Maury Z. Levy

Posts Tagged ‘philadelphia’

Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on June 15, 2012 at 9:42 am


[Maury Z. Levy: author’s note: In 1975, Muhammad Ali had been the king of the world for a long time. He was always surrounded by press people fighting for interviews. He talked a lot, but never let anyone get really close to him. Then a strange thing happened. He lost a fight to Joe Frazier. Reporters did a 180 and started following Frazier. Ali was alone. He wasn’t used to that. So, I got a call one morning from Ali’s press guy. He said Ali liked a Philadelphia magazine cover story I’d done on hockey flash Derek Sanderson. He said Ali wanted me to come up to his Deer Lake, PA training camp and spend a couple hours with him. The couple hours turned into a couple days. I got to train with him, I got unlimited access to him. Here’s the story…]

THE FORMER CASSIUS CLAY remembers when he was “just another nigger.” “It started back in Louisville. That’s where I was born. I was riding a bus one day. Didn’t have no Cadillacs yet. I was riding this bus and I was reading in this newspaper about Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson. This was just when I had decided to turn professional, right after I won the Olympic gold medal in Rome. I was sure I could beat either one of them if I had the chance. But I was just as sure that I wouldn’t get the chance because nobody had ever heard of me. So I sat there thinking. How was I ever going to get a shot at the title? Well, it was right on that bus I decided. If I ever wanted to get noticed, I’d have to start talking it up. I’d have to do better than that. I’d have to start screaming and yelling and acting like some kind of a nut.

“You see, I figured if I did that, pretty soon people would get tired of hearing from me and they’d be insisting that I put my fists where my mouth was and fight who­ever the champ was. They’d watch me fight. And I would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. That saying has stuck with me to this day—float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

“I started off pretty slow because I had to sort of feel my way around, find out what the folks, the reporters especially, wanted to hear. I told this one reporter I was going to knock this boy down in the sixth round, and he printed it and then I did it. That’s the first time I said I am the greatest. I figured if I didn’t say it, nobody else was going to say it for me.

“First the people were saying, ‘What’s that bigmouth talking about?’ But I kept fighting and talking and pretty soon people were saying I was the greatest. And I just said, ‘I told you so, didn’t I?’

“Now where do you think I’d be right now if I didn’t use all that shouting and hollering to get the public to notice me? Do you think I’d be sitting here in some $250,000 house in Cherry Hill? Hell, no. I’d be back down there in Louisville washing cars or running some elevator and saying ‘yes suh’ and ‘no suh’ and knowing my place. Instead of that, I’m the highest-paid athlete in the world and I’m the greatest fighter in the world. And that’s just the way I planned it.”

Like all things with Muhammad Ali, the former Cassius Clay, the explanation is a little oversimplified. But it’s very basically true. People around Philadelphia tend to take Ali for granted. Maybe it’s because he’s lived around here for the past five or six years, because he’s trained and done most of his talking around here. People just tend to see him as part of the local color. You lose perspective.   Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Savitch: ‘Please Don’t Send Me Panties!’

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on January 20, 2011 at 11:44 am


By Maury Z. Levy

Saturday is pink, which is only fitting. She is standing there in the middle of the newsroom, Jessica Savitch, somewhere in between Orien Reid and Al Meltzer, and she is flashing her panties.

Maybe this is not the most professional thing to do. Mort Crim doesn’t go around showing his jockey shorts in public. But then Jessica Savitch is still pretty young, 26, and pretty green—they fix that up with makeup.

The panties are a gift from an admirer in Allentown. There are a lot of them, admirers. There is even a whole Jessica Savitch fan club, people who do nothing but live for weekends at 6:00 and 11:00 on Channel 3 to watch her anchor the local news, people who sit there all week through four newscasts a day hoping to catch a glimpse of her reporting on a fire.

It has become a cult, almost. Jessica Savitch, in about a year and a half here, has probably gained the biggest following of any local female television person since Pixanne left. She did leave, didn’t she? Or maybe she’s doing Gene London’s show.

Anyway, she is holding up the panties, the different-colored ones that came in the plain brown wrapper, she is holding them up, all seven pair of 
them, and reading off the days of the week embroidered on them, which she already knew by heart. Don’t let that blonde hair fool you.

There is a card, a big one, that came with the gift. The guy from Allentown paid two and a half bucks for it. It’s your basic Hallmark foldout, but he’s written his own messages on it in pencil: “How would you like to spend a weekend at a ski resort with me? I love you much. I am very interested in marrying you.”

The panties were nothing new. They send her gifts all the time, these people. One Christmas, some guy sent her five $100 bills and didn’t bother to sign the card. “I’ve enjoyed you all year,” he wrote, “and I just wanted to thank you. Please buy something nice 
for yourself.” Jessica Savitch gave the money to charity.

She says she doesn’t understand a lot of this, how she has become the sex symbol of the ’70s to a lot of people in Cherry Hill and Chestnut Hill and at least one guy from Allentown. She appreciates it and she resents it. Jessica Savitch, who has a very pretty face, is not just another pretty face. In 
fact, she’d even give you an argument on the pretty part.

“I’m a very flawed person,” she says. “I’ve got this lisp. People in television are not supposed to have a lisp. I have a very square jaw and my 
skin breaks out terribly and my hair 
just never lies flat and my front tooth 
is chipped.” She forgot to mention that her legs are skinny, which is why she never wears dresses.

But somehow the way it all falls together is enough to knock you over.

She didn’t always look this good.
She used to purposely tone down her 
act, because if she came on too much like the blonde bombshell, people would only talk. They’d say she got 
her job by flicking her eyelashes or dating the program director. The raps are nothing new. She’s got a lot of things going against anybody recognizing the real talents she has—the brains, the imagination, the drive, the on-camera presence in a medium that has been dominated by men.

“I had no one to emulate,” she 
says. “Who did I have to try to be 
like? Walter Cronkite? John Facenda? Read the rest of this entry »

Lynne Abraham is the Best Man We’ve Got!

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 16, 2009 at 1:39 am

Philly DA

SHE WAS VERY DEFINITELY DEAD. There was a bullet in her back. It had been there for two weeks. Today she died. Two cops brought her in from the hospital. They had been trying to keep her alive since they found her shot in a speakeasy with a Saturday Night Special. They carried her in on a stretcher and dumped her down on a tray. A man with a Polaroid camera hurried around to take pictures. They would go in the official morgue file, probably under a number because no one knew her name.

She was a dark black woman who looked like she was in her 40s. She was built big. When she was alive, she had very large breasts. Now that the life fluids were out of them, they were just large sacks drooping down both sides of her chest. The assistant medical examiner, trying to get a look at a scar on her side, pushed the right breast up and over back onto the chest, packing it firm with his hands so it would stay in place, the same way the guy behind the delicatessen counter makes a cold roast beef sandwich.

He rolled her over on her side and saw the hole in her back. “There’s our bullet,” he said, sticking his finger in the hole to try to get it out. “Son of a bitch won’t move.”

Lynne Abraham stepped closer. “Let me try it,” she said. She took off her lumber jacket and tossed it on the table. She tucked her Temple University T-shirt into her straight-legged jeans and went to work. Between the two of them, they got the bullet out. Lynne Abraham stepped back to get a paper towel. Some of the blood that now covered her index finger had dripped down on her white sneakers with the pointy toes.

It was a beautiful Sunday outside the morgue. The sun was strong and it was getting downright balmy. It was a nice day for a bike ride in the park. But the executive director of the Redevelopment Authority preferred spending her Sunday living with the dead. It was just force of habit. It wasn’t so long ago that she spent a good deal of time down here, as a top assistant district attorney in the homicide division. She would come down and watch autopsies. And since she had some background in forensic medicine, she might even help in some of them. Sometimes she found out more than the medical examiner. She always found out more than the cops.

She’d go from the morgue to the crime scene and dig up her own witnesses, collect her own evidence and prepare a closed case. It was her style, and she just can’t shake it.

A couple of hours ago, she was reading over proposals for the redevelopment of Washington Square West. Now she is walking in the refrigerator, a giant cold storage cabinet for unburied dead people on aluminum tables. She walks down the aisle and rolls them out like cheese trays, examining the wounds, figuring out the angle of entry of the bullet. She doesn’t want to get stale on this stuff. She is, after all, a political appointee. And she knows very well that one day she could be shipped right back to the DA’s office quicker than you could say Frank Rizzo.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Baby Peddlers

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm


[Author’s note: This story led to major Congressional hearings in DC, led by Sen. Walter Mondale. The hearings resulted in new legislation. The story also won some awards.]

SHE ALWAYS THOUGHT it was a figure of speech. She’d hoped that one bearing her name wouldn’t have to lose its life. They were such lovable little things, so round and soft and white. But deep in the dawning of a cold Monday morning, the rabbit died. Crazy rabbit.

It created certain problems because Carrie and Jimmy weren’t married, even though they had told all of their relatives and most of their friends that they were, just to avoid the hassles. But when Jimmy found out about the baby, he didn’t exactly run out of the apartment to buy a box of cigars. He just ran out.

Carrie was 20 years old, a very thin girl with very small bones and very blue eyes and a head of blonde hair that was long and straight and fine. She didn’t tell the doctor at the clinic about her drug problem, even when he asked her about the scar across her right wrist. She didn’t want him to know that she’d been committed twice. She didn’t want them taking this baby away from her.

The thought of abortion had crossed her mind. It had certainly lodged in Jimmy’s. Carrie had always been pro-abortion too. In theory, for somebody else maybe. But this was her baby growing inside and she was going to have it and she was going to keep it and she was going to mother it. And then the lawyer called.

Rob and Sharon Josephson (not their real names) were in their late 20s. They’d been married six years. Rob had gone to Drexel and was working now for Westinghouse. Sharon had gone to Penn and then transferred out to Temple when the money got tight. She taught third grade now not far from where they lived in a small single home in Pine Valley.

They’d been trying to have a baby for over four years now. They’d spent a lot of time in their bedroom and a lot of time in doctors’ offices finding out why the stuff in the bedroom wasn’t working. And when it became clear that they couldn’t have a baby born to them, they decided to adopt one.

They started by calling some local adoption agencies. They were told that there were no healthy white infants available, and that even if one came up, they’d be down very far on a list of people who’d been waiting for months and years.

They tried half a dozen other agencies and got pretty much the same answer. They were getting very frustrated at the whole process. And then, late one night, this lawyer called.

THE LAWYER TOLD CARRIE that he’d gotten her name from “a friend of mine.” He thought maybe he could help her, since he understood she wasn’t going to abort the baby. “We’ve got some very fine parents who’d really love to have a baby like yours,” he told her. “They’d give it a very good home.”

Carrie told him she wanted to keep the baby. “Look,” he told her, “I know more about you than you think. I know you’re not   Read the rest of this entry »

Waiting for the Crash

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm

If the men who bring the planes in
at Philadelphia International
say it’s unsafe,
maybe we should listen.


[Author’s note: The city of Philadelphia didn’t want me to do this story. I had to go undercover as an air traffic controller trainee to get access. The story cost the city many millions of dollars in new systems. And it won some awards. And, oh yes, it made the airport safe.]

LUCKY FOR US the sky is big. A few Saturdays ago, at that airport they call Philadelphia International, the radar went out. Not just the radar for one plane, the radar for the whole airport. Of course, those things happen at other airports. That’s why most major terminals —and Philadelphia is considered a very major terminal—have backup radar systems to kick on in an emergency like this. But a few Saturdays ago, at Philadelphia International, the emergency system didn’t kick on. It was dead.

Up in the sky, for a period of almost 15 minutes, there were 15 major aircraft, by official count, with maybe around a hundred people on each one, with maybe a couple of million people underneath them. The pilots of these planes have their instructions for situations like this. They are to keep their eyes open. And their fingers crossed.

There was that day, if you work it out with the complicated mathematics of vectors, the possibility of a number of different mid-air collisions. The people who keep track of these things, the people who watch the radar scopes at Philadelphia International, the people who are responsible for bringing these planes down and getting them back up again, are called air traffic controllers. And the air traffic controllers at Philadelphia International are not too happy a crew right now.

One of them, one of the guys who was in the radar room when the radar went out, had given up cigarettes over a year ago. He is now smoking two packs a day. We spoke to him and we managed to speak to a couple dozen of his co-workers—from fresh trainees to guys who’ve been there close to 20 years. They were all disgruntled, not just over the day the radar went out, but over conditions in general. The descriptions in this story of what goes on at Philadelphia International, of what the public never sees or knows about, are theirs. They agreed to let us put them on tape. And we agreed to keep most of their names out of this story. These guys are afraid for more than just the safety of the airport. They are afraid for their jobs.

“WHEN THE RADAR WENT OUT,” one of them says, “I’d just spotted two planes on converging courses at the same altitude. I couldn’t get in touch with those planes. I called the Wilmington airport and asked them to try to do it, but they were busy. And all the time I could picture that last vision of the scope, with 100 people on each airplane. And I could see the two planes coming together, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.”

Luckily, and it was pure luck, the two planes just missed each other because, as the air controllers say, the sky is big.

“All we had,” another controller says, “were two radios on battery power. Only one frequency was usable. There are 20 or Read the rest of this entry »

The Lucky Ones: Vietnam’s Saddest Casualties

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm


THE BOY HUONG doesn’t have a mouth where his mouth is supposed to be. It is a hole, a very wide one where lips have been shaped from scar tissue to run all the way across his face. Twenty-one operations in two years have done that. Yet it’s only the beginning. The boy Huong is taking it all pretty well. He lives in Southamp­ton in Bucks County now, which is a long way from Vietnam where he lost his mouth.

He was just 16, American age. In Vietnam, where things work in different ways, it would have been the 17th anniversary of his birth. In Vietnam, though, where things work in different ways, it might also have been the second anniversary of his death.

In the 23rd year of our lightning campaign in Vietnam, the boy Huong lost both his parents. They weren’t soldiers and they weren’t Viet Cong, they were farmers and they were dead. There are no reports on how they died. The body count sheets just list numbers.

The orphanage was in Danang. The boy Huong took it well. Being without parents is not a novel thing in Vietnam. He made friends at the orphanage, but he was still a shy 14-year-old, known to go off by himself. One morning when the sun was shining he got up early and went for a walk alone. He kicked at the dust in the fields that used to be fertile. He picked up a small object and shook off the dust. It felt hard as he squeezed it in his bony fingers. It was a strange toy because it didn’t seem to do anything. He wanted to make it work, so he put it be­tween his teeth and bit down very hard.

The explosion blew away his teeth and his lips and destroyed half of his chin and part of his tongue. There is a lesson for all you parents in this. Don’t let your kids pick up blasting caps left behind by careless soldiers.

The boy Huong has new parents now, Lydia and Leon Carlin of Southampton. They give him love and a good home and food and clothing. But Bui Ngoc Huong, his full name. still likes some touches of home.

“One morning,” Lydia Carlin remembers, “Huong came for breakfast wearing a very used pair of dungarees, one of the half dozen things he had brought from Vietnam. ‘These,’ he explained in a language neither Vietnamese nor English, but wholly human, ‘are the pants I was wearing the day I was hurt.’ Then, with pantomime and a few words of English, he showed how he picked up the percussion cap and attempted to unscrew it with his teeth. Then the explosion, then his agonized contortions on the ground, and then the blood.”

FOUR YEARS AGO, Lydia Carlin was listening to a late night radio talk show. The man being interviewed was Dr. Herbert Needleman, a Philadelphia psychiatrist with the strange idea that a small group of American profes­sionals could help save the children of Vietnam. What Lydia Carlin couldn’t see on the radio were the pictures that Herb Needleman brought with him, pictures taken in Vietnam of the war’s children, their faces melted away by napalm and white phosphorous, their bodies busted by bombs.   Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Schmidt: The Phillies Find a Slugger

In Sport magazine on September 12, 2009 at 7:37 pm


“What this game needs,” the black Philadelphia Phillie was telling the white Philadelphia Phillie, “is some white superstars. And it needs them fast. And that’s just what you could be, kid.”

The white Phillie grinned and stood up in front of his locker. He pushed back his long reddish hair, matted down his mustache and flexed his freckled muscles. “You hear that, America?” he shouted. “Mike Schmidt is the great white hope!”

Then Mike Schmidt, who is white, and Dave Cash, who is black, both laughed.

If anyone had suggested a year ago that Mike Schmidt could be the next white superstar, or the great white anything, the whole baseball world would have laughed. Mike Schmidt had just finished his first full season as a Phillie, and if he had accomplished anything, it was that he had perfectly concealed any superstar potential he might possess. He had batted .196 in 132 games, which is dreadful, and he had struck out 136 times in 367 at‑bats, which is worse.

But in 1974, at the age of 24, Mike Schmidt found a batting groove, and the Phillies found a slugger. Schmidt led the major leagues in home runs with 36, fin­ished second in the National League in runs batted in with 116, and batted .282.

“I was hoping to hit .250, drive in 80 runs, play decent third base and maybe help the club a little,” says Schmidt. “I never thought all this would happen so fast.”

So much happened so fast that as late as the beginning of September, when the Phillies’ “Yes We Can” motto melted into a lie, Schmidt was a legitimate contender for Most Valuable Player in the National League.

“I don’t want to black-cat the kid,” says Danny Ozark, the manager of the Phillies, “but if Schmitty continues to progress the way he has, he’ll be the highest-paid player in this game some day. The front office won’t be able to find enough money to pay him.”   Read the rest of this entry »

Jack McKinney and the Revolting Irish

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 11, 2009 at 8:03 pm

phillymag-web[Author’s note: My first job in media, when I was still in college, was as producer of Jack McKinney’s top-rated talk show on WCAU radio. We played a lot of Clancy Brothers’ songs.]

BELFAST, BRITISH OCCUPIED NORTHERN IRELAND—Mist over the hills missed over the city, which is the color of oatmeal now. Cold, though. Eats your bones, makes you sick. No heat, just coal. The lesson of two evils. A child is dying of black lung. An old woman has already gone. Sean is in the basement mixing up some medicine. Johnny’s on the pavement thinking about the government.

Eamonn McCann, who is the real Bernadette Devlin, is watching Jimmy the Dummy on the telly. The Royal College of Physicians has just come out with a report that says cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. Cigarettes. They are telling the viewers who are out every night in the streets getting pieces of their bodies blown off by petrol bombs that cigarette smoking could give them can­cer in the long run.

On the tube Jimmy the Dummy sits on the ventriloquist’s knee smoking and choking, the dumb little twirp. Eamonn McCann is rolling on the bed under the posters of Martin Luther King, Nikolai Lenin and Karl Marx, none of whom have cracked a smile. Jack McKinney (enter the hero) is sitting by the phone gagging on a guzzle of whiskey.

Jimmy the Dummy is the BBC’s way of reaching the young. He is worked by an older man who never moves his mouth, only his eyebrows. There is no way they can crop the guy’s eye­brows out of the picture so they move in and hold on a tight shot of the dummy. “Stop now before it’s too late,” the dummy tells the young people.

EAMONN MCCANN is 27. A lot of people consider him the most articulate po­litical voice in all of Ireland. He is head of the Derry Labor Party. But most of the time he is prince consort to Queen Bernadette. He is a burning bush of hair, the wiseman from the North. So here is the best Christ symbol Ireland’s got sitting on the iron bed in Jack McKinney’s flat watching Jimmy the Dummy and waiting for the devil.

This was to be a summit of sorts among three of the major forces in the Irish revolution: Devlin, McCann and McKinney. Queen Bernadette, as is her custom, was late.

“I guess I’d better call and see that she hasn’t gotten her bloody little head blown off,” McCann says. He rings her up at her home in Cookstown, County Tyrone. “She’s what? Taken a taxi? It’s almost 60 miles from there to Belfast. Oh well.” He hangs up. “She’s gone and done it now, Jack. Somebody’s going to find out about this. Miss Devlin, M.P., symbol of the struggling masses, is taking a 60-mile taxi ride.”   Read the rest of this entry »

And On the Seventh Day, When the Lord Rested, Man Made The Northeast

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 10, 2009 at 8:21 pm

By Maury Z. Levy

ALL THAT I REMEMBER about entering heaven is that it was raining like hell. They let me ride up in the truck with the moving men. It was like those great cowboy movies I used to see all the time at the Jackson theater, which we lived next to, three stories up on top of the drugstore where we shared an apartment with a family of rats.

Now we were the pioneers. The moving truck was our stagecoach, sloshing through the streets that weren’t paved yet into the wilderness of the new frontier of Northeast Philadelphia, a place where the homesteads were so big that you didn’t have to go to a park to see grass, you had it all around you, over nine thousand bucks worth of grass and bricks and status. That was a big deal back in 1949. For my parents, it was almost their life’s savings for the down payment after almost 20 years of stuffing dollar bills in the cookie jar. Now they were capitalists, blowing their whole wad. They followed the moving van up to the promised land in a Yellow Cab.

“This will be good for the grass,” my father said, looking out through the thunder and rain like a new farmer surveying his first crop. My mother, who had never seen rain like this in South Philadelphia, was a little more sus­picious that this was a warning, the wrath of God telling us to stay off His turf.

The pavements weren’t laid yet, so my father, knee deep in the big muddy, had to carry me on his shoulders all the way up to the door. I never saw him move so fast.

The rains left us in a sea of madness for days. My mother was sure that our whole block was going to float down Robbins Avenue into the Delaware. When the sun finally came out, it took almost a week to dry things up. There was a new development just starting up across the Boulevard, my mother said. Maybe God had taken the rain there.

It was at the end of this week of innocence and light that my mother called to me from downstairs to go look out the front bedroom window to see what the workmen were doing. I just could not understand what I was seeing, these two men with what looked like a big roll of carpet starting at the corner and laying this two-foot-wide strip of green next to the curb all the way down the block.

“What are they doing?” I asked.

“They’re putting in the grass,” my mother said. “It’s already planted on the roll. All they have to do is lay it in place. It’s something new. I think they call it pre­fabricated.”

It was the first time it hit me, fool that I was, thinking grass was something that grew in the ground. There, in the yellow haze of a land I did not understand, I saw two men in work clothes putting Mother Nature on the run, rolling out the green carpet up to the plastic gates of a mass-produced heaven. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized this was what Northeast Philadelphia was all about.

BUT THEN THINGS HAVE CHANGED a lot in 21 years. The grass is growing by itself now, and the roses bloom every year, and that twig we planted in the backyard way back when has grown into a monster of a spreading apple tree. A couple weeks ago, a gang of punks from around the corner jumped the fence and nearly bared the tree of its fruit. My father went out to yell at them and they pelted him with apples. The ones that missed him splattered all over the garage.   Read the rest of this entry »

We Interrupt This Issue To Bring You An Eyewitness News Bulletin

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 10, 2009 at 12:59 pm


THIS LATE FLASH HAS JUST BEEN HANDED TO US: On February 17th, during a prime ratings week, Mort Crim left the country. It was announced that Crim was on “medical leave of absence.” Station officials said he was sick. Inside sources said he was sick, all right—sick of station officials.

We now join our story, already in progress.

3:28 PM SOON IT WILL BE DARK, and at night, when all the tungsten stars are strung out in the firmament of Tinsel Town, and the lights of the 40-watt successes beam red across the Delaware to all the ships at sea, then it will be cold and soon it will be dark and then morning will follow by a probability of 50 percent, depending on the isobars in Iowa.

It is Thursday, the 23rd of January, 1974, a day not unlike all other days, a day that will be filled with turning points and colored ketchup. And here on Independence Mall East, at what used to be known as 5th and Market, in a brown brick building decorated with long black chains, there is a meeting in the Eyewitness Newsroom, the newsroom of the news team that has been rated number one in Philadelphia for a whole three months in a row now. The notice for the meeting is written in pencil on the back of a sheet of white paper Scotch-taped to the door.

It is a small room, the newsroom, much too small and instantly obsolete for a building so new. It was supposed to be bigger. But then the city planners came along and looked at the plans and said no, no, the lobby for this pri­ son has to be much bigger to fit in all the ladies in the pillbox hats who’ve come to see Mike Douglas. There had to be a cut made somewhere. And so, to make the lobby larger, they cut the newsroom in half.

There is the news director’s office, which is mostly glass, and there are five rows of desktops, separated by five partitions into ten cubicles with 20 chairs. There are small, semi-private offices in back of them, small enough that three people can’t stand in them at once and not face the danger of a sexual encounter. They have no doors, just these tacky blue and white plastic accordion closures they got on sale at Two Guys. Jessica Savitch and Marciarose and Al Meltzer live here.

In a room off to the side, a room with a real door, is the shared office of Vince Leonard and Mort Crim. It used to be the film editing room. Before that it was headquarters for the staff of the Marciarose Show, which no longer exists.

Most of the field reporters are in from their assignments by now. They’ve all stopped by to talk to Don Shoultz, a man with a green shirt and a polyester tie who produces the 5:30 news, and then to Jim Boyer, a man with a white shirt and a silk tie, who produces the 6 o’clock. Both of them are working on their rundown sheets, trying to figure out all the news that fits. The newsroom is alive with a calm panic now. Faceless voices are yelling out of a squawk box that connects to the editing room upstairs. The art department needs some description for the chroma-key slides.

“Anybody ever been to the Oxford Valley Mall?” Carl Ward, who produces the 11 o’clock news, yells. “What kind of place is it? We’ve got a murder there.” An intern says that she has shopped there once and that it is a pretty decent place. The art treatment will reflect that research.

“Who’s handling the mall murder?” a voice from editing asks.

“It’s me,” Robin Mackintosh says, “Captain Suburbs. That and five other stories.” He sits down at his typewriter and starts talking to himself.

Jessica Savitch has just blown in from an interview with Alice Cooper for a rock and roll series she’s doing. Before she sits down to write her half of Newswatch 5:30, she stands in front of Marciarose’s mirror and brushes her hair and touches up her makeup. “I don’t understand it,” she says, frowning at the blonde in the mirror. “All this work and that’s still not Faye Dunaway in there.”   Read the rest of this entry »

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