Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Me & Tom Brokaw

Here's another snippet from the memoir I'm writing about growing up in the 60s. It's 1968. I'm a student at UCLA spending most of my time at the campus radio station, KLA.

In November, KLA utilized all its resources to cover election night. They sent people out to the various campaign headquarters. That was the sum total of their resources. I was assigned to the Biltmore Hotel downtown where both Hubert Humphrey’s and Senator Allan Cranston’s camps were housed. This was very exciting. I had a real press credential and could enter any restricted ballroom and watch volunteers blow up balloons. The presidential race was way too close to call, even hours after the west coast polls closed. So most of the time we media folk just raided buffet tables and schmoozed. One local reporter who was very nice and chatted with me for close to an hour was Channel 4’s Tom Brokaw. Who knew that years later we would both write books about the 60s and he would sell his?

At around midnight, the senator’s race was over and Cranston had won. We gathered in his ballroom for the victory speech. I was standing just off the stage. Cranston entered followed by his staff. His campaign manager was Jesse Unruh, rumored to be running for California governor in two years. He was standing right next to me. So after Cranston completed his speech I turned to Unruh, held out my microphone and asked if he was planning to run. He dodged the question, saying it was senator Cranston’s night. But I was young and brash and in college and didn’t give a shit. I began goading him. “Come on, you know you’re going to. What’s the big deal? Why can’t you just say it? It’s not like it’s a big secret.” I was the first Stuttering John. Unruh continued to duck me and eventually slipped away. When I got home late that night there was a message that my aunt from Louisville had called. Apparently my whole exchange with Jesse Unruh had been carried live on ABC. I probably got more national exposure that election night than Tom Brokaw.

Jesse Unruh did run for governor two years later. He lost.

By the next morning it was official. Richard Milhous Nixon was elected the 37th President of the United States over Hubert Humphrey in one of the closest elections in history. (The closest was when Al Gore actually won but George Bush became President.) Nixon vowed to reunite the country. It took years but he succeeded as the entire nation banded together to finally force him out of office.


Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

During this time, I worked Saturday nights at UCLA's KLA, but unlike Ken, it represented the height of my career.

Anyhow, on Sundays, I'd work 12 hours in the newsroom of the local CBS TV station. I was the copyboy and gopher.

One day, the boss told me to take the news car over to one of the Hollywood hotels and pick up a network reporter who wanted to go buy fruit at the famous Farmer's Market.

If it weren't for his obsession with guavas, Dan Rather and I never would have met.

He regrets it to this day...

Cap'n Bob said...

Tilden-Hayes was closer, and the back room boys gave it to Hayes even though Tilden won. Bush set no precedent.

Holt Murray said...

Cap'n you're right when you're right, but y'know the funny part?... Tilden beat Hayes in the Pop vote by more than what Gore beat Bush by. So Bush/Gore was

(course, Tilden & the Rep Party fell on their sword, as opposed to Gore et al; most believe the handing of the presidency to Hayes was part 'n parcel of the Compromise of 1877, whereby the Rep Party agreed to withdraw troops from the South, ending Reconstruction & ceding power to the pro-business Democrats in the South.)

Sorry Ken, but I rarely get to pull political trivia from my gray matter... ;)

te said...

When I was a Dating Game winner, the prize was a ski trip to Washington State.

Our chaperon was Meredith Brokaw, Tom's wife, who was then working in (I think) the accounting department at Barris. Tom, of course, was the hot young newsguy at Channel 4.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Ken, I don't know if you've addressed this elsewhere, but is there a publication date for your memoir?

Mike Barer said...

Nixon should be credited with launching a million "dick" jokes.

Anonymous said...

What about Quincy Adams over Jackson?

jwcoon said...

One for your memoirs. See if you relate. Boomers were raised like indentured servants. On Saturday, you'd mow the grass. After dinner, you'd help clear the table. No just did it. We raised our kids like they're employees. We negotiate. We explain. We analyze. We deal with their rights and 'contracts'. How'd we do?