Wednesday, November 03, 2010

778 Sarnoff and Swayze

778 Sarnoff and Swayze

No, not THAT Sarnoff. And not THAT Swayze. This is a story -- really two stories -- about people with those last names and with NBC connections.

Marisa Sarnoff, now in her 30s was a production assistant at MSNBC back in its Secaucus days. She was then a spirited and hard working young grad of a prestigious school of journalism and now learning the trade for real. And she was the grand niece of NBC's David Sarnoff. That's not something she broadcast. But she admitted it when confronted. She also wasn't overjoyed at what was happening to her grand uncle's company, though she kept that to herself until she jumped to a competitor and then, apparently, off the broadcast bandwagon entirely. Would she have risen to the top of the corporate heap? Certainly she had the ability. But that name wasn't an automatic "gimme" in General Electric's NBC.

Then there's the tall, gaunt fellow who has called himself Cameron Swayze, son of the television pioneer. He's actually John Cameron Swayze, Jr., now in his 70s and who just stepped off the broadcast bandwagon, maybe not on purpose. Swayze the elder is still someone widely remembered, even though his late evening newscast ended its run in 1956, more than half a century ago. Son John elected not to use the full name. In the newsroom, we called him "John." On the air, he was "Cameron."

Often in broadcasting, the apple falls far from the tree (Robert Sarnoff was no David Sarnoff.) Not so in this case. CS was in many ways his father's equal, and in some ways his father's better. He wasn't blessed with dad's good looks and ability to appear dapper under any and all circumstances. But boy, what a story teller! And what a wonderful bass baritone with which to tell those stories. Earthquakes, fires, wars, politics all instantly appeared in your head when you heard him tell you about them. And in so few words, you often asked yourself "How'd he DO that?"

We all sat up a little straighter when John walked into the room carrying a crummy looking schlep bag and a Tupperware container of carrots and celery. He asked the hard questions. He got to the heart of matters that most of the rest of us just didn't see. And editing his scripts was an exercise in futility. He'd space things oddly on the page, run words together. The pages were paper pigpens. And word was he did that on purpose -- so we on the editors' desk couldn't figure out what was there and wouldn't change anything. As if anything needed changing.

When the NBC Radio Network self destructed in the late 1980s, Swayze started working freelance at WCBS, the all news radio station. It was the class act of local radio. But by the time he left or was forced out, whichever was the case, he was among the few class acts left there.

His air hours are still filled by others, but they sound empty.

--The baseball Giants won the world series. No biggie except for those who remember the REAL Giants, and the REAL Giants who are still around to remember us. Here's one: Willie Mays, now 79, with the team for the last Series it won in the Polo Grounds in 1954 and with them for the move to the coast in 1958 and who watched this year with happy tears in his eyes, or so he says.

--Since the Yankees excused themselves from this year's AL Championship and thereby this year's Series, many of us regulars shifted allegiance temporarily to the the turncoat Giants. Is there some kind of barricade against winning championships in the same season the owner dies? Happened to the Yanks this year and to the pitiful NY Jets in 1999 when owner Leon Hess died.

--Of course, the Jets being the Jets didn't need the barricade then -- or now. They're 5 & 2 so far this year. Which by Jets standards is nothing shy of miraculous.

Note to readers: There will be no election coverage in this space this year.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


John: aformer weekend listener said...

Thank you for your post on Mr. Swayze. I wondered what happened to him. I would wake to his voice at 5 am and that would signal the weekend had begun. You are right: it is just not the same.

Christina said...

I often go to Youtube to hear Cameron Swayze's voice---makes me feel good. I hope he writes a book!

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