The annual Giants of Broadcasting luncheon and induction got an upgrade this year, marking its 10th anniversary with a move from the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, up Park Ave a bit, to the storied Waldorf-Astoria. Hosted by the Library of American Broadcasting, and president Don West, the 2012 inductees included Andy Rooney, Norman Lear, Ted Turner and George Beasley.
As with years past, the event tends to award a few too many honors posthumously, including Rooney, Soul Train creator Don Cornelius and Dinah Shore. (Though hearing emcee Bill Baker, bow-tied president emeritus of WNET New York, state the Soul Train sign off of “Love, Peace…and Soul” in his rumbling, professorial tone was a highlight of the lunch.)
For his part, Norman Lear is very much alive and, while he could not attend, he did give a cracking video presentation on the role of sitcoms in the socio-political discussion.
“Wouldn’t it be a dream to be that sharp at 90?” said Baker.
Gary Gannaway, CEO of WorldNow, spoke on behalf of Lear, and noted how he liked to “stir the conversation” when friends and colleagues were gathered.
Inductee Erica Farber, president and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau, mentioned her first job interview 40 years before.
“Little one, why would we hire you?” the interviewer asked her, with a similarly patronizing pat on the head. “We already have one girl–and she’s black! We get two points!”
Farber nonetheless put together a colorful career in radio.
Jim Lehrer could not attend for his half of the MacNeil-Lehrer induction, but Robert MacNeil mentioned how he and Lehrer, as younger men, wrote in their wills that the other would take care of the partner’s children in case of untimely death. “If you’re very lucky, you find yourself a friend like Jim Lehrer,” said MacNeil.
Leslie Stahl accepted on behalf of Rooney (”our poet laureate and curmudgeon in chief,” she said), and Tony Cornelius, son of Don, accepted for his dad. Tony read a poem called “Transition,” and made a plea to those in attendance to reach out to those contemplating suicide, which claimed his father.
Another inductee was Sony chairman Sir Howard Stringer, which prompted some protestors outside the Waldorf, issuing handbills critical of Sony’s labor practices.
Don West riffed on the protests, brandishing one of the handbills from the podium.
“We’re happy with any publicity we get,” he said to some hearty laughs.