knelt burrowing through his breakfast pile like a dog digging a bone, the door to his room opened without warning. There, before my downcast eyes stood his mighty vein-webbed feet shoved inside meticulous brown leather slippers. Slowly, I turned my gaze upwards greeting the military creases of his powder blue flannel pajama pants that were peeking from beneath the hem of a richly textured velour navy blue robe. Finally, my eyes reached the summit of the great man’s face.

He smiled; at least I think he smiled, it could have been a sequestered belch. Then his great hand, the hand that had removed the black-framed glasses from his eyes prior to announcing the death of President Kennedy; the hand that had held the papers containing the number of dead soldiers that he read to us each night during the Vietnam War; the hand that shook the hands of Presidents, Kings, and world leaders; that famous large and looming hand now reached out to me…with a plate of half-eaten scrambled eggs and a grapefruit carcass.

“Here, take this,” he ordered. “Oh, and get rid of that tray.”

Then the door closed upon the great man, and I did what any 22-year-old caught going through an icon’s breakfast tray would do. I took the tray to the hotel kitchen wondering if Roger Grimsby liked his juice with pulp, and pocketed the two dollar tip Walter left on the tray.

 

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