Joe L. Allbritton, a Texas financier who at age 50 became a
television and newspaper baron in Washington, then climbed the city’s social
hierarchy as he transformed himself into the foremost banker to Embassy Row,
died on Tuesday in Houston. He was 87.
The cause was a heart ailment, said Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the president of
Allbritton Communications, which is based in Arlington, Va. Mr. Allbritton lived
in Houston in his retirement.
After early success in the banking business in the Southwest, the diminutive Mr.
Allbritton — he stood barely 5 feet tall — expanded in 1974 with the purchase of
The Washington Star, the city’s feisty, conservative-leaning No. 2 paper after
The Washington Post. The deal included the local ABC television affiliate.
His foray into the Washington publishing scene — he had never before stepped
into a newspaper office — was short-lived. In 1978, he was forced to sell The
Star after the Federal Communications Commission barred common ownership of
broadcast and newspaper properties in the same market. (The buyer was Time Inc.,
which closed the paper in 1981.)
But keeping the TV station, WMAL, proved a bonanza. It became highly profitable
as WJLA — he changed the call letters, using his initials — and it was the
foundation of Allbritton Communications, which today has TV outlets in
Harrisburg, Pa.; Little Rock, Ark.; and a half-dozen other cities, as well as
other media properties.
His son, Robert, now heads the company and in 2007 founded Politico, the news
Web site and newspaper devoted to politics.
Briefly retired after selling The Star, Mr. Allbritton found himself bored and
decided to return to banking.
A friend invited him to invest in the venerable Riggs National Bank,
Washington’s biggest financial institution and one with a rich history. It had
provided financing for Samuel F. B. Morse’s telegraph and the gold used to
purchase Alaska. Some two dozen presidential families had banked there. Mr.
Allbritton wound up with a 40 percent controlling interest.
Riggs became his fief, its board larded with relatives and friends, and the
vehicle for his frequent travels to exploit his top-level foreign connections,
including a close one with Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator.
He transformed Riggs from a traditional deposit-and-loan institution into a
niche asset manager and private banker to the carriage trade. It boasted of
being “the most important bank in the most important city in the world.”
Its fortunes waned, however, as competition increased and Riggs became enmeshed
in money-laundering investigations. One resulted in a $25 million fine for what
the authorities called “willful and systemic” violations of laws governing cash
reporting. Federal regulators said the bank had failed to actively monitor
transfers through Saudi Arabian and Equatorial Guinean accounts, which were
considered possible conduits for terrorist funds or the proceeds of graft.
Mr. Allbritton refused numerous offers to buy Riggs, but under pressure from an
investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission involving oil money from
Equatorial Guinea, he succumbed and sold the bank in 2005 to the PNC
Besides his son, Robert, who at one time was chief executive of Riggs, Mr.
Allbritton is survived by his wife, the former Barbara Jean Balfanz, whom he
married in 1967, and two grandchildren.
Joe Lewis Allbritton was born in D’Lo, Miss., near Jackson, on Dec. 29, 1924, to
Lewis A. Allbritton and the former Ada Carpenter. As a youngster during the
Depression he stirred orange juice for $1 a day at a local bottling plant. While
in junior high school he moved with his parents to Houston, where he worked
after school each day in the cafe opened by his father.
In high school he was a champion debater. He left Baylor University after a year
to serve in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.
Mr. Allbritton returned to take a law degree at Baylor and opened a small
office, but after a few years he discovered that he did not like what he called
“the environment of practicing law” and gravitated toward business.
He made a killing in real estate selling land for a freeway between Houston and
Galveston. He then organized and ran the San Jacinto Savings and Loan. Within 15
years he had acquired and merged his way to Texas banking eminence as the
biggest shareholder in First International Bancshares of Dallas.
His reach extended as far as Los Angeles, where he acquired Pierce National Life
Insurance and Pierce Brothers, a regional chain of 60 funeral homes, the largest
in the area.
Having made a fortune and deciding that prospects for Texas banking were
limited, Mr. Allbritton sold his shares and turned his attention in the early
1970s to Washington, where he found what he considered an undervalued TV
property whose profits he figured could be used to support The Star.
“Opportunities in a community are rarely seen by the people who grew up there,”
he later told Washingtonian magazine.
Mr. Allbritton also owned The Hudson Dispatch in New Jersey from 1977 to 1985;
it was eventually merged into The Jersey Journal.
Mr. Allbritton’s chief avocation was racehorses. His Lazy Lane Farms in
Upperville, Va., produced Hansel, winner of the 1991 Preakness and Belmont
Stakes, the final two-thirds of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
But none from his stable ever won the Kentucky Derby, a goal he called “one
great ambition yet unfulfilled.”
the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime
song-and-dance fest, “American Bandstand,” did as much as anyone or anything to
advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died
on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82.
A spokesman, Paul Shefrin, said Mr. Clark had a heart attack at Saint John’s
Health Center on Wednesday morning after entering the hospital the night before
for an outpatient procedure.
Mr. Clark had a stroke in December 2004, shortly before he was to appear on the
annual televised New Year’s Eve party he had produced and hosted every year
since 1972. He returned a year later, and although he spoke haltingly, he
continued to make brief appearances on the show, including the one this past New
With the boyish good looks of a bound-for-success junior executive and a
ubiquitous on-camera presence, Mr. Clark was among the most recognizable faces
in the world, even if what he was most famous for — spinning records and
jabbering with teenagers — was on the insubstantial side. In addition to
“American Bandstand” and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” he hosted innumerable awards
shows, comedy specials, series based on TV outtakes and the game show “$10,000
Pyramid” (which lasted long enough to see the stakes ratcheted up to $100,000).
He also made guest appearances on dramatic and comedy series, usually playing
But he was as much a businessman as a television personality. “I get enormous
pleasure and excitement sitting in on conferences with accountants, tax experts
and lawyers,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1961. He was
especially deft at packaging entertainment products for television.
Starting in the 1960s, Mr. Clark built an entertainment empire on the shoulders
of “Bandstand,” producing other music shows like “Where the Action Is” and “It’s
Happening.” He eventually expanded into game shows, awards shows, comedy
specials and series, talk shows, children’s programming, reality programming,
and movies. His umbrella company, Dick Clark Productions, has produced thousands
of hours of television; it also has a licensing arm and has owned or operated
restaurants and theaters like the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in
But none of it would have been possible without “American Bandstand,” a show
that earned immediate popularity, had remarkable longevity and became a cultural
touchstone for the baby-boomer generation. It helped give rise to the Top 40
radio format and helped make rock ’n’ roll a palatable product for visual media
— not just television but also the movies. It was influential enough that ABC
broadcast a 40th-anniversary special in 1992, three years after the show went
off the air, and a 50th-anniversary special 10 years later. Mr. Clark, who had
long since been popularly known as “the world’s oldest teenager,” was the host
of both, of course.
“American Bandstand” was broadcast nationally, originally from Philadelphia,
from 1957 to 1989, and the list of well-known performers who were seen on it,
many of them lip-syncing their recently recorded hits, spanned generations: from
Ritchie Valens to Luther Vandross; from the Monkees to Madonna; from Little
Anthony and the Imperials to Los Lobos; from Dusty Springfield to Buffalo
Springfield to Rick Springfield. Mr. Clark was around for it all.
“It meant everything to do Dick’s show,” Paul Anka said in telephone interview
on Wednesday. “This was a time when there was no youth culture — he created it.
And the impact of the show on people was enormous. You knew that once you went
down to Philadelphia to see Dick and you went on the show, your song went from
nowhere to the Top 10.”
“American Bandstand’s” influence waned somewhat after it changed from a weekday
to a weekly format, appearing on Saturday afternoons, in 1963 and moved its base
of operations to Los Angeles the next year. And as the psychedelic era took hold
in the late 1960s and rock ’n’ roll fragmented into subgenres, the show could no
longer command a central role on the pop music scene.
Indeed, the show was criticized for sanitizing rock ’n’ roll, taking the edge
off a sexualized and rebellious music. But it was also, in important ways, on
the leading edge of the culture. Mr. Clark and his producer, Tony Mammarella,
began integrating the dance floor on “American Bandstand” early on; much of the
music, after all, was being made by black performers.
“I can remember, a vivid recollection, the first time ever in my life I talked
to a black teenager on national television; it was in what we called the
rate-a-record portion of ‘Bandstand,’ ” Mr. Clark recalled. “It was the first
time in a hundred years I got sweaty palms.”
He was fearful, he said, of a backlash from Southern television affiliates, but
that didn’t happen. From that day on, he said, more blacks began appearing on
the show. And as time went on, the show’s willingness to bridge a racial divide
that went almost entirely unacknowledged by network programming was starkly
apparent, “providing American television broadcasting with the most visible
ongoing image of ethnic diversity until the 1970s,” according to an essay about
the program on the Web site of the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast
“We didn’t do it because we were do-gooders, or liberals,” Mr. Clark said. “It
was just a thing we thought we ought to do. It was naïve.”
The right man at the right time, Mr. Clark was a radio personality in
Philadelphia in 1956 when he stepped into the role of host of what was then a
local television show called “Bandstand” after the regular host was fired. By
the following October, the show was being broadcast on ABC nationwide with a new
name, “American Bandstand,” and for the next several years it was seen every
weekday afternoon by as many as 20 million viewers, most of them not yet out of
high school, eager to watch a few dozen of their peers dance chastely to the
latest recordings of pop hits, showing off new steps like the twist, the pony
and the Watusi, and rating the new records in brief interviews.
“It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” became a national catchphrase.
Handsome and glib, Dick Clark was their music-savvy older brother, and from that
position of authority he presided over a grass-roots revolution in American
culture in the late 1950s and early ’60s. “American Bandstand” was the first
show to make use of the new technology, television, to spread the gospel of rock
’n’ roll. In its early years it introduced a national audience to teen idols
like Fabian and Connie Francis, first-generation rockers like Bill Haley and
Jerry Lee Lewis, and singing groups like the Everly Brothers. Even more, it
helped persuade broadcasters and advertisers of the power of teenagers to steer
“At that moment in time, the world realized that kids might rule the world,” Mr.
Clark said. “They had their own music, their own fashion, their own money.”
By early 1958, “American Bandstand” was so big a hit that network executives
installed a new show in a concert format in its Saturday night lineup, calling
it “The Dick Clark Show.” In June, ABC sent it on the road to broadcast from a
number of cities. In October, when “The Dick Clark Show” originated from
Atlanta, both black and white teenagers were in the audience — amounting to one
of the first racially integrated rock concerts — and with National Guard troops
present, it weathered threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The nighttime show lasted
only until 1960.
In spite of his success, Mr. Clark, who never hid his desire for wealth, had not
been getting rich as a network employee. But he had been investing, shrewdly and
voluminously, in the businesses that “American Bandstand” supported — talent
management, music publishing, record distribution and merchandising, among
others — and his bank account ballooned.
His finances were dealt a blow, and his clean-cut image was tarnished, however,
when Congress convened hearings into payola, the record company practice of
bribing disc jockeys to play their records on the air. In late 1959, with the
hearings pending, ABC insisted that Mr. Clark divest himself of all his
record-related businesses, which he did. He was called to testify before the
House Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight in April 1960, and though he
denied ever taking money to play records, he acknowledged a number of actions
that exposed what many in Congress considered a too-cozy relationship between
the music industry and D.J.s, Mr. Clark in particular.
For an investment of $125 in one record company, for example, Mr. Clark received
$31,700 in salary and stock profits over two years. He admitted that some songs
and records may have been given to his publishing and distribution companies
because of his affiliation with “American Bandstand.” He also acknowledged
accepting a ring and a fur stole from a record manufacturer.
Mr. Clark, who was never charged with a crime, said that having to comply with
the network’s divestiture request cost him millions.
“I never took any money to play records,” Mr. Clark said in his 1999 Archive of
American Television interview. “I made money other ways. Horizontally,
vertically, every which way you can think of, I made money from that show.”
Over half a century, Mr. Clark made millions as a producer or executive
producer, shepherding projects onto the airwaves that even he acknowledged were
more diverting than ennobling: awards shows like the Golden Globes, the Academy
of Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards; omnibus shows like “TV’s
Bloopers & Practical Jokes,” featuring collections of clips; and
television-movie biographies and dramas that targeted devotees of camp, kitsch
or B-list celebrities.
He excelled in signing up top acts for his shows, and had to be especially
creative on his New Year’s Eve show. Top acts often had lucrative bookings that
night, so Mr. Clark worked around that by taping the dance party portion of the
show at a Los Angeles studio in August.
“You would go out there and see all these people in their New Year’s Eve outfits
getting a smoke outside in 100-degree heat,” said Ted Harbert, then an ABC
program executive and now chairman of NBC Broadcasting. “That’s how he got the
stars to turn up on a New Year’s Eve show. He taped them in August. It was
Mr. Clark wasn’t high-minded about his work. “I’ve always dealt with light,
frivolous things that didn’t really count; I’m not ashamed of that,” he said
during a 1999 interview for the Archive of American Television. “There’s no
redeeming cultural value whatsoever to ‘Bloopers,’ but it’s been on for 20
years.” He added: “It’s a piece of fluff. I’ve been a fluffmeister for a long
Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on Nov. 30, 1929, in Bronxville, N.Y., and grew
up nearby in Mount Vernon, the second son of Richard A. and Julia Clark. His
father was a salesman who commuted to New York City until he was hired to manage
a radio station in Utica, N.Y. The older brother, Bradley, was killed in World
War II, and young Dick, who had greatly admired “Brad,” a high school athlete,
was devastated and depressed afterward, his father once said in an interview.
Love of Radio
As a boy Dick listened often to the radio, and at 13 he went to see a live radio
broadcast starring Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore. From then on, he wanted to be
in broadcasting. His first job, at 17, was in the mailroom of his father’s
station. He often said he learned the most important lesson of his career from
listening to Arthur Godfrey.
“I emulated him,” Mr. Clark said. “I loved him, I adored him, because he had the
ability to communicate to one person who was listening or watching. Most people
would say, in a stentorian voice, ‘Good evening, everyone.’ Everyone? Godfrey
knew there was only one person listening at a time.”
Mr. Clark studied business administration at Syracuse University, where he was a
disc jockey on the student radio station. After graduating he worked briefly as
an announcer for his father’s station before getting a job in television, at
WKTV in Utica, as a news announcer.
In 1952 WFIL in Philadelphia gave him his own radio show, “Dick Clark’s Caravan
of Music,” an easy-listening afternoon program. A few months later, the
station’s television affiliate began an afternoon show called “Bandstand,” with
Bob Horn and Lee Stewart. At first it showed films of musical performances for
studio audiences, Mr. Clark recalled, but it evolved into a dance show when
teenagers, bored with the films, started dancing to the music. As the show grew
in popularity, the station changed the name of Mr. Clark’s radio show to
“Bandstand” as well, even though his playlist remained uncontroversial fare for
a relatively small middle-aged afternoon audience.
It was in the summer of 1956 that Mr. Horn, by then the show’s sole host, was
fired and the station turned to young Dick Clark.
“I was 26 years old, looked the part, knew the music, was very comfortable on
television,” Mr. Clark recalled. “ ‘They said, ‘Do you want it?’ And I said,
‘Oh, man, do I want it!’ ”
Mr. Clark’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife,
Kari Wigton; three children, Richard, Duane and Cindy; and two grandchildren.
He won five Emmy Awards, including a Daytime Emmy lifetime achievement award in
1994, and in 1993 was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame. He owed his success, he said, to knowing the mind of the
“My greatest asset in life,” he said, “was I never lost touch with hot dogs,
hamburgers, going to the fair and hanging out at the mall.”
and Ben Sisario contributed reporting.
Wallace, the CBS reporter who became one of the nation’s best-known broadcast
journalists as an interrogator of the famous and infamous on “60 Minutes,” died
on Saturday. He was 93.
On its Web site, CBS said Mr. Wallace died at a care facility in New Canaan,
Conn., where he had lived in recent years. Mr. Wallace, who was outfitted with a
pacemaker more than 20 years ago, had a long history of cardiac care and
underwent triple bypass heart surgery in January 2008.
A reporter with the presence of a performer, Mr. Wallace went head to head with
chiefs of state, celebrities and con artists for more than 50 years, living for
the moment when “you forget the lights, the cameras, everything else, and you’re
really talking to each other,” he said in an interview with The New York Times
videotaped in July 2006 and released on his death as part of the online feature
“The Last Word.”
Mr. Wallace created enough such moments to become a paragon of television
journalism in the heyday of network news. As he grilled his subjects, he said,
he walked “a fine line between sadism and intellectual curiosity.”
His success often lay in the questions he hurled, not the answers he received.
“Perjury,” he said, in his staccato style, to President Richard M. Nixon’s
right-hand man, John D. Ehrlichman, while interviewing him during the Watergate
affair. “Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Theft of
psychiatric records. Spying by undercover agents. Conspiracy to obstruct
justice. All of this by the law-and-order administration of Richard Nixon.”
Mr. Ehrlichman paused and said, “Is there a question in there somewhere?”
No, Mr. Wallace later conceded. But it was riveting television.
Both the style and the substance of his work drew criticism. CBS paid Nixon’s
chief of staff H. R. Haldeman $100,000 for an exclusive (if inconclusive) pair
of interviews with Mr. Wallace in 1975. Critics called it checkbook journalism,
and even Mr. Wallace conceded later that it had been “a bad idea.”
For a 1976 report on Medicaid fraud, the show’s producers set up a phony health
clinic in Chicago. Was the use of deceit to expose deceit justified? Hidden
cameras and ambush interviews were all part of the game, Mr. Wallace said,
though he abandoned those techniques in later years, when they became a cliché
and no longer good television.
Some subjects were unfazed by Mr. Wallace’s unblinking stare. When he sat down
with the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader, in 1979, he said that President
Anwar Sadat of Egypt “calls you, Imam — forgive me, his words, not mine — a
lunatic.” The translator blanched, but the Ayatollah responded, calmly calling
Sadat a heretic.
“Forgive me” was a favorite Wallace phrase, the caress before the garrote. “As
soon as you hear that,” he told The Times, “you realize the nasty question’s
about to come.”
Mr. Wallace invented his hard-boiled persona on a program called “Night Beat.”
Television was black and white, and so was the discourse, when the show went on
the air in 1956, weeknights at 11, on the New York affiliate of the short-lived
DuMont television network.
“We had lighting that was warts-and-all close-ups,” he remembered. The camera
closed in tighter and tighter on the guests. The smoke from Mr. Wallace’s
cigarette swirled between him and his quarry. Sweat beaded on his subject’s
“I was asking tough questions,” he said. “And I had found my bliss.” He had
become Mike Wallace.
“All of a sudden,” he said, “I was no longer anonymous.” He was “the fiery
prosecutor, the righteous and wrathful D.A. determined to rid Gotham City of its
undesirables,” in the words of Michael J. Arlen, The New Yorker’s television
“Night Beat” moved to ABC in 1957 as a half-hour, coast-to-coast, prime-time
program, renamed “The Mike Wallace Interview.” ABC, then the perennial loser
among the major networks, promoted him as “the Terrible Torquemada of the TV
The show came under attack after a guest, the syndicated columnist Drew Pearson,
called Senator John F. Kennedy “the only man in history I know who won a
Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten.” The book was “Profiles in
Courage.” The Kennedys’ lawyers forced ABC to retract, though in fact the
senator’s speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, was the book’s undisclosed
Mr. Wallace’s career path meandered after ABC canceled “The Mike Wallace
Interview” in 1958. He had done entertainment shows and quiz shows and cigarette
commercials. He had acted onstage. But he resolved to become a real journalist
after a harrowing journey to recover the body of his first-born son, Peter, who
died at 19 in a mountain-climbing accident in Greece in 1962.
“He was going to be a writer,” Mr. Wallace said in the interview with The Times.
“And so I said, ‘I’m going to do something that would make Peter proud.’ ”
He set his sights on CBS News and joined the network as a special correspondent.
He was soon anchoring “The CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace” and reporting
from Vietnam. Then he caught the eye of Richard Nixon.
Running for president, Nixon offered Mr. Wallace a job as his press secretary
shortly before the 1968 primaries began. “I thought very, very seriously about
it,” Mr. Wallace told The Times. “I regarded him with great respect. He was
savvy, smart, hard working.”
But Mr. Wallace turned Nixon down, saying that putting a happy face on bad news
was not his cup of tea.
Only months later “60 Minutes” made its debut, at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24,
1968. The trademark ticking of the Tag Heuer stopwatch marked the moment.
It was something new on the air: a “newsmagazine,” usually three substantial
pieces of about 15 minutes each — a near-eternity on television. Mr. Wallace and
Harry Reasoner were the first co-hosts, one fierce, one folksy.
The show was the brainchild of Don Hewitt, a producer who was “in bad odor at
CBS News at the time,” Mr. Wallace said in the interview.
“He was unpredictable, difficult to work with, genius notions, a genuine
adventurer, if you will, in television news at that time,“ Mr. Wallace said of
Mr. Hewitt, who died in 2009.
The show, which moved to Sunday nights at 7 in 1970, was slow to catch on.
Creative conflict marked its climb to the top of the television heap in the
1970s. Mr. Wallace fought his fellow correspondents for the best stories and the
“There would be blood on the floor,” Mr. Wallace said in the interview. He said
he developed the “not necessarily undeserved reputation” of being prickly — he
used a stronger word — and “of stealing stories from my colleagues,” who came to
include Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Dan Rather and Diane Sawyer in the 1970s and
early 1980s. “This was just competition,” he said. “Get the story. Get it
Mr. Wallace and his teams of producers — who researched, reported and wrote the
stories — took on American Nazis and nuclear power plants along with his
patented brand of exposés.
The time was ripe for investigative television journalism. Watergate and its
many seamy sideshows had made muckraking a respectable trade. By the late 1970s,
“60 Minutes” was the top-rated show on Sundays. For five consecutive years it
was the No. 1 show on television, a run matched only by “All in the Family” and
“The Cosby Show.” In 1977, it began a 23-year run in the top 10. No show of any
kind has matched that.Mr. Wallace was rich and famous and a powerful figure in
television news when his life took a stressful turn in 1982.
That year he anchored a “CBS Reports” documentary called “The Uncounted Enemy: A
Vietnam Deception.” It led to a $120 million libel suit filed by Gen. William C.
Westmoreland, the commander of American troops in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. At
issue was the show’s assertion that General Westmoreland had deliberately
falsified the “order of battle,” the estimate of the strength of the enemy.
The question turned on a decision that American military commanders made in
1967. The uniformed military said the enemy was no more than 300,000 strong, but
intelligence analysts said the number could be half a million or more. If the
analysts were correct, then there was no “light at the end of the tunnel,” the
optimistic phrase General Westmoreland had used.
Documents declassified after the cold war showed that the general’s top aide had
cited reasons of politics and public relations for insisting on the lower
figure. The military was “stonewalling, obviously under orders” from General
Westmoreland, a senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst cabled his
headquarters; the “predetermined total” was “fixed on public-relations grounds.”
The C.I.A. officially accepted the military’s invented figure of 299,000 enemy
forces or fewer.
The documentary asserted that rather than a politically expedient lie, the
struggle revealed a vast conspiracy to suppress the truth. The key theorist for
that case, Sam Adams, a former C.I.A. analyst, was not only interviewed for the
documentary but also received a consultant’s fee of $25,000. The show had
arrived at something close to the truth, but it had used questionable means to
After more than two years General Westmoreland abandoned his suit midtrial, CBS
lost some of its reputation, and Mr. Wallace had a nervous breakdown.
He said at the time that he feared “the lawyers for the other side would employ
the same techniques against me that I had employed on television.” Already on
antidepressants, which gave him tremors, he had a waking nightmare while sitting
through the trial.
“I could see myself up there on the stand, six feet away from the jury, with my
hands shaking, and dying to drink water,” he said in the interview with The
Times. He imagined the jury thinking, “Well, that son of a bitch is obviously
guilty as hell.”
He attempted suicide. “I was so low that I wanted to exit,” Mr. Wallace said.
“And I took a bunch of pills, and they were sleeping pills. And at least they
would put me to sleep, and maybe I wouldn’t wake up, and that was fine.”
Later in life he discussed his depression and advocated psychiatric and
The despair and anger he felt over the documentary were outdone 13 years later
when, as he put it in a memoir, “the corporate management of CBS emasculated a
‘60 Minutes’ documentary I had done just as we were preparing to put it on the
The cutting involved a damning interview with Jeffrey Wigand, a chemist who had
been director of research at Brown & Williamson, the tobacco company. The
chemist said on camera that the nation’s tobacco executives had been lying when
they swore under oath before Congress that they believed nicotine was not
addictive. Among many complicating factors, one of those executives was the son
of Laurence A. Tisch, the chairman of CBS at the time. The interview was not
Mr. Wallace remained bitter at Mr. Tisch’s stewardship, which ended when he sold
CBS in 1995, after dismissing many employees and dismantling some of its parts.
“We thought that he would be happy to be the inheritor of all of the — forgive
me — glory of CBS and CBS News,” Mr. Wallace said. “And the glory was not as
attractive to him as money. He began to tear apart CBS News.” (Mr. Tisch died in
Mr. Wallace officially retired from “60 Minutes” in 2006, after a 38-year run,
at the age of 88. A few months later he was back on the program with an
exclusive interview with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“I hear this is your last interview,” the president said.
Mr. Wallace replied: “What do you think? Is it a good idea to retire?” He won
his 21st Emmy award for the interview.
And he kept working. Only weeks before his 2008 bypass surgery, he interviewed
the baseball star Roger Clemens as accusations swirled that Mr. Clemens had used
performance-enhancing drugs. It was Mr. Wallace’s last appearance on television,
Myron Leon Wallace was born in Brookline, Mass., on May 9, 1918, one of four
children of Friedan and Zina Wallik, who had come to the United States from a
Russian shtetl before the turn of the 20th century. (Friedan became Frank and
Wallik became Wallace in the American melting pot.) His father started as a
wholesale grocer and became an insurance broker.
Myron came out of Brookline High School with a B-minus average, worked his way
through the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and graduated in 1939. (Decades
later he was deeply involved in two national programs for journalists based at
the university: the Livingston Awards, given to talented reporters under 35, and
the Knight-Wallace fellowships, a sabbatical for midcareer reporters; its
seminars are held at Wallace House, which he purchased for the programs.)
After he graduated from college, he went almost immediately into radio, starting
at $20 a week at a station with the call letters WOOD-WASH in Grand Rapids,
Mich. (It was jointly owned by a furniture trade association, a lumber company
and a laundry.) He went on to Detroit and Chicago stations as narrator and actor
on shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “The Green Hornet,” along the way acquiring
“Mike” as his broadcast name.
In December 1943 he enlisted in the Navy, did a tour of duty in the Pacific and
wound up as a lieutenant junior grade in charge of radio entertainment at the
Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
Mr. Wallace married his first wife, Norma Kaphan, in 1940; they were divorced in
1948. Besides Peter, who died in the mountain-climbing accident, they had a
second son, Chris Wallace, the television journalist now at Fox News.
Mr. Wallace and his second wife, Buff Cobb, an actress, were married in 1949 and
took to the air together, in a talk show called “Mike and Buff,” which appeared
first on radio and then television. “We overdid the controversy pattern of the
program,” she said after their divorce in 1954. “You get into a habit of
bickering a little, and you carry it over into your personal lives.”
Ms. Cobb died in 2010.
His marriage to his third wife, Lorraine Perigord, which lasted 28 years, ended
with her departure for Fiji. His fourth wife, Mary Yates, was the widow of one
of his best friends — his “Night Beat” producer, Ted Yates, who was killed in
1967 while on assignment for NBC News during the Six-Day War in Israel.
Besides his wife and his son, Chris, Mr. Wallace is survived by a stepdaughter,
Pauline Dora; two stepsons, Eames and Angus Yates; seven grandchildren, and four
Mr. Wallace and Ms. Yates were married in 1986 and lived for a time in a Park
Avenue duplex in Manhattan and in a bay-front house on Martha’s Vineyard, where
their social circle included the novelist William Styron and the humorist Art
All three men “suffered depression simultaneously,” Mr. Wallace said in an
interview in 2006, “so we walked around in the rain together on Martha’s
Vineyard and consoled each other,” adding, “We named ourselves the Blues
Brothers.” Mr. Styron died in 2006 and Mr. Buchwald in 2007.
Mr. Wallace said that Ms. Yates had saved his life when he came close to suicide
before their marriage, and that their marriage had saved him afterward.
He also said that he had known since he was a child that he wanted to be on the
air. He felt it was his calling. He said he wanted people to ask: “Who’s this
guy, Myron Wallace?”
Gil Noble, a television journalist who hosted “Like It Is,” an
award-winning Sunday morning public affairs program in New York, one of the
longest-running in the country dedicated to showcasing black leadership and the
African-American experience, died on Thursday in a hospital in Wayne, N.J. He
The cause was complications of a stroke he had last summer, said Dave Davis,
president and general manager of WABC-TV, which had broadcast “Like It Is” since
Though broadcast only in the New York metropolitan area, “Like It Is” attracted
guests of national and international influence. Some were controversial. His
interviews with figures like Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam drew
complaints of one-sidedness. But for Mr. Noble, that was the point:
“My response to those who complained that I didn’t present the other side of the
story was that this show was the other side of the story,” he said in 1982.
His interviews comprised a veritable archive of contemporary black history in
America: hundreds of hourlong conversations with political and cultural figures
like Lena Horne, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali,
Andrew Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Stokely Carmichael.
Mr. Noble viewed “Like It Is” as a platform for ideas and perspectives —
especially those of blacks — that were missing from the mainstream news media.
He once called his show “the antidote to the 6 and 11 o’clock news.”
His one-on-one exchanges with African and Caribbean heads of state, including
Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Robert Mugabe of
Zimbabwe, were part of another mission: to report on events affecting people of
African descent throughout the world.
“You learned a lot watching Gil,” former Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York said
in an interview for this obituary. “You didn’t have to agree with everything he
said, but for many of us, he was required watching.”
The deep support Mr. Noble enjoyed among his viewers helped him survive two
controversies stemming from interviews with figures considered anti-Semitic,
biased against Israel or both. In 1982, the Anti-Defamation League accused Mr.
Noble of showing an anti-Israel bias when he broadcast a panel discussion about
the Israeli invasion of Lebanon without presenting the Israeli perspective.
Just the rumor of disciplinary action prompted protests outside WABC
headquarters, led by the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist
Church in Harlem, and the Rev. Al Sharpton. No disciplinary action was taken,
but Mr. Noble was required to present a program with pro-Israeli guests.
Similar tensions arose in the summer of 1991, when Mr. Noble made plans to
broadcast a speech in which a friend, Leonard Jeffries, a City College professor
of black studies, was said to have made bigoted remarks. News reports had led to
Mr. Jeffries’s removal as chairman of the black studies department.
Mr. Noble argued that only by hearing the speech in full could college officials
(and everyone else) decide whether the remarks were cause for discipline or had
been taken out of context. (In one remark, Mr. Jeffries said Hollywood movies
demeaning to blacks were made by “people called Greenberg and Weisberg and
Trigliani.” In another, he said, “Everyone knows rich Jews financed the slave
WABC-TV executives shelved the segment, saying it could aggravate racial unrest
in the city. As it happened, long-simmering tensions between blacks and Jews in
the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn exploded into violence the next week.
Protesters again appeared outside the station’s offices. This time, they
included a state senator, later to be governor of New York, David A. Paterson.
“It was a spontaneous protest as I recall,” Mr. Paterson said in an interview.
“People just showed up. Because ‘Like It Is’ — it was something special in the
African-American community, to be protected.” A segment on the Jeffries affair
was eventually shown later.
“Some white Americans are repelled by ‘Like It Is,’ but that’s the nature of the
program,” Mr. Noble told The Village Voice later that year. “We are witnessing a
quarrel between the races in America, and certain opinions in the black
community must be heard even if they are revolting.”
After Mr. Noble’s stroke, WABC-TV began broadcasting “Here and Now,” a public
affairs show it described as “continuing the legacy of Gil Noble.”
Gilbert Edward Noble was born in Harlem on Feb. 22, 1932, the son of Rachel
Noble, a teacher, and Gilbert R. Noble, who owned an auto repair shop. Both
parents were born in Jamaica. He attended City College and was drafted into the
Army during the Korean War.
Mr. Noble was hired as a reporter for the radio station WLIB in 1962. In 1967,
after nationwide race riots that prompted television stations around the country
to recruit some of their first black reporters, he was hired by WABC. He worked
as reporter, weekend anchor and sometime correspondent for “Like It Is,” a show
begun in 1968, before taking over as its host in 1975. He received seven Emmy
Mr. Noble’s survivors include his wife, Norma Jean; their four daughters, Lynn,
Lisa, Leslie and Jennifer; a son, Chris; and eight grandchildren.
Milton Allimadi, a former publisher of the Harlem-based newspaper Black Star
News and an occasional guest on Mr. Noble’s show, described the special regard
in which Mr. Noble was held in the community he served.
After Mr. Allimadi appeared as a guest on the show, strangers stopped him on the
street to shake his hand, he wrote in an online appreciation last August. “When
I enter an M.T.A. bus, drivers refuse to accept my fare,” he wrote, “saying they
are happy to drive someone who has been on ‘Like It Is.’ ”
interview on television last week, with the Senate candidate Rand Paul, happened
at 9 p.m. But regrettably for CNN’s Larry King, who used to rule that time slot
by wooing newsmakers, the interview was booked by his higher-rated competitor,
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Next week will be Mr. King’s 25th year on CNN, but these are hard days for the
host, and not just because he is being beaten in ratings and bookings.
Although still the linchpin of CNN’s lineup, he has come to embody an enormous
problem facing the cable news channel. How can he and CNN compete in prime time
when viewers seem to crave partisan political programs and when prominent guests
— the lifeblood of Mr. King’s show — would rather burnish their images on other
So far, CNN cannot compete. “Larry King Live” is now struggling in the ratings,
as is CNN as a whole. The ratings for the new “John King, USA” political show at
7 p.m. have been disappointing, and Campbell Brown announced last week that she
was quitting her 8 p.m. show after concluding that her newscast could not
compete with the bombastic opinion-oriented shows on Fox News and MSNBC.
Ratings for Mr. King, 76, are about 20 percent better than those of his lead-in,
Ms. Brown, but he ranks a distant third behind the conservative Sean Hannity on
Fox and the liberal Ms. Maddow. His audience has been cut in half since the last
presidential election, to an average of just 725,000 viewers a night.
CNN executives will not say whether they will renew Mr. King’s contract when it
ends next year. There is a growing feeling at the company that a succession plan
should be put in place, but there is no evidence that CNN is actually preparing
such a plan.
Mr. King was noticeably absent during a presentation for advertisers last month,
which heavily featured CNN stars like Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien, but
only fleetingly included Mr. King in a video clip.
“Larry King Live” is the last trace of an earlier age of cable TV, one that had
little interest in the opinions of its hosts.
“They have this iconic personality who is going to disappear in the
not-too-distant future, and they don’t have any clue what they’re going to do,”
one senior employee said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he did
not have permission from the channel to speak publicly.
Through a spokesman, Mr. King declined to comment. Reached by phone last week,
the chief executive of CNN’s domestic network would not answer any questions
about Mr. King.
Through a spokeswoman, the chief, Jonathan Klein, said Tuesday: “Larry is one of
a kind and a television legend. He delivers the best interviews on cable news,
hands down. We’re proud of the work he and his team deliver every night and the
consistency with which his show makes news night after night.”
According to CNN employees who would speak only anonymously, Mr. Klein is
focused on finding Ms. Brown’s replacement at 8 p.m., and is not planning an
imminent change at 9 p.m. (CNN has held talks with Eliot Spitzer, among others,
possibly about appearing on a “Crossfire”-style show at 8.)
Mr. King has shown no desire to retire, and he continues to work almost
year-round, even coming in to host on weekends when news breaks.
But Mr. King’s contract is up in June 2011, and there has long been speculation
that the “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric could slide into his chair. Her
contract is up in May 2011, and she sees CNN’s 9 p.m. time slot as a possible
new job, according to four of her friends and colleagues.
But two of the people said the time slot was looking less appealing now, given
the ratings slide. They requested anonymity because they were describing private
Mr. King has said in the past that his first choice for a successor is the
entertainer Ryan Seacrest.
Over all, CNN’s ratings in prime time are down about a third compared with a
year ago. The channel’s parent company, Time Warner, is growing increasingly
“We’re not happy with the current ratings,” the Time Warner chief, Jeffrey L.
Bewkes, told investors this month, adding that he expects the broader CNN
company to post another record year of earnings. Mr. Klein echoed that.
One of the signs that cable news has changed is the effect on the booking wars.
During the 1992 election, Mr. King scored spectacular ratings when Ross Perot
came on the show and said he would run for president.
Mr. King still secures A-list guests, but is often criticized for a softball
style. By contrast, Ms. Maddow’s interview of Mr. Paul was tough and dominated
the news cycle for days.
In March, Mr. King had to settle for second place when the outgoing congressman
Eric Massa gave a highly sought-after interview to Glenn Beck, before appearing
on Mr. King’s show.
Some CNN employees say there is a tone-deafness at 9 p.m., evinced last week
when an interview with Mick Jagger was shown on a busy primary election night.
This week Mr. King covered Lindsay Lohan’s court case one night and the gulf oil
spill the next, so viewers do not know what to expect.
“When we pick a brand, what we’re really doing is picking an element of
ourselves that reinforces who we are,” said Tom Dougherty, the president of the
branding agency Stealing Share, who says CNN’s brand is in a “quagmire.” “Until
they decide who they’re for — which is an amazingly difficult thing to do, and
includes deciding who they are not for — they will flounder.”
Some at CNN argue that Mr. King and his program are casualties of the fragmented
nature of TV. But Mr. Hannity’s program is down only 2 percent in the 25- to
54-year-old ratings demographic, and Ms. Maddow’s program has declined by about
28 percent, a narrower loss than Mr. King’s 43 percent slide. A new talk show on
CNN’s sister network HLN, hosted by Joy Behar, also sometimes beats Mr. King’s
Henry Schafer of the Q Scores Company, which measures public perception, said
Mr. King showed below-average appeal, and given the age of the show, “it is very
difficult at this point in time” to draw new viewers. Steven J. Farella, the
chief executive of the advertising agency TargetCast TCM, said that CNN needed
to attract younger viewers in prime time. In the advertising industry, he said,
“after anybody mentions Larry King and CNN, the next words are ‘Yes, but it’s
old,’ ” referring to the 60-plus audience for the program.
“Larry King has a terrific place in cable news history,” Mr. Farella said, “but
maybe not a firm place in cable news today.”
Linkletter, the genial host who parlayed his talent for the ad-libbed interview
into two of television’s longest-running shows, “People Are Funny” and “House
Party,” in the 1950s and 1960s, died on Wednesday at his home in the Bel Air
section of Los Angeles. He was 97.
The death was confirmed by Art Hershey, a son-in-law.
From his early days as an announcer on local radio and a roving broadcaster at
state fairs, Mr. Linkletter showed a talent for ingratiating himself with his
subjects and getting them to open up, often with hilarious results.
He was particularly adept at putting small children at ease, which he did
regularly on a segment of “House Party,” a reliably amusing question-and-answer
session that provided the material for his best-selling book “Kids Say the
Television critics and intellectuals found the Linkletter persona bland and his
popularity unfathomable. “There is nothing greatly impressive, one way or the
other, about his appearance, mannerisms, or his small talk,” one newspaper
critic wrote. Another referred to his “imperishable banality.”
Millions of Americans disagreed. They responded to his wholesome, friendly
manner and upbeat appeal. Women, who made up three-quarters of the audience for
“House Party,” which was broadcast in the afternoon, loved his easy,
enthusiastic way with children.
“I know enough about a lot of things to be interesting, but I’m not interested
enough in any one thing to be boring,” Mr. Linkletter told The New York Post in
1965. “I’m like everybody’s next-door neighbor, only a little bit smarter.”
He was also genuinely curious to know what was going on in the heads of the
people he interviewed. “You have to listen,” he said. “A lot of guys can talk.”
Gordon Arthur Kelly was born on July 17, 1912, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Before he was a month old he was abandoned by his parents and adopted by Fulton
John and Mary Metzler Linkletter, a middle-age couple whose two children had
died. It was not until he was 12, while rummaging through his father’s desk,
that he discovered he was adopted.
In his autobiography, “Confessions of a Happy Man,” Mr. Linkletter recalled his
adoptive father, a one-legged cobbler and itinerant evangelist, as “a strange,
uncompromising man whose main interest in life was the Bible.” The family prayed
and performed on street corners, with Art playing the triangle.
By the time Art was 5 the family had moved to an unpaved adobe section of San
Diego. As a child he took on any job he could find. At one point he sorted
through lemons left abandoned in piles outside a packing plant, cleaned them off
and sold them for 6 cents a dozen.
After graduating from high school at 16, Mr. Linkletter decided to see the
world. With $10 in his pocket, he rode freight trains and hitchhiked around the
country, working here and there as a meatpacker, a harvester and a busboy in a
“Among other things, I learned to chisel rides on freight trains, outwit the
road bulls, cook stew with the bindlestiffs and never to argue with a gun,” he
later recalled. A fast typist, he found work in a Wall Street bank just in time
to watch the stock market crash in 1929. He also shipped out to Hawaii and Rio
de Janeiro as a merchant seaman.
After returning to California, he entered San Diego State Teachers College (now
San Diego State University) with plans of becoming an English teacher. He earned
a bachelor’s degree in 1934, but in his last year he was hired to do spot
announcements by a local radio station, KGB, a job that led to radio work at the
California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego and at similar fairs in
Dallas and San Francisco.
With microphone in hand and countless programming hours to fill, Mr. Linkletter
relied on ad-libbing, stunts and audience participation to get attention and
keep listeners entertained. He was once lowered from a skyscraper in a
boatswain’s chair, interviewing office workers on every floor as he descended.
“It was the forced feeding of a young and growing M.C.,” he later said of his
more than 9,000 fair broadcasts.
In 1936 he married Lois Foerster, a college student in San Diego, who survives
him. The couple had five children: Jack, who followed his father into television
and died of lymphoma in 2007; Dawn, of Sedona, Ariz.; Robert, who died in a car
accident in 1980; Sharon, of Calabasas, Calif.; and Diane, who committed suicide
in 1969, an event that spurred her father into becoming a crusader against drug
use. There are 7 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Mr. Linkletter quickly established himself on local radio in San Francisco, but
floundered when he moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s. A radio show picked
up by Shell Oil, “Shell Goes to a Party,” was canceled after Mr. Linkletter,
reporting on a nighttime beach party, fell over some driftwood and lost his
He did have one piece of radio luck. With John Guedel, who would go on to create
the quiz show “You Bet Your Life” and the comedy “The Adventures of Ozzie and
Harriet,” Mr. Linkletter made an audition tape for an audience-participation
show, with contests and gags, that would rely on his ability to ad-lib and coax
humorous material from virtually anyone. Mr. Guedel came up with the name
“People Are Funny,” and NBC put it on the air in 1942. Enormously popular, it
ran on radio until 1960. The television version, which made its debut in 1954,
ran until 1961.
Working without a script, Mr. Linkletter sent audience volunteers on silly
assignments outside the studio with instructions to report back on their
experience. One man was handed a $1,000 bill and told to buy chewing gum.
Another was given $15,000 to invest in the stock market. Mr. Linkletter mingled
with the audience, asking questions, setting up gags and handing out prizes like
a yard of hot dogs or five feet of dollar bills.
On one show Mr. Linkletter spotted a woman’s enormous purse and began rummaging
through it, announcing each item in turn: a can opener, a can of snuff, a losing
racetrack ticket and a photograph of Herbert Hoover. The handbag bit became a
staple of the show. More ingeniously, Mr. Linkletter set a dozen balls adrift in
the Pacific, announcing a $1,000 prize for the first person to find one. Two
years later a resident of the Marshall Islands claimed the money.
“House Party,” which ran five days a week on radio from 1945 to 1967 and on
television from 1952 to 1969, was a looser version of “People Are Funny,” with
beauty tips and cooking demonstrations filling time between Mr. Linkletter’s
audience-chatter sessions. The highlight of the show was a segment in which five
children between the ages of 5 and 10 sat down to be interviewed by Mr.
Linkletter, who sat at eye level with his little subjects and, time and time
again, made their parents wish television had never been invented.
After one boy revealed that his father was a policeman who arrested lots of
burglars, Mr. Linkletter asked if his mother ever worried about the risks. “Naw,
she thinks it’s great,” he answered. “He brings home rings and bracelets and
jewelry almost every week.”
Mr. Linkletter assembled replies like that in “Kids Say the Darndest Things!,”
illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” and its sequel,
“Kids Still Say the Darndest Things.”
In 1969 Mr. Linkletter’s daughter Diane leapt to her death from her sixth-story
apartment. Her father said that LSD had contributed to her death, and although
an autopsy showed no signs of the drug in her body, the personal tragedy became
a national event, suggesting to many Americans that drugs and the counterculture
were making inroads even into seemingly model families like the Linkletters.
Mr. Linkletter, rather than retreating from the attention, became a crusader
against drug use and an adviser to President Richard M. Nixon on drug policy,
although, in 1972, he announced that he had changed his position on marijuana.
After much thought and study he had concluded that the drug was relatively
harmless and that law-enforcement officials should spend their time
concentrating on hard drugs.
Much in demand as a public speaker and a fund-raiser for Republican candidates,
Mr. Linkletter spent his subsequent years on lecture tours, appearing in
commercials and tending to his far-flung business interests, including oil wells
and toys. (One of his companies manufactured a version of the Hula-Hoop.)
A former college athlete, he remained remarkably healthy well into his 90s and
the ideal front man for the United Seniors Association (renamed USA Next), a
conservative organization formed in opposition to AARP and dedicated largely to
privatizing Social Security. In keeping with his new role as a prominent elder
American, Mr. Linkletter wrote “Old Age Is Not for Sissies.”
When he was well into his 80s and still going strong, someone asked him the
secret of longevity. “You live between your ears,” he replied. “You can’t turn
back the clock, but you can rewind it.”
The New York Times
By MARGALIT FOX
Magid, a marketing consultant who was widely credited, for good or ill, with
standardizing the face of local television news, introducing the fast-paced,
user-friendly “Action News” format in markets nationwide, died on Friday in
Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 78 and had homes in Santa Barbara; Cedar Rapids,
Iowa; and Montana.
The cause was lymphoma, his son Brent said.
A former social psychology professor with a penchant for statistics, Mr. Magid
(pronounced MAGG-id) founded Frank N. Magid Associates, a market research
company, in 1957. Its clients have included major networks, Hollywood studios
and more than 100 local television stations.
In 1977, Time magazine called Mr. Magid “the nation’s leading television news
doctor.” For decades, TV news directors in search of higher ratings spoke in
hopeful tones of having their programs “Magidized.”
Mr. Magid was known in particular for encouraging scores of local stations to
adopt the “Action News” format, in which traditional news items are interspersed
with a liberal dose of crime coverage and lighter entertainments like
human-interest stories. He also inaugurated early-morning newscasts in many
Nationally, Mr. Magid helped ABC develop “Good Morning America.” First broadcast
in January 1975 as “AM America,” it featured youthful hosts delivering the news
in lively, conversational style; profiles of celebrities and ordinary people;
and features on subjects like beauty and personal finance. All were things, his
research had found, that early-morning viewers wanted to see.
“He was a powerful influence,” Richard Wald, the Fred Friendly professor of
journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, said in a
telephone interview on Monday. “As you go from town to town in America, local
stations tend to have a similarity. And a lot of that owes to Frank Magid.”
To advise local news directors on ways to attract bigger audiences, Mr. Magid
conducted extensive viewer surveys. The results could radically affect the look
and sound of the program, from anchors’ hair and attire to their on-air
repartee. (Mr. Magid was an early advocate of the convivial banter among anchors
known as “happy talk.”)
They could also alter the structure of the broadcast itself. In the 1960s, most
local newscasts centered on a solitary anchor, soberly intoning the day’s
events. Magidized, the same show might feature a team of anchors, shorter
stories, heftier servings of sports and a welter of weather.
This template was first applied in 1970 with “Action News,” broadcast on WFIL,
an ABC affiliate in Philadelphia. As a result, “ratings jump and the format is
widely imitated,” the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable wrote in 2007.
In 1997, the trade publication Electronic Media reported that broadcasts by Mr.
Magid’s television news clients reached 98 percent of the country.
To his champions, Mr. Magid was a savior of local news, transforming it from
something dry and unpalatable into something digestible and profitable. To his
critics, he was a homogenizer who turned serious fare into pablum.
“We do recognize that we’re going to incur the wrath of the traditionalists,”
Mr. Magid told The New York Times in 1975. “New ideas are always in danger of
being beaten to death by those whose apple carts they upset.”
Frank Newton Magid was born in Chicago on Sept. 1, 1931. He earned a bachelor’s
degree in sociology from the University of Iowa in 1956, followed by a master’s
in sociology there the next year.
Mr. Magid taught at Iowa and at Coe College in Cedar Rapids before starting
Frank N. Magid Associates in Marion, Iowa. (He had no associates to begin with
but thought the word lent his fledgling company a certain gravitas, his son
said.) His start-up capital was $800, borrowed from his father. Early clients
included banks, breweries and motorcycle makers.
Today Frank N. Magid Associates is based in Minneapolis, with offices in New
York, Los Angeles, Marion and London. Mr. Magid retired as chief executive in
2002; he remained chairman until his death. Besides television, industries for
which the company now consults include online commerce, interactive gaming and
Mr. Magid’s company was also instrumental in the birth of the United States
Football League, which began play in 1983. In a survey commissioned by the
league’s organizers, the company found that a majority of football fans said
they would watch a spring-and-summer professional league. Despite this
encouraging sign, which led directly to the league’s creation, the U.S.F.L.
lasted just three seasons.
Besides his son Brent, the current president and chief executive of Frank N.
Magid Associates, Mr. Magid is survived by his wife, the former Marilyn Young,
whom he married in 1956; another son, Creighton, known as Chip; a brother, Gail;
and four grandchildren.
Though Mr. Magid was indelibly linked with the phrase “Action News,” he was
careful not to take credit for coining it. As he told Broadcasting & Cable in
2007, the term was the brainchild of the manager of the Philadelphia station,
now known as WPVI.
“I didn’t like the name,” Mr. Magid said. “But I was wrong.”
The New York Times
By BRIAN STELTER and BRAD STONE
Kramden can finally buy a television.
It was more than half a century ago, in a 1955 episode of “The Honeymooners,”
that Kramden, the parsimonious bus driver played by Jackie Gleason, told his
wife, Alice, that he had not yet bought a new television because “I’m waiting
The wait will soon be over. A full-fledged 3-D television turf war is brewing in
the United States, as manufacturers unveil sets capable of 3-D and cable
programmers rush to create new channels for them.
Many people are skeptical that consumers will suddenly pull their LCD and plasma
televisions off the wall. Beginning at around $2,000, the 3-D sets will, at
first, cost more than even the current crop of high-end flat-screens, and buyers
will need special glasses — techie goggles, really — to watch in 3-D.
But programmers and technology companies are betting that consumers are almost
ready to fall in love with television in the third dimension. In part, it could
be the “Avatar” effect: with 3-D films gaining traction at the box office —
James Cameron’s “Avatar” surpassed the staggering $1 billion mark last weekend —
companies are now determined to bring an equivalent experience to the living
Anticipating this coming wave, ESPN said Tuesday that it would show World Cup
soccer matches and N.B.A. games in 3-D on a new network starting in June, and
Discovery, Imax and Sony said they would jointly create a 3-D entertainment
channel next year. The satellite service DirecTV is expected to announce its own
3-D channels at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where
every major television manufacturer is planning to announce 3-D televisions and
compatible Blu-ray DVD players on Wednesday.
“The stars are aligning to make 2010 the launch year of 3-D,” said John Taylor,
a vice president for LG Electronics USA. “It’s still just in its infancy, but
when there is a sufficient amount of content available — and lots of people are
working on this — there will be a true tipping point for consumers.”
At that point, the question becomes whether consumers — many of whom have only
recently upgraded to costly new high-definition sets — will want to watch in
three dimensions enough to pay for the privilege. “I think 90 percent of the
males in this country would be dying to watch the Super Bowl and be immersed in
it,” said Riddhi Patel, an analyst at the research firm iSuppli.
But will the experience translate to other entertainment? Ms. Patel said, “You
don’t necessarily want the ladies of ‘The View’ sitting around you when you
For most consumers, 3-D is still far in the distance. With the announcement this
week, the media companies are trying to place themselves at the forefront of an
emerging technology, much as they did for HDTV a decade ago.
It took high-definition television about a decade to catch on — to the point
where it has become part of the entertainment mainstream, with an adequate stock
of HD programming and the sets now cheap enough to entice middle-class buyers.
Analysts expect 3-D television to go through the same curve, initially
attracting first adopters for whom price is little or no object and gradually
moving out to other affluent and then middle-class homes as sets become cheaper
and programmers create enough 3-D fare.
Or, of course, the technology could be a total flop.
For decades 3-D was a gimmick for B-movies and occasionally on television (in
bad quality with flimsy paper glasses), but newer technology has largely erased
those memories. Peter M. Fannon, a vice president at Panasonic, called the new
sets “totally different than what one had seen over the last 20 to 30 years.”
In 3-D, television makers see an opportunity to persuade households that have
already bought HDTVs to return to the electronics store. Though television sales
jumped 17 percent in 2009, the industry needs new innovations to keep the cash
“Three-D is an effort by the industry to come up with something that will
motivate consumers to trade up,” said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner Research.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief of Dreamworks Animation, said producers were preparing
“an enormous surge in 3-D content, with images that are truly beautiful on these
Leading the charge to television, the pioneering sports network ESPN said it
would show at least 85 live events on a 3-D channel starting in June. “The
sports genre is probably the best suited to exploit this technology,” said Sean
Bratches, an executive vice president at ESPN. The company has held preliminary
talks with Comcast and other operators about gaining distribution; the 3-D
channel could come at an added cost to subscribers. It will go dark when not
showing live events.
The joint venture among Discovery Communications, Sony Pictures Entertainment
and the Imax Corporation will be a full-time channel featuring natural history,
movies, sports, music and other programming.
New 3-D televisions, like the 3-D screens in theaters, work by dividing picture
images into two sets, one for each eye. A viewer must wear special glasses, so
each eye captures a different image, creating the illusion of depth. Filming
entails two connected cameras, one for the left-eye image and the other for the
Manufacturers have developed two technologies for 3-D glasses in the home. In
so-called polarized glasses, which can cost under a dollar, each lens blocks a
set of images transmitted in certain types of light. “Active” glasses, which are
better suited for LCD screens in particular, have battery-powered shutters that
open and close rapidly, so each eye sees different views of each frame. These
glasses can cost up to $100, but television makers are expected to package at
least two pairs with each monitor.
On the horizon is technology that allows people to watch 3-D without glasses,
but that has severe limitations, like forcing viewers to sit at a certain
Mike Vorhaus, the managing director of new media for Frank N. Magid Associates,
a media consulting firm, said 3-D was many years away from widespread adoption.
For now, he said, it is “one more appetizer” for consumers who “already have a
lot to digest.”
Indeed, a number of hurdles remain, including a lack of production equipment and
dueling 3-D transmission standards. But backers like David Zaslav, the chief
executive of Discovery Communications, say 3-D is bound to gain attention
because consumers and producers are always striving for what looks “closest to
July 18, 2009
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news
anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man
in America, died Friday at his home in New York. He was 92.
The cause was complications of dementia, said Chip Cronkite, his son.
From 1962 to 1981, Mr. Cronkite was a nightly presence in American homes and
always a reassuring one, guiding viewers through national triumphs and tragedies
alike, from moonwalks to war, in an era when network news was central to many
He became something of a national institution, with an unflappable delivery, a
distinctively avuncular voice and a daily benediction: “And that’s the way it
is.” He was Uncle Walter to many: respected, liked and listened to. With his
trimmed mustache and calm manner, he even bore a resemblance to another trusted
American fixture, another Walter — Walt Disney.
Along with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC, Mr. Cronkite was among the
first celebrity anchormen. In 1995, 14 years after he retired from the “CBS
Evening News,” a TV Guide poll ranked him No. 1 in seven of eight categories for
measuring television journalists. (He professed incomprehension that Maria
Shriver beat him out in the eighth category, attractiveness.) He was so widely
known that in Sweden anchormen were once called Cronkiters.
Yet he was a reluctant star. He was genuinely perplexed when people rushed to
see him rather than the politicians he was covering, and even more astonished by
the repeated suggestions that he run for office himself. He saw himself as an
old-fashioned newsman — his title was managing editor of the “CBS Evening News”
— and so did his audience.
“The viewers could more readily picture Walter Cronkite jumping into a car to
cover a 10-alarm fire than they could visualize him doing cerebral commentary on
a great summit meeting in Geneva,” David Halberstam wrote in “The Powers That
Be,” his 1979 book about the news media.
As anchorman and reporter, Mr. Cronkite described wars, natural disasters,
nuclear explosions, social upheavals and space flights, from Alan Shepard’s
15-minute ride to lunar landings. On July 20, 1969, when the Eagle touched down
on the moon, Mr. Cronkite exclaimed, “Oh, boy!”
On the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Cronkite briefly lost
his composure in announcing that the president had been pronounced dead at
Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Taking off his black-framed glasses and
blinking back tears, he registered the emotions of millions.
It was an uncharacteristically personal note from a newsman who was
uncomfortable expressing opinion.
“I am a news presenter, a news broadcaster, an anchorman, a managing editor —
not a commentator or analyst,” he said in an interview with The Christian
Science Monitor in 1973. “I feel no compulsion to be a pundit.”
But when he did pronounce judgment, the impact was large.
In 1968, he visited Vietnam and returned to do a rare special program on the
war. He called the conflict a stalemate and advocated a negotiated peace.
President Lyndon B. Johnson watched the broadcast, Mr. Cronkite wrote in his
1996 memoir, “A Reporter’s Life,” quoting a description of the scene by Bill
Moyers, then a Johnson aide.
“The president flipped off the set,” Mr. Moyers recalled, “and said, ‘If I’ve
lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.’ ”
Mr. Cronkite sometimes pushed beyond the usual two-minute limit to news items.
On Oct. 27, 1972, his 14-minute report on Watergate, followed by an eight-minute
segment four days later, “put the Watergate story clearly and substantially
before millions of Americans” for the first time, the broadcast historian Marvin
Barrett wrote in “Moments of Truth?” (1975).
In 1977, his separate interviews with President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and
Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel were instrumental in Sadat’s visiting
Jerusalem. The countries later signed a peace treaty.
“From his earliest days,” Mr. Halberstam wrote, “he was one of the hungriest
reporters around, wildly competitive, no one was going to beat Walter Cronkite
on a story, and as he grew older and more successful, the marvel of it was that
he never changed, the wild fires still burned.”
Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born on Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., the son
of Walter Leland Cronkite Sr., a dentist, and the former Helen Lena Fritsche.
His ancestors had settled in New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony that became New
York. As a boy, Walter peddled magazines door to door and hawked newspapers. As
a teenager, after the family had moved to Houston, he got a job with The Houston
Post as a copy boy and cub reporter. At the same time, he had a paper route
delivering The Post to his neighbors.
“As far as I know, there were no other journalists delivering the morning paper
with their own compositions inside,” he wrote in his autobiography.
When he was 16, Mr. Cronkite went with friends to Chicago for the 1933 World’s
Fair. He volunteered to help demonstrate an experimental version of television.
“I could honestly say to all of my colleagues, ‘I was in television long before
you were,’ ” he said in an interview with CBS News in 1996.
Mr. Cronkite attended the University of Texas for two years, studying political
science, economics and journalism, working on the school newspaper and picking
up journalism jobs with The Houston Press and other newspapers. He also
auditioned to be an announcer at an Austin radio station but was turned down. He
left college in 1935 without graduating to take a job as a reporter with The
While visiting Kansas City, Mo., he was hired by the radio station KCMO to read
news and broadcast football games under the name Walter Wilcox. (Radio stations
at the time wanted to “own” announcers’ names so that popular ones could not be
He was not at the games but received cryptic summaries of each play by
telegraph. These provided fodder for vivid descriptions of the action. He added
details of what local men in the stands were wearing, which he learned by
calling their wives. He found out in advance what music the band would be
playing so he could describe halftime festivities.
At KCMO, Mr. Cronkite met an advertising writer named Mary Elizabeth Maxwell.
The two read a commercial together. One of Mr. Cronkite’s lines was, “You look
like an angel.” They were married for 64 years until her death in 2005.
In addition to his son, Walter Leland III, known as Chip, Mr. Cronkite is
survived by his daughters, Nancy Elizabeth and Mary Kathleen; and four
In his last years, Joanna Simon, a former opera singer and sister of Carly
Simon, was his frequent companion.
The family said it was planning a private service at St. Bartholomew’s Church in
After being fired from KCMO in a dispute over journalism practices he considered
shabby, Mr. Cronkite in 1939 landed a job at the United Press news agency, now
United Press International. He reported from Houston, Dallas, El Paso and Kansas
The stint ended when he returned to radio and then took a job with Braniff
International Airways in Kansas City, selling tickets and doing public
Returning to United Press after a few months, he became one of the first
reporters accredited to American forces with the outbreak of World War II. He
gained fame as a war correspondent, crash-landing a glider in Belgium,
accompanying the first Allied troops into North Africa, reporting on the
Normandy invasion and covering major battles, including the Battle of the Bulge,
In 1943, Edward R. Murrow asked Mr. Cronkite to join his wartime broadcast team
in CBS’s Moscow bureau. In “The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of
Broadcast Journalism” (1996), Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson wrote that Murrow
was astounded when Mr. Cronkite rejected his $125-a-week job offer and decided
to stay with United Press for $92 a week.
That year Mr. Cronkite was one of eight journalists selected for an Army Air
Forces program that took them on a bombing mission to Germany aboard B-17 Flying
Fortresses. Mr. Cronkite manned a machine gun until he was “up to my hips in
spent .50-caliber shells,” he wrote in his memoir.
After covering the Nuremberg war-crimes trials and then reporting from Moscow
from 1946 to 1948, he again left print journalism to become the Washington
correspondent for a dozen Midwestern radio stations. In 1950, Murrow
successfully recruited him for CBS.
Mr. Cronkite was assigned to develop the news department of a new CBS station in
Washington. Within a year he was appearing on nationally broadcast public
affairs programs like “Man of the Week,” “It’s News to Me” and “Pick the
In February 1953 he narrated the first installment of his long-running series
“You Are There,” which recreated historic events like the Battle of the Alamo or
the Hindenburg disaster and reported them as if they were breaking news. Sidney
Lumet, soon to become a well-known filmmaker, directed the series.
“What sort of day was it?” Mr. Cronkite said at the end of each episode. “A day
like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times. And
you were there.”
In 1954, when CBS challenged NBC’s popular morning program “Today” with the
short-lived “Morning Show,” it tapped Mr. Cronkite to be the host. Early on he
riled the sponsor, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, by grammatically
correcting its well-known advertising slogan, declaring, “Winston tastes good as
a cigarette should.”
When not interviewing guests, he mulled over the news with a witty and erudite
puppet lion, Charlemagne. Occasionally he ventured outside the studio — using a
tugboat, for example, to meet luxury liners so he could interview celebrities
before they landed.
In 1952, the first presidential year in which television outshined radio, Mr.
Cronkite was chosen to lead the coverage of the Democratic and Republican
national conventions. By Mr. Cronkite’s account, it was then that the term
“anchor” was first used — by Sig Mickelson, the first director of television
news for CBS, who had likened the chief announcer’s job to an anchor that holds
a boat in place. Paul Levitan, another CBS executive, and Don Hewitt, then a
young producer, have also been credited with the phrase.
The 1952 conventions made Mr. Cronkite a star. Mr. Mickelson, he recalled, told
him: “You’re famous now. And you’re going to want a lot more money. You’d better
get an agent.”
Mr. Cronkite went on to anchor every national political convention and election
night until 1980, with the exception of 1964. That year he was replaced at the
Democratic convention in Atlantic City by Roger Mudd and Robert Trout in an
effort to challenge NBC’s Huntley and Brinkley team, which had won the ratings
battle at the Republican convention in San Francisco that summer.
In 1961, Mr. Cronkite replaced Murrow as CBS’s senior correspondent, and on
April 16, 1962, he began anchoring the evening news, succeeding Douglas Edwards,
whose ratings had been low. As managing editor, Mr. Cronkite also helped shape
the nightly report.
The evening broadcast had been a 15-minute program, but on Sept. 2, 1963, CBS
doubled the length to a half-hour, over the objections of its affiliates. Mr.
Cronkite interviewed President Kennedy on the first longer broadcast, renamed
the “CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite.” He also broadcast from a real
newsroom and not, as Edwards had done, from a studio set.
At the time the broadcast was lengthened, Mr. Cronkite inaugurated his famous
sign-off, “And that’s the way it is.” The original idea, he later wrote, had
been to end each broadcast with a quirky news item, after which he would recite
the line with humor, sadness or irony.
Richard S. Salant, the president of CBS News, hated the line from the beginning
— it ate up a precious four seconds a night — and the offbeat items were never
“I began to think Dick was right, but I was too stubborn to drop it,” Mr.
Starting with Herbert Hoover, Mr. Cronkite knew every president, not always
pleasantly. A top aide to President Richard M. Nixon, Charles Colson, harangued
the network’s chairman, William S. Paley, after Mr. Cronkite’s 14-minute
Watergate broadcast. The next segment was shortened.
In 1960, during the Wisconsin primary, Mr. Cronkite asked Kennedy, then a
senator, about his Roman Catholic religion. As Mr. Cronkite recalled in his
memoir, Kennedy called Frank Stanton, CBS’s president, to complain that
questions about the subject had earlier been ruled out of bounds. He then
reminded Mr. Stanton that if he were elected he would be appointing members of
the Federal Communications Commission. Mr. Stanton “courageously stood up to the
threat,” Mr. Cronkite wrote.
By contrast, Mr. Cronkite’s relations with President Dwight D. Eisenhower were
so cordial that President Kennedy incorrectly assumed Mr. Cronkite, a political
independent, was a Republican.
Mr. Cronkite also enjoyed the company of President Ronald Reagan, with whom he
exchanged often off-color jokes. And he whimsically competed with his friend
Johnny Carson to see who could take the most vacation time without getting
Mr. Cronkite raced sports cars but switched to sailing so he could spend more
time with his family. He liked old-time pubs and friendly restaurants; there was
even one in Midtown Manhattan where his regular chair was marked with his
In an interview with The New York Times in 2002, Mr. Cronkite scrunched his eyes
and lowered his voice into a theatrical sob when asked if he regretted missing
out on the huge salaries subsequent anchors had received.
“Yes,” he said, adding, “I frequently call myself the Mickey Mantle of network
Mr. Cronkite retired in 1981 at 64. He had repeatedly promised to do so, but few
had either believed him or chosen to hear. CBS was eager to replace him with Dan
Rather, who was flirting with ABC, but both Mr. Cronkite and the network said he
had not been pushed.
After his retirement he continued to be seen on CBS as the host of “Walter
Cronkite’s Universe,” a science series that began in 1980 and ran until 1982.
The network also named him a special correspondent; the position turned out to
be largely honorary, though news reports said it paid $1 million a year. But
after he spent 10 years on the board of CBS, where he chafed at the cuts that
the network’s chairman, Laurence A. Tisch, had made in a once-generous news
budget, more and more of his broadcast work appeared on CNN, National Public
Radio and elsewhere, not CBS.
By the time Mr. Rather was leaving the “CBS Evening News” in 2005, Mr. Cronkite
had abandoned mincing words. He criticized his successor as “playing the role of
newsman” rather than being one. Mr. Rather should have been replaced years
earlier, he said.
When Katie Couric took over the job in September 2006, Mr. Cronkite introduced
her on the air and praised her in interviews.
His long “retirement” was not leisurely. When Senator John Glenn went back into
space on the shuttle Discovery in 1998, 36 years after his astronaut days, Mr.
Cronkite did an encore in covering the event for CNN. He made some 60
documentaries. And among many other things, he was the voice of Benjamin
Franklin on the PBS cartoon series “Liberty’s Kids,” covered a British general
election for a British network and for many years served as host of the annual
Kennedy Center Honors.
He had already won Emmy Awards, a Peabody and the Presidential Medal of Freedom
(in 1981), and he continued to pile up accolades. Arizona State University named
its journalism school after him.
In July 2006, PBS broadcast a 90-minute “American Masters” special on Mr.
Cronkite’s career. Mr. Lumet, the filmmaker, appeared and said, “He seemed to me
incorruptible in a profession that was easily corrupted.”
On his 90th birthday, Mr. Cronkite told The Daily News, “I would like to think
I’m still quite capable of covering a story.”
But he knew he had to stop sometime, he allowed in his autobiography. He
promised at the time to continue to follow news developments “from a perch yet
to be determined.”
“I just hope that wherever that is, folks will still stop me, as they do today,
and ask, ‘Didn’t you used to be Walter Cronkite?’ ”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: July 21, 2009
Because of an editing error, an obituary Saturday about the CBS newsman
Walter Cronkite misspelled the name of the church in Manhattan where his family
plans to hold a private funeral service. It is St. Bartholomew’s, not
March 6, 2009
The New York Times
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
He looked nervous, even flustered, at first, and some of the prepared comedy
was surprisingly lame. That doesn’t matter. Jimmy Fallon’s first few days don’t
really reveal how “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” will fare.
Monitoring the opening kinks and experiments of a new talk show is a spectator
sport, and this entry comes with an added “American Idol” edge: NBC had the last
word during the auditions, but Internet users are now expected to comment and
cavil interactively and build — or diminish — Mr. Fallon’s television audience.
Mr. Fallon was cute and funny on “Saturday Night Live,” but he is not
necessarily the ideal choice for the “Late Night” core audience of young males:
his humor is mischievous, not anarchic. (If fans had a call-in vote, they might
have elected Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.)
Still, Mr. Fallon is engaging and has an antic, quick-witted charm. He seemed
more confident by the show’s third night and, oddly enough, had better comic
chemistry with Cameron Diaz on Wednesday than with Tina Fey, his former “Weekend
Update” co-anchor on “SNL,” the night before. Most of his skits and routines,
however, seemed written for the Web, not for broadcast.
It’s still too soon to pass judgment on Mr. Fallon’s talents as a talk show
host, but it’s a perfectly good time to examine NBC’s latest test of synergy,
the marriage of the Internet and a television show.
Almost all shows nowadays have Web sites with extraneous videos, fan blogs and
viewer e-mail exchanges. But Mr. Fallon has gone further to co-opt the Internet
than either of his two network rivals, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC and Craig Ferguson on
CBS, or even cable upstarts like Chelsea Handler, the host of “Chelsea Lately”
on E! In the months leading up to his debut on Monday, Mr. Fallon tried to pump
up younger viewers’ interest with “Late Night” Webisodes. He has pages on
Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
Perhaps accordingly, many of the routines he worked into the show in its first
nights might have been better suited to YouTube. And that youth-oriented
material clashes with the highly conventional, even fusty jokes in his opening
monologue (“Everybody’s cutting back, everybody: Madonna’s now down to one
teenage boyfriend”), as well as with the choice of a veteran actor, Robert De
Niro, to be his first guest.
Twitter is so overexposed that it has become a joke, but Mr. Fallon apparently
isn’t in on it. He interviewed Ms. Diaz by posing questions submitted via
Twitter. Those turned out to be as dull and anodyne as any taken from a live
audience. (“If Cameron wasn’t acting, what would her dream job be?” Ms. Diaz
didn’t have a ready answer, so Mr. Fallon supplied it: “Forest ranger.”)
Wednesday’s quite funny parody of romance novels, “bromance novels,” came with a
link on the show’s Web site (latenightwithjimmyfallon.com) that allows users to
watch a video of the shooting of the cover art.
Mr. Fallon consistently tried to incorporate a wackier Web spirit into his
on-air performance, even picking random people in the studio audience and
assigning them made-up Facebook identities. None were very funny.
Remarkably, given how many months he has had to prepare, many of his supposedly
wacky, Web-style pranks were oddly plodding and unimaginative. On the first
night three audience members were invited onstage to lick something in exchange
for $10. The things were all inanimate objects: a lawn mower, a copier, a
fishbowl. The slow-motion “super-sexy replay” was funny once, not three times.
Mr. Fallon does not have a sidekick, but he does have a cool band, the Roots,
whose musicians are deadpan and steadfastly underwhelmed by his jokes, and over
time that could serve as a comic foil to his eager-to-please persona.
There were other amusing moments, including a random, bizarre video of German
soccer players dancing that was found on the Web and a mock charitable appeal
for laid-off Wall Street workers, a Save the Bankers Foundation, that could have
just as easily been a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
And Mr. Fallon got better, and more relaxed, after his debut, though he joked
with Tina Fey about his “flop sweat” moment with Mr. De Niro. (When performers
admit to being nervous, it’s a little like a woman on a date bemoaning how fat
she is: nobody wants to hear it.)
The first days are tough because large audiences tune in to see what all the
prepremiere fuss was about, boosting ratings and expectations, then quickly turn
away if not instantly amused. And most hosts go through a trial-and-error
period. Mr. Kimmel started out more loutishly and live; now he is more
buttoned-down, and his show is taped, even though it is still called “Jimmy
Mr. Ferguson began with a very conventional “Tonight Show” format, then slowly
allowed more of his own offbeat storytelling and Monty Pythonesque
eccentricities into his act.
NBC picked Mr. Fallon, and he can sometimes seem like an old person’s notion of
a hip young comic, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t funny or that he cannot
hold his own on “Late Night.” Only time, not Twitter, will tell.
a provocative talk-show host who was the first to challenge the primacy of
Johnny Carson on late-night television — and lose — died Sunday in Greenbrae,
Calif., north of San Francisco. He was 74 and lived in Belvedere, Calif.
Mr. Crane’s daughter, Caprice Crane, confirmed his death.
Personable, cocky and well-attuned to the tenor of the times, Mr. Crane predated
Howard Stern as a “king of all media”; his multifaceted career began in radio,
moved to television and ended in computer software, with a stop in between as a
Grammy-winning recording artist, though even he would have shuddered at calling
his recording art.
An early, and by later standards, tame incarnation of a shock jock, Mr. Crane
was a radio star in San Francisco in the early 1960s. From a studio in the
hungry i, a nightclub that was a launching pad for performers like Mort Sahl,
Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand and Lenny Bruce, he took listeners’ calls from all
over the West Coast, fielding their questions, sometimes with a celebrity guest,
and often dismissing callers’ comments on current events and culture with
brusque wit or outright disdain, simply hanging up on some in what was then a
startling breach of accepted etiquette.
His station, KGO, was owned by ABC, and the parent company transferred Mr. Crane
first to the local television affiliate and then to its flagship station, WABC
in New York. The show, initially with the title “Night Line ... With Les Crane”
and later as “The Les Crane Show” was first broadcast in September 1963,
beginning at 1 a.m. Within two months it was the object of civil rights
picketers protesting the appearance on the show of Gov. George Wallace of
Calling him “the bad boy of late night television,” The New York Times described
Mr. Crane’s role on the show as “public relations expert, complaint-department
chief, psychiatrist and tough hero to the callers.”
The show was well-received, and Mr. Crane, telegenic, blithely confrontational
and at least partly hip — he conducted the first American television interview
with the Rolling Stones, in June 1964 — was attractive enough that the following
summer the network gave him a weeklong tryout in the 11:30 p.m. slot with a more
conventional talk show, again called “The Les Crane Show,” which was broadcast
in five big cities. The week featured interviews with Richard Burton, Shelley
Winters, Melvin Belli and Marguerite Frances Claverie, the mother of Lee Harvey
“We’re sitting here in the studio of a major broadcasting company in America and
we are talking to the mother of a man it is alleged assassinated our President,”
he said on the air, adding: “It’s pretty wonderful, isn’t it? Pretty exciting.”
The tryout was successful, but the show was not. On Nov. 9, 1964, Mr. Crane,
just 30 years old, went up against Carson, who had taken over NBC’s “Tonight”
show from Jack Paar two years earlier. The Crane show was canceled just a few
months later, in spite of Mr. Crane’s interview with Bob Dylan, during which Mr.
Crane asked Mr. Dylan, then 23, about the songwriters who influenced him and
about the overall message of his songs. Hank Williams and Cole Porter were the
answers to the first question. To the second, Mr. Dylan said: “Eat?” Mr. Crane
returned to the show in June but lasted only until November.
Mr. Crane was born on Dec. 3, 1933, but sources about his birthplace conflict.
His name at birth, his daughter said, was Lesley Stein, adding that she thought
he was born in New York. According to an ABC biography, he was born in Long
Beach, N.Y. The Daily News in New York once reported that he was born in the
Bronx, and various Web sites say San Francisco.
Mr. Crane graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans and spent four years
in the United States Air Force as a jet pilot and helicopter flight instructor;
for years afterwards, he wore a bracelet with his Air Force wings on it, a
reminder, he said, “that whatever I’m doing is safer than what I used to do.”
Mr. Crane married five times. His fourth wife was the actress Tina Louise whom
he met and married while she was at the height of her popularity as the
glamorous sexpot on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” They divorced in 1971
after a five-year marriage. Besides his daughter, a television writer who lives
in Los Angeles, he is survived by his wife of 20 years, Ginger Crane.
After the demise of his Carson challenge, in 1968 Mr. Crane had another
short-lived talk show, this time on WNEW-TV in New York. He also worked as an
occasional actor on television, appearing on “The Virginian,” “Burke’s Law” and
“Love, American Style.”
In 1980, Mr. Crane went into the burgeoning computer software business, becoming
chairman of the Software Toolworks, whose successes included “Mavis Beacon
Teaches Typing.” But of all his endeavors, the most well-known was one he later
wanted to forget.
In 1971, his recording of the inspirational poem “Desiderata” became a cultish
hit and even won a Grammy for best spoken-word recording. A cross between
flower-child naïveté and New Age dreaminess, it hit a chord at the time, but by
1987, Mr. Crane had changed his tune.
“I can’t listen to it now without gagging,” he told The Los Angeles Times.
Put a group of self-centred, egotistical, ignorant people in a confined space
such as Channel 4's Big Brother household and it is not altogether surprising
that something unpleasant emerges. Indeed unpleasantness and bullying are what
the programme's makers Endemol - whose very name sounds like an unpleasant
medication - set out to provoke. Conflict, however petty, is the essence of
"good television", or so contemporary wisdom has it.
But the racist taunting of the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty by a bunch of
neanderthal C-list celebrities in the latest series has descended to new depths,
which even Endemol must be beginning to regret. And so it should. Yesterday even
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, currently on a visit to India,
was drawn into the row by local people outraged at Britain's treatment of their
mega-star. The issue was raised with him so repeatedly that he issued a
statement saying that the world should see Britain as "a country of fairness and
So, by and large, it is. More than 21,000 British viewers have complained to
Ofcom and Channel 4. This is an extraordinarily large number, especially since
it is not the result of a hyped-up campaign by a lobby group, but spontaneous
revulsion by members of the general public at what they are seeing on their
screens. The scale of the protest is a measure of how far Britain has progressed
in recent decades in reshaping attitudes to racial prejudice.
Such progress is, however, far from universal. The ugly behaviour being seen on
Big Brother is, sadly, still all too common in our society. It is to this
pitbull tendency that unscrupulous politicians and populist newspapers play when
they obsess about the alleged horrors of immigration - playing to the fear that
foreign migrants are here to steal our jobs, homes and women. And yet this
barely submerged xenophobia in Britain is a significant phenomenon in our
It is why we should have no truck with those who complain routinely about
"political correctness gone mad". Political correctness has proved an effective
tool in countering such deep-rooted bigotry in racial and sexual matters.
Changing the law, and altering what is acceptable behaviour, is the first step
in shifting destructive and warped social attitudes.
The truth is that Big Brother holds up a mirror to contemporary society - albeit
a fairground one designed to exaggerate. If we don't like what we see, then we
all need to make that clear to those from whom we must expect change. And that
means not just Jade Goody and her unattractive companions but the television
channel which profits from broadcasting her excesses
Annual survey published since 1878
dramatic changes in American lives
Friday December 15, 2006
Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
If you are reading this as you surf the
internet while the TV is on, the radio is playing and you are listening to music
on your personal stereo you are already tapping into the American way of media
Data released by the US census bureau today
forecasts that Americans will spend a total of 65 days watching TV next year and
41 days listening to the radio. A week each will be given to reading newspapers
and surfing the internet.
All that reading, surfing and listening will occupy 3,518 hours of the average
American adult's year - the equivalent of almost five months. But such indolence
doesn't come cheap. The average American, says the survey, will spend $936
(£475) on media in the coming year.
The information comes in the 126th statistical abstract, which collates data
from census bureau studies as well as international organisations,
non-profit-making groups and the private sector. The abstract, which has been
published most years since 1878, makes comparisons with previous years as well
as providing forecasts.
Thus the survey shows that 97 million adult internet users looked for news
online in 2005, 92 million bought a product online and 91 million made an online
travel reservation. About 16 million Americans used a social or professional
networking site such as MySpace, and 13 million created a blog in 2005, with 39
million reading someone else's blog.
The information on internet usage is based on telephone surveys of 2,500 US
adults carried out in September 2005 by the Pew Research Centre. The survey also
showed that 25 million Americans downloaded videos to their computers, and 24
million remixed material found online to make their own creation.
Despite much speculation about the death of old media and the rise of the new,
reading a newspaper and surfing the internet will each consume the same amount
of the average American adult's time next year, the census bureau says.
Nevertheless, a week spent reading the news on the internet represents a
significant change in habits. Ten years ago, according to a Pew report in the
summer, one in 50 Americans regularly got their news from the internet. Today
the figure is one in three. But the figures show that the rate of increase in
online news readership has slowed since 2000, suggesting, says the report, that
"online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with
traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and
"This new census bureau material highlights just how dramatically we have moved
into the information age," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew internet and
American life project. "Pick any metric you like and you'll see that the volume
of information and media in people's lives has grown, the velocity of that
information as it circulates in their lives has increased, and the variety of
information has exploded."
Elsewhere the census bureau statistics showed that people in US households drank
an average of 88 litres of bottled water in 2004, compared with 10 litres each
in 1980. But while some were enjoying mountain-fresh water, others were
struggling to get enough food. Out of 112m households, 11.9m were deemed "food
insecure" in a 2004 survey by the US department of agriculture. Food insecure is
defined as having "limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in
socially acceptable ways". The figures do not include homeless people.
The lives of those with homes were often made uncomfortable by nasty smells. In
2005 residents of 3.7m housing units said that they were bothered by odours in
At the other extreme, the US has more millionaires than ever before, 3.5 million
of them, according to internal revenue service figures published at the end of
last year. More than half a million live in California.
And as the ranks of the rich have increased, so the beliefs and aspirations of
the young have evolved. In 1970, 85% of university entrants thought abortion
should be legalised, 59% thought capital punishment should be abolished and 57%
aimed to keep up with political affairs. By 2005, those figures had fallen to
55% in favour of legalised abortion, 33% against capital punishment, and 36% who
aimed to follow politics.
And while in 1970, 79% of university entrants said they had a personal objective
of "developing a meaningful philosophy of life", by last year 75% defined their
objective as "being very well off financially".
· The first survey of 1878: Aliens,
postmasters and budding industry
The US census bureau issued its first statistical aggregate in 1878. "Sir,"
wrote the treasury secretary, John Sherman, in a letter to the speaker of the
House of Representatives, Samuel Randall, "I have the honour to transmit ... a
statistical abstract ... this abstract embraces tables in regard to finance,
coinage, commerce, immigration, tonnage and navigation, the postal service,
public lands, railroads, agriculture and mining."
The 160-page document goes on to catalogue a very different world from this
The lists of Alien Passengers Arrived in the United States from Foreign
Countries between 1861 and 1870 shows that the largest group, 1.1 million, came
from the British Isles. A further million came from the rest of Europe, mostly
from Germany, although three Corsicans and eight Maltese also made it across the
Atlantic. Unlike today, Asia and Latin America made modest contributions, with
363,000 arriving from the "Americas" and 68,000 from Asia.
Of the 38.5 million population recorded in the 1870 census, the bulk lived in
the eastern states, with New York having the largest population, 4.4 million.
Pennsylvania, with 3.8 million, was close behind.
The population figures show the country before the huge expansion to the west.
Outside California - misspelled as Caliofrnia in the official table - which had
a population of 500,000, the most populous of the western states was New Mexico,
That population relied on the postal service to communicate. In 1790, the data
shows, the postal service had 75 post offices in the entire nation, offering
1,875 miles of post routes and taking almost $38,000 in revenue. By 1878 there
were more than 39,000 post offices serving 300,000 miles of post routes and
taking in $29m.
Some of that mail and much of the population would travel by railway, with the
number of miles of railway in the country rising from 22 in 1830 to 79,000 by
The year also saw the births of a number of figures who would help to define
America's transition into the modern age: the poet Carl Sandburg, the
African-American boxer Jack Johnson (left), the film actor Lionel Barrymore, the
dancer Isadora Duncan and the writer and social activist Upton Sinclair were all
born in 1878.
THE SPEAKER : Hi folks! Welcome to another edition of TV Parliament, the
party game programme for the family. Remember — the side that gets the highest
rating wins the debate, and the Member who is elected most pleasing TV
personality by the audience gets a luxury holiday. So away we go with the first
Bill — Planning (Special Measures).
Mr CHRISTOPHER SMOOTHE: (Minister of Chance and Speculation) (West Wittering,
C.): Let me kick off by admitting that I'm in favour of the Bill.
Mr JOHN BOLSOVER (Screwe, Lab.): What Chris is too modest to mention is that
this is Chris's very own Bill. Let's give him a round of applause.
Mr SMOOTHE: John was too modest to mention — it's his birthday today.
(Mr Smoothe leads the House in "Happy Birthday to You." )
Mr BOLSOVER: Thanks, Chris. But to be serious for a moment, Chris, perhaps you'd
like to tell us something about the Bill.
Mr SMOOTHE: I'm glad you asked that, John. You see, I believe you've got to have
a bit of planning here and there. But no one likes arbitrary planning — being
told what's good for them by some so-called expert. So we've approached the
matter in a different way. There's nothing your average chap enjoys more than a
bit of a flutter, and so we hit on the idea of adapting Ernie [the Premium Bonds
prize computer], that friend of every sporting Englishman, to cast random
statistics and target figures for our economic plans.
Mr WALTER SPOWTE (Leeds Crematorium, Lab.): Let's give the lad a big hand.
Mr SMOOTHE: Thanks, Walter.
Mr NIGEL SHARPE-GROOMSMAN (Twicester, C.): The most vital economic question of
the hour is whether we are producing enough British-made espresso coffee
Mr HERBERT GASWICK (East Shields, Lab.): I think you're being unfair, Nigel.
Christopher has an extremely good record on coffee machines.
Mr GASWICK: Christopher Smoothe, this is your record. Almost alone, ignored or
laughed at in the House, you set out to persuade the Govern ment to give the
manufacturers a generous price support.
Mr SMOOTHE: I don't know what to say (he is overcome with emotion).
THE SPEAKER: Do you want to quit, Christopher, or will you go on to the 64,000
Mr SMOOTHE: I'll ... I'll go on.
Mr GEORGE SNUGG (Isle of Dogs, Lab): Will the Minister give the House the names
of the first six kings after William the Conqueror?
Mr SMOOTHE : I am looking into that question ... and it would wrong to
anticipate my findings.
THE SPEAKER: That's the correct answer!
That's all, folks, but we'll be with you tomorrow night
for "Juke Box Select