Thursday, December 28, 2006
When you're a peon, there aren't too many ways in which you can completely screw up a show. Sure, you could put the wrong script in the teleprompter, or cue the wrong camera. These are irritating, stupid errors, and you will be shouted at and "written up" for them. (I loved how people took that "I'm writing you up" thing so seriously. It really brought out the surly teenager in me, and more than once I was tempted to wiggle my extended fingers in their faces and go "woooooooohhh!")
But the best way I know to really cause giggle-inducing gaffs is by selecting the wrong footage from the tape library. My three top favorite image-related mistakes (one of which did not happen at CNN, but at the place I'm at now) are as follows:
1.) The anchor was reading a serious, war-related item involving esteemed British General Michael Jackson...
Yes, you guessed it, above her right shoulder was a very flattering pic of everyone's favorite mono-gloved, Jesus Juice-supplying singing sensation Michael Jackson.
2.) The anchor was reading an item about an escaped convict, and the footage above his shoulder was that of a monkey swinging from tree to tree.
3.) The anchor was reading an item about singer and Rocky Horror phenom Meat Loaf undergoing heart surgery...
Yes, you guessed it, above her right shoulder was some very delicious footage of cafeteria meatloaf. When the P.A. who pulled the footage was called on it she just said, "I don't fucking know who Meat Loaf is. What, now I gotta research this shit too?"
It seems that this lass would do anything for love, but she wouldn't do that.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
I just wanted to wish all of you a sensational holiday, and leave you with this great picture of Fat Albert. No, he never worked for CNN. But I would like to think that if he did, he would have been on the techie side with me, and we would have goofed off together.
Anyway, I hope you all have a peaceful, loving Christmas. May the traditions of Christmas bring you joy, including all my pals who are MOT. To you fine folks I say: on December 25th, may the Chinese food be delicious and the movie superb!
Happiness to all of you, and remember that a dick in a box always makes for a thoughtful gift:
DICK IN A BOX
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A former CNNer who worked in the PR department related this story to me in response to the last posting, which referenced Lynne Russell's hair. Now, as many of you know, the PR department of any news organization often gets the calls that the front desk has no idea what to do with. Actually, both the PR department and the Assignment Desk are treated like garbage receptacals for kooky shit.
So, this friend of mine walked into her office one morning and played the message waiting for her. The voice on the message was low-pitched, slightly breathless, punctuated by weird orgasmic sounds and had a southern accent. The message went something like this:
"Uh...hi. CNN? I'm just calling in to say that I just love that Lynne Russell. I mean I just...uhhhhhm....ungh...I just love to watch her on my TV. I come home after a long day at work, open a beer and uuuuuhhhh...ungh..ungh...I watch Lynne. Her long hair, those lips...unngh....ooohh...ungh...oooh...mmmmmm...Lynne Russell..."
She came to the conclusion that this Lynne Russell fanatic was in fact rubbing one out while on the phone; using the CNN PR line as a 1-900 porn number. She saved the message for months, and listened to it anytime she needed a laugh.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I recently discovered another Read-Me print out from the vault. This one was written by a CNNI anchor who no longer works there. Rumor has it he quit, booked a flight to London, called into CNNI from the plane phone somewhere over the Atlantic and simply said:
"Hello, I'm just calling to say that I'm not coming into work...ever."
Whether or not this is true I can't say for sure.
However, he did write the following impassioned plea for greater security at CNN Center. Being that it is written in such a pompous, over-the-top way, coupled with the fact that he signed it with his full name followed by, "Anchor, CNN International" makes me wonder if he left himself logged in and someone wrote this under his name as a joke. Then again, he was a pretty pompous, over-the-top guy. I once heard him try to lure a VJ back to his apartment with promises of "Drambuie and good conversation".
So, you never know.
The funniest parts of this message are excerpted below. All punctuation and grammar are copied verbatim:
"I am putting this letter in READ-ME so that it goes 'on the record' and receives prompt attention.
Today's shootings at Capitol Hill has heightened my personal concern about safety at CNN Center. Clearly, we are a target for every nut with a grievance against society; but it seems to me that it would be extremely easy for a member of the public to penetrate security, gain access to the CNNI newsroom and injure or kill an employee.
The entry into the CNNI newsroom, next to the Wachovia Bank Branch, is the weakest link in the chain of security. Anyone could walk from the public car decks, carrying a sub-machine gun, straight into the building, wait until someone enters or leaves the newsroom walk in and open fire.
I am not a security professional, I have just a few obvious suggestions to minimise the risk.
1.) Put metal detectors at every entry to the CNN Center
2.) Establish another security port...permanently staffed by an armed guard.
3.) Prevent all members of the public from having access to staff work areas. This means: stopping those PAID-FOR tours, which allow hundreds of outsiders to walk into the CNNI newsroom, everyday, (inches away from my desk). Surely; would-be aggressors could use these tours to reconnoitre the interior and plan his/her attack!"
Wow. Typing that note is even funnier than reading it. I love the fact that he manages to infuse this short memo with:
sub-machine guns, fear of bored tourists being mere "inches" away from his desk, use of some high-brow, pompous French word for "casing the joint" and of course the aforementioned bored tourists "planning his/her attack!"
And here I thought these CNN tour people just wanted to get up close enough to sniff Lynne Russell's hair.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I have no doubt that comedians from sea to shining sea have gone ape shit over this news story, but I still have to comment:
FLATULENCE FORCES PLANE TO LAND (AP)
"An American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning after a passenger lit a match to disguise the scent of flatulence, authorities said."
This classy, etiquette-conscious woman, a regular Emily Post of the cheese cutting set, blamed it on a "medical" condition. Still, she was not allowed back on the plane after the emergency landing. It remains to be seen whether or not she will sue the airline for discrimination against a fart-challenged individual.
Obviously, lack of comfort during air travel has become a staple in our lives:
Getting groped by airport security, smelling other people's stinky, shoeless feet whilst going through the metal detector, boarding the plane like a herd of cattle, suffocating in crowded cabins that are chock-full of stained sweatsuit clad fatties, as you are trapped in your crummy seat by the toilet, hoping the flight attendants don't run out of the good snacks before they get to you.
So this woman, clearly a model of Miss Manners-style discretion, had the best of intentions, I guess. She recognized the situation was already bad enough without her low-pitch rumbler penetrating the stale air. But she could have saved everyone a lot of time if she understood something my mother pointed out to me, in her harsh Finnish accent, years ago:
"You know why I hate to fly on an aeroplane? Because people fart. A lot. And the fart, it has no place to go. You cannot open a window. So it just gets sucked into that ventilator system, and goes zooming around and around for the whole time you are sitting there. That's what aeroplane smell is: recycled fart."
Monday, December 04, 2006
The couple in this photo never worked at CNN.
They are featured here on PEON CONFIDENTIAL because they are making news:
Come December 22nd, they are encouraging as many willing volunteers as possible to participate in "Global Orgasm Day".
Indeed, it is the First Annual Solstice Synchronized Orgasm for Peace event. According to the website, a world-wide populace making "O" face at the same time will do nothing short of shift the earth's energy field:
"The goal is to add so much concentrated and high- energy positive input into the energy field of the Earth that it will reduce the current dangerous levels of aggresion and violence throughout the world."
Yes, they are from California.
Having been born on the West Coast myself, I was raised in a community of these types of people. People with good hearts, funky livingroom decor and unusual ideas. And often various herbs growing in the backyard.
And I have to say, now that I live on the East Coast, I miss them. I miss their sweetness and curiosity. I miss people who are convinced, no matter how old they are, that they can affect change for the better. I miss their goofiness and innocent, earnest outlook. More than anything, I miss their willingness to believe: in chakras, in astrology, in the innate goodness of humankind.
So here's to Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell of California.
Click on the website and check it out:
I would, however, reccomend turning off the sound. The cloying new age music will destroy any horniness and desire to participate in Global Orgasm Day that you might have.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
My CNN pal from the previous post wrote in to say:
"I forgot to mention that when I grumbled to Human Resources about how awful the starting salary at CNN was, they actually said:
'Yes, but we pay you in sunshine!'
It took all my strength not to say:
"Well, since photosynthesis isn't a fucking option for me, I don't see how that helps."
Note to CNN HR:
When you're sentencing a guy to a life of working overnights, coupon-clipping and discount underpants, it's best not to make jolly housewife quips about sunshine.
Monday, November 27, 2006
One of my CNN buddies related this little gem to me over gin and tonics the other night:
"When I was hired as a VJ, my starting salary was even worse than yours. $17.5 a year. I couldn't believe it. But they still expected "professional dress". This meant no jeans. The solution to this dilemma (given to every new male VJ) was quite simple. Joe Kinstle would say earnestly,
'You know, a nice pair of Dockers costs the same as a pair of jeans. They look professional and need no dry cleaning.'
I was disgusted. It was bad enough that my poverty-line salary forced me to eat chili from a can for dinner every night, but now I was mandated to look like a douchebag too.
At this point my friend shuddered and took a sip of his drink. He then stared off into the distance, presumably trying his best to shake off vile memories of the mid to late 90's corporate casual uniform:
Khaki Dockers and a chambray shirt.
This ensemble was occasionally spiffed up with a whimsical tie featuring Disney characters or Jerry Garcia's artistic renderings.
Or accessorized by a silver-tipped leather belt, designed with extra length so that it swung low, a type of belt I refered to as "the donger".
My friend and I were both silent for a while, grateful for fashion's changing tide. We found peace in the fact that our eyes are no longer accosted by this type of sartorial shitpile.
But then the realization hit:
We're safe for now...but who knows what recycled fashion goods tomorrow will bring?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I recently received a request from someone who had been reading the archives of this blog. They wondered if I had the rest of the READ-ME comments about the "perk or entitlement" argument that erupted over the free Friday cookies at the now defunct CNNFN.
Well of course I do.
It takes work to reach this level of dorkhood.
The argument began after this memo was posted in READ-ME. Keep in mind the caps and punctuation have been copied verbatim from the original memo:
"From this point forward snacks will be ordered on a bi-weekly basis. As the official 'snack orderer', it has come to my attention that most of the people on the 20th floor do not get a single cookie. This is due in large part to others hoarding the cookies by putting four or five of them on their plate or making repeated trips to the breakroom. I'm not your mother, nor will I police the distribution of cookies, but please try to be considerate of your fellow workers. In other words...SHARE! Cookies/snacks are a PERK not an entitlement! They can be cut back to once a month or PERMANENTLY stopped. Please keep this in mind.
Also, when you see me in the breakroom, please give me some space. I'm trying to separate the cookies and round up some for the 21st floor. I don't appreciate being pushed out of the way so you can get your snack. It only takes five minutes at the most. I'd appreciate a little patience. Thank you."
Now, here's a few of the best comments that were posted in response:
-I along with a number of my colleagues, resent the tone of the "Snack Policy" memo. We are adults and don't appreciate being talked to as children. The condescending tone is totally unnecessary.
-You're fired. And give back those cookies in your desk drawer.
-What did we do that was sooo bad that we lost our cookie privileges?
-First fees, then overtime, then the cars, now snacks. What's next? Chairs? Come to think of it, oxygen is kind of a "perk" too.
-I will so miss yelling out to my colleagues every Friday afternoon "Hey our entitlement is here!"
-No one, over the past four years has abused the snack privilege more than I have (okay, maybe Myron has.) No one has been more critical of the recent move toward dry, tasteless and no doubt cheap cookies. So maybe the time has come for us to take matters into our own hands.
-Let's storm the breakroom!
-NOMINATIONS FOR SPECIAL EVENTS BANNER FOR THIS LATEST CRISIS:
Snackwind: When the Cookies Crumbled One Time Too Many
-At least the snack memo was nicely written. Excellent punctuation!
My real mother had a similar snack policy, but then she began attending A/A meetings.
-"Shares of Time-Warner down sharply on rumors of a snack-inspired revolt at Turner Broadcasting..."
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
As many of you who know me are aware, my strange CNN schedule, coupled with Atlanta's reputation for being a conventioneer's paradise, turned me into a Strip Club Aficionado. After months of working 7pm-4 am shift, I finally managed to snag a 4pm to midnight shift. The night was mine! And strip clubs were the places I often wound up in the wee hours: The Gold Club, The Clermont Lounge, The Cheetah, Club Anytime and Swingin' Richards. What I liked most was that The Gold Club and Club Anytime also featured a Sunday Brunch Buffet. Perfect for Mother's Day! Trying to keep them as sanitary as possible, the buffets, laden with grits and greasy bacon, were wedged in a murky corner, far away from the poles.
Still, much like a stale bowl of potpourri in a Starbucks bathroom, they were asking a hell of a lot from those plastic sneeze guards.
The reason I bring this up is because tomorrow is the last day to take advantage of a wonderful charity operation, hosted by Scores Gentleman's Club here in New York. It's called "Cans for Cans". All the information you need can be found here:
So in the spirit of giving, head over to Scores.
You'll feel good about yourself, knowing you've fed the homeless and managed to get a boner at the same time.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I love how in this media-savvy age, when people know more and more about the nature of broadcast news, and reality TV blurs the line between acting and real life, some anchors continue to use the same stupid, phony expressions portrayed above.
Note that I have obscured my fellow VJ's mug with Sesame Street characters, as he is now doing quite well for himself at CNN, and may not want pics of him goofing off with me plastered for all the world (okay...for the four of you who read this blog) to see. Plus, I imagine association with the likes of my irreverent self is not good for one's career trajectory within the company. Well, that and I'm not gonna lie...I love Sesame Street.
So, the above anchor expressions can be described as:
This expression is generally reserved for stories involving war, nursing home abuse, interviewing brilliant scientists or economists whom the anchor doesn't actually understand and isn't actually listening to, homicides achieved through creative misuse of power tools, and despotic rulers of Third World countries. The look used when discussing missing children is the same, but with a touch more "compassion".
2.)WHAT A HILARIOUS PERSON MY CO-ANCHOR IS!
This expression is often employed during bump shots when the audio person brings the music up full and the camera pulls out, revealing the studio as the viewer is whisked away to commercial break. Obviously, it can only be used after lighter stories involving heroic cats and dogs, the tomato throwing festival in Spain, and Star Trek conventions. It is meant to convey comaraderie between the anchors, and show the viewers at home how much fun the news is:
"Hee hee! What a zany, good-time place CNN is! I've just pissed my pants from laughing at the nimble wit of my co-anchor."
Of course, when bumping out after serious stories, refer to the expression in the first picture. But do it as you look down at the desk and throw in a concerned, deliberate shuffling of unread scripts.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Today I'd like to let you all in on an amazing bit of trivia that I've known for years:
As an infant, I looked just like CNN 's financial guru Lou Dobbs.
If you don't believe me, check out the evidence for yourself. The resemblance is uncanny:
The same half-amused, half-peeved look.
The same round head.
We even combed our meager strands of hair in the same way.
He's my DOBBSELGANGER, if you will.
Monday, November 06, 2006
I was out with a CNNer the other night who shall remain nameless, and we were discussing the current state of CNN.
We came to this conclusion:
CNN needs another Ted Turner.
At his best, Ted truly understood how to work the media. Sure he often put his foot in his mouth. But he was "The Mouth from The South". That was his schtick. Even when he said inflammatory things, it usually worked for his whole image of slightly crazed but business-savvy media mogul. It even benefitted the image of CNN as some scrappy cable network. Plus the on-going battle between Ted and Rupert Murdoch was pure PR gold. Who doesn't love a good war between titans? Hell, we even love wars between d-list celebrities and bottle blonde heiresses.
But more than anything, Ted Turner was a character who loomed large on the world stage.
He was a true mogul in the larger-than-life, Richard Branson, Donald Trump mold.
I for one miss that.
Some people praise CNN's current quiet, unassuming, non-confrontational, non-spotlight seeking leadership.
Bring back a guy with a booming voice who grabs the world by the balls, swings it around a few times and then shoots a bison to roast over a spit and eat for dinner.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
In honor of Halloween, here's a list of some of the scariest things I ever witnessed or heard about within the spooky confines of CNN:
1.)The massive blob of ear wax on James Brown's earpiece after he removed it from his ear. Rather than clean off the toxic goo, the audio guy simply tossed it out.
2.) A particularly horrid green velvet jacket worn by a CNNI anchor who later tried to sue CNN for not renewing her contract. I say The Defense should have used that suit as Exhibit A.
3.) The weird stains covering the sofa in the breakroom.
4.) The horrific sounds coming from a Hard News Cafe employee in the bathroom stall next to me ("uuuhh...uh...oh...man...") as she was clearly taking a problematic dump.
5.) The bubbling Brunswick stew from the Hard News Cafe, which more than likely caused the problematic dump.
6.) The terror of trying to coil Valerie Voss The Weather Boss's camera cables in the proper figure 8 formation.
7.) The mouse I found upon opening a cupboard in the CNNI breakroom.
8.) The mouse's friends throughout CNN.
9.) The creepy bottom level of the parking decks.
10.) A disturbing entry in Read-Me in which some jackass raved about being "enchanted" by The Riverdance.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Today I read on the news wires that a Japanese woman named Momoko Ikuta has designed a pastel colored cell phone specifically for women that will:
A.) Alert you when you are most fertile
B.) Give you recipes
C.) Fake ring for you if you feel uncomfortable with someone and want to pretend to have just received a phone call.
People often ask why I do not have a cell phone, as at this point not owning a cell phone practically makes me Amish.
Well, this pastel Japanese atrocity is an extreme version of why I do not have a cell phone.
A.) It is such an intrusion. I do not want anyone having the ability to call my ass up at any hour. Especially if it's a call from my cell phone itself to nudge me into fucking my man because I am at my most fertile. Sometimes, I do not want to be reached. And when you have a cell phone, you always have to make up excuses as to why you did not call back. Enough already. Sometimes I don't want to talk. I've never claimed to be a particularly nice person, and I'm not about to start now.
B.) Recipes from my cell phone? This whole foodie/recipe culture is on my nerves. Sure I like to cook, but I'm sick of all these damn cooking shows and endless books, magazines and whatnot. And I hate that perky demon that is America's Sweetheart Rachael Ray. I'd like to smack her in the face with one of her fucking cookbooks. Or better yet, a bottle of EVOO.
C.) Fake rings so I can pretend I have a phone call? Nah. Refer to example A. If I don't want to talk to someone, I don't need any excuses. I'm no America's Sweetheart like Rachael Ray, so I've got nothing to live up to. If I don't want to talk, you'll hear it from me, not the ringing of my cell phone.
Today, I'd like to praise a bygone bigwig who was approachable, kind and really cared about the network on a personal level: Bob Furnad. He was the CNN president and looked a bit like Yosemite Sam, if Yosemite Sam sported glasses and corporate clothes...
Okay so maybe he didn't look that much like Yosemite Sam, but he did have a rather luxurious mustache, and that's enough for me.
When he ran the place, there was a much more mom n' pop vibe to it, and it seemed like he was open to ideas from everyone. Back when he was in charge, every new crop of VJ's sat in on an editorial meeting with all the prominant folks. This usually happened on one's second or third day of employment, before one was jaded. Consequently it was pretty exciting, even if VJ's were too shy to say anything.
At this meeting, I remember Bob raising the question,
"How can we reach the younger demographic? What steps should we take to attract their viewership?"
Despite the fact that there were several of us there in the younger demographic, some fat, satisfied, upper-management hemorrhoid says,
"Well, obviously we need to dumb it down a little. Maybe use some rock music or something."
I immediately thought:
What's really obvious is that this fat fuck knows nothing about our generation; which if it has any definition at all it's that we don't want to be defined. But since people love definitions, we've been labled as cynical. And I suppose we are, if that means being wise to fat fucks trying to market news or sneakers or movies to us in a dumbed down, blatant way.
However, as good as this all sounded in my head, I was too nervous to say it aloud. So I was grateful when Bob Furnad himself said,
"That's just lazy thinking. Try again."
Here's to you Bob Furnad, wherever you are.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
A LIST OF THINGS I ATE FOR DINNER WHILE ON A CNN VJ SALARY, AFTER HAVING BLOWN MY PEON BUDGET ON SHOES:
1.) One Dunkin' Donut cut into four parts to make it last longer
2.) White rice and corn ($2.00) with hot sauce on it from the Hard News Cafe
3.) One bag of BUGLES from the vending machine, divided in half to make it last longer
4.) Left-over saltines in the Feeds area
5.) An apple someone left behind in the breakroom, festively decorated with a magic marker-drawn face.
Yes, I wiped the face off first.
However, no matter how desperate I got, I never once ate one of those foul sandwiches or the cans of Vienna Sausages roating around in the machine pictured above.
I had my standards.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I've decided to mix this blog up a bit. In between CNN tales, I'm going to post personal Op Ed pieces on current events. I figure, it's all under the same umbrella of news anyway...
After hinging on exctinction for several months despite the intense efforts to save it from ruin, CBGB, famous for both its repulsive bathrooms and for being the birthplace of punk, is closed for good. Amidst all the tributes and celebrity benefit shows that have taken place, owner Hilly Kristal had entertained the notion of getting his gritty hole in the wall official landmark recognition or turning it into a punk museum. The latest plan is to open a CBGB in Las Vegas.
Why stop there?
Why doesn't Hallmark hire Richard Hell to pen prose for a new line of Baptism cards, or Metlife revamp a Dead Boys song as a jingle to endorse life insurance policies?
The way I see it, punk sneered at nostalgia, spat in the face of history, and often espoused a brand of nihilism so nasty that “No future” became a mantra. The songs were fast and fierce, and some of the best punk bands never achieved fame, occasionally self-destructing in a matter of months. Malcolm McLaren, punk’s P.T. Barnum insisted that the Sex Pistols were never supposed to last, claiming they were “cash from chaos.”
Punk desecrated idols and institutions, and didn’t even trust itself. As music journalist Greil Marcus pointed out in his excellent book “Lipstick Traces”, there is a distinct thread between the deconstructive Dada art movement and punk. Tristan Tzara’s slogan “True Dadas are against Dada” could easily be interchanged with punk.
So to turn this place into a museum, or worse, reopen in Las Vegas, the slick, overly rehearsed antithesis of punk, seems ridiculous. At its core, this music sought to negate nostalgia, negate sentimentality. It was supposed to be enjoyed in the sweaty moment, not awarded, remastered, or deluxe editioned.
But then, maybe the whole spirit of CBGB had vanished so much that it doesn’t really matter if it is sanitized or commodified even further. With the sales of CBGB's merchandise such as the ubiquitous t-shirts and a new book, Hilly Kristal has made cash from chaos too, and turned the name into a product, like Nokia or Depends. I was recently walking past the CBGB shop and noticed a thirteen year old with her parents, happily strutting out of there with her Gap bag in one hand and a CBGB t-shirt in the other.
So maybe my irritation at the thought of moving CBGB's memorabilia to Las Vegas just shows my own brand of sentimentality. Maybe a kitchy CBGB in Vegas is a weird brand of punk ethos in its absurdity.
But I can’t help but think the most fitting tribute would be to tear it apart, throw all the years of defunct band stickers, filthy, water-stained plaster, graffiti-festooned walls, chewing gum and vomit into a pile, light a match, invite the ghost of Joey Ramone and have one last great party. Then poof-it would all go up in smoke.
The place that spawned a genre that disdained musty history would cease to be a musty historical landmark.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Just a little memory for today:
During the construction of Atlanta's "casino-style" newsroom, the very one televised to this day, the writers, producers and assignment desk people were forced to work amongst the debris as the construction men built around them.
Deeply concerned about their safety, the CNN overlords gave them red CNN hard hats to wear as they clacked away on their computers, cranking out the news.
It was literally one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
Monday, October 09, 2006
This post has nothing to do wth CNN, peons, Ted Turner, mean cafeteria employees, shoestring budgets, masturbating techies, or bitchy anchors. But, this is my little cyber-spot so I set the rules.
Tonight marks the birth of a boozy, slightly lewd new brand of entertainment.
"Mama D's Arts Bordello" offers up an eclectic night of saucy storytellers, a sultry singer, a crazy film, a tribute to MC5 muse Bob "Righteous" Rudnick with live MC5 music on guitar and sexy Bolivian dancers with a sizzlin' band.
Come check it out tonight!
Jimmy's No. 42 on E. 7th St.(btw 2nd and 3rd avenues)NY, NY
2 drink minimum, but no one's enforcing a maximum
See you there!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
CNN Atlanta had a studio tour for hapless tourists that showed off the "exciting world of broadcast news."
While being peered at through glass windows by throngs of fanny-packed masses made many of us employees feel like animals in a zoo, we did not experience the worst of it.
No, the worst part of this tour was that at the end of it, these poor people were held hostage, forced to be part of the "Talk Back Live" audience.
"Talk Back Live" was a horrendously bad afternoon talk show that for many years was hosted by Susan Rook.
It was taped in the ugly Omni atrium, as the scent of Wendy's, Taco Bell and other assorted fast food crap wafted through the air. The show was was cheap looking and dull dull dull.
Anyway, one memorable moment occurred when Susan Rook was attempting to get somebody, ANYBODY to ask a question or make a comment. It's pretty embarrassing for a live show to have such lackluster audience participation. Things were getting dire. Finally, this ancient woman raised her hand, and Susan Rook rushed over to her, with the lightning speed of a gazelle sprinting past an SUV.
She rammed her microphone to this womans' lips and said,
"You had a comment?"
This woman leaned into the microphone, and with a heavy southern accent said,
"Can we go now? Our ride's waitin' on us."
If that wasn't bad enough, Susan didn't understand her, and asked the woman to repeat herself.
This time the comment was louder and clearer:
"CAN WE GO NOW? OUR RIDE'S WAITIN' ON US."
It was a no go, and this brave woman was forced to stick it out with the rest of the hostages.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
"Prompter Queen" the former VJ, related this story to me the other night over some beloved cheap Chardonnay:
"I used to be an expert TelePrompter. I could cut the scripts, place them on that conveyer belt with one hand, scroll with the other and keep my co-workers entertained with my spirited singing during commercial breaks. No one could top me.
Well, the time came for my interview for the giant leap into Feeds. I was nervous, but I answered Joe Kinstle and Julie Gooch's questions as clearly and calmly as possible.
But then they asked me:
'Why do you think you deserve to be promoted to Feeds?'
It struck me as such a weird question.
Why does anyone deserve to be promoted to some dark crevice where you push play and record?
So I said, 'Well, I've really mastered all the VJ skills.'
'What separates your skills from other people's skills?' Joe asked.
Trying to make light of this question, being that VJ skills seemed so menial, I cracked a smile and said,
'I sing while I TelePrompt.'
Without smiling, Julie asked 'What do you sing?'
So I broke into 'Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' on a prompter...bah-bah-bah-bah bah bah!'
They did not laugh.
And I did not get promoted."
Friday, September 22, 2006
While I suspect the late night talk show hosts have already picked this story down to the bone (so to speak) I feel compelled to tell you about this important news item I found while trolling the Reuters wires at work:
PENIS TRANSPLANT REVERSED AFTER TWO WEEKS
Surgeons in China who said they performed the first successful penis transplant had to remove the donated organ because of the severe psychological problems it caused to the recipient and his wife. Dr Weilie Hu and surgeons at Guangzhou General Hospital in China performed the complex 15-hour surgery on a 44-year old man whose penis had been damaged in a traumatic accident.
The microsurgery to attach the penis, which had been donated by the parents of a 22-year-old brain-dead man, was successful but Hu and his team removed it two weeks later.
"Because of a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife, the transplanted penis regretfully had to be cut off,' Hu said in a report published online by the peer reviewed journal European Urology, without elaborating.
"This is the first reported case of penile transplantation in a human," Hu added.
Both the man and his wife had requested the surgery. He had been unable to have intercourse or urinate properly since the accident that occurred 8 months before the surgery was performed. There had been no signs of the 10-centimetre (4-inch) organ being rejected by the recipient's body. But Hu said more cases and longer observation are needed to determine whether sexual sensation and function can be restored.
"The patient finally decided to give up the treatment because of the wife's psychological rejection, as well as the swollen shape of the transplanted penis" Hu added.
Okay. Wow. Where do I begin on this one? How about:
-I want the back story. This man's penis was damaged in a "traumatic accident". Did it involve rabid squirrels? Running with scissors? Roasting marshmallows on a camping trip? Seriously, a public service announcement is in order.
-This transplanted penis was donated by the parents of a 22-year-old brain dead man. The obvious joke is that this gives new meaning to having an "organ donor card". Also, who the hell are these parents? Isn't this over-stepping parental boundaries? What happens if by some miracle of science, he wakes up from his brain dead state, only to find that he's a fucking Ken doll?
-A 4-inch penis? The reason this kid is brain dead is from beating his head against the wall over the tragedy of having a 4-inch penis.
-The wife "psychologically rejected" the penis. I also imagine she physically rejected it, otherwise he wouldn't have had it lopped off.
But how in the hell could anyone get excited about the prospect of going down on a four-inch penis from a 22-year-old brain dead man that had been surgically re-attached to your husband?
-Where is this penis now? Did they freeze it for other possible penis transplants in the future? Or did they just throw it in the trash with the McDonald's wrappers and moldy bok choy?
Clearly, a follow up story is needed on this one.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The other day I was cleaning out my closet, and came across one of those big boxes filled with mysterious shit, all jumbled together from various stages of your life: cards from ex-boyfriends, concert tickets, gag gifts from Spencers and the like. Toward the end of my search in the depths of this time capsule, I found a small white box. Written across the top in purple lettering were the words TACKY FINGER.
I was perplexed.
For some bizarre reason, I had stolen a box of Tacky Finger, the gloop we used to facilitate script ripping at CNN. This was back before laser jet printers, when the scripts had carbons between them, and were color coded. Directors and anchors would get miffed if they got the wrong color. I don't remember who got which colors. But back then, giving someone pink when they were used to yellow was a grave, punishable error.
The point is, I stole a box of Tacky Finger from my employer sometime in the late 1990's.
Then I traveled with it across the country.
From state to state, apartment to apartment.
And no, I haven't thrown it out yet.
Friday, September 15, 2006
I'm not really sure why, but there are certain commonalities between tech staff in newsrooms across the country. Before going any further, lest I piss off the lone tech person who might possibly be reading this blog, I am a tech person. So this post is kind of like how you can call your boyfriend or husband an asshole but no one else can.
I'm not talking about the obvious things:
-propensity for wearing ill-fitting, over-washed concert t-shirts and bad jeans
-pasty skin, vaguely green from too much time logged on a computer
-hairy palms from furious masturbating to the sexy femmes in their Anime collections
-peculiar nicknames like Bumpy, Planet, Stretch or "The Skipper"
No, what I'm talking about here is how just about every single tech person I've ever encountered can:
-recite entire scenes from any given Monty Python movie, and will laugh hysterically at any mention of "The Knights who say Ni!"
-recite the "X Files" and "Buffy The Vampire" episodes by date and title
-recite names of writers who worked on "The Simpsons" and where they went to school. (This is often followed up by a rubbing of the hands, Mr. Burns-style)
And while they all make fun of the on air talent, snickering at their cruel wit, they usually get tongue tied and giddy whenever one of these on air people even looks in their direction.
This, I suspect is due to the great divide between the technical and on-air staff: The techies usually think the on-air people are stupid and shallow, and the on-air people usually think the techies are troglodytes who push buttons. They will occasionally refer to the techies as "their colleagues" but they don't really mean it.
The techies often want to fuck the on-air types, but that desire is not a two-way street. It's more like the cul-de-sac mom's house is on, where too much time is spent in the basement, masturbating to the sexy femmes of an Anime collection.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Atlanta is a rather large city with a variety of drinking establishments, right?
So why is it that every single time I went out, no matter where I went out, I ran into CNN co-workers?
I know that "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..."
But sometimes you just want to NOT see the same mother fuckers you work with everyday.
I tried achieve this dream by going to many different kinds of bars. I tried odious 70's theme bars like Car Wash, stupid sports bars like Bats and Balls and those ubiquitous martini bars like Leopard Lounge. And actually, at that bar I was so drunk once that when one rotund co-worker came in, I squeezed his breasts. I don't think he cared for it much.
Obviously, there was one bar that you stayed away from if you were incapable of facing hordes of CNNers. The Highland Tap. This is a cavernous, Flintstone looking bar that would actually be very cool. Except it was constantly infested with CNNers. Yes, it was a rare day indeed at CNN when you did not hear the refrain of "Let's meet at The Tap." This was always met with a chorus of "Oh I LOVE that place!"
People would get all excited about this prospect, like it was some new kind of thrilling adventure; practically falling out of their ergonomically correct furniture about the mere possibility of swilling down a lite beer after work in some windowless place with the same dull co-workers they looked at day in and day out.
There was only one time that seeing a co-worker at a bar worked in my benefit.
I was out with a friend at a dismal dance club, drinking one too many Long Island Ice Teas. This friend went scouting around the room by himself for hot men. I was left alone, dizzy and perched precariously on a bar stool.
Not sure what happened, but I fell off the bar stool, and managed to bust my chin open on something sharp. When I came to, a CNN co-worker was shaking me saying
"We've got to get you to Piedmont Hospital."
We zoomed off, my chin beeding into a pile of cocktail napkins.
He stayed with me for three hours, waiting for the plastic surgeon, and then held my hand as six stitches were sewed into my chin.
A couple weeks later when they came out, I gave three of them to a friend. The other three I taped into the thank you card for my knight in shining armor, whom I dated for the next couple of years.
Last I heard, they both still have my stitches.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I'm posting this photo for the glorious former VJ now known as "J"
Otherwise known as VJHoolia Goolia.
If you're still confused, consult the comments section for the Labor Day VJ Toast Post.
I'm posting this photo for anyone who ever had to answer to a rather mild-mannered guy named FLOYD YARMUTH.
You know how some names would never sound right over a loud speaker in an emergency room:
"Paging Dr. Yoakam. Paging Dr. Dwight Yoakam."
Or some names just don't work in certain scenarios:
"And representing the Prosecution for the State of New York- Mr. Billy Bob Thornton."
This is the opposite. Never have a mother and father named a kid more perfectly for middle management.
It's almost as if they knew his professional fate the second he took his first breath.
There's a sense of destiny in a name like that.
That's the name of a man born to push CNN peons around, and wear well-pressed Dockers while doing it.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Like many companies, CNN offered up a gym for its employees at a reasonable rate. Many employees were excited about it. How great, how convenient that you could cart all your gym shit to work in a duffle bag, work out, shower, put your sweaty gym shit back in the duffle bag and then take your place at the audio board, switcher or satellite operations area.
Me, I knew better. I never once set foot in there.
Because the ugly truth about workplace gyms is this:
Unless you work for Playboy enterprises, nobody wants to see their co-workers naked.
Nobody wants to bear witness to their naked co-workers weighing themselves, rubbing their balls, re-arranging their pubic hair and then return to work and sit next to them in the newsroom. It's hard to take your boss seriously when you know the answer to the boxers or briefs question first hand. Especially when the answer is briefs. Especially if they're purple.
Worse, I had a friend tell me not only did you see all your co-workers at their most vulnerable but,
"You never get to see who you want to see naked. It's always just some tired old cooches you don't want to look at."
Another friend didn't understand why I had such a problem with the prospect of seeing co-workers in various states of undress...until he saw one naked co-worker in particular. This co-worker was a stout, short, fat, balding man. So one afternoon this friend of mine was getting dressed in the locker room, minding his own business. He was suddenly panic stricken when he saw this flabby yet jovial co-worker strutting around in the dick-swinging buff; oblivious to the way in which his natural state accosted every eyeball in the room. This affable chappie was talking to people, laughing, telling jokes like he was at a church picnic.
My friend hot-footed it out of that locker room and said,
"I couldn't believe it. He looked like a naked Ziggy cartoon."
Monday, September 04, 2006
In honor of Labor Day, today's post is for all the current VJ's out there toiling away.
If you were just yelled at for scrolling the TelePrompter too fast or too slow, chided for not taking enough initiative, scolded for not putting the mic on a guest properly, bruised from moving a set, covered in stench from wiping someone's ass, here's to you. Someday you'll be promoted and it will all be over.
Hopefully the experience won't turn you into someone dorky enough to blog about it several years later...
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Personally, I never had much contact with Roz the controversial, prematurely-ousted Hard News Cafe hashslinger. The one I remember was Albert, mostly because I worked the 7pm-4am shift, but one day I week I was scheduled until 5am. On those days, I'd go to the cafeteria at 4:57, hoping to get a biscuit before heading home to sleep until three. I'd see the doughy goods, nestled in their metal tray; warm and inviting. But when I'd ask to buy one, Albert inevitably barked out, "NO BISCUITS TILL FIVE! That's the rules. That's right. You heard me."
Anyway, yesterday I received the following rant about Roz. Despite the evidence offered up by the previously published "Roz Files" I had no idea she had such an impact on people. Or that someone could carry around such resentment towards the person who served up barely edible CNN cafeteria gruel.
And yes, this fired up, Roz-phobic CNN refugee shall remain anonymous:
"I hated Roz; that's right, downright despised her. And I know that I am not alone when admitting this. Plus, I still blame her for everything. That woman had it out for me!
First of all, she was friendly to everyone BUT me. She'd rip a joke, call people "honey", even ask about people's loved ones, all with that cool Jamaican accent. However, when I approached she became a stone cold bitch. No "honey", no complimenting my choice of cuisine, even her accent was gone. I tried everything; I was desperate to win Roz over. I asked about her beloved country and family, commented on new hair-do's...but nothing. No acknowledgment, not even a smile, just an evil smirk.
Finally, I gave up. I became petrified of her. So much so that I timed my visits to the Hard News to coincide with her breaks. If the timing didn't work, I'd bribe colleagues with free Chick-Fil-A waffle fries to get my lunch for me.
Then one day I was hungover -- not an uncommon occurence -- and was in need of grease. Sure I could have gone to McDonald's, but my VJ food budget for the day only allowed for me to spend $2 for breakfast. Needless to say, Roz had already taken her break and my head hurt too much to bargain with people.
Fast forward to the cash register. My grand total was $2.10. Hallelujah, made my budget. Thank God for spare change found in almost every couch and/or chair spread throughout every floor on both the North and South Towers. I handed Roz
$5.10 and she returned $2.90. Normally, I would not have made a fuss, but the $2.90 screwed up my $3 Wendy's dollar menu lunch. I calmly said,
"Roz, I gave you the 10 cents, you owe me 3 bucks."
"Well," she loudly exclaimed, "You did not!"
I loudly retorted,
"I did so! Why would I lie about 10 cents?"
In a huff, she gave me that buck and mumbled under her breath,
"I know you didn't give me 10 cents, but I'll give it to you anyway cuz I have too."
So I shouted, "Exactly. The customer is always right!" and marched out of the cafeteria with my hard won three dollars.
But that damn Roz got the last laugh.
Awful things began to happen to me afterward; not being promoted to Feeds, a way too long stint of celibacy (not by choice) and a nasty car accident--makes me think that Roz put a voodoo spell on me--
God Bless you Roz!"
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The most testosterone-driven department within CNN was, unsurprisingly, the sports department. Before the advent of the CNNSI sports network (which folded only few years after it was launched) the sports shows were just done on a hideous set lurking in the same studio as the regular news set. This monstrosity had to be pulled out and set up nightly. By the time I worked there, it was so banged up that it looked like the cast members of STOMP had performed on it for 10 years.
When CNNSI launched, the sports guys were exiled to whole new zone, sealed off from the news department. It was even on a separate floor. This led to a frat-house environment, only the frat boys wore neatly pressed white shirts instead of togas. Whenever female VJ's had to go there to floor direct, they'd come back and report on who had "penis eyes" and who had hit on them. Then everyone discussed the lines that were used. Well that, and how one idiot used to practice his sports sound effects (Boooooiiinngg!!! Ziiiinngg! Bllllluuurrrrppp!!!) ad nauseum before going on air.
But CNNSI guys soon realized the disadvantage of being separated from the rest of the newsroom: lack of women. Like I said, only a few stray women had to wander into their sports lair once in a while, and even fewer women actually worked there. This was was not the desired quantity of women.
So some of them would saunter back upstairs to the newsroom after their shows, eyes darting from female to female, on a poontang pilgrimage. However, away from their home turf they had the disadvantage that some newer CNN recruits did not necessarily know who the bigwigs were. And certain anchors especially wanted it known that they were anchors. To telegraph their status, they'd strut through newsroom, ties unloosened, swinging their earpieces like lassos. This seemed to exclaim:
"See! I have an earpiece! And I use it! On the set! In front of the camera!"
I called these prowling packs of mighty, earpiece swinging, booty-stalking men: THE PUSSY WARRIORS.
Monday, August 28, 2006
While I no longer endure the daily humilation of being a VJ, I still work in news.
And one thing has not changed.
I suspect it never will.
Whenever I walk into a newsroom and smell free pizza; see congealed slices resting on the copy machine, spy people at the assignment desk with one hand holding the phone and the other wiping grease off their mouths and producers flinging unwanted crusts in trashcans, I know I'm in for a shitty day.
This always means there's breaking news.
This means we will be forced to work overtime. Long, busy hours of running around red-faced and annoyed.
It has instilled in me a Pavlovian response to the scent of pizza.
Others see pizza and smell delicious red sauce, mozzarella cheese and spicy pepperoni. They are awash in happy memories of childhood pizza parties and the roller rink.
Me, I just smell newsroom sweat and think of mudslides, shootouts and the occasional political scandal.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
One of the most enduring, irritating issues in a news room, any newsroom is The Blame Game.
Hearing someone acknowledge their mistakes is such a refreshing rarity that I wouldn't be surprised if that simple act alone could lead to a promotion. No need to sleep with the boss. Just admit to your mistakes and you're on your way to that corner office or assignment in Paris.
But like I said, this rarely happens. So instead you get situations like these at CNN:
-One dim anchor (apparently not a dog fan) pronounced the word "chihuahua" as "CHI-HOOA-HOOA" and blamed the writer, not her own stupidity for the error. She sternly lectured him for not including a pronounciation guide for such an "unusual" word.
-A script was dubbed over from the previous hour and the sign off with the previous anchor's name was not changed. Yes, the "Ron Burgundy" story is true. Some anchors will read anything that is on the TelePrompter, and this woman signed off under the previous MALE anchor's name. Never one to display a sense of humor, she began shrieking at everyone within earshot afterwards.
-A vain anchor blamed the director for not giving him enough "face time" once when we chose to show powerful footage of the natural disaster that was taking place instead of his handsome mug.
More often than not, The Blame Game continues on down the food chain until it gets to the only person left: the entry-level VJ.
The worst example of this was during the Ennis Cosby debacle. CNN made a huge error in judgement by airing graphic footage of Bill Cosby's son, who had been gunned down on an LA freeway. Once it hit the air, everyone knew it was a mistake. The executive producer screamed at the director. The director screamed at the producer. The producer screamed at the associate producer. The associate producer, having no recourse, actually ran to "playback" where the lowly VJs load and cue up piles of tapes they have been given (by people higher up on the food chain) so they can be rolled out during the show (but only after people higher up on the food chain ask for them.)
And yet, this AP thrust open the door and glared at the VJ, demanding to know why she allowed that tape to get on air.
The kicker was that she'd never even seen the footage before.
About the only time that I felt The Blame Game was justified was during the dark ages of Teleprompting. CNN had this truly ancient Teleprompter that was a conveyer belt that had been duct taped together. You were given paper scripts, which you then had to cut to fit the conveyer belt. When a story would "float" you had to re-arrange your scripts in seconds or risk screwing up the anchor, who might toss to the wrong story. Sometimes you'd get all your scripts just right, only to have them scatter all over the floor when one particular VJ would create a massive gust of wind as she rushed past, delivering last minute scripts to the control room. Your scripts on the Teleprompter would go flying, and she'd offer a half-assed apology.
But when asked to explain yourself, this VJ's name only needed to be invoked, and people understood immediately.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Within my first two weeks of employment at CNN, it seemed to me that the place was rampant with horn dogs. This was partly due to an internal messaging system called BASYS which enabled faceless and occasionally anonymous sexual commentary. (The anonymous part happened because it was an open secret that CNN's style reporter Elsa Klensch's password was "garden". Not sure if she ever knew about the type of filth that was messaged under her good name.)
Back in the late 1990's people weren't as concerned about privacy issues in the workplace. It didn't occur to us that our comments could come back to bite us on the ass. Plus, some people working weird hours only had their co-workers as a social outlet. They never saw anyone else much of the time. Consequently, the CNN Center became a bubble community...filled with horn dogs.
So, whenever that blinking "message" sign popped up, you never knew quite what you were going to get, only that it was most likely not work-related.
A sampling of the types of messages I got during my stint as a VJ:
-Hi. My wife and I are really into threesomes. We talked about you last night over dinner (she's a great cook by the way) and she agrees that you are exactly the kind of person she'd like to bring home.
-You feel like getting stoned? I have a break at four.
-Hi. You don't know me. But I think you're cute. I've been noticing you now for the past few days. I'm too shy to talk to you though, because I have a fat ass.
-You look like a pilgrim hooker in that outfit.
-Hi. It was fun having drinks with you after work at Jocks and Jills. If you're ever into having a threesome, let me know. I'm pretty sure my wife would be into it. I know I would!
There was one CNN BASYS "rite de passage" that I never experienced. One co-worker was notorious for using BASYS as a tool to proposition women for anal sex. Apparently, I was not to his taste because he never asked me. While the offer was odious, I felt curiously left out that it was not extended to me. Kind of like when someone tells you, "Eww! This really stinks. Smell it."
And you DO.
Monday, August 21, 2006
My request for stories of heartache and heartburn recently resulted in this story of sexual woe from a former CNNer who shall remain anonymous:
"I was inspired to write in after reading about how broke we all were as VJs. I was so broke that one night over too many drinks, when a friend of mine offered to give me a free haircut, I seized the opportunity. She decided to give me what she called a "pixie cut". Despite the fact that I have a very round face, it seemed reasonable. She was in beauty school after all. And from what I understood, she was at the top of her class. A skilled technician. An artist even. After another glass of Chardonnay it occurred to me that it was crazy not to take advantage of this situation. I figured with the money saved I could finally afford to buy that big box of Tampax I'd been eyeing at Eckerd Drugs. Best of all, she even had her scissors with her.
When we got back to my apartment, I don’t even know how she had the confidence to grab massive hunks of my hair and chop them off. Maybe it was the cockiness that comes from being the gold star student at a beauty school in a suburban Atlanta strip mall, next to the Popeye's chicken hut. I guess all that fame went to her head. I know it went to mine.
I passed out and was convinced it hadn’t actually happened, despite the mounds of hairy evidence in the kitchen. Somehow the thought was just too awful to actually be true. I woke up the next day and stared at my head in the mirror for five minutes. I cried for ten. My round head had less than an inch of hair on it. I looked like a Monchichi.
The next day would be my initial appearance into the public eye. Of course my female co-workers were such liars. “Oh, it’s so cute!” they’d say. Meanwhile they were shuddering the way you do at gruesome photos in medical journals.
As for my friend, even she couldn’t convince me she was proud of her handiwork. She ran her fingers through it and said,
“Maybe next time I cut your hair, I’ll skip the third margarita.”
Next time! How could she think there’d be a next time?
But the greatest travesty of my haircut is that I began to feel invisible. It seemed that I just disappeared. I simply blended into the background, like mold or grocery store music. Men would literally bump into me on their way to prettier, longer-haired women. They didn’t even stop to apologize, probably because they didn’t want to spend one extra second in the presence of my haircut. Even my fuck buddy wanted nothing to do with me. Women would look at me and breathe a sigh of relief because I did not pose a threat.
In my depression, it occurred to me that my "friend" had turned me into a sexless blob of a human being. Had I not been so damn broke, I would not have entertained the notion of a free haircut. Now, because of my pitiful financial state, no one would sing me songs of desire or compose poetry professing their eternal love for me. I didn’t even feel like a woman. I basically had no sex organs. I was I was like one of those gender-nebulous figures on pedestrian crossing signs.
The point is: that bitch stole my vagina. I did not get laid for almost two years."
Thursday, August 17, 2006
As I noted before, I've spent many precious work hours checking out bizarre wire stories from various news agencies. These are my all-time favorites so far:
A retired Turkish worker attempting to cure his sexual impotence with a penis transplant from a donkey irritated his family so much that his son shot him in the leg...On two occasions he bought a donkey and amuptated its sexual organs, appealing in vain to medical staff in his home town and the health ministry in Ankara for a penis transplant. He was denied. Undeterred, he bought a third donkey, angering his family who were already exasperated by his obsession. Consequently, one of his six children shot him in the leg. When asked for comment, he replied, "For a long time now I have had sexual problems and I have spent all my pension funds to overcome them." He is waiting to recover from his gunshot wound so he can go out and buy a fourth donkey.
(This reminds me of the W.C. Fields line: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.")
2.)CLOWNING AROUND (AP)
An employee of a Toot N Scoot convenience store in McCandless, Penn. called police to report that a woman dressed as a clown and driving a minivan full of balloons pumped six dollars worth of gasoline and drove off. Police found the minivan in nearby North Park where the woman was performing for children. They told her to go back and pay for the gas. She did. But clerks called the police again to report she had threatened them. She faces a summary charge of disorderly conduct.
(I'm curious how she threatened them, and if she was still wearing the clown attire. In my mind, she tore into the Toot N Scoot parking lot with a look of rage contorting her greasepaint covered face. Her orange wig bounced up and down as stormed out of that minivan and stomped into the store, smacking the linoleum with her huge red shoes. She glanced around the place and grabbed the closest employee by the collar and snarled, "I'm gonna rip you a brand new asshole, buddy." )
An Amsterdam man suffered injuries after his girlfriend used a portable electric vegetable mincer on his genitals in a sex game that went wrong, police said Friday. The 51-year-old man was entertaining the woman, in her sixties, at his home Thursday night when the two wound up in the kitchen, drunk and naked. "For a joke" the woman decided to try applying the vegetable mincer-more normally used for preparing soups and stocks-to the man's private parts.
(The obvious question is--"How does that game go RIGHT?" Also, I like how the writer saw fit to explain what vegetable mincers are "more normally used for". Clarity is key.)
Zimbawean police have urged people not to panic over widespread reports that a number of women have died after being forced to breastfeed a frog in sorcery rituals. Police dismissed reports that a man in a luxury car, carrying a frog in a briefcase was picking up unsuspecting women and forcing them to breastfeed the creature. The Herald, Zimbabwe's main daily broadsheet reported that a number of women had lept from moving cars after suspecting that they were about to become victims of the businessman and his frog.
(I like that this guy is attempting to convey a professional, corporate image. No mystical robes and dangling amulets for him. He carries his voodoo frog in a briefcase, next to the management reports.)
An endangered green monkey attacked an unsuspecting family in their Beijing home last week, injuring at least one member before being caught in a ceramic jar where it later died, the official media said Monday. The incident ocurred while the family was watching TV. Upon hearing a noise outside, the father opened the door and the monkey immediately lunged into the room. He fought off the attack, but the monkey tore into his head and severed three tendons before neighbors helped contain it in a ceramic jar outside in sub-zero weather. Three days later the family remembered the monkey and called the Beijing zoo.
(Three days later the family "REMEMBERED" the monkey? Seriously, this family must lead some exciting lives, if they can forget about a green monkey trapped in a ceramic jar outside. They must endure daily earthquakes, nightly catfights in the swimming pool and Sasquatch stomping around the backyard.)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
One of the valuable opportunities within the VJ program was the "training time" that was built into your schedule. It was a very nice idea. For all the hard-working, industrious, go-get-'em types, this meant finding a mentor in whichever area of TV news that interested you, such as audio or writing. Then during training time you'd sit with them, dip into their deep reservoirs of knowledge and pave your way for the next step in your career.
This was a rather successful tactic for the company, since CNN hired a lot of well-scrubbed, bright-eyed young people ready to take on the world.
The only hiccup in this plan was when they hired a jackass like me.
I had two full hours of training time built into my schedule and I can honestly say I never trained on anything for one minute. Yes I know--squandered opportunities. And as my spotty career track record can testify, this is a cautionary tale. I am not at all proud, merely truthful.
A list of things I did instead of bettering myself during training time:
1.)Taking stupid pictures in the food court/atrium (see above)
2.)Buying cheap shoes
3.)Sending bizarre AP wire stories about pubic hair and trapped monkeys to co-workers
4.)Reading trashy magazines
6.)Running into an establishment in downtown Atlanta with nice, normal couples swaying on the dance floor, seizing the dance floor with crazed, wildly gesticulating abandon for one song and then running out
7.)Considering having sex in an edit bay but never following through
8.)Returning cheap shoes after realizing I needed to eat before the next paycheck
9.)Perusing the files of viewer letters, one of which complained about being tired of a certain anchor's "dusty vagina."
AND MY FAVORITE TRAINING TIME ACTIVITY:
10.) Boozing it up at Reggies in the Omni atrium
Now, I am saddened to report that Reggies is no longer there, and has been replaced by a Mexican restaurant. I cannot understand why some Atlanta Historical Society, the same folks who put up those brown signs in front of various strip malls, thereby marking the spot where Robert E. Lee once burped, why did they not step in to preserve a true Atlanta landmark? It's a crime.
Reggies was a murky English pub with reddish carpet that smelled a little of vinegar and other less-definable scents. (Actually, even if they were definable, I'm not sure I'd want to know.) They had great fries and poured a superb pint. Once I "trained" there with a co-worker and we lost track of time. When he looked at his watch he realized he had two and a half minutes to get back to master control for the next show. So he tore out of there, pushing aside patrons and passersby. The waitress came back with the check and said,
"I saw how he just up and zoomed out of here, leaving you with the bill. Honey, you need to get yourself a new man."
Reggies was such a staple for CNNers that it was often referred to as "C CONTROL", as though it were a separate CNN control room. Each time I'd go in there, I'd find at least one co-worker. One anchor from CNNI in particular camped out there so much that when he was late to the set, people always knew where to find him. I worry about what happened to him when it shut down. I wonder if he sniffed around the deserted pub in the initial days after its closure; confused, lost, disoriented. This desolate, broken man was left to wander the atrium, searching for a new home...
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Being a floor director was a VJ task that offered plenty of insight into broadcast news. Floor directing consisted of wearing huge-70's style headsets (that often smelled funky because so many people used them and they rarely got wiped down) and waving a folded up piece of paper (or magazine or grocery coupon booklet) in front of the appropriate camera to signal the anchor to begin reading the TelePrompter.
The job naturally put in you in close proximity to the anchors, but wearing a headset also kept you keyed into the control room, thus enabling you to take direction. This also meant you were privy to all the nasty and sometimes hilarious commentary that went on in there. You'd hear producers screaming, crude jokes from directors, and withering assessments of anchors outfits from everybody.
The most unusual tirade I ever heard was from a director undergoing gender-reassignment. She became enraged when some idiot referred to her as "he." She started shrieking, "I'm a woman! Don't you get it? I'm a woman!" Supposedly, she ripped off her bra and flung it around the control room to prove the point.
The show, however, went off without a hitch. What she lacked in undergarment decorum she made up for in excellent director skills.
As for the anchors, some were very kind, like Bill Hemmer, who always knew your name and asked questions about your life. Others pretended you weren't there, until they made a mistake and then suddenly everything was your fault. Others made the same stupid jokes repeatedly, asking with a wink for the "personal vanity plate" when they wanted the mirror. One southern anchor would speak with no discernable accent on air, but off air whenever a cute sports anchor would join her on the set she'd turn on the honeysuckle drawl and purr stomach-churning things like,
"Oh BAY-RAY, if AAAH weren't MAAAH-ried, AAAAH'D be all OVAH you like a bulldog on a biscuit."
Other anchors were so legendarily bitchy that VJ's would have panic attacks when their schedules changed and they'd have to work with them. Deals would be cut, bribes taken. One director I knew told a tale of the old days at CNN, when smoking was still allowed on the set. He claimed that one anchor would throw his lit cigarette butts at VJs just for his personal amusement.
One thing I noticed as a floor director was how often putting a camera in front of a person's face suddenly made them feel REALLY important. Even if they worked the graveyard shift and the PR department didn't even deem them worthy of publicity photos. That camera was instant validation.
The anchor in this photo, whose identity I have spared with a pumpkin, was never a name-brand anchor. No one really knew who she was, even people who worked at CNN. When a friend of mine took this photo, I thought for sure this anchor was in on the joke, and knew that we were just having fun. But afterwards she turned and said without a hint of irony, "Your mother will be so proud to see you in a photo with me."
Little did she know that my mother actually said nothing about her and merely commented on what an ugly outfit I was wearing.
I worked with this same anchor for quite a while, as did the friend who took this photo. He got closer to her than I did. Literally. In what must have been a thoroughly uncomfortable half an hour, he was forced, due to technical issues, to spend an entire show under the set desk, squatting between her legs and holding a microphone.
I did get a close up of her naked ambition though. A few weeks later she was on the set, and we were in a commercial break. She started clacking away madly on her computer. I could see she was excited about something.
Soon the clacking stopped.
She sighed, turned to me and said with a serious face,
"It's not that I want Mother Theresa to die. It's just that if she does, I want her to die on my shift."
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
My first job out of college was as an entry-level Video Journalist at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. It sounded pretty exciting at the time. But the salary for this peon position would have been embarrassing in any era, and during the tech boom years of the late 1990's it seemed particularly meager. At $20,000 a year, we "VJ's" hardly lived in the lap of luxury. Instead we lived in the tacky, cookie cutter shantytowns that seemed to spring up on every corner back then. One company built so many crappy apartment complexes that we deemed their slogan,
“Building tomorrow’s ghettos today!”
My mother, a fierce Finnish woman, was convinced that Ted Turner took great satisfaction in our slave wages. In her eyes he was a ruthless, penny-pinching fiend whose sole aim in life was to thwart my happiness. Not only that, but he apparently micro-managed his network to an extreme. Whenever I'd complain about anything at CNN, she'd blame it all on Ted Turner personally.
“The bathrooms on the third floor are always stinky.”
She'd reply,"That Ted Toor-ner. Not cleaning the toilets," as though he were a shiftless janitor who spent all day telling dirty jokes and ignoring his bowl-scrubbing duties.
“The Brunswick stew in the cafeteria gave me gas."
"That Ted Toor-ner. Makes his employees fart all night with his food," as though he were in the kitchen stirring the stew himself and tossing in extra onions with gleeful abandon.
I'd say, "I hate working the 7pm-to 4am shift."
"That Ted Toor-ner. Exploiting you hard-working kids for his own pleasure," as though he were perched in his penthouse apartment at the Omni hotel, rubbing his hands together, watching me enter the CNN Center through a telescope as he cackled,
“Here comes that Dutton girl. Boy do I love to see her on this miserable shift!"
While I didn't necessarily blame Ted Turner for my lot in life, working at CNN was the root cause of my empty wallet. If necessity is the mother of invention, my CNN salary was the mother of desperation. I did anything to save a few bucks.
I treated the salespeople at Macy’s like Moroccan bazaar merchants, haggling five bucks off a dress for a lipstick stain that I had furtively smeared on the sleeve minutes before. I wouldn’t throw out a tube of toothpaste until I’d sliced open the tube and scooped out the gunk smeared on the inside. All my furniture came from K-Mart. I even begged them for the beat up floor models at a discount. I had my TV stand for three weeks before noticing that some uncouth customer had stuck a massive pink wad of Bubble Yum under the shelf.
Obviously, none of my fellow VJ friends were loaded either. Everyone was just barely scraping by. Still, I became indignant when a weather reporter magnanimously bestowed us VJ's with some left-over peanuts from a holiday party that none of us were invited to. Eyeing those three pathetic Ziplock bags of Planters party mix, I was livid. Was this any way to treat your professional colleagues? Scattering meager Christmas crumbs in our script-ripping area? But one by one all my co-workers’ eyes lit up as they exclaimed “Peanuts!” and happily wolfed them down. I realized it was a lost cause.
We were literally working for peanuts.
In CNN's cash-strapped, budget-minded, leftover peanut-devouring atmosphere, transportation also suffered. There were all sorts of run-down, oil-leaking, trashy cars in the parking lot, and people had to play clever games to get their parking validated, as rumor had it Ted Turner himself (this time mom was right) wanted employees to take the MARTA public transport system.
Now, I have never possessed a driver’s license, so MARTA was always going to be my lot in life. I took the subway during the daylight hours, and cabs when I left work at four a.m. Naturally, there aren’t many cabs patrolling downtown Atlanta at that hour. So I’d call in advance, and wound up depending on the services of one particular Moroccan cabbie. After a month of regular service, he stopped charging me and I knew I was headed for trouble. Then one Tuesday he turned up and presented me with an elaborately embroidered pink muumuu and matching pointy slippers. He also threw in a decorative brass plate. The disturbing part was that the slippers actually fit.
Sufficiently creeped out, I took to sleeping on the sofa in the lobby of the 14th floor until daylight hours so I could take MARTA. I chose the 14th floor because the sofa there looked the plushest, cleanest and most comfortable. Unlike the one in the break room, it didn’t look as though there were years of Cheetos powder and earwax slathered all over it.
This arrangement worked well for about two weeks until one morning I opened one eye at around 5:30 am to see a tiny, shriveled up little lady staring me down. She quickly turned and ran out. I shut my eye again. I opened them both ten minutes later to find the same lady flanked by two huge security guards, pointing her knotty finger at me. The security guards seized me. One grabbed my left arm and the other grabbed my right as they hustled me out to the elevator. Nervous, I kept flashing my badge, insisting,
“But I’m a VJ! I’m a VJ!” as though I were a D-list celebrity being booted from a Soho nightclub.
I quickly found out that I had unwittingly chosen Ted Turner's office floor to use as my sleeping quarters.
"That Ted Toor-ner.” said my mother when I told her. She had nothing to follow it up with, and just shook her head this time. Apparently he had some nerve placing the most comfortable sofa on his floor.
Always trying to cut costs and find bargains, CNN employees became reliant on our internal computer message board called READ-ME. It was a forum for finding a roommate, helpful hints on cheap mechanics, and bitch fests about unfair distribution of free food at the workplace. The staff at CNN Financial Network in New York managed to churn out three pages worth of rants about whether the free Friday afternoon cookies in the break room were a perk or an entitlement until financial guru Lou Dobbs ended the file by stating,
"This is Dobbs...you should know that at this very moment our Technology Division is tracing every message in this file to determine exactly precisely who contributed what and there will be significant, even painful retribution taken against those who’ve expressed themselves too freely on this obviously important workplace issue...
Yours in journalism,
But the best part about READ-ME (and most crucial to us cash strapped peons) was the buying and selling of a litany of strange stuff. A sports anchor moved out of Atlanta and tried to sell a shoebox full of old pens and paper clips for five bucks. A producer requested a used breast pump. A political reporter begged for a kidney. Possibly underestimating his mother, another anchor tried to sell a used mattress claiming,
"Only my mother has used it, so you know there’s been no funny business on it."
My favorite entry was from an employee who managed to provide both gossip and a cheap bridal garment by pitching,
"Wedding Gown. Size 12. Never used."
READ-ME proved instrumental in reporting theft too. If you worked on an overnight shift, odds were you were stuck with the Hard News Café to provide meals after the food court in the atrium closed. This was usually a dismal prospect. The only time people got excited was when the Café offered the famed Turkey Tetrazzini. The electricity in the air! People would message each other exclaiming:
TURKEY TETRAZZINI TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
They would practically skip off to the cafeteria, ululating, pumping their fists in the air in anticipation of the culinary orgasm of Turkey Tetrazzini.
But not everyone chose to play the cafeteria lottery. Some organized, budget-conscious employees brought their leftovers to work in Tupperware. The problem was it was routinely stolen. So, in READ-ME there would be accusatory entries like:
"Today someone stole my lunch. I'm pregnant. How do you feel you bastard, taking food out of the mouth of my fetus?"
Others got specific about the type of food that was snatched:
"Someone stole my blueberries. What kind of an animal steals a man's blueberries?"
Still others tried to get witty, posting gems like:
"Egads! Who is responsible for the theft of my tasty vittles?"
I hated those people. They were the same ones carting around the mugs that read:
“You don’t have to be crazy to work here-but it helps!”
To those who don't know, READ-ME was often used as a rallying cry for employees to fight perceived injustice within CNN. Someone would write an initial posting, and other employees would chime in with their opinions. This practice resulted in "The Roz Files" which I had the good sense to print out for posterity. Since leaving CNN, I have moved across the country twice but still managed to hold onto this precious document of a bygone era. It is excerpted below:
ROZ IS GONE!!!!!!!!
-I'm sure most of you know Rosalyn from the Hard News (Cafe). One of the nicest and funniest people that worked there. Well, after inquiring to find out if she had been sick this week, I was told she had been transferred...not by her choice. If there is anyone out there who feels as I do, that this is unfair treatment of a long-term, dedicated hardworking employee, make your voice heard.
-Where does one get a survey to complain about this? Who is the manager of the Hard News so I can complain directly?
-Letters are usually the most effective.
-I think a petition might be effective, and maybe easier than individual letters.
-Do we have a little too much time one our hands?????
-Funny that when someone takes a second to note when an employee and friend of long standing departs, particularly if it is against her will, there are those who complain about it (just as above.) Roz was an eclectic and warmhearted friend of many of us and her removal is just one more example of the raw deal we employees got from the new management at the cafe.
-I agree with the above statement. In this day and age when most people are just considered a number and the almighty dollar seems to have more value than human life, it is good to recognize and support co-workers who need your help. This scrooge-like writer has forgotten what it is to be human.
-All I ever heard out of her was when she would sarcastically read back what you bought and how much it cost! I'm sure she received several complaints against her for THAT.
-I know several people who complained about her in particular to the management. I have stood there several times whe she was totally indifferent to a line of people standing there while she was debating her lottery numbers.
-I second the above. I saw her ignore people all the time, and make a big deal if she had to get up out of one of those chairs to do her job. I say she should stay where they put her. Management finally got it right.
-I heard she shot a man in Reno--just to watch him die...
-Well then I guess you should feel vindicated then.
-Has anyone heard about the possibility of Starbucks buying out the Hard News?
-Haven't heard that one.
-That is SO not the subject here. Let's get back to what's important: fighting this move!
-I never met Rose, but with a name like hers...I can't understand why she'd get the boot. Lordy.
-Starbucks? Really? Would we get free lattes?
-Oh please. When's the last time we got anything for free? People: Call me ignorant, but didn't Phillips buy the arena and Hard News? Does Phillips also own Starbucks?
-I have a kitten for adoption. It makes a strange "bleep" sound though...
-Would you people get serious? This isn't a joke. Take your bleeping kittens and coffee somewhere else. Those of us committed to making a change here would appreciate it.
-I'm sorry. Let's ignore the "bleeping" kitten.
-What kind of unfeeling monster ignores a poor innocent kitten that can't even control its own bleeping...
-What kind of a kitten is it? Does it have its shots?
-Yeah...it's a Siamese, but it's missing half it's tail. All shots accounted for...minus the "shot of love" she'll give if you adopt!
-Do kittens like Starbucks?
-Name the kitten after Roz and feed it nothing but Starbucks double espresso until the evil overloards agreee to return our beloved hashslinger!