With a tip of the hat to Andy Fisher, I was the youngest member of the WNEW news staff back in 1961.. That began a 40 year broadcast career, a career that I owe to Jim Gash, Jerry Graham, the indefatigable Jack Pluntze, and the warm, wonderful and talented George Engle. Not to mention one little white lie that kicked it all off.
As for that lie, with belated apologies to News Director Jerry Graham. I was interviewed for the job of “driver” for the most talented street reporter on earth, Jim Gash. Jim wore coke bottle glasses, which prevented him from driving, so he had an arrangement that allowed him to have a driver.
So when I sat across the desk from News Director Graham, and he asked the inevitable question. Do you have a valid New York State driver’s license? I lied, “yes sir, I do”
Upon that lie, my entire broadcast career was laid out in front of me.
Thank you Jerry for believing this kid from the Bronx
For the next year and a half I drove Gash to every major story in New York. I stood beside him, learning from the world’s best, how to be a street reporter.
I never got to tell; Gash how much I owe to him. When he passed I did tell his beautiful, sophisticated wife Wendy. I’m sure she’s found a way to let him know. God Bless, Jim.
As for the wonderful Mr. Engle. No man has ever had as good a friend as George. With Wally and the boys, the Engle clan presented a formidable group of warmth, and humor. When you were with them. It was all giggles and fun. My only memories of George are of him laughing with that supersized smile. His smile lit up the country.
As for talent, there was no better writer. He must have been great. Otherwise, why can I remember lines he delivered over 40 years ago?
Reporting about the fate of a Checkoslovian seaman who had jumped ship and applied for diplomatic asylum, only to be denied, George wrote, “Today the United States bounced a passing Check.”
It taught me the value of superior writing.
When the Dominican Revolution broke out, a few of us were having a few adult beverages, when I asked if there was a way for me to earn my spurs by covering the fighting in Santo Domingo. It was George who made the fateful suggestion.
I marched back to the studio and volunteered that I would pay for my own transportation and expenses to cover this war and would only ask for compensation if what I sent back was worthwhile material. All, I can say is that George volunteered to do the voice over for the Metromedia Wide half hour special that I did.
I was off and running.