Sunday, August 26, 2007

On The Power Of Friendship

Not to be all mushy and overly sentimental...but after I read this article, my first instinct was to call my close friends and tell them how much they meant to me. I hope that this piece makes you feel the same way. For where would we be without our "shadows in the corner"?

A Deserted Don Imus Discovered That Friendship Was All Talk
by Fran Wood

Newark Star-Ledger
May 23, 2007

Charles McCord was conveniently away from his microphone at WFAN's Astoria studio last week when Tim Russert phoned in to chat with NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory, who was hosting the foundering radio show formerly known as "Imus in the Morning."

Russert at one point said he wanted to tell McCord, Imus' 30- year sidekick, and Lou Rufino, Imus' engineer, that he missed them from the good old days when he was a regular Imus guest.

But he ended up telling it to an empty chair, and no regular Imus listener would have had any trouble figuring out why.

When Imus fell into a firestorm last month over his badly ill-advised "nappy-headed hos" remark, Russert was suddenly nowhere in sight. Yes, the same Russert whose "Big Russ and Me" book Imus did everything but sell from a pushcart on street corners.

Russert may not have thrown gasoline on the fire, but his silence made it clear he was not in Imus' corner. So he should hardly have been surprised when McCord returned the silence. As the old adage notes, you can't have it both ways.

Of course, Russert was not alone. You don't need much more than the fingers of one hand to count the morning show's frequent guests who didn't desert Imus. Howard Fineman came on the show. Evan Thomas, Jeff Greenfield, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain said they would continue to appear.

That leaves a whole lot of people who got a whole lot of career-boosting publicity from Imus either saying no or not returning calls.

Okay, Imus was on the air for only a week after his insult to the Rutgers women's basketball team, so there wasn't time to get a full roll call. Let's surmise that many guests would have been happy to return once they were convinced the heat had died down. But meanwhile, they opted for silence or condemnation.

Many of them clearly were not judging the issue but the potential impact an Imus appearance could have on their careers. It's not exactly a profiles-in-courage reaction, and it suggests the number of media people with lily livers is far greater than we might have imagined or they might have declared.

Yes, all this happened six weeks ago, which in modern media terms means it might as well have been concurrent with Hannibal's trip over the Alps. But it still appalls me that so many people who claimed to be Imus' friends cut and ran at the first hint of trouble.

Never mind that Imus was being the same Imus he's been for years. The same Imus who infuriated the president of the United States by joking about his sex life in front of his wife and most of official Washington.

Had Imus made a calculated attempt to belittle and degrade the Rutgers players or had this foolish remark seemed to show some suddenly deep streak of racism or cruelty, there would have been justification for deserting him. But all these people knew who and what Imus was. They know that's his style, and by appearing with him for years, they'd given every signal they were okay with it.

Hey, what are friends for?

Not for much of anything, apparently.

If Imus eventually returns to radio, one imagines it will be to a different kind of show. Not only will there be a much greater area with a "Keep away" sign around it, but how can he do what he did without those literate, intelligent guests - elected officials, political consultants, opinion writers for big newspapers and magazines, historians and such?

In fact, Russert would be one of the big losses. Russert, who sent gifts to Imus' son, Wyatt. Russert, who was warm and fuzzy every time he was on. Russert, who was so glib about politics. Russert, who suddenly couldn't find a single good word to say about Imus.

Imus, of course, has said nothing about any of this, and McCord has said only slightly more. McCord has become a shadow in the corner, stepping forward to do the news, then retreating to the corner. It's his job, and maybe he's contract-bound to it. Or maybe he just needs to be gainfully employed.

But McCord without Imus is like Tonto without the Lone Ranger. Unless Imus lands a new gig, McCord - arguably the more creative of the pair - is just another guy reading the news.

If Imus does take a new gig, happily, that on-air friendship won't miss a beat. It's a lot of the other friendships that were lost in the firestorm.


Bruce said...

Good Blog. And please don't worry about Imus. He will return in the next few months and be better then ever. He will not live in a bubble, nor change his style. His co-horts, Charles and Lou will be with him wherever he goes and maybe Bernard, though that is possibly a long shot. Keep up blogging. And if you hear something that is important. Blog about it immediately.

CollegeGirl said...

Bruce - thanks so much for the comment! I'm glad you enjoy reading this!

I hope that Lou will be with him, and especially Bernard. I'm sure you've read the reports saying that Bernard won't be a part of the new show, and how can that be? Seriously. Bernie has to come back.

Keith said...

Yes, we need to get Bernie and Lou over to the new show!

CollegeGirl said...

Keith - there's already a link to your excellent site on the sidebar. :-)