Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My kind of town......

 City of the Big Shoulders....

        I returned home to Chicago...around 1960-61.  
I was Program Director of a 50,000 watt Chicago radio station at 25 years of age.  And I was already well seasoned in the profession to make a go of it in the Windy. (Tough luck WMAY in Springfield!)
Rock music was just catching on and the teens and college-age kids were going crazy over it.  
At this time there were basically two Chicago radio stations “playing the hits” from CASHBOX not Billboard magazine...and WJJD was one of them.  The other WLS...WLS was not a factor they would be in the coming years.
The other station was WIND with their top personality Howard Miller.
WJJD was successful and unusually so because it’s broadcast hours were limited...just like the station I was at in Washington DC.
Here comes a little tech talk...but it’s something  strange in the history of radio.  WJJD  like WPGC(am) was what you called in the business “a daytimer”.  Those stations signed on the air at sunup and had to sign off the air at sundown.  
But the FCC...Federal Communications Commission had allowed  some extra broadcast hours for WJJD...probably based on pleas from the owners that they had to serve the needs of the millions of farmers who lived within earshot of the station’s signal.  Those kind of things generally work well with Washington decision makers.
So we didn’t have to wait for sun up.  We had a set 4 am Chicago time sign on 7 days a week.  But there was a catch and this is really weird.
Because of the huge power generated by our station’s transmitter...(we covered about forty states even during the day) the Commission ordered us to shut it off at 7AM every day for 15 minutes.
This would allow a Salt Lake City station on our same frequency to go on the air and establish it’s signal which then blocked ours in their area when we went back on in fifteen minutes.
Like I said...unusual and I believe the ONLY mandate of it’s kind in radio history.  But don’t hold me to that.
As you can imagine we had a lot of fun explaining this each day to our listeners.  But we had to because there was nothing for them to do but switch to another station at 7AM and we didn’t want that.  Howard Miller over on WIND didn’t have to shut down for fifteen minutes each day!
We were also allowed a couple of hours extra in the evening even AFTER sundown.  I remember we had regular listeners in Boston to our programs.

        As the new PD at WJJD I had to make some decisions that would reflect the music...more than the personalities.
As a result I fired Jack Spector.  
        That’s right...THE Jack Spector who wasn’t a big name yet....but who would return to New York City and become one of the WMCA “Good Guys”.  He’d be working for a long time.  And he never thanked  me for canning him!
I would have a similar situation in 1985 after five years of talk in Philadelphia at WWDB(FM).  Change of ownership brought in new managers and they bounced me out.
If that hadn’t have happened I probably wouldn’t have come to Miami (again),,,wouldn’t have worked again with my friend Neil Rogers nor would I have met my lovely wife, Lauri, who bore me a son, Christopher in 1988.  Chris has made life worth living for me with all the ups and downs of my profession.
Also...when the Miami run ended I then got this great idea to do a national midnight talk show...LIVE... inviting listeners to call in from all over the country.  There was no LIVE national program like this at the time, 1992, and we hit a gold mine doing it! 
But there’ll be alot more on this later.
We had some trouble with the City of Chicago...the police...and about a thousand unhappy concert fans who couldn’t get into see a station sponsored show featuring (I think) Johnny Rivers.  He had the number one record at the time and we booked a “too small” arena and couldn’t handle the crowd.  There was a riot.  Memphis and local management came down on me but I just shrugged as it was great publicity for us. And it showed the impact we were having in the city.
Then...there was “Stan Major’s mystery girl” or something like that.  
I was shopping at Marshall Fields Department store and I noticed this really beautiful girl doing the same.
I went on my show the next day and out of the blue...started challenging her to call in.  I described what she looked like..what she was wearing and the time and place I spotted her. I punched it between records for about an hour. 
She called.  It WAS her (I had not revealed a couple of things and she confirmed them.) How’s that for impact. Out of the millions of females in Chicagoland this one I chose actually heard the show and called to confirm.      Wow.  We were riding high.
Then I began another experiment.
I had about a half dozen friends at big stations around the country.  I got a box of records from an artist named Troy Shondell...and as an experiment to see if I could make this crummy record a hit just by asking my buddies to play it. I sent it to them...
they did play it...and you can check to see that Tory's THIS TIME was
one of the top ten records in 1960.

Getting fired...well almost.

I have to be careful how I write this so bear with me.
As PD it was my job to program the records WJJD would play and how often.  We generally based this on Cashbox Magazine which was everyone’s bible.  Nobody even read Billboard.  Now...all the libraries have Billboard and have a lot of misinformation on record popularity out of sink with what Cashbox had.  It’s a shame but nothing can be done.
There is someone trying to keep the Cashbox dream alive and they contacted me a few years ago because they had read something I wrote about using Billboard for toilet paper.  You might Goggle:
Cashbox Magazine
                                    and see what pops up.
One of the big record companies representatives kept giving me a hard time...I wasn’t caving in to play his records as much as he I finally had enough and bared him from the station.
Turns out he was friendly with some company execs who didn’t take kindly to my decision on the guy.
Orders were issued to fire me over this.  I was given two weeks notice as we were an union shop (American Federation of Tv & Radio Artists).
They brought in a nice guy named Mel Hall...and he assessed the situation quickly and ask me to be his "Sign ON" guy.  
       This was a tough shift..driving from our Mt. Prospect house  15 miles down to Michigan Avenue at the river by about 3:30-3:45AM six days a week to sign the powerful station on at 4AM.  I would do a DJ shift until the funny 15 minute shutdown at 7AM and then the regular morning guy would follow me. 
I would be free from 7AM until 4am the next day.  Not bad except for the winter snow... blizzards and winds that chill every bone in your body off the lake.       I took the job...never saw record management types.  I did this for some months until I just couldn’t take the weather anymore. 
I had the Hollywood bug again and decided to pull up stakes and give LA one more try.
I had an idea for the Rat Pack...or personally for Frank Sinatra and as I reached him once (from Peoria) I was going to try it again...but this time I wanted to be near him...just in case I perked his interest.
I had also made a good contact with a producer who was involved in a new Bob Newhart  comedy show being shot at NBC Burbank studios.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ah...D.C. I love it! always have...always will.

    You gotta love DC!
           if you can afford it...that is.

     DC is a great place...easy to get around in...and lots of things to see...including some of the most beautiful females on the planet.
     The problem is...they are more into their jobs than into guys.
     The radio station closed down at sundown...even the FM which nobody listened too as it just simulcast the powerful AM programming. of about 5 or 6 o'clock I was free to wander along the Mall...browse the museums sit in the Senate  and watch political stars like young Jack Kennedy...old Eve Dirksen...and on rare occasions Richard Nixon who was Vice President at the time.
     Then as I mentioned in an earlier friend Jerry Kearns and I would hang out at the Blair House where his Grandmother ran the place.  
     We washed our cars in the back...ate the food...smoked the Cuban cigars and on one occasion I slept in a real feather bed (great!) in the maid’s quarters. (no maids around) and took a dip in a gold plated bath tub made especially for Queen Elizabeth’s visit earlier.
     After a few months of this fun...I got word that someone in Baltimore at WCBM had heard my PM drive show and might be interested in my services.  A bit of research told me it was a Plough of a chain of stations owned by the big drug company.
     As they also had WJJD Chicago...I jumped on the idea of joining them.
     Before I left WPGC Mac Richmond came to town and invited me to dinner. He wanted to sell me the FM...WPGC FM.  He said the power bills just running the transmitter were driving him nuts...and I could believe him..Mac was the kind of guy who had the first dollar of profit in his billfold...and he bragged that he had a code system worked out with his secretaries so that he could call them and get his point across without being charged.  At about 10 cents a minute back then..that WAS being cheap.
     I remember him offering to sell WPGC-FM to me for about $30,000 with just 5 or 10 thousand down.  I told him I didn’t have that kind of money but he said my Dad did...that I should call him.
     I joked that my Dad didn’t even favor me being in the radio biz!
     What’s the worth of that station today?  It’s been number one in that market for I couldn’t even guess.  A lot of “millions”.


     My stay at WCBM there was ever so brief.  
     But I loved cruising Inner harbor and eating the best fries in the world (second only to the fondue restaurant in Germany).
     I was just a jock (DJ) doing an early evening show...but there was an opening for a combo Program Director/DJ at WJJD Chicago and I contacted the national program guy in Memphis...a decent gentlemen (few of these in our business)...Gene Plumstead and he took an immediate interest and I was soon on my way back home.
     So goodbye Edgar Allen Poe and hello to the "windy".

Monday, August 26, 2013

the radio merry-go-round game

Off we go.......on the road to radio fame(?)
... so...get your road maps ready....

I’m gonna tease you with the places  and radio/tv stations where I’ve worked....

Back to Las Vegas around 1958...after the Jack Daniels drinking with Nick Clooney (BG before George) way into the nights in the slums of Beverly Hills.

You might remember Mac Richmond who owned the Vegas station (which he illegally shut down without telling the FCC) owned two other stations...WPGC AM/FM in Washington DC and WMEX AM in Boston...a sensational money making outlet that cornered the rock & roll audience in that great city.  Can you say Arnie “woo woo” Ginsburg?  Yep he was there. 
Mac ask me if I’d like to work in DC and I said here we go in true radio job fashion.....check your map:
         note:  these are all local stations national show came later

 1958-59  Washington DC  WPGC am/fm...jock
1959       Baltimore WCBM...jock
1960-61  Chicago  WJJD...PD & jock
 1962-63  Boston WMEX...News
1964-65  Chicago WNUS (all news)
  1966     Vietnam (hometowners)
                  Vietnam (first ever daily show from a war zone)
1966     Kansas City
1967     St.Louis
1967     Milwaukee
1967-68  Rockford, Ill WREX-TV news anchor
1968     Democratic Nominee for Congress 13th district
1969     Chicago NBC News writer/producer tv & radio.
1969-70  Saigon NBC News correspondent
1972     Candidate Illinois Senate
1971-72  Milwaukee WRIT am/
1973     New Orleans
1973     Miami
1974     Miami
1975-76  Tampa
brief stints/fill in    WERE
                                    KSDO San
                                    WMCA New
1978      Panama City, Fl TV news anchor
1979      Miami
    Dizzy yet? 
                I am just writing this let’s wrap this up:

1980-85  Philadelphia  WWDB (FM)  Ops and talk host
      1985  Phoenix
1987-89  Miami
1990-91   Miami

That's it for local.  National comes in 92.

Now...some thoughts on all these great (or not so great ) cities. By the way...I DID move around a lot...but some stations were a return.

Friday, August 23, 2013

odds and ends....

odds and ends...

On one of my trips to Vietnam...I flew Japan Airlines (great!) from San Francisco to Tokyo.
After boarding I realized I was sitting amongst some of my Dad’s favorite tv wrestlers....who were headed to Japan for some  matches.  I really can’t remember their names and have had a hard time searching the internet to come up with verification ...but the faces were very familiar and they were all friendly gentlemen.
We landed at Tokyo airport and I looked out the window and sensed the excitement at the terminal upon our arrival.  
It appeared that there were about a thousand Japanese wrestling fans atop terminal roof and on the tarmac it looked like every tv crew and photographer in the world were waiting for the American wrestlers to emerge. 
Ah the impact of tv!
Well, I sensed a problem.  We were back in the “cheap seats” of the plane and the press was crowded around the first class stairs up front awaiting the familiar faces. In Japan “saving face” is everything so I stopped the stewardess and said
“These are famous wrestlers and the press and fans here expect them to come off first class.  Can we turn them around and make that happen?”  (The guys were already heading toward the rear exit.)
She looked out the plane and realized the importance of this and immediately ask the wrestlers to exit from the front! 
They turned around and went off the plane that way to the delight of the press and their fans who were screaming and yelling at them.
I felt good about that small did my Father when I told him about it later.
Remembering General Ky.

    While living in Miami in the late 80’s and early 90’s my wife and I took one of the many local flights to the Bahamas for a bit of weekend fun.  Upon boarding I spotted a famous face...that of the press’s favorite South Vietnam hero and former Prime Minister and Air Force General, Nguyen Cao Ky.  
    As we prepared to leave the plane later I spoke to him...reminding him of our interview back in Saigon and he seemed pleased to be recognized.  Later I saw him hosting a table in the dining room of a casino hotel.
After the war ended he made his home in California and there were all kinds of rumors about what he was into.  
The flamboyant fighter pilot died in 2011.

Monday, August 19, 2013

and more.....

But wait...there’s more!
 For my first Vietnam experience...hometowners became easy as I traveled to non-hotspots where large PX’s (post exchanges) drew lots of soldiers.  I’d just set up outside the PX with a sign 
“If you live in these areas stop and say “hello” for the folks back home”  and then list the St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, etc.  I found a letter I wrote to my folks just before leaving and it listed the radio stations I was getting interviews for and it's more impressive than I remembered:   KRLA LOS ANGELES, 
                                     WMEX BOSTON, 
                                     WNEW NEW YORK CITY, 
                                     WTOP WASHINGTON DC, 
                                     WFAS LONG ISLAND, 
                                     WIP PHILLY, 
                                     WCBM BALTIMORE, 
                                     WUBE CINCINNATI, 
                                     WDGY MINNEAPOLIS, 
                                     WIXY CLEVELAND, 
                                     KMOX ST. LOUIS 
                                    KMBC KANSAS CITY (I would go to work as a talk host here) 

For hometowners from the Navy they offered to fly me out to the Aircraft Carrier Hancock...assuring me of a dozen or so short interviews to send back home.
What they failed to tell me was that we would be making what is called an “arrested” landing on the deck.  I can  understand why.  They really like to jam it to press people when they get the chance!
So...I’m a guy who detested those fast rides at the carnivals or Disney.... and as we circled the carrier for a landing an officer whispered “ever hit the catapult on a deck before?”  I nodded I hadn’t so he just recommended that as they touch the deck...I just hold on for dear life.
They did and I did...but it did no good.  I hated it! say the least.  It’s no fun making an immediate stop from over 100 mph.
      I didn’t throw up...but I didn’t eat much later in the officers mess either.  
I saw the same officer later who smiled the good news that for my benefit they would NOT use the catapult to get us off the deck to Saigon.  It would be a normal full deck take off.  Thank god.
I did get a bunch of interviews and they were well received back home.
There was a tough one later in a hospital near Danang.  
The hospital info office had set me up with a couple of interviews of soldiers who were being treated who were from two of the cities on my list.  The first went well...but the second was heartbreaking.  
The guy was in bad shape but insisted on saying “hi” to his family back in the St. Louis area.
It was broadcast AFTER the soldier had died and the family had been informed of his death.  Someone in the family heard the interview and called the radio station to plead for a copy which, of course, the station manager agreed.  He wrote me a letter to my company in Chicago and enclosed a note from the soldier’s family thanking me and telling me how wonderful it was to hear their son’s voice for the last time.
War is hell.

    Returning home to the U.S. this first time was challenging in a few ways.
    First, the plane from Hong Kong to Tokyo was late so the airline had to put us up overnight.
My "roommate" turned out to be a CIA guy from Saigon...and down at the desk when we were paired for a room he was speaking fluent Japanese!  
    The desk clerk was most impressed and after we had been in the room a bit the phone rang and he answered (in the local language) and had a brief conversation.  He said that was the hotel manager who has invited us to see the sights at his expense!  He went on to explain that he had been in Tokyo on General MacArthur's staff and he'd mentioned that to the desk clerk. 
    So instead of sleep we spent the next few hours sampling night life in the Ginza.  That is one "fun" city!

    Next morning the flight to San Francisco awaited...but my roomy had a problem.  Actually we all had a problem as there was a general airline strike in the United States and so no connection flights were available.  the CIA guy had an important meeting in Washington D.C. but couldn't get there.  He ended up re-booking his trip back this way:
                       Tokyo direct to Madrid, Spain
                        Madrid to Washington D.C.
   That took care of his meeting problem although he said he would be a little late!
As for myself..I had already determined my agenda.  Upon arrival in San Francisco I would rent a car and drive to Las Vegas.  I looked forward to to drive out west with the mountains and re-boots my mind and body.
   I got a room at the Desert Inn (Howard Hughes had the penthouse) and while playing the slots I overheard a VERY familiar voice playing on the next row (which I couldn't see).  But I didn't need to see the gentlemen...(and I never did as he moved out quickly)  It was the "Darth Vadar" James Earl Jones (voice only)...commenting to a companion while dropping his quarters in a slot that he had never played slots before.  With Jones...the voice is a sure fire giveaway.
   Another "give away" voice was that of Julia Roberts...whom my son Chris and I passed in the downstairs cafeteria at the Dolphin Hotel at Disneyworld.  But that story comes later.

still more, Nam

Still more, bits 
As I said earlier in this blog...I was scared just a few times in southeast Asia.
Most of my time  was spent in the relative safety of Saigon.  I say relatively safe because I was eating a steak at the officers mess high atop MAC-V headquarters one evening when I heard a bomb blast at the press center where we had been assembled for our afternoon briefing only an hour earlier.  
I rushed down to the street and across to my office...grabbed my tape recorder and headed to the bombed building.  Apparently it was just some kind of a warning by the Viet Cong as little damage was done.  As I recall...we actually had our morning briefing there the next day.  Nobody was injuried...the place is usually vacant between briefings.  
I taped  a  couple of ad-libbed “on the scene” type stories...which the new bureau chief hated as he had no control over content...and rushed to the MacV building and raised New York on the line and fed them out and on the air before ABC and CBS  and the rest got around to even writing their reports. We scooped everyone, but of course when I returned to the office the boss scolded me for not being at the scene when he got there.  I embarrassed him, I’m sure, by telling him I was already feeding the story to New York and they were running it on the network as a special report while he was walking around wondering where I was.  

He was really miffed the next day when the boss of NBC Radio sent the bureau a congratulator twix naming my reports as scooping the whole press corps.  
I accepted the praise from NYC but knew I’d not heard the last from the bureau chief about stories going out without editing approval (i.e. his say-so).  Another bomb blast about a week later destroyed a favorite movie theater right across from our building.  I wandered through the dust and debris while doing another ad-libbed report and fed it again quickly to NBC New York for still another scoop and still another twix of praise.  Just more trouble from the local boss for doing what they wanted done in New York.
However, my boss in New York followed up the twix with a personal letter in which he quoted the head of ABC Radio News, Tom O’Brien, as saying “that guy Major in Saigon is beating the hell out of all of us!” 
As I said, I was only shook up a couple of times and the first was in Danang.  That lovely city is about 200 miles or so north and I arranged to get out of Saigon to cover a great story there for both TV and radio news. A Marine was going to get married to his sweetheart back home...with the ceremony done by ham radio in Danang.
There was only one hitch. Our end had to be done at night so the ceremony could be during the daytime back home.  So my cameraman, soundman and I had to take a jeep from the Danang Press Center (a nice place by the way) about six or so miles up through the hills to  base camp where the Marine patiently waited to tie the not.
Just before we were to leave the Sergeant in charge of the press center came out and told me the NBC jeep had no lights.  This was not good.  I mean...driving around Danang in the dead of night in a vehicle making plenty of noise and having no lights and no nothing!
Well, I thought it over and talked to the crew...while the Sergeant gave us assurances that he had informed all along the way of our impending arrival.  
We set off...not at all assured ourselves and I’ve got to say...the next half hour going around curves...up hills on a narrow dirt road was not the most pleasant experience of my life.  Then I thought “hell...we’ve got to come back down too!.”
Knowing that at any moment we could be slam-dunked by either side...our guys or the Cong was indeed scary.  
But...we made it up the mountain in the dark and got a great story that got lots of network play both TV and radio...especially on our famous “Monitor” program on the weekend on NBC Radio.
As we didn’t have any way of feeding the stuff back to Saigon that night...I made my best decision of the whole tour.  We camped out with the marines...drank and smoked a lot and told stories of our weddings and slept soundly. 
And after some eggs and bacon the next morning...and lots of coffee...we headed back down the hill. They got the headlights on the jeep fixed within a week of our trip.   Whee!
“Major, you’ve got Agnew!”
President Nixon sent his Vice President,  Spiro Agnew,  over to check things out.  Since I was the only one available (TV guys up country) and NBC got the pool assignment for his arrival...I set myself up at the airport with my handy Sony tape recorder and did my ad-lib thing (which WAS expected and accepted this time) describing Agnew getting off the plane in Saigon. 
Being the pool reporter meant I was the only one allowed to cover the event.  So...I couldn’t use the usual close “Stan Major NBC News Saigon”.  I  did the report lasting about a minute and then another shorter one and ended...”Stan Major reporting...from Saigon”.  That was heard on all the radio networks and maybe even used under TV footage of Agnew’s arrival.
Live on NBC TV!
Early in 1970 when the pressure back home was getting to the White House...Nixon and the Pentagon brass conceived a program called Vietnamazation.  It was an effort to turn the war over to the South Vietnamese military...and begin withdrawal of our troops.
The President was to announce this important change in policy the evening of November 3, 1969 and I was assigned to go out to the civilian transmitter sight and to sit and listen to the president speak and then respond to John Chancellor’s questions at the end.  
I would not just be on radio...I was on the whole NBC TV network with Chancellor.  John asked me what the reaction to the President’s speech would be in Saigon...among the American troops especially.  I did my which was much more my style than sitting down and writing a story.  We went back and forth for about five minutes and that was it.
Getting arrested
I made the front page of the New York Times a few weeks later when I was arrested...along with a South Korean cameraman from one of the other networks while covering the story of a South Vietnamese legislator who had turned against the war and locked himself inside his office in the Parliament building. We got a tip that the Saigon secret police...plain clothes thugs mostly...hired to do President Thieu’s dirty work were going to invade the building and physically remove the legislator.
The cops didn’t like it when a few of the press folks showed up and they grabbed me and the cameraman and hauled us off to a police station.
We pulled up outside what appeared to be a police station somewhere in Saigon and were taken to a courtyard where I was ordered to sit on a bench.  Then the toughest cop began screaming at the Korean cameraman and pushing and beating him.  I still had my small cassette recorder so I calmly pressed the record button and got the whole scene on tape.  I  mush admit I was somewhat nervous while the tape rolled.  I was wondering if I’d get the same treatment...but in my mind I felt they wouldn’t have nerve to do that kind of stuff to an American reporter.  With another oriental it was different.  There’s always been a lot of ethnic hostility between Asians.
When the cop tired of beating up the Korean...he turned toward me and saw I had the cassette recorder going so he grabbed that and before he could retaliate for what I had done... another cop came into the courtyard and started yelling at him and pointing toward me.  The American Ambassador had called demanding my immediate release.  Apparently one of the other newsmen had tipped my office that I had been grabbed. 
They kept the recorder, much to my chagrin, knowing what was on it.  Later after I returned to the NBC News office...this same cop who did the beating showed up to return the recorder.  
Surprisingly the actual cassette was still in the recorder and not we fed the whole thing to NYC and made news in addition to just reporting it.   
This incident, in a small way may have helped feed the fires of the anti-war movement back in the states.  The idea that a prominent network correspondent could be arrested for simply doing his job probably did not sit well for either the Nixon folks or the average American.
Getting all this publicity didn’t hurt my reputation for news coverage...being on the New York Times front page.  Also... I got word later that David Brinkley loved every second it!
A couple of other small notes about my experience covering the war from the trenches of Saigon.
Soon after I arrived I noted that several of the staffers were having problems with the local food...eating in the Saigon restaurants even the so called “higher class” establishments hadn’t agreed with them.   Accredited news folk had excess to the MacV officers mess a just across the boulevard from our I took most of my meals there.  Had steak and potatoes every day and some pretty great desserts.....and never got sick from something I ate.
I couldn’t fight the flu bug, however.  It hit everyone and when my time came I walked into a small pharmacy in our building and told the Vietnam druggist of my symptoms.  All prescription drugs are sold over the counter doctor needed.  The medications come from Paris and most are owned and bottled by the major U.S. drug firms so they are safe.
The druggist nodded his head...quickly selected a small bottle from the shelf and told me to follow the instructions. 
That night when I returned to my hotel I took one pill and hit the sack.  I awoke early the next morning...completely refreshed and all symptoms of my flu/cold were gone and stayed gone.  I was amazed.  I  kept that bottle and when I returned to the states later,  I checked it with a doctor and also a druggist and  was told it was a sleeping medication.  I told them “it may just be for sleep but it cured either the cold or flu I had...overnight!”
Perry Mason the war tourist!
While transversing the streets in downtown Saigon I had noticed a gentleman whose face I could not place on several occasions.  I think I even nodded a “hello” on occasion.   After I returned to the states, I read where actor Raymond Burr was a war “freak” and spent a lot of time hanging out in Saigon.  To bad...I would liked to have lunched with Perry Mason!

Bob Hope comes to ‘Nam...again
Hope and troop were in country for his 1969 Christmas Show
for NBC.  
I got to Cu Chi...home to the US 25th Division,  just in time to see the last half of his show and to do some interviews backstage with Neil Armstrong...first man on the Moon...singer Connie Stevens...who flattered me by following me around...and others.  
After the show I met Bob Hope just outside the big Army hospital at Cu Chi and did a ten minute interview for NBC Radio’s Monitor...our long form news program heard weekends.   He then invited me to follow him into the hospital and I recorded another long segment of Bob chatting with injured soldiers and the medical staffers.  It was quite extraordinary.  Little did I know that  I would see this portion on almost every special dedicated to Bob Hope.  It obviously became a favorite of the Hope producers...and was used many times over the years since 1969. 
The Candy Stripe 
In early 1970 President Nixon’s “Vietnamazation” program was well underway and New York assigned me to do a bunch and  do mean a bunch of short interviews...about 50 total... on the progress of this campaign. Of course I had to get out of Saigon so I took a two day trip down to the Delta section of the country...home of some of the most beautiful and productive rice fields in Asia and some of the toughest fights...especially over near the border with Cambodia.
As I was interviewing an  Army Colonel...the North Vietnamese began firing mortar rounds from across the border. Luckily there aim was bad...the officer said it was mostly just a nuisance... but the interview with the background noise was fairly dramatic.
As I was bidding the Colonel of his officers arrived to ask him if they were going back “across the candy stripe” that night.  As I was wearing my army fatigues and had my back to the Captain ..he couldn’t see the “NBC News “ i.d. on the front of my the Colonel was a bit put off by the question in front of a newsman.  Army units weren’t supposed to cross the border into Cambodia!  They both quickly recovered me goodbye...and I moved out to a waiting helicopter knowing one of the military’s biggest secrets about the war.  Little did I know that the CIA was already plotting a government takeover in Cambodia...and that I would be one of only two american reporters in that country when it happened!

Christmas in Vietnam...1969
The honchos back in New York dropped all pretense of neutrality and ordered Saigon to come up with a blood and guts story to lead the Huntley-Brinkley Report for Christmas night....1969.
The bureau chief assigned a cameraman to every correspondent including me,  and sent us out two days before Christmas with orders to come back with the lead story for the evening news.
Off went Bob Hager...Kenley Jones...Wells Hangen and yours truly for parts in South Vietnam known and unknown.
My cameraman was a Vietnamese who was fast becoming the best NBC News had.  MAC-V had arranged specific areas for each correspondent to cover and because I still had radio circuits on Christmas Eve and Christmas day I only went about thirty to forty miles from Saigon...but the distance usually doesn’t make any difference.  Battles could be raging that close to the city at anytime day or night. Or the VC could bomb you five miles outside the city limits of Saigon...with little problem.
Nothing much went on in my area the first day...but that night the Army escort we had received a radio communication about  jeep being blown up in a small village a few miles down the road.  Seems a couple of Vietcong women had planted a bomb on the road and the jeep crashed upon impact killing three GI’s.
We drove to the small village and pulled to a stop where some Arvn (South Vietnamese) soldiers were questioning two women.
My cameraman started rolling film the minute we stopped and held his camera arm level away from him but with the lens pointed at the commotion which was beginning to get rough.  The soldiers started beating on the women with rifle butts and knocking them to the ground.  We couldn’t get close and actually...we didn’t want to...for fear we might cause the soldiers to react to our presence.
Our escort stood back but was ready to interfere with our mission if necessary but my cameraman nodded to me and shut his camera off and I motioned to the officer that we wanted to leave the scene.  
We didn’t talk much on the trip back to base but I did say we had to return to Saigon and hope for something better the next day.
But both my cameraman and I knew we had made it with that footage...and that chances were good....if we could get it on satellite to New York in would lead the Christmas news.
It did.  The other guys couldn’t best it.
The disappointing thing for me was I didn’t have time to do a
script...get it approved and record it to send along.  
So I had to settle with writing notes for Chet Huntley who would do the script from those and read the voice over in the studio in New York.
Oh well. 
My tour was ending so I decided I needed some film footage to take back home for future use.  I grabbed NBC News cameraman Peter Bellendorf...a rough and tough little German who was about the most skilled guy we had filming stories...and who would later be killed while on assignment in Cambodia... and told him to just bring the camera...we’d film silent.  So we set up downstairs on the main drag of Saigon with the South Vietnam Congress building in the background.  
I had a microphone and a cord...but it was just hanging down..not connected to anything and lo and behold...Peter Arnette comes walking by.  
Yes...THE Peter Arnette....who later became the most famous newsman in the world with his live reports on CNN during the first bombing of Baghdad.  (See the movie...”Live From Baghdad” to get just a taste of what it’s like to be on the spot in a real war zone.)
Arnette saw the cord hanging down...unconnected...and did the most wonderful doubletake you can imagine!  “Hey Major”...he shouted “you forgot something!”  Peter and I were on the ground laughing.