Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite

I'm saddened at the news that Walter Cronkite passed away this weekend at the age of 91. Partially because he was legend in news at a time when you didn't need to scream or terrify your audience. And partially because I met him once. And he was awesome.

It was back when I worked at the Museum of Television and Radio (now the Paley Museum). The Museum was a weigh station for my career. I had finished up at Art Asylum and had another six months before I broke into advertising. I spent those months trying my hand at stand-up, writing sketches and watching a lot of old television programs. I wasn't doing much but I felt I was better than what I was doing. I'm sure you feel the same.

The Museum held an honorarium for Cronkite and I was selected to work late. These things were never as good as you hoped. Every now and then I'd get to talk to the cast of Spin City or warn Matthew Modine about the fire exits but mostly I'd stand on an empty floor and tell people not to get off the elevator there.

This time it was a wine and cheese event outside the main theater. Which meant the members (mostly transients) would rush the table and fill their aluminum foil-lined pockets with cheese. My then girfriend was working the table and I kept my focus on her. I thought she might lose a finger.

Just then I heard a booming voice. "Young man, you're standing in front of the most important door in the building." It was Cronkite. He was standing right in front of me. I was barring his entrance into the men's room.

I had to say something. Usually when I meet a celebrity I admire I'm dumbstruck. When I almost ran Joss Whedon over with Ben's stroller, we both shrugged. When I met Bruce Campbell, Renee did all the talking. When I saw Michael J. Fox, I got out of his way. But I had to respond.

"Sorry Mr. Cronkite. Out of all the possible places I had to stand, I picked the worst." I stepped to the left.

"HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!" Cronkite bellowed as the door closed behind him. I had killed with Cronkite. He'd had a few scotches but that wasn't much different than the crowds I'd work in the Improv seven years later. I'd connected with him. For that moment, I was on his level.

The world will remember his tears at the news of Kennedy's death. But I'll always remember his laughter in a basement in Midtown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story.