Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hillary and Bill Clinton

I met them each once.

Meeting Hillary was quite an adventure.

Her husband was President then and she was still First Lady. One of our anchors, Harry Smith, had just had a baby and CBS got President Clinton to tape congratulations to the new mother and father.

They showed it on the air.

In it, the President said the line that froze me in my tracks.

"Now, Mark, it's your turn."

I thought,"Well, why don't you just put some pressure on me...."

By the time Hillary was on our show, my daughter had been born.  I was determined to tell the First Lady what had happened since the day the tape ran.

Just one thing.

Secret Service Agents.

It was something I had to get used to. Whenever the head of a country or an important dignitary was interviewed on our show, the studio and dressing rooms were overrun with security. If you saw people you didn't know in long rain coats or wearing sunglasses, that meant a big fish was here.

When my brother was a DJ at DC101 in Washington, someone came on our show with Secret Service guys. The conversation with them went like this...

Me-"You're from DC, right?" The guy says back, bored, "Yeah."

"Ever listen to DC101?" I ask. I get another, can't be bothered, "Yeah." "My brother, Kirk, is a DJ there."

Bigtime change."Your brother is the Kirkster?" "Yep."

Bigtime thaw.  "Hey, Bobb-ee, this is Kirk's brother!"

Life was entirely different after that.

Still tough.  Just not as tough.

So I eventually got through them to get to Mrs. Clinton who couldn't have been more gracious. I introduced myself, I told her about the tape and the birth of my Maya. She smiled and took it all in.

An hour later, after the show had ended, I asked her if we could take a picture together.

She said, "Sure," and then added, "Father of Maya!"

I was grinning long after the picture had been taken.

Very tickled. Very impressed.

Adventure number two.

Bill Clinton.
I met him right after he'd been reelected to a second term. I was now the co-host in the morning and along with my co-anchor, Jane Robelot, we went to one of those tuxedo/gown kind of things. We set up our cameras and waited.

And there he was.

Just like some people have said, he was like a rock star. You know how they say, "when a person was in the room, he was really in the room?"

That would be Bill Clinton.


I asked him, "What are your fears of a second term presidency?"

He said, "You worry that people might think that no matter how strong you feel on the issues, how you feel about running this wonderful country, that being president, you just don't burn as hot as you did.  Well, I'm here to let them know that that's not true. I'm here to let them know I'm just as committed as I ever was." He shook some hands, took a few pictures, and then left.

Met them both.


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Monday, September 21, 2015

James Taylor

I blame it all on my older sister Leslie.

She had opened my eyes and ears to Simon and Garfunkel earlier and then she did the same for James Taylor. It was the summer between my junior and senior years in high school and all of a sudden there he was on the radio.

"Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone...."

Leslie sings, and sings quite well.

She is a soprano and has sung in Moscow and with The Seattle Opera. She was even in Time magazine for singing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Phillip Glass music don'tcha know. But at that time she sang in a kinda loose knit group.
My sister Karen, my Mom, my sister Leslie

I was at a bonfire one night and they sang "Fire and Rain." I remember two things...how the girls looked at the guy, whose name is long forgotten, when he sang the lead. And how good the song was.

That was my introduction to James.

Mudslide Slim.

There are so many of his songs that are like old, dear friends of mine.

I've been singing "Sweet Baby James", for years. "In my Mind I'm Going to Carolina..." Love the intro to "Handy Man," "You've Got a Friend," "Shower the People You Love With Love," "Mexico."
I could go on and on...

I guess this is as good a time as any to ask that old chestnut--Does anyone sound like him? I'll go you one extra and ask does anyone's guitar playing sound like his?

The answers are no and no.

When I first met him I told James that "you and Mateus wine got me through my first foray into dating." He smiled and shyly thanked me.

It's true.

I asked him what do fans of his typically tell him? "People say many things," James said, "but a lot tell me how my music helped them through hard times. They hear a song and it takes them back to a great memory."
When I was a DJ at WNEW-FM in New York, maybe 1985...

Let's go back to one of  his biggest songs, "You've Got a Friend." Many folks think he wrote it.

He didn't.

Carole King wrote it.

He does it so well, you just assume he did.

When I was a young father I used to watch Sesame Street with my Maya. She must have been about three, we're watching, and who do I see?

James singing with a bunch of kids around him.

He sang,"This is a song about Jellyman Kelley. He loves jelly the most. Ah, but most of all, Jellyman Kelley loves jelly on toast." The kids sang the refrain and looked like they were having a grand old time.

It was so cool to be watching that show with my daughter and seeing James Taylor.

Jump way ahead to today and James has a new album out, Before This World. 

Still writing great songs.

One of my favorites is "Angels of Fenway."

It's about his beloved Red Sox. I like it and I'm a Yankees fan.

I'm a bigger fan of James.

One of my favorite lyrics of his comes from his song, "Secret O' Life." 

"The secret o' life is enjoying the passage of time." Those words speak to me more and more.

I wonder why.

James Taylor is part of the soundtrack of my life.

Thank you Leslie.







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Friday, September 18, 2015

CBS Entertainment Reporter

I remember my first music interview.

On one couch was Tommy James (Mony Mony, I Think We're Alone Now, Crystal Blue Persuasion).  On the other couch was me, along with anchors Kathleen Sullivan and Harry Smith.

It looked like Tommy James was Winston Churchill doing a press conference.

My Executive Producer put us all together.

Why?

CBS wasn't used to a weatherman doing something more than just pointing at maps. Truth was, before me, weathermen just did the weather.

Coming from my radio background, doing music interviews, doing interviews made sense. In morning radio we were talking to people every day. Contest winners, deli owners, celebrities, fans of teams our teams were playing in the playoffs, all kinds of things.

So doing them seemed fine to me. But first, I had to convince them.

It began by CBS making me Pop Music Editor.

That turned into the Music Editor.

Well, the music pieces went on for awhile and then something happened that changed things. Our Entertainment reporter wanted a raise and CBS didn't want to give it to him, so he left.

At that time the News Division president was a man named Eric Ober. Before I tell you about our conversation, let me tell you something about him.

Eric was a great guy and had a brand new baby. He told me this.

At a party at his house, he would excuse himself to go change the baby's diaper. In the other room he would have a diaper full of peanut butter. When he came back to the party, he would ask loudly, "I wonder if the baby is healthy?" And then, he would put his finger in the diaper and then put his finger in his mouth, pronouncing the baby fit as a fiddle.

He thought it would be funny.

I imagined people fainting.

That was Eric.

Anyway, I went to Eric's office, scared to death. I mentioned to him I thought I could do Entertainment and before I knew it I was in the hall outside his office.

With the job.

I had to learn about movies and movie history on my new beat but I like research. And the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Hollywood adventures began.

From small things mamma one day big things come...

And that's how I started doing Entertainment.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Mugs

If these cups could talk, oh what stories they would tell.

First up is from my very first days on television. Talk about bright lights big city. You could have put me in the 'just glad to be here' category. The Morning Program was the new morning show on CBS and it was done out of the Entertainment division as opposed to the News division.

Keep in mind we broadcast out of the Broadcast Center, the epicenter of CBS News. What did that mean to the people in the building we were in?

It meant they weren't very happy.

Just call me Oblivia, 'cause I knew nothing about that. I should have, but this was my first experience with lights, camera, action.

It was my first experience with makeup. It was my first experience at being recognized on the street by people I didn't know.

It was also my first experience with, "Is that Henry Kissinger?"

The name was a bit British, for me, though.

Which brings us to something that was British...

A morning show in London that had a bit of a twist. It was a punk, rebellious kind of morning show, the kind that your parents would never watch. But, folks who were 18 to 30 years old? They would watch.

One other thing, the ratings were huge.

Our show broadcast out of London and my job was to go explore The Big Breakfast, so off I went. Even though England was five hours ahead of us, I was there at 7 a.m., local time, to tape a segment.

It filmed out of a house, each room was a different set, and the whole crew was kind of scruffy. They looked at me like I was corporate (bad word) but they had agreed to have me on. Being the weatherman, I had made paper cutouts of suns and clouds with tape on the back of them in anticipation of sticking them on a map.

When I was being interviewed, live, the host asked me a few questions and then asked me about the weather. I said, "It'll be sunny in the east," and promptly slapped a sun on my forehead.

He laughed and said, "You can stay!"

And that's how the crazy weatherman got to be on The Big Breakfast.

There were strongholds for our show in various places, Burlington, Vermont was one of them. It was the first place I ever went where people had 'Welcome Mark' signs at the airport. I had never been there before. That was because our affiliate, WCAX, had the strongest signal north of Boston.

Outside of Burlington is Waterbury, home to Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. If there is better ice cream out there, I haven't found it and I know ice cream. I used to joke that I personally built a wing on their factory, I ate it that much.

They also have a good heart. Ben and Jerry's has a history of combining their ice cream and social consciousness.

As the saying goes, "I'm down with that."

So I do a remote there and meet this great guy, Sean Greenwood. He was in his early twenties, and at the end of our shoot, I say, "If you're ever in New York I'll give you a tour of CBS."

Turns out he was and I did.

He brought a cooler of Ben and Jerry's with him and proceeded to pass it out. There were big, happy smiles all over our news room.

There's more.

Sean is now the head of Public Relations for all of Ben and Jerry's, the Grand Poobah of Public Relations, as he's known.

He gave me that mug.

And Sean I've bet you've heard this before but...

Sweet gig.


To learn more about Ben and Jerry's go to
http://www.benjerry.com






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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sting

The first time I met Sting was at Madison Square Garden.

He was a solo act then, having left the Police. It was backstage, before a concert later that evening, and I was interviewing him for CBS. He was kind of quiet until I asked him this, "Why did the blues have to go to England to be played by bands like the Stones and Led Zeppelin before it came back across the water and America bought it?"

Long question.

He explained that acts like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf had struck chords in the hearts of the English. The blues had always struck that chord. And while he didn't really know "the whys", he was happy that they, the English, could help in turning a spotlight on such a deserving genre of music.

Eloquence, right there, and a friendship was formed.

You know the deal....Gordon Sumner was a school teacher called Sting because of his bumble bee jersey.  Played bass, was in a band called the Police and went on to sell millions of records and become famous as famous can be.

I remember when the Police first hit with a song called "Roxanne." "You don't have to turn on the red light..." I was a young music director on a radio station in Detroit and was having a time getting that song on my station.

My program director said, "It's about a prostitute!"

"But it's a great song!"

Well, you know how that turned out, and it began a string of hits. "Walking on the Moon," "Message in a Bottle,""Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Every Breath You Take," are just a few.

I bet most people have a favorite Police or Sting song.

I've been to his Central Park West apartment. Pretty cheeky, huh?

He had long been a solo act by then. It wasn't Sting's idea but his wife, Trudie Styler.
Trudie, who is a star herself, was producing a movie and the entire audience at the screening got to go to the after party. I was one of the lucky ones.

When I first got to New York, I thought every apartment was small. Boy, was I wrong. Some had staircases, some were as big or bigger than big houses. Sting's was grand and huge.

Two floors, baby.
Two big floors with two kitchens.

Very nice.

Sting and Trudie are very involved with the Rainforest Foundation. They hold a concert at Carnegie Hall and the core artists we saw were Sting, Elton John, and James Taylor. Oh but the guest stars! Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, Billy Joel, Madonna, Diana Ross, and more.

The concert helps fund projects for indigenous people of the world's rainforests. And it's a bang up good time, as well.

It's been said that there is no one quite like Sting. That he has his own niche, his own arena.

That, my friends, is true.







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Friday, September 4, 2015

Early Memories

I was born on September 16th, in San Antonio, Texas.  Bexar county. My father was Alfred, my mother was Dolores. My dad was in the Air Force and that's what brought us to Texas. He was to be stationed at Kelly Air Force Base.

It was 1954.

Kelly didn't have a hospital so I was born at Lackland. It was also a base in San Antonio and it had a hospital.

I was named after my father's best friend, my Uncle Mark. Mark Wright.

My mother had already given birth, twice, to my brother Billy and my sister Leslie. Leslie was born in Sacramento, we were there before coming to Texas. My mother was pregnant with me the entire drive between the two cities.

My dad told me he had to wear his uniform for that drive.

You see, we were black, or colored at the time, and it was  different. Different in that if you were a person of color you were looked at in a different way. Treated a different way.

And not always so nice.

But not if you were a Captain in the Air Force. So my dad wore his blues to help keep the riff raff at bay.

It didn't work all the time.

In one Southern town my dad couldn't find a hotel that took in black people. He stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant if he knew of one. He didn't but he noticed my dad's uniform and told him that he would leave the restroom door open that evening so they could wash up. They slept in the car that night.

My dad, my sister and brother.

And my pregnant mom.

Sounds far fetched but I'll bet you alot of black people can tell you a story like that.

I have few memories of when I was a toddler.

I remember being loved and being wanted. I also remember my father being transferred to Germany.

Off we went.

My memories there were a bit hazy as well, but some of my earliest recollections are seeing my father march in formation on a field in a stadium and of our German babysitter. We lived on base at the time in government housing. My baby sister, Karen, was born and my mother was the young wife of a young officer in The United States Air Force.

Not bad.

Then we came back to the States, back to San Antonio. And my life as I remember it began.


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