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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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Archive for February, 2014

A Note On Leno

By on February 12, 2014 in See It Here, The Way I See It, Writing

Jay Leno has left the building.

After 22-years doing “Late Night,” the 63-year old is saying “good night.” I have a story about the early years:

When I was producer of Larry King’s popular late-night radio program for Westwood One, I faced a moment every producer of live (and probably some taped) shows faces: a guest cancellation. And it happened two hours before we went on the air. We were in Los Angeles and I pulled out a notebook I carried with phone numbers. The technical name for this was “OSNW?)” Translation: “oh shit, now what?” It sometime went by another acronym called “OFNW” but I won’t go into that here.

I called Jay Leno’s contact and told him my story. We’re in LA, we have the second hour open, I need a “yes” or “no” within the next five minutes or
I’m going to the next name in my book. He said he’d call Jay and let me know.

NOTE: This was before the Internet so we used phones. I find talking to someone works better than e-mail. Just sayin’.

Three minutes later, Leno called me.”Hey, when I get done with the show (he had been doing the “Tonight” show for about a year by then and, yes, it was taped), I’ll get on my bike and be there.” I gave him the address and right on cue, Jay pulled up outside our studio in Culver City on a huge Harley.

When I’ve told this story, I always get the same question: Who was #2 in the OSNW?

Nobody, I say. In fact, I never had a #1. When they show up on time, that’s when they’re #1. One has to be humble when doing anything live. Mr. Leno proves this is true.

A Lesson from Pete Seeger

By on February 12, 2014 in See It Here, The Way I See It, Writing

Pete Seeger was a guest on Larry King’s late night radio show in the 1980’s. He brought his banjo (of course) and played a few verses of tunes while Larry asked questions. We never screened phone calls, other than the city and everyone had a story for Pete about how his music had made them see optimism despite his songs being so well known for things that aren’t right (Where Have All the Flowers Gone-1962 is one example).

But he made the point that night, and through most of his life, that we may create problems but—we can also fix them. In an interview I later did with him for the book Powerful Prayers, he told me about a song he had written called “Arrange and Rearrange.”

“I was out one morning to get firewood to warm the house and I saw the sun coming up. I thought to myself, “Dear God, I really hope we manage to survive all the problems we’ve created for ourselves.”

And then he picked up a guitar nearby and started singing:

“Early in the morning I first see the sun, I say a little prayer for the world. I hope my little children live a long, long time, yes, every little boy and little girl. I hope they learn to laugh at the way our precious old words seem to change, Cause that’s what life is all about, to arrange and rearrange and rearrange.”

He always carried a notebook to write ideas that came to him while going about the day. His publisher had asked him to try a song similar to “Good Night Irene,” which had done well. “I need something that isn’t a protest song,” he was told.

Pete went to his notebook and found the words in Ecclesiastes about “to everything, there is a season.” He went to work and added the words, “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” We were given “Turn, Turn, Turn” as a result of that moment.

Yes, he wrote protest songs. Pete Seeger believed we can do better than this.

Braking Breaking News

By on February 12, 2014 in See It Here, The Way I See It, Writing

TV and radio and webpages too—(gee, that sounds like the cadence to “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My”) use both words and color to get our attention when the topic is “Breaking News.” These are smart people who understand the way to keep a viewer or a listener is to subtly show how plugged in they are to the fast-changing world and how lucky the viewer/listener is to have happened onto this castle of information.

As a result of these Media Mensa Members, “Breaking News” is provided even when it isn’t breaking news, sometimes when it isn’t news at all. You see, that doesn’t matter anymore. They get our attention and we stay tuned/clicked-in to learn more.

MSNBC has been under fire because host Andrea Mitchell interrupted an interview she was about proposals to force the NSA from collecting phone records with former Congresswoman Jane Harman, an expert on homeland security issues and now head of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The reason? Justin Bieber had just been arrested for DUI in Miami. Obviously, the critics who can’t fathom the idea that a 19-year old punk in a rented Lamborghini who drove 60-mph through a residential area at 4AM after drinking shots and smoking dope think a few million stupid phone calls collected by the government is more of an issue.

Get off the high (yeah, it was intentional) horse and join the real world.

The government probably has the one phone call Bieber was allowed to make to his manager anyway. The point is, we need to know this stuff. Parents are talking to their children right now about how wrong it is to drive their Lamborghinis faster than the speed limit. It also turns out Mr. Bieber’s driver’s license expired 6 months earlier. I’m sure this is also part of the conversations taking place across America right now and for the next few days.

MSNBC is to be commended. As for the phone record collected by the National Security Agency? I bet Edward Snowden is going to leak it.

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