TV, GMA, Bee Gees, Mellencamp, Joel, Hall & Oates

• The move from radio to radio with pictures

• I’m a Good Morning America music correspondent, alongside Joan Lunden and Charlie Gibson.

• “Never pass up an opportunity to have sex or be on television” – Gore Vidal

When I returned from Moscow in 1987 after successfully completing my first two TV pieces on rock in Russia and Billy Joel’s concerts, the executive producer of Good Morning America, Jack Riley, took me to lunch. He said I had done a good job and would I want to be signed on as a contributing correspondent covering pop music? Not only did it sound great to me, my editors at the radio network loved the idea, too. The GMA stories I would do – artist profiles and musical trend pieces – would be re-purposed for radio. When I wasn’t working on a GMA package I would continue to cover the mixture of both hard news and features I’d been doing for radio. My income jumped commensurately – I was in a bracket I had only dreamed of.

On the mornings that some of my contributions aired, I would visit the GMA set for some on-air back-and-forth with hosts Joan London and Charlie Gibson. I flew to LA to interview George Harrison, to Miami to profile the Bee Gees, to Kansas City for the launch of a Michael Jackson tour (disappointingly, only an interview with his manager).

I was sent to Indiana to profile John Mellencamp (and cough my way through an interview with the unapologetic chain-smoking rocker).

John Cougar Marlboro

I did another piece on Billy Joel for GMA. The differing heights of my chair and the sofa Billy was on produced this photographic “outtake,” which I thought – given Billy’s short stature – might be embarrassing to him:

Stack some phone books, too!

But then ABC Radio decided to use it in a promotional pamphlet sent to all its radio affiliates. And they added a caption. So, sorry Billy, it became somewhat funnier.

From an ABC promo pamphlet

After a little over a year, though, the TV gig ended. Riley explained that he had a whole stable of contributing correspondents – gardening, cooking, automotive, etc. – all under contract to make so many on-air appearances per month. He said he had trouble getting all of us on the air so he decided that going forward, in the case of music coverage, instead of my taped packages he would just have artists like Sting or Peter Gabriel come into the studio and be interviewed live by Joan or Charlie. That was a letdown, although the rationale made sense. I’ve always suspected the real reason was I came up short in Q-rating. A Q score measures a TV personality’s appeal and recognition level. It’s a proprietary polling process and the results are seldom revealed, only occasionally leaked. So, I have nothing to base my “nobody liked me” theory on…but I’m sticking to it.

Nonetheless, ahead of me was a 12-year stint on the hottest news channel of the 1990s.


More stops along the reporter’s road.

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