Friday, February 27, 2015

Cold In Florida

There are people who say there is no truth to climate change.

Let me take a page from their book and say I'm not a scientist but it sure has been a wild winter. And when my son said, "Is it spring yet?" it reminded me that oh yes, it's still winter.

Writing about this is not new but I'll tell you what is. I live in Orlando. It was 29 degrees the other day. 29. My brother, who lives in Baltimore, says welcome to the rest of the world. But I say, it's not supposed to be like that in Florida. It's why we live here.

It's fun watching winter ON TV.

Snow, ice, slipping sliding cars, crashing cars. Watching the evening news, in shorts and flip flops, in the place that calls itself 'The Sunshine State', is a great way to to sit around the camp fire. I mean the television.

What is also fun is watching what happens here to people when the thermometer dips below 50. Out come the winter coats, the scarves, the gloves. For a guy who moved here from New York, I'm always thinking to myself, "You don't know cold." You know it's winter in Florida when one guy has on a coat and long pants and another guy has on shorts and a tank top.

It's been brutal up north.

I have a dear friend in Boston and it seems like it's been snowing there all the time. And not a dusting but alot of snow. When it's not snowing, here comes an ice storm. My wife went to Columbus, Ohio for a weekend and the temps were in the single digits. Plus the term 'whiteout' was in play. She didn't know if she'd be able to fly home.

It seems like a blizzard across the Plains States or Michigan or Oklahoma is a common occurrence. I'm late with this but be honest had you ever heard the term Polar Vortex before? It's not supposed to be that cold there or up north, but you wouldn't be that surprised if it was. It's the severity of the cold that is surprising.

I grew up with snow, I grew up with mittens, with gloves, with winter clothes. We had sleds and prayed for snow days so they would cancel school. In Maryland, where I went to junior high, they would cancel school because of icy conditions, the sun would come out and melt the ice by nine in the morning. And we kids had a free day off. What could be better?

As an adult I lived in New York during The Blizzard of '96, when it seemed like it snowed a bazillion times. So much snow that they had to push it into the East river. Still the only time I've ever seen people cross country skiing down Fifth Avenue.

So I know winter. I know cold. Still, 29 in Florida. That might mean nothing to you but it means a big something to me. It's not supposed to get that cold here. I'm not saying there is climate change all I'm saying is...

I'm just saying.


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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mean Comments On The Internet

A friend of mine was upset, to put it mildly, over negative and down right mean comments that people had addressed towards her husband on the internet.

Let me set the scene.

Her husband is a great guy, a wonderful father and the kind of husband you wish for. He also happens to be a tv weatherman. What's wrong with that, you say?  I, myself, used to be a weatherman. Great job and research shows that, "What's it going to be like today?", is a major question for viewers.

So far, so good.

Apparently, what he forecast was not what transpired. Weather is very fickle and many times it changes it's mind. It happens. What was really disturbing were the comments left on his station's web site by people who lost their minds.

Mean comments. Mad comments. Bad comments. Saying things that could really hurt your feelings. How can people do that?

I'll tell you how.

First, what my mother and father taught me. Manners. My mother always used to say, "Be sweet." Let's be clear, she did not say to be a pushover or to not stick up for yourself. But nice seems to have gone bye bye. We seem to have veered into a different place and I think the internet takes some of the blame. We are in an age of swift pitchforks and torches. We are also in an age where people can leave vitriolic comments anonymously.

Think about that for a second.

People can post whatever they want knowing their doorbell is not going to be rung by an angry person demanding an explanation. Have you read comments on anything lately? People with handles like John3456 or Grasshopper5 say anything and everything. And many times what they say is awful. I know, I know, freedom of expression is one of the things that makes this country great.

But...

When you're not held accountable for what you say? You tend to say anything. When you are? Different ballgame. You think before you speak or in this case post. If people had to put their real name and address on their posts, things would clear up right fast. A lot of bullies are cowards and if the awful things a person says could be traced back to them...

I don't know if things will get better, if things will change. They should. Do you think they will?

And for my friend who was baffled by how rude strangers could be to her husband?

Ignore them and hang tough.






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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Denzel Washington

When Denzel won his second Oscar, for the movie Training Day, it was quite a night.

The air was electric. It's always electric for the nominees but especially so that night because Sidney Poitier was there to get an honorary Oscar from the Academy.

It would be his second.

He was the first black man to take Best Actor for Lilies of the Field in 1963. It paved the way for actors like Denzel Washington to follow in his footsteps. And you better believe that Denzel and every other black actor and actress had a special place in their hearts for Sidney.

That ceremony was still to come.

There I was talking to all kinds of people on the red carpet, and along comes Mr. Washington with his wife, the former Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of the television film Wilma.

She left to talk to someone you know and it was just me and Denzel. I'd talked to him a number of times so it was,"Hey, how ya doin'?" He said, "I'm nervous and I usually don't get nervous."

We're doing the interview when he sees that his wife is hugging and talking to Julia Roberts. She and Denzel met when they did Pelican Brief and have been great friends ever since. His eyebrows go up and down and he said conspiratorially, "Let's listen in."

When Julia saw him, she squealed, and threw her arms around him.

Oscar winners. Friends.

I met Denzel in Cannes, France.  He was there for Much Ado About Nothing, written by the bard, William Shakespeare. Swashbuckling doesn't even begin to describe Denzel in the film. He was handsome, he was dashing, he had star power. I found him to be intelligent with a quick mind. And very polite. Just nice.

I mention that meeting because I didn't see him afterwards for about six months. I was slated to to talk to him about Crimson Tide, a movie he made with Gene Hackman. As I walked into the hotel room in Los Angeles, he said,"Are we on a pier in France?" I couldn't believe he remembered.

Back to that night.

Halle Berry was the first African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar, for her work in Monsters Ball.

I saw her in the elevator at our hotel the day before the show. She was with her mom and I said,"After you win don't forget to come talk to me." "But, I'm not going to win!" She reluctantly agreed that if that did happen she would do just that.

Guess what? She won. Afterwards we talked. At the end of our chat I said,"On your headstone it will say "Oscar Winner Halle Berry."

She looked at me, we hugged, and then we both started to cry.

Denzel was the Best Actor. It was the first and still the only time that African Americans took home the top two acting prizes.

I talked to Denzel backstage. It was special and the Golden Guy was with him as well.

I asked him about Sidney and he said,"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be sitting here." I said, "What's next?"

He laughed and said he didn't know but, "I've got to get a new angle."

"New angle?"

"For years people have been saying sorry you didn't win for this, sorry you didn't win for that." Holding up the Oscar, Denzel said, "Now that I have this they won't say it anymore. I need a new angle."

And then he laughed.





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Friday, February 20, 2015

National Stroke Awareness Month

This is not a story about politics. This is a story about stroke.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month.

It's an important month for us. We talk about stroke all year but really focus on it then. You know who declared May that? The 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush. He signed Presidential Proclamation 5975, that declared May National Stroke Awareness Month, back in 1989.

I first interviewed him at the Cheeca Lodge at Islamorada in the Florida Keys. He was there to host his Bonefish Tournament, which had raised thousands of dollars for various charities. This was in the early 2000s, long before stroke was an important part of my life.  In person he was just a guy, a famous guy, a former president, but just a guy. At least that's how he wanted us to treat him.

I did the interview and left, all the while thinking,"I just talked to a president."

We talked four times over the years. Let me set up one of those times.

It was just after 9-11 and the country was in a different place than it is now. I was back at the Cheeca Lodge again, to talk about the fishing tournament but I had to ask him about current events. He had been president during Desert Storm but now his son was at the helm. I remember a question I wrote,"When you see the same names in the news, the same towns, the same countries, what are your thoughts?" That was how it was supposed to go. The night before, I went back and forth and then decided to change the question a little bit.

When we sat down for our national television interview, I decided to go with this--"When you see the same names in the news, the same towns, the same countries, do you have any regrets?"

I'd never, in person, seen a president get red in the face or angry. I saw both.

This is some of what he said..."Regrets? Was I supposed to go all the way to Baghdad? That would have broken up the coalition because, in their eyes, we would have gone a step too far. Plus, was I supposed to tell parents I was putting their kids in harms way? This is why I don't do interviews like this."

I always tell people to forget that the camera is there. We both did and had what is known as a 'spirited conversation.' When I returned to talking about fishing the air in the room noticeably calmed down.

Afterwards he shook my hand, hard, and asked, "Who's that blonde woman on ABC who does the news?" "Diane Sawyer?" "Diane Sawyer. She's been trying forever to get me to sit down with her. She's gonna have my #$% when she sees this interview."

All the way home I wallowed in a 'I sure messed up' funk.  The trip to Miami's airport, the plane ride home, the ride to my apartment in New York. Just inconsolable. That evening, my fax machine began to make noises and out came a hand written letter that changed my whole mood. In it, President Bush asked me for a copy of our interview for his Presidential Library, "pretty please." Apparently people he listened to had seen the interview and liked it. And that helped change his mind. I happily sent it to him.

Enough about that, on to stroke, and the importance he had for me in dealing with mine.

I had left the network and gone to Orlando to anchor for the CBS affiliate, WKMG. There, I had my stroke. After months of grueling rehabilitation my good friend Harry Smith, who also was the anchor for The Early Show, came down south to interview me. After it was over, his producer asked me if I could be on the set, in New York, when it ran. I was, and there were reunions and tears all around. After the show was over I left the studio, stepped out onto Fifth Avenue and my cell phone rang.

It was President George H.W. Bush.

He had seen the interview and told me how well he thought I was coming along. It meant so much to me to hear from him, especially then. It made me want to run to rehab.  He gave me that powerful thing I talk about, hope. We talked for awhile and then he was gone.

It was later I found out he was responsible for National Stroke Awareness Month. It was something that didn't register before because stroke hadn't even been on my radar. That knowledge warmed the heart of this survivor. There was a time that stroke was in the shadows. It affected many people who were never the same again or worse, died. We've come a long way since then but there is more to be done. Having this Proclamation was a great step forward.

This is not a story about politics. This is a story about stroke.





For more on Proclamation 5975-National Stroke Awareness Month go to http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=20508




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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Andy Cohen

I knew Andy Cohen first as Andrew Cohen.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he was my intern.

When I first met Andrew, he was twenty one, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Well kinda bushy tailed, he had a pony tail. More on that later. He's from St. Louis and had come to New York where I met him at CBS. Everyone liked him. I have to say that what you see today is what we saw back then. He truly hasn't changed. He's always been smart, he's always been dear, he's always been nice, he's always been classy, he's always been funny, I could go on...

As they used to say, "Let's go back to the days of yesteryear."

Those first years were a bit of a blur but I do remember going on lots of adventures with Andrew.

We went to Baltimore, when the show I was on and he worked for, broadcast from there. The show was CBS This Morning, our version of Good Morning America, our version of the Today show. We went to old Memorial Stadium, the place that brought us Johnny Unitas and the Colts plus Brooks, Frank, and Earl Weaver. Today the Orioles and Ravens play in different places but back in the day, that was the joint.

Look at the picture and you'll see a young Andrew. What you WON'T see is a pony tail.

More on that later.

We went everywhere. We went to London together. He had adventures ON the adventures. Ask him to tell you the 'coodly teddy bear' story.

We covered a number of Grammys. After being up all night for one, we were heading back to the hotel to crash. Andrew stopped in front of a mirror and saw himself in his tuxedo and jokingly said,"I look too good to just put this to bed."

I laughed out loud.


Let's talk about some of what's happened since then.

Andrew ended up a Senior Producer on our show. Left to go to Bravo. He's a big time executive there and a talk show host. Real Housewives. Watch What Happens Live. He's still the only host I know who can have a drink WHILE on television. I never could. Andrew is also a published author. He's written two best sellers.

And let's not forget he became Andy Cohen.

The pony tail story.

Andrew came to me one day and wanted my advice. People on our show told him that he should cut his pony tail off because no one would take him seriously, and give him the respect he deserved, if he had one. He told me he liked his and asked, did I think he should cut his hair? I said, "If you like it, keep it. Don't listen to them." I added, "Of course you'll never be promoted with one." His eyes just about fell out of his head.

It was gone soon there after.

One last story...

My wife is a HUGE Andy Cohen fan. He's on our television all the time. I casually told her I knew him and she was like riiight. When I proved it, I got major points in my own house. Major points.

It's been fun to watch the ascension of young Andrew Cohen. I'm proud of him and he deserves it all.

I just have to remember to call him Andy.







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Friday, February 13, 2015

Stroke Musings

A big part of healing is psychological.

Can I get an Amen?

Every survivor has a memory of the time before your stroke, and then stroke hits and life changes. You do the physical rehab but it's the mental part that I'm talking about.

Kathryn Hepburn said that getting old is not for sissies. Let me upgrade that a bit and say that dealing with a stroke is not for the faint of heart. You have to be tough and you have to push yourself. Feeling sorry is easy, fighting back is hard.

But fulfilling.

Having said that, let me tell you a story.

When I was going through rehab, my occupational therapist was skeptical of me driving. Driving is a sense of freedom and I wanted that freedom. It also meant that I was overcoming a post stroke hurdle, and that was very important to me. I went to my family doctor, whose wife had suffered a stroke, and told him the story. I remember this as if it were yesterday; he looked me in the eyes and said,"Can you drive?" I answered, "Yes." He asked again,"Do you think you can drive?" "Yes."

He cleared me.


You have to be hard headed when dealing with a stroke. Sometimes it can be tough and I'm not going to sugar coat that. Losing weight? Hard. Stopping smoking? Hard. Stopping drinking? Hard. Ask people who've accomplished any of the above and they'll tell you how tough it was. And some will tell you of trying to do it five times, ten times, a hundred times. But you have to keep trying, keep going forward.


I've said it before, don't give up. You can't give up. Instead of giving in you have to learn to accept this new life and make the most of it. Keep trying, keep going, is a good mantra.

A big part of healing is psychological.

A big part of being a stroke survivor is the mental part.

Lean into what is ahead of you and don't focus on what's behind.

That's the deal.






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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Whoopi Goldberg

Her given name is Caryn Johnson.

She is one of the few, and I do mean few, who have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy. It wears me out just saying that. That's a lot of hardware.

You know her as Whoopi. Whoopi Goldberg. And she is a treasure.

She won the Oscar for her portrayal of Oda Mae Brown, a psychic, in the movie Ghost. When you have Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in your movie, it's hard to get noticed much less win an Academy Award.

Whoopi did both.

I asked her,"What does winning an Oscar do to a person?"

"It just makes you feel good," she answered, with a little girl smile. "I like the idea that every morning I open my eyes and the second thing I see is my Oscar."

I never asked her what the FIRST thing was...

About that Oscar, Whoopi said, "He really does represent a goal for people who want to act. I'm part of a select few in the history of film who has one, so I'm very, very, proud."

I was invited to her house, one year, around Christmas time. Her house was on a lake. There were a bunch of kids there and we went outside to see Santa come across the water in a small boat. He had a full beard and a bag full of presents. Before I went outside to see him, I saw her Oscar inside. You know how you have one of those 'moments'? This was one of those. The famous statuette was on a coffee table; I thought it would be guarded by a two headed dog. It was just...there. I'd never held an Oscar before and there I was holding hers.

Very cool.

I did a show called Celebrity Dish. It was based around a celebrity either cooking for me or taking me to their favorite eatery. Whoopi took me to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle House in LA. You might think that's an odd combination-chicken and waffles. I did. But, boy, was it yummy. We were filming in the kitchen when she said, "Taste this." She handed me a piece of chicken and it was like Whoopi had given me a slice of heaven. I said, "That tastes great!"

I.did.not.need.to.know.that.

The View.

She's been darn near perfect for that show. I say that because Whoopi is smart, has an opinion on everything, and has a great heart. It's always in the right place. She fit right in without that show missing a beat.

Okay, let's run some credits...

Sister Act. There was a time she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood. THAT movie, and her in it, was the reason.

She hosted The Academy Awards. Three times. Whoopi was the first woman, ever, to host them. Ellen Degeneres followed her, but Whoopi was first. And very good.

Comic Relief. Billy Crystal, the late Robin Williams and Whoopi. Partners in laughs, to raise money for homelessness. It had a great slogan, "Where there's laughter, there's hope."

A recurring role on Star Trek:The Next Generation. Her voice in The Lion King where she played Shenzi, the head hyena. Ghosts of Mississippi where she played Myrlie Evers, wife of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

There are way too many things to mention and when I told her she does so many things, she said, "A girl's gotta pay the rent."

And then she smiled.

I told Whoopi that when she smiles? "The sun lights up right behind you and the world lights up with you."

There are 300 million plus people in this country and out of all those people have you ever met anyone like Whoopi? Have you met anyone even called Whoopi?


In basketball there are guys who can score. There are guys who can rebound. There are guys who can pass. There are guys who play great defense. But there are precious few who can do all of that.

Whoopi Goldberg does everything.

Well.



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Friday, February 6, 2015

The Benefits of Giving Blood


I gave blood recently.

My station here,WKMG, hosted a blood drive partnering with our local blood center called OneBlood. OneBlood provides blood to more than 200 hospital partners and their patients in 72 counties. Plus, here's something I didn't know. Giving blood is healthy for you. According to a study published by the American Medical Association, giving blood every six months led to fewer heart attacks and strokes in test participants ages 43 to 61.

That's a direct quote and there's more.

Another study, this one done in Finland, was cited in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It found that men who donated blood at least once a year had an 88% lower risk of heart attacks and are 33% less likely to suffer ANY TYPE of cardiovascular event.

Good stuff.

When you donate, they check your blood pressure, temperature, iron count and they'll even screen your cholesterol. Plus, donors will find out their blood type and most people don't know theirs. It's information you should have.

On to...

February is Black History Month.

You might ask yourself how is donating blood related to this month?

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disease that primarily effects African Americans.
Patients often receive blood transfusions to increase the number of normal red cells and help reduce pain and relieve anemia. This makes African Americans ideal donors to help sickle cell patients.

That's how.

Adding more donors from diverse backgrounds increases the likelihood that all patients will find the match they need.

Give blood. It's important.

When you donate blood, you help you, you help others.
And when it's over you get fruit juice and cookies.

And you can't beat that.


For more information on Oneblood go to oneblood.org




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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen has been playing stadiums for decades.

Think about that.

He also made New Jersey cool.

Think about that, too.

I discovered Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in college. His manager now, Jon Landau, was a music critic when he wrote these famous words: "I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." I read that and when Bruce came to town, I went to see him.

Guys in bands used to shake their money makers onstage for the girls in the audience.
Bruce danced because he liked the music. I had never seen that before. Bruce also had a spotlight over his microphone like a street light. It would get quiet and he would tell stories between songs, compelling, wonderful stories. I had never seen that before, either. He played three hours plus. That was different, too.

I came away blown away. A raving lunatic.

When I heard his new album was coming out, I would go to the record store everyday and ask, "Is it here yet?" "No, it's not."

Mr. Pain in the Rear End.

Born to Run finally came and it was more than worth the wait. That album was the beginning of the Bruce we know now. After that, I must have seen him 50 times in concert.

Another thing was Clarence Clemons, or as Bruce called him, "Big Man!"

He was the sax player in the E Street Band, was six five, wore a white suit,
and played that sax like he invented it.  But he was more than that to me. You see, Clarence was black. Bruce treated him like a co-star. Go look at the now famous cover of
Born to Run and you'll see what I mean. For a young black man who liked rock and roll, it was heaven to look onstage and see yourself looking back.

Yet another reason, in a long line of reasons, that I love me some Bruce Springsteen.

A story...

I was in a club in northern New Jersey to introduce Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers. It was right before Bruce's mega album, Born in the USA, was set to come out. Until that happened, Clarence had his own band going. The place was packed and I did the intro, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome..." and sat on an amp onstage to watch the show. During a lull between songs, the promoter said to me, "Don't leave." "What?" "DON'T LEAVE."

The band was doing an instrumental version of Bruce's song, "Fire." There was a drum break and then there he was. Bruce Springsteen. Cocking his head like, "Yeah, it's me." He snapped his guitar down and sang dramatically, "Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Delilah..."

The place went nuts.

Afterwards, back stage, I asked him about the new record. He demurred and politely said I would have to listen to it. Clutching for something, anything, I said, "How about the cover?" With a smile, he said,"You've got to see it to believe it!" I didn't know it was a picture of his butt!

Okay, there are a lot of stories about Bruce. This one's mine...

I talked to Bruce at the Grammys. He had won four of them all for the same song--"Streets of Philadelphia." That song would win him an Academy Award. I asked him what was going through his head that night. And he said, "Tonight I was thinking about the early days and how far we've come. I also thought about hope. And how we all need it."

Well said Mr. Springsteen.

I saw Bruce later at Sony Studios in New York. I was there rehearsing for a show I was doing and he was there with Patti, his wife. Springsteen fans know who she is. It was Patti, this time, in the recording booth. He looked like you would think he'd look. Jeans, boots, not the kind with pointy toes, and an overcoat. It was winter.

Not even dressed like the legend he was.

And is.







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