Aug 12, 2005

Peter Jennings, Sex Symbol

Autumn is on its way. I know because of the light in August. The sun sits just a little lower in the sky, a little dimmer. A little sadder. It's for real, too. The earth orbits the sun on an ellipsis, so days don't shorten by the same amount every day. We hit a sharp curve in August and the light leaves even faste. But before I knew that science, I knew it was true because the summer was tipping away from me, I felt some strange nostalgia.

Autums is my favorite season. There's something about noting the passing of time, that is good for the soul. Sobering and beautiful. Maybe we don't know it that well in LA, the pasage of time, because the seasons seem too much the same. That, and everyone gets Botox. But no, it's good for the soul, to mourn and honor the dead, even if it's just the death of a summer.

I cried when I heard that Peter Jennings died. Just a little. Then last night I watched a TV special on him, and I cried again. A lot. He was sooo sexy. Smart, urbane, refined, the way he trudged through the middle east with his cravat and fatigues, talking about the Middle East like he was undressing you. But he was more than just James Bond with a microphone. He did some amazing things as a journalist; after a miserable try at anchoring (at 25) he went abroad to become a journalist. He became a Middle East expert; he insisted on covering Bosnia in the early 1990s when no one wanted to admit what was going on. He was down to earth. and there were those amazing specials he did on The Search for Jesus, the Search for Faith. He engaged the person in the room who seemed to be a nobody. He got into coversations with people who started out cursing him.

One thing that made me cry watching the show last night, was to find out women loved him, and he was a ladies man. I thought I was the only one, lusting after him in an urbane, respectable way. He cheated on me!

In April 2000, I was doing production coordinating for TV Guide/News Corporation. I got roped into coordinating for this live event for Fox News, held at the Regent Wall Street Hotel. It was nothing but talking heads for four hours. Which is too bad, since we had some heavy hitters show up to talk: Colin Powell, Madeline Albright, Gorbachev, Kissinger. I wrote an opening speech for Rupert Murdoch. It was ridiculous. I got a temp job wrapping Christmas gifts for TV Guide Special Events; and four months later I was writing an opening statement for Rupert Murdoch. I didn't know news, and I sure as hell didn't know who Bill O'Reilly was, because we had to book hotel rooms for O'Reilly (in case he wanted to stay the night at the hotel before, maybe to have some lurid phone sex with a resistant assistant) he'd have the freedom to do it on Fox News' dime. Anyway, this O'Reilly character who acted like he was Murdoch, didn't end up taking the room. So my production supervisor gave the rooms to those of us who'd been at the hotel for three days straight on about four hours' sleep.

The morning of the event had to go out and give a kind welcome blurb to tell people to shut their fucking blackberries off), but right before show time, I had to use the unisex bathroom backstage. As I was walking in, Gorbie walked by. And afterward, as I was walking back out, Kissinger's walking in. "Vat arr yoo dooink in da men's room?"

But for me, the high point was later, the news reporters were mingling, eating and sipping coffee. Michael Bolton was there. Guess he knew the days of long haired singer/non songwriters was over and he best be getting his extensions removed and do something serious. Just as I was staring at the close-cropped Bolton, the crowd parted and there he was. The James Bond of news reporting. Peter Jennings. He was stirring his coffee and looking for cream in an empty pitcher. I sashayed over. "Looks like you need something."
He smiled, this charming, dashing, Rex Harrison naughty gentleman smile. My wobbly knees managed to convey me far enough to find him a full pitcher of cream and bring it back.

He winked again.

I'd had just enough sleep deprivation that, had he looked at me a moment longer, maybe I would have said it. "So, what are you doing after? I have a suite upstairs that Bill O'Reilly never slept in. The other roadie stole all the Bulgari soaps but we could order room service."

But just as his pursed lips parted, someone called him away. My chance was gone. I'll never forget that wink.

Oh gosh what a man, he did so much for the world. He was filled with ambition and discipline, he knew what he wanted, he loved doing what he did. He had cojones, masculinity, that drive you so seldom see anymore. Testosterone. Wild at heart, in a cravat. God he floated my boat.

Last night, watching the special on his life, I saw it again. In some old footage, he turned to someone and gave them that wink. I cried.

And now, a moment of silence for each woman in the TV news audience who thought Mister Jennings was whispering sweet news nothings only to her ...