Posts Tagged ‘Sam Champion’

Remembering The Woman That Inspired Me To Go Into Television News

While I credit my mother’s strengths, and weaknesses, to getting me to where I am today in life, she never saw me working at a commercial, network-affiliated television station.  She did see me on television as a weathercaster and music show host (“Music Visions”) on MSU TV-11, our campus television station in Murray, Kentucky, back in the 1980s.

APweather1985

She was always proud of my straight As in high school, for which I thank  my favorite science teacher, Roxanne Ferguson, and my favorite math teacher, Vasteene Rives.  They inspired to me to follow my dreams of being a scientist.

As a teenager, I confirmed that I wanted to be a television meteorologist.  For that, I have current “Good Morning America” weatherman Sam Champion, who was working at WPSD in Paducah, Kentucky, back then, along with WPSD meteorologist Paul Boucherau to thank.  Also, there’s former “Good Morning America” meteorologist John Coleman, who started the “The Weather Channel”.

However, the person that inspired me the most to get into the television news “rat race” was a woman who tragically died on this day back in 1983.

While some Americans first learned of Jessica Savitch on the radio in New Jersey and New York in the 1960s as the “honeybee”, while she attended Ithaca College in New York, her first television job was at KHOU in Houston, Texas in 1971.

She worked her way up from being a reporter to becoming the first woman news anchor in the South three months after starting there.  It didn’t take long for the big markets to seek her out.  In 1972, she was hired at KYW in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth largest television market in the country, for the weekend newscasts.  She then became that station’s main anchor.

From there, NBC News came calling in 1977 and offered her a position as the Washington correspondent.  Although it was tough on her because many thought she was given the position for her beauty, she fought to prove herself and become the weekend news anchor.

Savitch1983

On air, Jessica was magical.  The camera loved her.  America loved her.  And, I  loved her.  As much as I wanted to be a television weatherman, I remember as a teenager sitting on my bed reading the newspaper to the wall pretending it was a camera and wanting to be just like Jessica Savitch.

It’s often said that fame and success comes with a price.  And, that’s true.  For Jessica, the price she paid for success was rumored to be drugs.   I won’t say that it’s true or it wasn’t because I wasn’t there.

Nevertheless, her private life was a mess.  It started with her abusive boyfriend back in Houston, who was a reporter at a competing station and continued with her two failed marriages in 1980 and 1981.  Her second husband, Dr. Donald Payne, committed suicide in the basement of their Washington DC townhouse  with her husky, Chewy’s, leash knowing that Jessica would find him.

It had to be rough on all women, including Jessica, working their way up in the male chauvinistic world of television in the 1970s.  For women, it meant you had to work twice as hard as men to accomplish less and it also meant that you made enemies.  Enemies that would make  recorded tantrums public.

Being a television personality, I’ll defend Jessica here.  I have been burned several times by the production crew, directors, and producers with timing issues.  You are the person on the air that is cut off, rushed, or made to look bad.  You are the face that people at home see when things go wrong.

As the rumors swirled about Jessica’s possible drug use and erratic behavior, it all reached a climax with this NBC News Digest from 1983.

Jessica blamed it on a faulty teleprompter (the magic words of the scripts on the camera that an anchor reads), yet her publicist said it was adverse reaction to prescription medication and a glass of wine at dinner.  Nevertheless, it added fuel to the fire about Jessica.

Jessica began dating Martin Fischbein, the Vice President of the “New York Post”, and seemed happy.  On the evening of October 23, 1983, they drove to New Hope, Pennsylvania, to have dinner at Odette’s Restaurant.

When Jessica and Martin left the restaurant in heavy rain, she got in the backseat with Chewy.  In the inclement weather, Martin apparently missed the posted warning signs and the car dropped fifteen feet and sank in the mud to the bottom of the old Pennsylvania Canal’s Delaware Division, which is on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.

Canal

Jessica, Martin, and Chewy were trapped inside and they all died.

SavitchCar

The official cause of death was asphyxiation by drowning.  No drugs or alcohol played any part in the crash, according to the coroner’s report.

In the fall of 1983, I gave a speech about Jessica Savitch and her death in my “Introduction to Radio-Television” class at Murray State and I made a “B” for my presentation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jessica, I still think of you 29 years after your death and I thank you for inspiring me and so many young women that followed in your footsteps.  You set the standard for television news that is still being mimicked today.

Anthony

They Said What??? Ben Affleck, Elton John, Lady Gaga, & Sam Champion

“GOOD MORNING AMERICA” WEATHERMAN SAM CHAMPION

(discussing his upcoming wedding and the outpouring of support):  “I felt like we lived in a small town… I was born in Paducah, Kentucky, and to me that’s exactly what it felt like. We walked out on the street and everyone was like, ‘Hey, congratulations.’ Thank you for the tweets, and the Facebook and just coming up on the street and saying the most wonderful things.”

ACTOR/DIRECTOR BEN AFFLECK

(to Sam Champion):  “I want to congratulate Sam.  It’s to our shame that you can’t get married in every state in the union, but one day I hope you will be able to. It’s very exciting. I was very inspired…a moving, love story.”

ELTON JOHN

“I know a lot of people, and perhaps especially religious people, will say that David and I should count ourselves lucky for living in a country that allows civil partnerships, and call it quits there. Well, I don’t accept this. I don’t accept it because there is a world of difference between calling someone your ‘partner’ and calling them your ‘husband’. ‘Partner’ is a word that should be preserved for people you play tennis with, or work alongside in business. It doesn’t come close to describing the love that I have for David, and he for me. In contrast, ‘husband’ does. A ‘husband’ is somebody that you cherish forever, that you would give up everything for, that you love in sickness and in health. Until the law recognises David Furnish is my husband, and not merely my partner, the law won’t describe the man I know and adore.”

FORMER CEO OF WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT & REPUBLICAN CONNECTICUT SENATORIAL CANDIDATE LINDA McMAHON

“I have changed my position on DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act, which states marriage is between a man and a woman] because, with gay marriage now approved in the state of Connecticut, I don’t think it’s fair.”

REPUBLICAN MICHIGAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE TOM McMILLIN

“Well, I think that the thousands of people that have been in that lifestyle and come out would say that it was their choice when they were in and came out of the lifestyle.”

“ONE MILLION MOMS”

(protesting the as-yet-unproduced Jennifer Lopez lesbian-themed television show, “The Fosters”):  “Hollywood is continuing to push an agenda that homosexuality is acceptable when scripture states clearly it is a sin. As Christians, the Bible also says that we must speak up against sin. If we remain silent then we are guilty of sin also.

LADY GAGA

(tweeting after vomiting several times on stage in Barcelona, Spain):  “Was praying nobody saw but actually its quite a good laugh if u need one! Check out Lady PukeGA doing Swan ‘Vomit’ Lake.”

They Said What??? Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, Madonna, & Sam Champion

CIRCUIT DJ & MUSICIAN DEADMAU5

(looking for more attention after last spring telling Madonna “F*** off, you f***ing idiot”.  In March, at a large dance festival in Miami, when introducing hot DJ Avicci, Madonna asked the concertgoers, “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?”, which is slang for a club circuit drug):  “I should have been more relentless, but I thought I looked like I was after attention, and then it became an exercise in futility dealing with her fans. There’s no such thing as winning against 10 million idiots. You’re farting against thunder on that one.”

ACTRESS SALMA HAYEK

“Do I envy Madonna’s body? Yes. Do I thank God that she has it? Yes! If you’re fifty-something and you look like Madonna, and you put a lifetime’s work in the way you look, then flash it to the world!”
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE MITT ROMNEY

(to President and Mrs. Obama at the first presidential debate last week in Denver): “Congratulations to you on your anniversary.  I’m sure this is the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me!”

“GOOD MORNING AMERICA” WEATHER ANCHOR SAM CHAMPION

(after announcing his wedding to his boyfriend later this year):  “I’ve never been happier to share a bit of personal news!!”

VICE PRESIDENT WANNABE PAUL RYAN

(criticizing President Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriages as between a man and woman only):  “It’s not the president’s job to pick and choose which laws he likes. A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage and the rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act the proper defense in the courts that it deserves.

FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

(admitting that he officiated two weddings while governor):  “I don’t have to be for gay marriage. I’m for that she (Kennedy) gets the kind of wedding and the kind of ceremony that I had when I got married with Maria (Shriver).  I, personally, always said that marriage is between a man and a woman. But I would never enforce my will on people.  If they want to get married, let them get married.”

MADONNA

(to a Vancouver, British Columbia fan):  “I hope you can appreciate how hard we’re working up here.  You’re wearing a T-shirt that says Open Your Heart and you don’t know the words to the song? What the f—?”

Anthony