Saturday, January 07, 2012

Here's something you won't believe

And I have the video to prove it!

CBS is always revamping its morning show. (They're doing it yet again.) Well, in 1973 someone got the brilliant idea to do an hour news show and hire someone to anchor it who had never been on television before. She had no experience whatsoever. Sally Quinn was a reporter for the Washington Post. And with no training, no rehearsals, no nothing -- CBS threw her on the air doing a national broadcast. In a book she wrote about the experience, Sally said that no one even told her the red light on a camera meant it was on. She's broadcasting coast-to-coast and doesn't even know which camera to look into. Great preparation.  I swear, if you pitched this idea as a series, every network including CBS would say, "Too ridiculous.  Too stupid.  It could never happen in a million years."

Well, it did. 

They gave Sally a partner, Hughes Rudd, who, by his own admission, was not a normal anchor. He was more of a rumpled reporter.

Needless to say, this experiment was an absolute disaster and lasted only a few months. Your heart has to go out to Sally Quinn who was just a deer in the headlights. When you watch this you will probably be shaking your head saying, "This can't be real!"

It is. 

By the way, on her first broadcast, Sally also had the flu and collapsed an hour before going on national TV live. I'm guessing some of that was nerves. Anyway, here is that ill-fated first broadcast.

33 comments:

hst said...

Thanks Ken. Not sure which was most disturbing: the show itself, the migrant workers story, how far "news" has fallen in 39 years, or Dan Rathers' hair. Thanks for posting.

Johnny Walker said...

Wow. Wikipedia says that the next day, her second, she had to host solo after Rudd's mother died. Also that her on-air response to the migrant workers story was, "That was how I felt when my mother and father made me clean up my room". Yikes.

normadesmond said...

unless i'm crazy, the two remote stories (one of them with leslie stahl) weren't stories, but simply opening remarks to a story.

and how about that sponsorship? one paying client, wow.

were the edith beales watching that morning from south hampton?

Michael said...

Part of the story is that women at CBS were angry that no woman was anchoring the news and went to Richard Salant, the news division's longtime president. He agreed. The top choice was a young but experienced and talented reporter named Michele Clark who was killed in (I believe) a plane crash. Then they asked Lesley Stahl, who didn't feel she was ready. They saw a Sally Quinn interview and went with her. While she was ill-prepared, it's worth remembering that The Washington Post hired her without any reporting experience. She became a terrific reporter, all right, but that gave her the ego to think she could do the same thing in television. Her subsequent career and life have revealed that she is very talented and quite the self-made woman who worships her own creator. Ahem.

Hughes Rudd was a terrific reporter and writer. While he was new to anchoring, he once said that he was perfect to anchor a morning newscast because, at his age, he had to get up during the night anyway. And one reason he got the job was that William Paley used to visit overseas news bureaus. When he hit Paris, Rudd was there, and Rudd didn't believe in kissing up to the boss by extending his pinkie finger--and Paley loved him for it.

Anonymous said...

I remember those days quite well. I was a senior in college and had dreams of coming to LA and becoming a TV writer. For reasons I can't recall, I developed an affection for Rudd and Quinn and started writing Rudd about "the biz". He sent back several handwritten response to my numerous questions and I was thrilled at what a caring mensch he was. One of my first mentor of sorts. God bless these two.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and here are the two sses I left out above.

Nancy said...

All these years later and I think the CBS Morning Show is still just as awkward.

pumpkinhead said...

That was awesome (a word I confess to overusing on the internet) for several reasons - young Lesley Stahl, the crying native American, the Excedrin commercial I haven't seen since I was a child, wondering how they got on the farm to film the child laborers ("can we come onto your farm to film your illegal child laborers?" "Oh, sure come at 9 am when the big machinery generally drives by"), Dan Rather's hair... can't even count them all.

No joke, the word verification is "ametr."

Phillip B said...

The curse of Captain Kangaroo continues to this day - he provided the programming CBS eventually pushed aside to become the third best morning news show on network television.

Perhaps they should have let Bob Keeshan anchor....

normadesmond said...

i'd adore hearing the news delivered by mr. moose.

Anonymous said...

The crying Indian! I haven't seen him in years. I still think of him when I see litter.

The Milner Coupe said...

Classic, but maybe not quite as bad as Chevy Chase's flop sweats in his hosting debut.

Kirk said...

The CBS Morning News was less than 10 minutes long in 1973? Obviously, this is an abreviated version.

I wonder if putting Quinn on the air was CBS's answer to Barbara Walters, who was on the Today show at the time and quite popular.

I wish you had shown more of the 92-year old house detective. I did the math. In 1973, a 93-year old man would have spent his childhood and part of his adolescence in the 19th century. And here he was, on TV, color TV at that, something unimaginable when he was a boy. I find that kind of thing fascinating.

D T Nelson said...

I used to watch the CBS Morning News every morning while getting ready for school. It was hosted by John Hart and Nelson Benton, two sober, just-the-facts newsmen (back when the US still had newsmen instead of "journalists"), and it came in third in the ratings, and it was really good. So CBS reassigned Hart and Benton and jazzed it up with Hughes Rudd, the cornpone Andy Rooney, and Sally Quinn, Ben Bradlee's mistress. It was unwatchable. Eventually, Quinn was put out of our misery and Rudd was left to host on his own, and it was pretty bad but better than the excretions available on NBC and ABC.

Dave B said...

She's no worse than Anne Curry over on NBC.

Cap'n Bob said...

I liked her, if only for being the only newscaster to sit back in his or her chair. Alas, her voice lacked polish and authority and that made it hard to listen to her.

The Indian was Iron Eyes Cody. He was actually Sicilian, but made a career out of playing American Indians.

Great Big Radio Guy said...

By CBS's standards in 1973, she was horrible. But y'know...by today's low standards she'd be downright acceptable. Except on Fox News where the blond anchors are required to be shrill and crazy.

amyp3 said...

I've followed news of Rep. Giffords very closely, and so today I was googling stories and started to watch a clip online from the CBS Early Show.

However I couldn't get past the anchor's horrible introduction. In the space of a few seconds he managed to give the wrong number of people who were killed in Tucson (he said eight, it was six) and referred to Giffords' husband as "Frank Kelly." (It's Mark).

OTOH I guess just getting her husband's name wrong is an improvement over the mistake news outlet made a year ago when they reported her dead.

Mike said...

Could be worse, could be Fox News.
What's their excuse?

YEKIMI said...

I like Hughes comment about "delirious people on TV...and they're usually running for public office". I wonder what he would think of the current crop of schmucks running for president.....probably change his comment from "delirious" to "insane".

WV: Rechin-to undergo another round of plastic surgery.

Greg VA said...

A great post, and Nancy "nailed" it with...Still better then the revolving door of nameless nobodys now. This dreck drove me to NPR - lousy ride, great destination.

Pete Sutcliffe said...

It really wasn't a train wreck. They were both congenial and self deprecating. Seemed to me like they were doing their best under the circumstances. Real "train wreck" live TV happens when the hosts panic. These two were just going with the flow.

Joey H said...

I enjoyed watching this...seeing parts of pieces by Harold Dow, Marya McLaughlin, and Heywood Hale Broun (though I wish we could have seen what sport coat Heywood was wearing). Also fun to hear William (Cannon) Conrad doing the Keep America Beautiful VO. And, a real live booth announcer!

Laurie A. said...

How appropriate to post this now with CBS's newer and better morning show beginning on Monday. At least Harry Smith was bright and had a spark...I can't sit through five minutes of Charlie Rose's dreary eyes let alone two hours of him. The new trio that they've been promoting - Erica Hill, Rose, and Gayle King(!) - won't be lasting very long. Ugh.

Morning "news" shows have really hit bottom.

HogsAteMySister said...

No, I think revisiting the triple-murder I covered 30 years ago as a reporter at Lake Waco takes precedence. And I never understood why no one ever did a criminal drama piece on that horrific crime.

Paul Duca said...

Another part of the problem is that Quinn was promoted as the sexbomb that would dethrone Barbara Walters as queen of morning TV...if not by CBS, than other pre-show publicity.

Mike Barer said...

Interesting that CBS, who practically invented TV news, has always been behind the curve when it comes to a Morning News Show.

Michael said...

When Today hit it big in the 1950s, CBS tried several morning shows. At one point, Walter Cronkite co-anchored with Charlemagne, the lion puppet of a genius named Bil Baird. Then Cronkite did the news for a host named Dick Van Dyke. Jack Paar tried it. So did Will Rogers, Jr., who once rode up on his horse, which was spooked by the cameras and proceeded to ... do what horses do. Making it better, the newscaster, Ned Calmer, turned to his producer and said, "Good God, what a fuck-up, and on national TV!" The director, trying to get away from the horse, cut to Calmer just BEFORE he said that. How bad was the show? Nobody wrote in to complain.

Bob Schieffer later served as morning co-anchor and knew his show was in trouble when he looked up at Today and saw a guest being interviewed about his autobiography: William Paley, the CBS chairman.

Mike Barer said...

Let's not forget, though, that ABC had a bomb in AM America before GMA became popular.

Mike Barer said...

Can you imagine how many qualified anchors who labored in local markets were passed up when Sally got that gig.

Dan Tedson said...

I swear to Christ CBS was run by a monkey with an abacus back then. This is the same era when they censored the hell out of and eventually fired The Smothers Brothers for satirizing the Vietnam war. They were a top 20 show at the time of the firing, posthumously won an emmy for writing, and one of those writers was a little known guy by the name of Steve Martin.

emily said...

And the new morning host is...Charles Peete "Charlie" Rose, Jr...born January 5, 1942.

Easy math. He just turned 70.

How long-range is this CBS plan? Charlie probably doesn't even buy green bananas.

Hippo said...

Try watching Angolan state television...

(That's Angola, the country in Africa, not Louisiana State Penitentiary)