Saturday, February 27, 2016

Here's something you won't believe

And I have the video to prove it!

CBS is always revamping its morning show. (Who's doing it now?  Charlie Rose? Steve Avery?) 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.

43 comments:

Stephen Marks said...

And here's something else you won't believe, at the same time Ms. Quinn is throwing to a story about Watergate she's having an affair with her boss, a very married Ben Bradlee, Managing Editor of the Washington Post (they married in 1978). So at the same time Mr. Bradlee is giving the OK to Woodward and Bernstein articles that would eventually bring down a President, Sally is hosting segments on CBS covering that very same downfall, all while servicing her boss on weekends at the Washington Marriott. Now we know who the real Deep Throat was!

Stoney said...

Watching Sally Quinn reminded me of an SCTV sketch in which Andrea Martin went into a stone-cold stare whenever the camera was on her. Can't say much for Hughes Rudd but I can imagine the director, during breaks, saying "Can we get Hughes some more coffee".

Speaking of breaks, a real TV classic is part of this clip; the "Keep America Beautiful" PSA featuring Iron Eyes Cody.

Didn't CBS bump Captain Kangaroo for this?

Alan Christensen said...

She doesn't seem that bad to me, probably because I've been inured to on-camera incompetence by watching the Republican presidential debates. I did love the segment with Heywood Hale Broun at Saratoga and the anti-pollution PSA with Iron Eyes Cody. And those time checks! "Twenty-three minutes past the hour."

BA said...

Sally's deer in the headlights is better than the proudly stupid sentence fragments yelped by current network anchors, and also the vocal-fried squeaks of local Oregon newsreaders.
I'm not going to "make the indian cry" today by throwing my trash out my car.

Toledo said...

What a great time capsule. In addition to Sally Quinn's extremely awkward, yet endearing, job of anchoring, there's a young hot Lesley Stahl, and Dan Rather interviewing Pat Buchanan who is defending the Nixon administration during Watergate.

parking_infraction said...

To be fair, the latest version with Charlie Rose has been on the air for the last four years and has shown itself to be a viable and consistently professional and newsworthy alternative to what you see on NBC and ABC.

The jokes about CBS floundering with its morning show don't apply anymore.

Hollywoodaholic said...

You left out a big part of the story. She was married to Ben Bradlee, the iconic head of The Washington Post and a towering figure in the news industry, so they made huge assumptions about her journalist cred and laid down the carpet for her.

Jake Bell said...

I don't see how she was any worse than any of the others. From the build up, I expected a "boom goes the dynamite" level performance, looking at the wrong cameras, stumbling and stuttering, speaking over others not realizing her mic was open, etc.

Mike Barer said...

That was big news back then. I think that Quinn was a respected journalist,but was out of her element.

Michael said...

CBS News's women staff complained about the lack of a woman anchor, and it was supposed to be Michele Clark, a terrific young reporter who was killed in a plane crash. Lesley Stahl wisely turned it down, so they went for Quinn, who did a great job in The Washington Post's style section. After this was over, she went back to The Post and ended up marrying Ben Bradlee, her editor, and they were together for about 40 years.

Unsurprisingly, Quinn blamed everybody but herself. Once, she burst out laughing when Rudd read a story about a man sucked out of an airplane at 30,000 feet because it sounded funny to her. Ho-kay, as Mr. Carson used to say. But it was an act of idiocy for a then-great journalistic organization like CBS News. She wrote a funny book about it and named names.

opimus said...

Nice hair helmet Dan.

Mike Barer said...

Actually, your comments prepared me for much worst. I have seen some videos of the newscasts of the late Jessica Savitch and they are heartwrenching. It's ironic that her death was in an accident that seemed to have little to do with the issues confronting her.

VillageDianne said...

I read Quinn's book. She was friends with Warren Beatty, who warned her. He had seen the same thing happen to a young actor in Hollywood.

Peter said...

I don't know if I believe in synchronicity but I just experienced a really eerie coincidence. The subject of a controversial historical TV broadcast made me think of the tragic story of Christine Chubbuck, a newscaster in Florida who killed herself live on air in 1974, though thankfully there's no footage available of that. I was just going to post about her and the fact that a TV movie has been made starring Rebecca Hall as Chubbuck. I googled to check a couple of details and found a feature article written shortly after her death in 1974....by Sally Quinn.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/02/01/christine-chubbuck-the-1974-washington-post-story-about-the-anchorwoman-who-killed-herself-on-live-tv/

LinGin said...

It couldn't have happened to a nice person. Sally Quinn was NOT married to Ben Bradlee at the time but they were having an affair and as, Stephen Marks noted above, Bradlee was married to someone else at the time. This wouldn't stop Quinn from making a moral judgement on Bill Clinton in later years. Just proving Dorothy Parker's old adage, "You can lead a whore to water but you can't make her think."

Corey said...

What a horrid place to find yourself. I couldn't watch the crash. As soon as the commercial came on, I was gone.... Sorry

Boomska316 said...

Friday question: With all the reboots and remakes popping up what do you think the odds are that some executive somewhere will get it into their head to try and reboot classic series like Cheers or MASH? The thought scares me, but Hollywood seems to be getting desperate enough to try anything at this point.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I was a research analyst and project director at a media research that had ABC as a client. We recommended that Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters pair up for the network evening news. Oh, whatta good idea THAT was. They had all of the on-air chemistry of Rubio and Trump, only worse.

Peter said...

By the way, great news today that the director of Ken and David's Volunteers, Nicholas Meyer, has come on board as writer and producer on the new Star Trek TV series launching next year. Trek fans love Meyer for having written and/or directed the best of the original cast Trek movies, Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.

H Johnson said...

Not all that awful. I'd much rather watch these two obviously intelligent people than the overly polished talking head bots we have today. And did you listen to the writing on that report about Saratoga? Pure poetry. If we want to pick on something, the camera direction seemed worse than than the commentary.

Not so bad, me thinks.

Aloha

Paul Duca said...

Stoney...as it had since the Captain's 1955 debut, CBS' morning news show only ran from 7 to 8 AM ET.

LinGin...the Parker quote "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think"

Billy...perhaps the biggest issue of the Reasoner/Walters pairing is that the plan was also to expand the broadcast to an hour, which the affiliates nixed. There ended up not being the time to showcase both of them to the best of their abilities.

Robert Brauer said...

That wasn't the worst broadcast I've ever seen; awkward and not good, but not a complete disaster.

I'd like to think that Iron Eyes Cody would be at least somewhat happy with the improved quality of air and water in today's America (well... as long as we don't take him to Flint, Michigan).

If Pat Buchanan's hair was its own country, it's main export would be grease. Jesus! It's also probably not a good thing that the hair is the only thing about him that has gotten less slimy in the following 4+ decades.

On that same subject... Dan, Dan, Dan. I get that your trying to be hip and all, but I think Joe Namath is the only guy who could make that hairdo look good.

Was anyone else disappointed that we didn't get to hear Jack Barry spin a good yarn about his yesteryears as a hotel dick in Saratoga?

In the end, when the most entertaining part of your broadcast are a PSA with a crying fake Indian and an ad for aspirin (AKA hangover pills), things are not going good.

Fred Nerk said...

Wasn't Iron Eyes Cody Italian?

Earl Boebert said...

My only contact with Dan Rather was physical -- he shoved me out of the Herz line at Washington National during Watergate. May have been the Sunday after the Saturday Night Massacre, but I'm not sure.

Klee said...

Wow, that mysterious "Q" meter broke down and their charisma is in the negative number scale. Made the pairing of Diane Sawyer & Sam Donaldson like they were made for each other, remember that fiasco?

emily said...

Fred,

Wikipedia says, "Cody was born Espera Oscar de Corti on April 3, 1904, in Kaplan in Vermilion Parish, in southwestern Louisiana, a second son of Antonio de Corti and his wife, Francesca Salpietra, immigrants from Sicily."

Caio Kimosabe.

D. McEwan said...

"Fred Nerk said...
Wasn't Iron Eyes Cody Italian?"


Yes, he was.

Anonymous said...

Pretty awful. Not quite as bad as one might expect given the backstory. Has all the earmarks of a comedy bit, but without the jokes.

Johnny Walker said...

For anyone who's interested, Sally's book is here: We're Going to Make You a Star.

Andy Rose said...

Even within the history of the CBS morning show, this was far from the biggest disaster. That honor probably goes to hiring Phyllis George Brown, who was in way over her head and sealed her fate by encouraging a man falsely accused of rape to give his accuser a hug at the end of an interview.

DrBOP said...

SMarks = http://instantrimshot.com/

And here's a Saturday Night off-topic.....uhhh.....classic, "Rubin and Ed", starring Howard Hesseman and Crispin Glover:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK_Pyz5GXOg

VincentS said...

Considering the pressure she was under I'd say she looked pretty good. Kudos to her. As I was reading your post, Ken, I couldn't believe a reputable institution like CBS News would do a thing like that - until I remembered they also kicked Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite AND Dan Rather out on their asses for no good reason.

Cap'n Bob said...

I thought she did well. Not dynamic, but steady and personable in a low key way. I'd call Jane Pauley's first years on Today a lot worse.

Curt Alliaume said...

In fairness, Bradlee noted in his autobiography he and Pinchot were separated when Quinn started going out with him. Still, given this beginning to her marriage it was distasteful for Quinn to complain about Bill Clinton. (I think Quinn found religion sometime in the 1990s.)

Quinn had an ability to get interviewees to say things they normally wouldn't, which didn't transfer well to television. Henry Kissinger once compared her to another Post reporter by saying. "Maxine Cheshire makes you want to commit murder. Sally Quinn makes you want to commit suicide."

CBS's morning news broadcasts were a train wreck for decades (Walter Cronkite hosted one edition in the 1950s with a lion puppet named Charlemagne; other hosts/anchors with little background in news include Dick Van Dyke, Bob Saget, and Mariette Hartley); the current version is probably the most successful one they've had.

And Captain Kangaroo wasn't bumped at this point; that wouldn't happen until the fall of 1981 - I guess CBS had gotten sick of Bob Keeshan's threats to make the network look bad. ("Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street" by Michael Davis, and "Last Stage Manager Standing" by Daniel B. Morgan reveal Keeshan was a lot less beloved by his coworkers than the Captain was by the general public.)

VP81955 said...

I don't know if Dan Rather was the only guy to hold the job, but he was a PA announcer for the Houston Colt .45s in that franchise's infancy.

Michael said...

A note about Quinn. In the late 1970s, she did a famous article about how the Carter administration people weren't housebroken (focusing mainly on his chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, whom Tip O'Neill said he called Hannibal Jerken, though I bet he didn't say Jerken). In the 1990s, she did a famous article about how the Clinton administration people weren't housebroken, and quoted David Broder, the supposed saint of wise political journalism, saying, "They trashed the place. And it's not their place." The headline on that piece was called "Our Town." And when I saw it, I realized the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of 99.999994 percent of the beltway media. So, thanks, Sally Quinn, for previewing what the media have now become.

Mike Barer said...

That voice that gave the "time checks" brought back memories.

thirteen said...

I've always been amused by Quinn's claim that she didn't know about the red light on the camera. I knew about the red light on the camera when I was six years old, and at that time I was making Play-Doh people for a living.

Andy Rose said...

The time check voice for the Morning News in this video is Bill Gilliand, who was a CBS staff announcer for 30 years. The voiceover in the Iron Eyes Body PSA was by Paul Frees.

Joe from VA said...

Not sure whether this has been covered elsewhere on the blog…

Ken, have you been watching “11.22.63” on Netflix? Two episodes in, it seems to me like a pretty good series. A scene in Ep. 2 that made me just laugh out loud (LOL, as the kids say) was one where a WWII Bronze Star winner asks time-traveler-from-2015 James Franco, in 1960, whether he’s been in the service. He hasn’t, of course (or if he has, it would be at a point sometime post-1960), so perhaps not wanting to stand out, he answers that he did two tours in Korea. The skeptical WWII vet grills him: “What unit?” Franco hesitates for a moment, then the (satisfactory) answer comes to him: “MASH. Four oh seven seventh.”

Also not sure whether that scene is in the book.

Jeff P said...

The announcer had great pipes.....
I always wanted to be the guy who said........"This is CBS..."
and then do nothing for the other 59-minutes and get paid $40,000 a year.....

john not mccain said...

Meh. Mariette Hartley was worse. Why they thought an actor could be an anchor is a mystery.

Todd Mason said...

I enjoyed watching the Hughes Rudd solo anchor version of the show for a year or so at least as a morning wake-up ritual before/while getting ready for the bus to junior high. Rudd was a bit more polished and certainly funnier by then...one of the CBS News guys who was also a (no joke) fiction writer...inasmuch as David Hartman (GOOD MORNING AMERICA on ABC) and Mike Wallace were actors, trying out Hartley wasn't the worst idea due to her being one, too...