Boy you couldn't beat that lifelong newsman Walter Cronkite to deliver you the truth when it counted most, right? And you especially knew the standards in which he carried out his private life had to be as morally upstanding and above anyone's ideals. I mean, we're talking Cronkite here. Television's "Mr. America," and the most stoic, stand-up and honest man who, among other things, managed to get the battling forces of Israel and Palestine to finally speak softly. The man who cried with us when he learned of President Kennedy's assassination. The man who always promised us that what he was reporting was nothing short of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
What can I tell you: I was infatuated with Cronkite when I was in grade school. And he's absolutely one of the reasons why I decided to study journalism in college and hope to be anything at all like the truth-sayer Cronkite was for all America.
I remember the day NASA landed men on the moon and my mother called me in from the schoolyard - where me and 15 other boys were playing "kill the guy with the ball."
"They're walking on the moon," my mother yelled across the street. "Get your ass inside."
I remember the way Cronkite handled that magic moment. And, honestly, it were moments like that - with his proud, stucatto voice announcing it all - that made me want to be the kind of guy who, when I grew up, was able to supply people with news they wouldn't ordinarily be privy to.
I graduated high school and college with Cronkite's voice playing as a constant narration of what seemed like every important moment in my life. (I honestly feel badly for youngsters who seek a career in broadcast journalism now and no doubt have a hard time emulating anyone as professional as Cronkite.)
But when Cronkite stepped down and told America a qualified fella named Dan Rather would be taking over for him, I didn't give it much thought. I was in college and trying to find my way into a journalism career. Luckily...I was able to avoid tracking down stories for neaningless stories in East Asswipe, Alabama...and I stalked enough NYC newspaper editors to land my first job as a gossip columnist for NY Newsday and the several glory years I enjoyed as a columnist at the Daily News.
By that time, I thought like who the Hell I thought I was. You follow? I'm saying I started to feel I was bigger than the columns I was writing. And no one could tell me otherwise. And I think this simple - but complex - paradox happens to almost everyone who starts to sail behind the wake of his own popularity.
All of this brings me to a night in the 1990's - when I was at the top of my game. A buddy and I were finished visiting Jack Nicholson at The Carlyle Hotel one late night, when we stumbled to the elevator and hit the down button.
How the fuck do you think I felt when the elevator arrived and opened and featured Mr. Cronkite holding an ice bucket with a champagne bottle packed inside it while two stunning females - dressed in clingy dresses and stilettos heels - guided "Mr. America" off to his room?
Now...these could've been his neices. What do I know? I only know the expression he shot me was one of embarrassment.
Next story about a trustworthy newsman.
Several years later and I found myself friends with Cronkite's replacement, Dan Rather. Dan and I got to be friendly mainly because his assistant was an ex-flame of mine. Anyhow...one night Dan and his assistant decide to meet me for drinks at the W Hotel in Westwood. As soon as we got there, Dan took me aside and said, "This place is packed with pussy!." No matter how prepared you think you might be...you never expect the voice of the nation's 6 O'Clock News to speak that way.
After three drinks at the W, we moved over to a Sunset Strip club formerly known as Barfly, where Dan kept telling the bartenders that he wanted "Three fingers Wild Turkey in a rock's glass, with a water back. But, barkeep, that's three fingers vertical. Not horizontal."
After four hours of hitting the town, we all ended up sleeping at a Century City Hotel. We got in at 3 A.M. At 6 A.M. my phone rang with a very clear-headed Rather asking me if I wanted to fly to Alaska in a couple hours to go fly fishing."
I remember I went to his room to politely turn him down, but spotted a pair of female panties in his opened suitcase. "Oh...somebody slipped me these when I had no idea," was his answer.
My final example of how little you know about the men who give you the world news has to do with my sitting down with a Fox News bigshot (I'll keep him nameless for his sake)who had the duty of interviewing me about my memoirs which I wrote in 2001. Everything was as above-board as you can imagine, until with about 10 seconds to air the powerful host asked me...."Tell me...who's the most famous woman you fucked?"
I sat there stunned for a few seconds until I realized he really was salivating for an answer. I lied and blurted out, "Mariah Carey."
"Was she good," the big-time anchor asked with three seconds to spare before air.
"Oh yeah. Tremendous," I said.
"Fuckin' fantastic," he said, as his producer counted backward from 3 to 2 to 1.
Just goes to show you: There are two sides to every story you ever hear. And there are two sides to the men you trust to give those stories.