The Class of 2001
Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/18/2001 7:00:00 PM
Thirteen extraordinary men and women who shaped American television and radio were fêted last week at the annual BROADCASTING & CABLE Hall of Fame dinner in New York City, hosted by ABC's Sam Donaldson.
This year's inductees embraced an incredibly wide range of talents, with one thing in common: They made a difference. And this year, our honorees and the 450 media luminaries in the crowd, helped us celebrate another event, too. At the Hall of Fame dinner, BROADCASTING & CABLE celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Can we toast in print? Let's try. Here's to our honorees! And here's to us!
Actress Jane Powell, accepting the posthumous Hall of Fame award for Arlene Francis, called the What's My Line? quiz panelist "kind, pretty, funny … She was what really every woman wanted to be. In the '50s, she was the third-most-recognized woman in the U.S. She was known for her elegance, humor, friendliness. She was the 'femcee' on the radio show Blind Date. Can you imagine anybody being called a femcee today? …
"The Arlene I knew was not afraid to make waves, and her waves were beautiful waves. Her waves were gentle, but they were never ripples. Arlene was a unique woman."
When he received his award, Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner thought back to a time when he was still at ABC and the network was airing Love Story one evening as he and his wife were driving to Vermont. "For 25 miles, as we looked at the homes we passed, every single set" was tuned to the theatrical movie. "It made me realize the enormous power and the community of this business," he said.
Introducing Eisner, his pal and former workmate, USA Networks' Barry Diller, said, "He is actually that real thing. The real deal. A creative businessman.
"Now in the media world, people almost always become their product, their brand. Or they create new ones. Michael did both. He became Walt Disney and he changed the company completely."
Actress Katie Sparer accepted the award for her mother, the late actress Nancy Marchand, who made an early appearance in the television classic Marty, then starred in Lou Grant as a patrician publisher, and finally riveted the nation in The Sopranos as a conniving Mafia mom, a role she played as she became increasingly ill.
"Marty gave her life, in that it gave her the beginning of her career … and The Sopranos, and David Chase, kept her going, kept her here alive, which gave me more time with her," Sparer said.
"And for that I can never thank you enough."
Ames Yates accepted the B&C award for his late father, war reporter Ted Yates, who was killed covering the strife in Jerusalem in 1967, when he was just 36 but already a legend. "Ted's legacy lives on," Ames said, noting how he and his two brothers all gravitated into television production.
"The job of TV journalists is to capture the moments and events," he said. "Pictures and sound put us in the moment. Reporting and being on the ground get the story. My father always got the story. But time moves along. The TV pictures get dimmer, the sound a little fainter, and the folks who brought the story home are sadly forgotten. … It is thanks to organizations like the BROADCASTING & CABLE Hall of Fame that people like my father are never forgotten."
Lorne Michaels, executive producer of NBC's Saturday Night Live, recalled his first trip to New York, from Canada, when he was 15. He and a pal went to a taping of a Jack Paar Tonight Show at NBC. "It was thrilling. A live television broadcast! We were on the air!"
For 27 years, he has been at the helm of the utterly live SNL. "On Saturday nights, I still can't get over it. It's the same mix of talent, cameras, jokes and music that I saw as a boy in 1959. When it comes together as a show, there's nothing like it in the world. No matter how much technology changes in the future, that part will never change." He received his award from Cahners' TV Group Senior VP Bill McGorry (r).
NBC's Today co-host Katie Couric was reminded of her early days in journalism. "It's particularly thrilling for me to be inducted into the B&C Hall of Fame with Sam Donaldson serving as master of ceremonies," she said. "Twenty-two years ago, on my very first day of work as a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington, I was greeted by a very rambunctious White House correspondent who demanded to know my name and then promptly jumped on the desk and sang 'K-K-K-Katie' at the top of his lungs while dancing a little jig. He then whisked me off to a White House press conference, and my career in broadcasting was off to a colorful start."
Turning more serious, she said, "At a time when the world seems to be so uncertain, I have become certain of one thing: I've never felt prouder to be a journalist and a practitioner of my profession. I have never felt that my job has had greater significance than it has today. I take very seriously the responsibility I have to those who may be turning to me for information, perspective and even reassurance."
When Michael J. Fox was introduced, a technical glitch cut short the video highlights of his career to just a few seconds. He turned that into a hilarious, self-effacing appraisal of his own career.
"I may have had the shortest career, but I'll have the longest speech. Twenty-five years ago, my mom drove me to an audition—and she's here tonight. I started on a sitcom [on Canada's CBC]. ... well, it was more like a 'sit.'
"I'll always be honored to have come up in TV during the time Brandon Tartikoff was the head of NBC. ... He hated my guts. … To his credit, he went public with those views when Back to the Future hit … as to say he'd made a mistake. I thought that was such a great gesture. So I sent him a lunchbox with my picture on it, and I said, 'Brandon, this is to put your crow in.'… He brought humanity to television that's still very much in evidence in the best of what's on TV.
"The fact that we have this medium that we can entertain each other with and inform each other with—to have been able to be a part of that I'll always be grateful for. I want to pay special attention to Katie [Couric] and Mary Tyler Moore, who not only are inspirations as broadcasters and actors but as advocates … for your causes, the causes that mean so much to you. If I can do half as much as you, I'll feel that I've accomplished a lot."
Actress Mary Tyler Moore became a major star in The Dick Van Dyke Show and followed it up with her own groundbreaking comedy, which spawned MTM Studios, producer of many of television's best shows through the '70s. At the dinner, though, she said she wasn't sure if she was worthy of being on the same stage with the other winners and had spent the afternoon wondering about that. "I think I know who I am, I said to myself: I am ... the weakest link!"
Not true, of course, and Moore went on to thank those who helped her become the star she is. But she couldn't stop wondering. "I was told the other day I am icon. And then my nephew said, 'You're a big doody head!' So it's always that kind of toss-up thing."
"One of the headiest things in life is to succeed at something as an outsider and then be invited to the table," said Tom Freston, chairman and chief executive at MTV Networks, as he accepted his award.
Under Viacom ownership, Freston now controls seven cable networks, but it was lessons learned when MTV started that he holds dear today.
The music network, a radical notion two decades ago, was radical in another way. "None of us had any experience in television," he recalled, and he said that was central to the network's success: It did things differently.
Hal Jackson paid his dues as a black man beginning in the 1930s. Today, as chairman of Inner City Broadcasting, he is a true icon to African-Americans and radio: His WBLS(FM) and WLIB(AM) New York are powerhouses in the black community. "Think that you can, and you will," he advised at the dinner.
Recalling his purchase of the stations, he recalled, "Percy Sutton came to me and said, 'We'll be the first blacks to own a station in New York City. ... The opening was wonderful. But you couldn't hear the station! But we stuck with it. … and 'BLS and 'LIB have really gone on."
William L. Putnam, who founded WWLP(TV) Springfield, Mass., pushed all-channel legislation, so that all televisions carried UHF tuners. Obviously, that greatly expanded the television world. As he received his award from B&C Editor at Large Don West (l), he thanked others who were in the battle: Former FCC Commissioner Robert E. Lee, who he said "championed the cause of UHF television," and former FCC Chairman Newton Minow, "who brought to the chairmanship of the FCC all the idealism that swept into Washington with the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy."
But particularly, Putnam thanked his wife, Kitty Broman, the first female member of the National Association of Broadcasters' TV board and the longtime chairwoman of the Television Information Office.
Actress Anne Meara (with husband Jerry Stiller) accepted the award for Carroll O'Connor, the actor whose portrayal of Archie Bunker on All in the Family made that sitcom a major social indicator of the tumultuous '70s. Meara recalled, however, that the actor, whom she had known since they were young adults, was, unlike Bunker, a loving, friendly, kind man. "Carroll was a great guy," she said. "He was a wonderful teacher, wonderful director, wonderful writer. He had great emotions, great loves, great passions, great rages, great caring about our country, about his fellow man and woman."
"We brought something to the cable-television industry called customer service," said James O. Robbins (l), the chairman of Cox Communications, "and that's gone over quite well." Cox Cable systems, under Robbins's aegis, are considered among the industry's most progressive; he promised that Cox will stay on "this path of innovating." Presenting the award is Cahners TV's Bill McGorry.
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