Awhile back...I mentioned one superstar correspondent at NBC News (no name) who wasn’t a “good joe” for his lack of ambition to get the real story about the riots in Chicago.
Now let me tell you of some fine people I encountered or worked with at NBC News Chicago for a year and then 30 Rock for a few weeks and finally Saigon.
My direct boss in NYC...Russ Tornabene. Years earlier he helped develop a new weekend show for NBC Radio...called “Monitor”. What more can one say.
I may repeat myself several times but one couldn’t have a nicer boss. He was fair...and knew because of the close call with the enemy soldiers in Cambodia that I would not choose to return to Saigon. He almost begged me not to leave NBC News and offered me a job back in Chicago. I declined...wanting to try other avenues and he understood. Everyone who worked for or simply came in contact with this man was the better for it!
In Chicago...Joe Angotti...news producer extraordinary soon to be promoted to Nightly News producer in NYC.
In Saigon...a Bureau Chief named Jack Reynolds who left too soon to China as BC in Beijing.
Floyd Kalber in Chicago. A superstar anchor local and network and despite that high position...a damn decent guy.
Ted Elbert...Chicago and NYC. In the mold of Russ...easygoing yet a real pro in handling world wide assignments and fun to know. We had a softball team at NBC Chicago and he broke a thumb. Not only did it really hurt...his physic was damaged.
Kenley Jones....Saigon tv correspondent. Great guy and damn good newsman.
Les Crystal...Executive Producer, Huntley-Brinkly Report. Les invited me out for an after news drink and I was honored. Very pro but also down to earth for a man in his exalted position. He went on the run PBS’s MacNeil-Lehrer Report for years.
And two really big names for you...both good people:
David Brinkley. Spending some time chatting away with a guy who probably didn’t deserve the invite into his office. But I was thrilled by it.
Edwin Newman. What can I say...about an NBC News legend who hosted Saturday Night Live TWICE! He and Russ were close friends and had lunch each day in the small coffee shop on the ground floor of 30 Rock.
When Russ grabbed me with the offer to buy lunch I had no idea Ed would join us. This happened more than once and I cherish it.
In Chicago John “Bud” Dancy and Jim Ruddle. Their main assignment was doing top of the hour radio newscasts on the network which originated in Chicago about every third or fourth hour all day.
Jim also anchored the local early evening tv news. Jim had a photographic memory. I remember one time I had to take him a full page story I had just written and hand it to him in the tv anchor seat during a commercial break. He took a short look at it...got the cue that he was back on the air and without looking at the script again...quoted it verbatim!
He didn’t think much of my writing but he never voiced it to me. On the top of the hour casts I wrote for him there were a bunch of edits. That’s how I knew.
I may have left a few folks out...but this, I think, gives you an idea that not all news persons are bad and biased.
One other fellow...an investigative reporter and news anchor in Chicago named Ted Smart...fit this mold.
After I left NBC News...Ted was enjoying Lake Michigan in a boat and fell overboard and drowned. There were some conspiracy rumors as Ted had been investigating typical Chicago political stuff.
Ted was a good guy in every sense of the phrase.
I was sad....and attended his funeral...meeting up for the last time with Russ Tornabene there.
Time marches on they say...but for six solid months(1969-70) from Vietnam radio listeners heard this close more times each day seven days a week than any other correspondent in radio history:
“Stan Major...NBC News...Saigon”
I was so proud that my parents could listen and hear that!