Saturday, March 28, 2015

Good News

Ever since my stroke, I worry. About everything. Something could happen to my kids. Something could happen to my wife. When I'm driving, something could go wrong, an accident maybe.

Just a worry wart.

I used to live in New York where worrying is what everyone does.  I now live in Orlando, actually a leafy, quiet, suburb of Orlando, but still I worry. "Is the front door locked? Should the kids play out front, without Dad? You know, there could be bad people out there!" My wife laughs at me and reminds me that those kinds of things are less likely here.

Yeah, but...

I return to my stroke and how that experience has me on alert 24/7, anyway. Because something did go wrong, I worry that something will go wrong. It's the old 'life can turn on a dime' thing.

I know, I know, decaf...

I wonder if it's the same for other stroke survivors. I  think of that terrible time and hope I never see it again.

Let's move on to good news.

There's something you should know about, something that was just released.  A Harvard Medical School Special Health Report. It's titled Stroke: Diagnosing, treating and recovering from a "brain attack."

My story leads it off.

How I went to Maryland to see my friends and family and how a massive stroke changed my life. How I almost died and the aftermath of that stroke. It brings you up to date on my return to television and my life today.

It goes on to tell people how to spot a stroke FAST and covers the phases of treatment. It talks about how to manage post-stroke pain. It goes over rehab and discusses virtual reality and biofeedback.

There's even a section that covers lifestyle changes to help prevent strokes.

Chapters cover: what is a stroke?, treating ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes, recovery, medical problems like atrial fibrillation and diabetes that increase stroke risk, and more.

The last chapter is about life after a stroke.

All this is information a person should have.

Why is it good news?

It's another brick in the wall to help us understand strokes and help do away with them. Wouldn't it be great if stroke was something that was? Past tense.

We live in a good time. Years ago, if you suffered a stroke, that was pretty much it. Now, there are stroke survivors who go on to have rich, fulfilling lives.

The old saying is that knowledge is power. It's a report like this that helps people with that.

And helps me to stop worrying.



To get a copy of this Harvard Medical School Special Health Report go to www.health.harvard.edu or call toll free 877-649-9457.





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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How I Came To Love Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart is a national treasure.

I know, I know, it's been said by many people before, in fact all kinds of good things have been said about him. But hear me out. I came late to The Daily Show. Actually, I went there kicking and screaming and there's a reason for that. I've spent a long time IN news and wasn't really interested in faux news. Also, the landscape of news anchors and reporters, the landscape of television for that matter, has changed from when I first started. It's now littered with shouting, not very bright people, who are determined to get their point across no matter how much sense it makes.

Kinda makes me sound jaded, don't it?

From a complex but wonderful relationship came a voice of reason. Like many married couples, both my wife Denise and I were married before. 
Denise's former mother-in-law, Dawn Ehrlich, still loves and treats her like she's still her daughter-in-law. And treats me like I'm her son. It's one of my most cherished relationships and I love her dearly. She's smart, has great taste, and is oh so loving to our kids.  Dawn kept saying that I should watch The Daily Show.

Okay, okay.

So I did.

And lo and behold it became 'must watch TV' for me.

There are two things, no three things, I like about Jon Stewart. First he's smart. I like smart. Watch him in the interview segment at the end of the show. With guests who are traditionally on Meet the Press or Face the Nation, he glides through complicated stuff, like it's nothing, and makes it easier for the audience to digest the information. He asks intelligent questions, and follows them up with even more intelligent questions. Great insight. Great conversation.

Second, he's funny. Never forget he's a comedian. I can't tell you how many times his facial expressions or his timing have made me laugh out loud. That same interview segment that brings us authors and politico types is chocked full of people like Kevin Hart, Will Farrell, Anne Hathaway, Colin Firth, Martin Short, the list goes on and on. And with them, he gives as good as he gets. Witty repartee.

Here's the third thing, Jon's heart is always in the right place. In the first two segments of The Daily Show, he calls out all kinds of things. Whoever is on his staff does a wonderful job in finding video clips that you just can't believe they find. And Jon does his part to help make this a better place. His assaults on Fox News have got to be seen to be believed. And don't think he hits just them, he's been pointing out the short comings of CNN for like, forever. His show on the commemoration of the march on Selma, and CNN's use of drones to film it, was too funny.

Spoiler Alert...

I interviewed Jon long before The Daily Show for his book, Naked Pictures of Famous People. It was on the set of CBS This Morning after the regular show was finished. That's called a post tape. 
We were waiting for Martha Stewart, a contributor, to finish her post tape. When it was done, she came over to tell Jon what a huge fan of his she was. He was very gracious and said thank you and when she left, he looked at me and I looked at him...and we broke out giggling like little school boys. What he knew, what I knew, and what Martha didn't know was there's a chapter in his book called Martha Stewart's Vag#$%. In it, she tells women how to 'furbish' theirs.

Remember, he's a comedian.

True story and I've been telling it for years.

Thank goodness for The Daily Show and thank goodness for Jon Stewart.

I said it once, I'll say it again, Jon Stewart is a national treasure.


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Early Days at CBS

I grew up with news.

My family's evenings weren't complete without the Evening News and our days started with the morning newspaper. Because I was in Maryland from the seventh grade on, that paper was the Washington Post. It's one of this country's great newspapers. I read about Watergate in that paper. Vietnam. First man on the moon. I read the sports writer Shirley Povich, Maury's dad. The Post has wonderful writing, wonderful reporting.

You had to be up on things to get in on the discussion at our dinner table. Both my mom and dad were smart. And sharp. Two entirely different things. Smart is knowing things, knowing information. Sharp is knowing how to get that stuff to work for you to make a point. They knew how to do that. They also knew how to listen which helped me later in interviews. How many times have you watched an interview on television and one of the answers isn't followed up by the interviewer? I learned you have to listen to what is being said because sometimes an answer to a question can make all the other things you were going to say moot.

My parents taught me the art of listening.

I didn't think I'd be in news. Actually I didn't think about the future at all. Too busy living life, playing sports, chasing girls. I thought maybe I'd be a comedian or an actor--both of those sounded like fun. I did do stand up comedy and I've always said I was so funny I ended up in news.

There were some people who knew exactly what they wanted to do as they were growing up.

I was not one of them.

So, I got into rock and roll radio which eventually led me to New York. That led me to CBS and to doing the weather. Your question might be how did I manage that? Here's the answer...I was 'let go' from my radio job and was interviewed in the Daily News after that happened. A guy named Bob Shanks was putting together a new morning show for CBS, saw the article and said,"I think I found my weatherman." One audition later, I got the job.

Before I knew it, I was walking the halls superstars of the news world walked. People like Walter Cronkite. Ed Bradley. Charles Kuralt. Mike Wallace. Dan Rather. Andy Rooney. Charles Osgood.

I was on The Morning Program as the weatherman.

Tell you a story...It was June 12th 1987. Ronald Reagan was at the Berlin Wall. You remember the speech where he famously said,"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Well, that speech hadn't happened yet due to a technical delay. There I was, on the air, with the anchor Rolland Smith, filling time. The reason I was there was because I had lived in Berlin as a kid. The Executive Producer thought it would be great to have me share a few insights of Berlin life. What he hadn't counted on was having to fill twelve minutes of airtime.

I told the country everything I knew about Berlin. From the currency, pfennigs and marks, to the cobblestone streets. From lederhosen to the fact my school was called the Deutsche-Amerikanische Schule which is German for the German-American School. My dad had us go to a different school than the one on base so we could have a different experience than the one you'd get at an American school. A distinctly German experience. There were State Department kids going there. There were Pan Am airline pilot's kids. There were German kids.

And there was me.

Different? Oh yeah. That adventure has stayed with me my whole life.

And then the glitch was fixed and we threw to a correspondent a million miles away at the Berlin Wall. Heady stuff for a kid from Crownsville, Maryland.

The show ended and I headed back to my teeny office. I got on the elevator and Andy Rooney got on with me. The Andy Rooney. He said, "You sure knew a lot about Berlin."

"I lived there for three years when I was younger. My brothers, Sean and Kirk, were born there."

He looked at me and said,"Well done."

I said, "Thank you," but truth was I almost died.

I thought to myself, "Stay calm...."

The elevator stopped at our floor. We got off and said goodbye. He went left and I went right.

A story from my early days at CBS.


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Friday, March 20, 2015

Let's Talk Music

Music is very important to me.

Truth is, when I was younger, music molded me, helped teach me how to feel, how to act towards someone else. I laughingly tell people I'm an old hippie. Remember them? Being kind to your fellow man, being nice, having manners, being understanding.

It was a different time.

Nowadays, there are huge artists but the music is about different things. There's a formula for songs and for artists. Turn on your radio and you'll hear lots of catchy songs. That sound a lot like other catchy songs. It's lots of get all the money you can, get known, and let's get drunk on the mini bar. It's not about helping somebody, giving a hand to someone who needs it. I'm all for having a good, make that great, time. It's just that there was music with a message, back then, as well as music to shake your booty to. Sometimes you got both things in the same package.

Also there used to not be any curse words in songs. If there were you had to take them out. Now? Let's just say there's a lot of those words playing on your car radio. Or being beeped out. Lots.

Bands and solo artists sounded different then. Unique. You can't tell me people couldn't tell when Elton John was on.
Or the Beatles or Stevie Wonder or Led Zeppelin or Earth Wind and Fire or...

You'd be hard pressed these days to identify a lot of the artists or bands. It used to be that music was who you were. Don't get me wrong, there are still unique sounding, quality artists on the radio. That's one of the great things about music, now and again, you'll hear something so good, it can't be denied. Adele and Sam Smith are two that come to mind, and there are more. But a lot of what you hear today? It all sounds like it came from the same place.

Do I sound like your parents?

On to rap.

I like rap. I liked it from the beginning. There's lots of it on my iPod. Rap used to have niches; funny rap, inspirational rap, I'm trying to make it in a world I don't understand rap. I'll give you some history--in 1992, Arrested Development released a song called "Tennessee." The album that gave us that, "3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of..." sold 4 million copies.
Arrested Development won two Grammys in 1993 and were named Band of the Year by Rolling Stone.They were also the recipients of the NAACP Image Award.  Right around the same time, Gangsta Rap took hold and we went down a different path. We went from music that had a message of good, one of hope, to AKs, and rims, and feuds, and push, push in the bush. Imagine if that hadn't happened. Your radio would sure sound different. And the heroes of my kids, of a lot of kids, would for sure be different.

Enough of my ranting and raving.

Music affects everyone. Ask Bishop Tutu or Henry Kissinger or the Queen of England or Barack Obama, I bet they all have a song or two that's very special to them. Ask your mom or your dad. Ask your grandmother. I just wish the songs of today, the music of today, was more than what it is.

But that's just me.

What do you think?






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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Morning Television

A regular day as the weatherman on CBS would start like this.

The alarm would go off at four in the morning, that's early for anyone. The alarm would go off and I'd wake up and get out of bed.

I didn't drink coffee, so no help there. I didn't grow up drinking coffee in the morning although I knew people who did. Plenty of them. The real reason was that caffeine speeds you up, that's the intent. Coffee helps you to be alert and wide awake in the morning but it has a side effect for me. My timing is off. And if you try to be funny you always want your timing to be natural on the air. So coffee was out.

I took a shower and got dressed. Suit and tie was standard. I didn't eat in the morning, either. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in one of his early movies, "Stay Hungry." A full stomach would make me sluggish. I was better empty.

I would go outside where a car would be waiting. People have always asked, "Did a limo pick you up for work?"

Not exactly.

Here's how it went...it is early in the morning and the powers that be want you to make it to the studio in one piece. Wandering around at that time of day is not exactly the safest thing to do, so CBS would send a car to get you. A Lincoln Town Car.

While we're talking about early let me say this...four in the morning in real America is quiet. Deserted streets. Lights out in the houses. Very few cars on the road. Maybe a dog barking but that's about it.

In New York? The city is still jumping. Cabs full. People on the streets. The city that never sleeps? Never ever sleeps. Even that early.

I would get in the car and off I went.

There was surprisingly little conversation IN the car but it wasn't a fair fight really. The driver had been up for hours. Me? Minutes. I was still groggy and a bit quiet. I did notice that it's easy to get crosstown at that time of day. Traffic in New York should always be this light. And just like that, I was at the studio and the real day began.

The crew I worked with were veterans of getting up early. I would say my 'Good Mornings' and bloodshot eyes would say the same back. Our conversation was virtually the same every day. It revolved around sleep. Or the lack of it. "I got a nap yesterday." "You got a nap?" "I was up past nine." "Past nine? What are you, crazy?" " I gotta get off this shift."

Every day.

The first thing I did in my office was to call my meteorologist to get the skinny on the day's weather. Although I was the weatherman, he would come in at midnight, look at all the models and computers, and present his findings to me. The weather information, he would put together. The rest of it, the presentation on air, the ad libs, the personality, I took care of that.

Eventually I wandered down to Hair and Makeup, traditionally the coolest people on the set. They had tattoos, spiked hair, piercings, they were just... cool.There's a place for all kinds of people on a morning news show. Not all of the places are in front of the camera.

Because I didn't need much hair attention it was mainly makeup, though I did learn what anti-shine was. If you have hair like a Kennedy, you have no idea what it is. I knew. If I didn't use it, you'd see studio lights glaring off the top of my head. Not good.

Welcome to anti-shine.

When that process was done, it was time to go to the set.

Cameras...lights...the whole Magilla.

You schmoozed with the anchors; Harry Smith, Kathleen Sullivan, Bryant Gumbel and Paula Zahn were a few of mine, but you didn't schmooze too much. They were busy prepping, going over their interviews and talking on camera to affiliates about highlights of that day's show. For me, it was mainly talking to the stage hands and camera guys.

The clock was always very important because we  were live, not taped.

"Five minutes."

Lots of yawns.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and we're on.

Showtime.








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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jeopardy

I was on Jeopardy twice.

I won.

Twice.

I interviewed Bob Barker (The Price is Right), Pat Sajak(Wheel of Fortune) and Alex Trebek for a series on CBS I did on Game Show Hosts. It was that last interview that set me up to appear on Jeopardy. They had a thing called Celebrity Jeopardy and when Alex found out how big a fan I was of the show, he said he would personally see that I was on it. Now, some purists might say 'Celebrity' makes it an easier game.

Didn't care.

I was going to be on Jeopardy.

Before I knew it, I was in their Green Room going over the dos and dont's of the game. Wait until Alex finished saying the answer before you rang in with your question because if you were early ringing in, you were blocked out.  Don't get discouraged if you fall behind. Stuff like that.

I played against Robin Quivers, Howard Stern's sidekick. A little known fact--when I left Detroit radio to go to a Chicago radio station, I was replaced by a young DJ from Hartford, Connecticut. Howard Stern.

Actor and Saturday Night Live alum ("making copies"... the movie Deuce Bigalow) Rob Schneider rounded out our threesome.

And the game was on.

Alex called it, "The Annual Exercise in Humility."  At the end of the Jeopardy round, I had $4100, Robin had $2500, and Rob (who was very funny) had $800. We played for charities and mine was CSAAC. Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children in Rockville, Maryland. I have an autistic brother who lives there, Sean, and they do great work.

Double Jeopardy was next and when that smoke cleared it was me with $11,700, Robin, $6500 and Rob, $700. The Final Jeopardy category was Mountains. The answer was--Range of mountains where Danny Kaye, Alan King and Rip Van Winkle gained fame. I was the only who wrote down the correct question: What is the Catskills, and victory was mine.

Saweet.

It also vindicated Alex, since he'd gone out on a limb for me and I proved him right. Win and win. All during the flight home I kept laughing to myself, thinking, "Wait till they see this." I won on Jeopardy.

I found out after it ran that you can know your stuff and be erudite (look it up) but if you win on Jeopardy? People all over the country say, "You're smart!"

Right after it aired, Howard Stern had me on his radio show to play again. When we did, the winner was...Fred Norris. Fred is a member of his posse and pretty smart. Actually, I didn't really care. It's one thing to win at Jeopardy on the Howard Stern Show. It's another thing to win on national television.

I think the word you're looking for is Booyah...

The second Jeopardy win was tougher.

It was called The Jeopardy Celebrity Invitational and Alex said, "We have invited back three former champions. The highest scoring celebrities in the tournament in which they participated in." It included the late Jerry Orbach. You know him from Law and Order. You may also know him from the movie Dirty Dancing. Remember the line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner?" Jerry Orbach played Baby's father. Third guy? Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong who at that time was on a hit show, Nash Bridges. By the way, do not be deceived by the whole stoner mystique that surrounded Cheech and Chong--Cheech was very smart.

Gentlemen start your engines.

After the first round it was Cheech at $3700, Jerry Orbach had $1400, and me in last place with $1200. It didn't look so good for the Kid.

Double Jeopardy was different. I caught fire and my score caught fire, as well. At the end of that round it was Jerry with $3800, Cheech $5200, and me with $8800. I'd come a long way but we still had to play Final Jeopardy. The category was Words.

And then we went to a commercial.

When we came back, Alex revealed the clue. "Merrythought is an old chiefly British term for this part of the chicken." You know the music they play at the end of Final Jeopardy as they show the contestants writing the answer? That music seemed like it went on forever.

Jerry wrote down--What is wishbone? That's correct. He bet everything and doubled his score. Cheech wrote down--What is comb? Which, as we know, was wrong. Bet it all and lost it all. I wrote down wishbone, bet $3000, and finished on top.

Hallelujah! I had won again.

And that's the story of how I won twice on Jeopardy.


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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Joe DiMaggio

The singer Michael Bolton had a charity event every year.

He would combine tennis and softball before the big dinner.  One year tennis great Chris Evert was there. Another year he played doubles with Andre Agassi. Andre was a stitch. He would act like he couldn't play that well until someone fell for it and he would whizz a ball right by their head.

On the softball diamond, Michael would play third base. And since he and I had become friends, I played the outfield on his team.

Huge crowds would watch the games.

The softball games and the tennis matches were played during the day with the charity dinner at night and it was at one of those events I met Joe DiMaggio.

Joe DiMaggio.

The Yankee Clipper. One of the greatest Yankees ever. Let's count them off. As far as legends go, there was the Babe, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Joltin' Joe. Some people would throw Yogi Berra in with the legends, and I wouldn't argue with you, but the Mount Rushmore guys are the four I mentioned.

In baseball history, Joe's name is said in hushed tones. Three time Most Valuable Player with a slew of sterling statistics. Joe played on nine winning World Series teams, had that 56 game hitting streak, and is a Hall of Famer. Plus, don't forget, married Marilyn Monroe.

Michael sat me next to him at a dinner the night before the BIG charity dinner.

It was 1995 and the Yankees were in the playoffs. They were playing the Seattle Mariners and it seemed the game was on every television in the restaurant. Everyone wanted to talk baseball with Joe but he would have none of it. People would come up to the table and Joe's one word responses sent them away empty handed. It was kinda fun to watch.

I learned something that night.

Joe ordered Parmesan cheese. Not the kind most people sprinkle on their spaghetti but the real stuff. Parmesan cheese that came in chunks. He would dip it in olive oil before eating it. Joe was old school and I found myself ordering and doing the same. Copying Joe. I learned something else that night. Don't talk baseball with Joe DiMaggio. But what to do? I said to him, "I love the ties you wore. The ones I would see you wearing in pictures from when you played with the Yankees. Where'd you buy them?"

He smiled.

"Oh, I didn't buy them," Joe said. "People would send them to me. I used to spread them out on the bed in the hotel room to help me decide which one I would wear that day." "Well, I would look for ties like that to wear," I said. He smiled again. We spent the whole night talking about ties. When the evening ended I had made a new friend.

Cut ahead a year or so and I was at a BAT dinner at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square. BAT stands for Baseball Assistance Team. Say, if a player (and not a star) dies, and his family is having trouble coming up with the money for a casket or if they have a big hospital bill to pay, BAT helps them out.

The place was crawling with Hall of Fame players.

I was the guest of one of my heroes, Hall of Fame pitcher, St. Louis Cardinal great Bob Gibson. How big a hero? One of my twins is Miles Gibson McEwen, for Bob. He doesn't drink beer or wine or hard liquor. But. Bob drinks champagne. So guess what we drank? And I'm getting looped. Around nine, before I got really toasted, I left. I had to get up at four in the morning.

I head out and was waiting at the elevator bank when one stopped and the doors opened. I was about to get in when I noticed there were four big bodyguards in it, and one of them said, "This car is taken." From behind them I hear a voice say, "No, he's alright."

Joe DiMaggio.

Before I could say anything, Joe added, "Nice tie."


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