Saturday, January 07, 2012

Eyes Without a Face

Sure, they look relaxed, but at the first sight of their quarry these mild-mannered camera handlers will pounce, forming a tight knot of glass around whatever felon, suspect or superstar is deemed newsworthy that day. On this day, it was none other than that feathery worm John Edwards. Long before his lawyers  arrived at Greensboro's Federal Courthouse, a leathery collection of skeptics formed on the sidewalk outside. There were grievances aired and crude jokes told as the lenslingers leveled their weapons and eyed the horizon. Not far away, a gentleman with a real weapon on his hip sat hidden in a hut, watching the watchers and fondling the knob of his walkie-talkie. Cameras and foolishness aren't allowed in Federal Court and a sworn army of serious men make sure that remains enforced every single day. Wanna get water-boarded? Play Chinese Fire Drill outside a Federal Courthouse. You won't make it to the driver's side door before three beefy men in black tackle and shackle your goofy ass.  Okay, so that's a bit extreme but the fact of the matter is the older cats who prowl these halls of justice take their jobs very seriously and I wouldn't so much as pass gas inside there without asking permission.

Outside, there was still no sign of the Man with the Golden Haircut. John Edwards is no stranger to these streets. For months now the former Presidential candidate and his lawyers have fended off the beginning of his trial. He's facing six felony and misdemeanor counts for allegedly using campaign donations to hide his pregnant mistress, a (GULP!), videographer. (I know, it's sick.) Throughout the hearings, Edwards has shown his face, popping out of a low-slung roadster and sashaying down the runway, er sidewalk. Never one to shy away from his own reflection, he usually beams and occasionally preens as the cameras close in, smiling all the while as if he's walking into the Fellowship Building to go teach Sunday School. I myself have backpedaled before the man a half dozen times and I can assure you, his hair was perfect. This time, however, I wouldn't get a chance to ogle his tresses, for the man who once fancied himself a potential POTUS simply didn't show.

Scrum UndoneBut his lawyer did. I was long gone by then, but footage has been filed of Edwards attorney Jim Cooney exiting the building looking wary and embarrassed. Why wouldn't he be? TV cameras were coming right at him, held by swarthy pirate types - guys with nicknames like Skeeter, Rad and Chim-Chim.  Pirouetting off his every step, the clot of photogs dodged, bobbed and weaved around streetlights, stealing every glance they could of the nebbish attorney without braining themselves in the process. As walk-downs go, it was pretty long and I imagine it was fascinating from afar, like watching a noisy storm front move across the horizon. Back in the scrum, the man in the middle uttered nothing but chuckles as the cameras and questions kept coming. I myself laughed when Piedmont news vet Margaret Johnson chided his silence. "One or two words will do." At that, Cooney finally responded, if only to say that he couldn't respond. It wasn't much of a soundbite, but with everyone under deadline, they'd take what they can get. Besides, the Edwards affair is far from over and even if the millionaire philanderer buys his way out of a trial, he'll have to come through us to close the deal. 

Nothin' personal.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Logan's Scrum

Hardhat Hews
In the little seen Terminator prequel, Rutger Hauer stars as John Connor's father, Sal, a hapless NBC cameraman turned time-traveling cyborg killing machine. Lauded for its early use of steadicam technology, the film was equally ridiculed for its nonsensical top hat song and dance number. 2 out of 5 Stars.
Ya know, for a fairly forgotten photograph, this one still packs a punch. There are the headphones, of course. Why, I think I used those very cans to learn the multiplication table in summer school! They were messed-up then; I still can't remember seven times eight. And that hardhat! Wasn't carrying around that contraption humiliating enough? Now a guy's gotta worry about falling rivets? Besides, doesn't the radiation leaking out of that backpack eclipse all other safety concerns? Personally, I wouldn't crawl up under that bucket of bolts (called a "Creepie-Peepie" -- look it up!) without one of those bunny suits the bad guys in E.T. wore. Even then, I'll be sure to duck just before I hit the RECORD button - lest any ectoplasm shoot out of that top exhaust pipe, er, antennae... But you know what the most dangerous part of this get-up is? It's those eyes... Look at 'em... Alive yet... lifeless... lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes....... Hmm? Yeah, well you can gawk at the man all you want; I'm gonna show a predator some respect. Just don't let him point that thing at me. I don't need X-rays of my spleen smeared all over a future/past/present episode of the Huntley-Brinkley Report.

Who does?

Terms of Disservice

High Cotton

"On Special Assignment", it almost sounds sexy when the hair-do's say it. But never before have two words teamed up to reveal so little. In fact, it's only slightly less deceptive than "We have crews on the way.", which incidentally means "We just found about this from our competitor are now scrambling every employee we can get to answer the phone."... But you knew that. "On Assignment", however is excessively nebulous. In fact, it's worse than that, it's (GULP!) producer-speak. You know, pruh-doo-ser speek: those arrhythmic sentences some pasty cube-dweller feeds into the Anchortron 5000 every afternoon around four. Here, I'll give you an example. Say the houselights rise on your local news studio, but there's a certain silhouette missing. Up pops some bubble headed bleach blonde with just a hint of glee in her delivery:   
"Good Evening, I'm Dawn Juwannadoomee, Glenn DimpleChin is "on special assignment." 
Uh-Huh. First of all, could you be less specific? Only if you said " on the planet". As it is, good ole Glenn could be just about anywhere doing just about anything.  So how about some truthiness?

"Good Evening, I'm Dawn Juwannadoomee, Glenn DimpleChin is pacing around a cotton field while he screams at his West Coast based agent on a station-owned cell phone." 


"Good Evening, I'm Dawn Juwannadoomee, Glenn DimpleChin is still horking down free lobster meat at the Moose Lode while his photographer trades cigarettes for interviews at the Methadone Clinic."

Very nice!

"Good Evening, I'm Dawn Juwannadoomee, Glenn DimpleChin is... Well, to be honest folks, we don't know where Glenn is. He peeled put of here just after five p.m. talking about some dancer he met out at a club by the airport. Ya know, Glenn's been a large part of the Eleven Alert News Fleet for darn near thirty years now, man does what we damn well pleases. We're just glad he no longer demands a promo every time he brakes for a yellow light. Was a time he hijacked a live truck so we could broadcast a remote of him giving his Lhasa Apso a sponge bath... " 

Whoa, whoa, ease up. You're gonna break the Fourth Wall. Go with something more generic, like "On Special Assignment". Our research shows viewers love that stuff...

Monday, January 02, 2012

Hand to Zod

Dear Penthouse...Whereas I usually wait until April to make my New Year's Resolutions, I'm only spit-balling here when I cough up seven fresh promises I know I'll never keep...

I vow to slow my roll the very next time I'm running late for a press conference. After all, nothing of value is ever said over a podium, anyway and if it is, those camera-hungry jackals will happily repeat it when I arrive.

I resolve to stop answering "unicorn porn" whenever strangers ask me why I'm waiting outside a courthouse with a camera on my shoulder. Too many people are whipping out their smart phones and blocking my shot.

I pledge to learn my station's latest live truck innovation NOW, instead of waiting until I'm perched on some frozen overpass with producers counting backwards in one ear and a photog buddy questioning my manhood in the other.

I promise not to collapse into three day crying jags, launch into an off the cuff rock opera or even kick-start a one man bar fight the next time some innocent passerby happens to mention how exciting my job must be.

I vow to cut back on the profanity. Hey, just because I frequent drive-by shootings, butterfly farms and the occasional evidence locker doesn't mean I have to sound like some Seventies Has-been in a Tarantino flick. Dammit.

I resolve to stop driving around on fumes. I got a company car! So why do I look down once a week from the middle of nowhere only to discover I've been on 'Zero to Empty' for 16 miles. Eventually, I'm gonna have a coronary. Or worse yet, run out of gas.

I pledge to work on my Lenslinger's Zen, to go about my day knowing no matter how many ribbon-cuttings I gotta slice, no matter how many vapors I gotta chase, no matter how many hostile rent-a-cops I gotta dodge, this silly gig still beats a real job.  

Wish me luck on that last one.