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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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The Way I See It

By on March 5, 2014 in The Way I See It

March 5, 2014

The Weekly Address

In the book Future Talk, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told me she hoped the president would no longer do a weekly address because Americans don’t sit around their radios and listen, adding that it takes away from speeches, which are more important. Too much of a good thing….

Well, the weekly address is still made by the president as well as the opposing party. It’s no longer done live (I used to spend Saturday mornings at the White House to produce the president’s address back in those days telling the president “Go!” Other weekends I was at a radio studio to produce the opposing party’s address (yep, also done live). Today, it’s recorded, available on the web, seen on You Tube every Saturday as of 6 A.M. and rarely, very rarely, makes news of any kind.

As someone who edits these for network radio every Saturday, I have some experience saying news is lacking in these things. Usually, it’s the president saying he wants the other side to agree with him on a program. And a majority of the time, the republicans  parade a member of Congress in front of a camera telling stories about how someone in their district has been hurt by Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act). In fact, the House has voted more than 40 times to get rid of Obamacare and will vote in the next few days to reduce the penalty for not having health insurance at all (they say the website catastrophe has made it difficult to enroll so they want the penalty to be $0 instead of $95).

You know, there’s a line about saying it again and again and again and people will tune out. Guess what?

Note to GOP Chairman Reince Priebus: Have a Republican suggest changes to the existing act instead of throwing the whole thing out. The Affordable Care Act is the law. In the next weekly address, offer to meet with the White House to discuss specific proposed changes. The way it’s done now, the viewer/listener feels like their witnessing a verbal “I dare you” kind of fight in the back of the school bus. Blowing it up isn’t a solution and spending every week telling people who are numb or not paying attention is a complete waste of everybody’s time. Don’t use the weekly address to sing to the choir; instead get the non-believers to learn the words

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.

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