What's All This Then?
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
SO LONG PAUL
I’ve been too busy to pen any commentaries for a while, so there’s a backlog of subject matter in my head and I’ll need to get some of it out soon or you may be reading about the strange case of a spontaneous cranial explosion in a Chicago suburb. Not here of course. Although there are some bloggers who write as though their heads have already exploded, it’s actually not possible to have a cohesive thought if it should really happen.
But enough frivolity. Although I’m not ready to resume commenting on a regular basis, I had to make time to acknowledge the passing of Paul Harvey. My first reaction when I heard he had died was one of disbelief - first because I knew he had a couple of years left on his current ten year contract with ABC - and second because I always thought of Harvey as a permanent fixture - someone who would live forever.
It’s hard to believe that it was fifty years ago when I first met Paul. I had just been hired by ABC and was starting my career working in the mail room - and Paul’s office, of all places, was just off of the mail room. I guess Paul must have been forty at that time and was already famous. Because of where his office was, I saw him just about every day and had a jolly old time jousting with him for the year or so that I spent in the mail room - and then later when I became a stage manager and director - some of it described in my July 7, 2003 comments about "What Paul Harvey Does." Those comments weren’t meant to deride - but they were sort of an "exposé" of the great news man the way I knew him - as more of a commercial spokesman extraordinaire.
I was mildly surprised when this aspect of Harvey’s career was almost totally absent from the outpouring of accolades from fellow broadcasters and media columnists. I read only one story of his death that mentioned his reading of commercials - but even then it was a passing mention. The emphasis in most of the stories was on his pauses and his mellifluous voice. But even though none of the stories said it outright - the hints were there of Paul’s true talent - that of a performer. A newsman doesn’t need to be an actor - though it helps if he has a pleasant delivery - and if he’s on television, a pleasant appearance.. But if you’re a performer as Paul was - you didn’t need to be a newsman in the true sense of the word - and as I pointed out in my 7/7/03 comments, Paul’s "news" programs were unlike any other newscasts.
Though I avoided listening to him after I left ABC - when I wanted to hear the news I listened or watched "regular" newscasts - he was always fun to watch and work with as long as you didn’t take him or his "news" seriously. But he was an icon and even though I haven’t seen or spoken to Paul in many years, I feel almost a sense of personal loss as he joins other icons with whom I worked or knew so many years ago and have shuffled off this mortal coil.
It’s getting kind of lonely being a survivor. So long Paul. It was fun knowing you.