Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather says Tony Malara is to blame for his closet full of red ties. Rather was speaking at a tribute to Tony Malara, former head of the network and its affiliate relations department, who died of a heart attack in late August at the age of 69.
Below is an excerpted transcript of Rather's remarks, supplied by an attendee at the tribute, held at New York's 21 Club Tuesday.
Thank you very much, Jim Rosenfield and Mr. Chairman Phil Lombardo.
Good morning everybody. You know about Tony’s famous red handkerchief… but let me tell you about the red tie.
When I came to the CBS anchor chair in 1981, Tony took me aside and said, “I’m going to tell you something
and if you listen carefully, it may be the most important thing for you as you go into this new job.”
Believe you me, I was all ears.
Tony, so help me, had researched several focus groups in Australia, of all places, to find out why people watch certain anchor people and don’t watch others. One of the key things was: the anchor who wears the red tie usually gets the “eyeballs.” Tony told me that and I couldn’t believe it.
I had Toby Wertheim, the legendary researcher for CBS News, research it and found out it was true! Several focus groups had been run… so I have perhaps the world’s largest collection of red ties! Thanks to Tony. (
My wife Jean says Tony Malara was and remains the most wonderful man she ever met. You may wonder where that leaves me… and I often have! (laughter) I know why she says that and so do you. So does anyone and everyone who ever met Tony. Here was this man… always smiling—very often with that infectious laugh—who had such a lust for life and genuine love of people that it radiated deep inside him. Tony was a nuclear power plant of energy, good humor, good will… and decency.
One of the many memories I can give you... not long after I became anchor and managing editor of CBS News…and Tony had become the executive in charge of Affiliate Relations, some years before, for the network…
Syracuse University, from which Tony had graduated, invited a competing anchor to give the school graduation address in the spring. Tony swooped in on them, didn’t tell me anything about it. But he got on them like a “hawk on a rabbit.” (laughter)
He beseeched, he heckled them, with a line that went, “Hey, next year you gotta invite my guy!” They wouldn’t budge. He finally got to them by saying, with a wink and a smile, “Fellows, confidentially just between
you and me, if you don’t do it, I will lose my job!” It wasn’t true. A small thing, but one of the things one doesn't forget.
Years, many years later, Tony called and said, “Dano, I need a favor.” Naturally I said, “Tony, you got it.”
Well what it was… he was in charge of putting some program together for that years New York State Broadcasters dinner. He wanted me to MC it. It was to be somewhere far, far upstate. Tony always went… far upstate, up there in the badlands of the country. Unfortunately, this particular meeting was in the dead of winter. “Don’t worry, I’ll get us a helicopter... We’ll whirl you up there and back, we’ll have a good time, and it will be a breeze.”
Well don’t you know that when the scheduled night came, there was… over most, if not all, of
, a snowstorm of historic proportions! So no helicopter. We are going to have to drive it. Tony got us the car, we were driven up there and back. It took hours and hours each way. We drove back well after
on frozen roads in driving snow. Tony broke out two cigars, we started puffing on them, nearly asphyxiated the driver. (laughter) It also didn’t take long for Tony to break out a bottle of “adult beverage.” We were soon singing. We sang… all the way back. We sang everything either of us ever knew, everything from ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ to ‘Hello Dolly.’ When I dropped him off about
at his suburban home, before I was taken home to the city, Tony got out and turned, he might have “wobbled” just ever so slightly, winked and said “Debt paid, Dano.” (laughter)
Then he went into the house laughing and singing. Now I don’t know what it was like in his house after he got in. I do know what it was like inside mine, which can best be described as “frosty!” (laughter) This brings us to another central fact which marks Tony’s life. He had this almost unbelievably good wife Mary, and their exceptional children and their grandchildren. How he loved them. A man’s family says so much about who and what he is… at his core. So it was with Tony.
Also, no person can know Tony and not know his honesty. I once told him, “Tony you’re so honest… I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot dice with you over the telephone!” (laughter) And I meant it. He just laughed, that deep
“within himself” laugh, and he said something like, “Alright Dan, enough of that touchy feely wisdom.”....If every person for whom Tony Malara did some good deed were to have brought a flower to this gathering today, he would sleep tonight under a canopy of blossoms. In his own quiet, good humored, decent way, there was, there is, no better man. Come to think of it… the most wonderful man many of us have ever met.