[PARAGRAPHS ILLEGIBLE] professional no-advertising code. Lloyd White didn't get a doctor's bill until 1969, when Panorama changed direction to deal with the riots, the Vietnam War, the assassinations, and our realization that this Washington show could offer something topical - plus a look at a political power in action - that was beyond the reach of Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson.
With Barbara Howar's arrival in 1969, out went the doctor, astrology and travel segments. Her prodding and challenging made it a whirlwind year and a half for John and me. Role-playing became the order. John was the gentle, graying, Hush-Puppy conservative of the trio. Barbars, the she-devil who wore every unpopular cause on he Ralph Lauren sleeve - the women's movement, stink about Vietnam, and a flotilla of world problems that she dragged into the show.
For me, at 30, the lines had started to come in on cat's feet, and there was a wisp of gray. But I was still the outraged young radical (with a wife and two children) looking for causes and doing what I could for effect, to hold my place on the battle lines with Barbara and John. Effect won, and I lost some honesty. Daily, Lloyd would jostle me with, "Hey, Murph, when the hell are you going to grow up, cut your hair and act nice?"
Barbara and I kept getting roles confused. Her diatribes outstretched mine. The clashes spilled over into the spring of 1970. It was a time of frustration, saved only by unexpected moments.
Like the day Sheilah Graham, the gossip columnist, came to plug her lifeless Hollywood book. Barbara suggested that Graham had some help writing Beloved Infidel . The facial burns on Graham were not from the Southern California sun. When I began reading a bad book review from Newsweek, she threatened to walk off the set. Barbara got up to show her the way, and off Graham went. I told the viewers it wasn't much of a book anyway.
They there was Jim Bishop, the man who could write a thousand pages on The Day Lincoln Was Shot . Bishop could have done 500 pages on a trip to the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant. This was his Kennedy book, and after a flattering introduction, Bishop in mock humility said he really wasn't a great writer, just a good second-rate one. I asked him why, in 900 pages, he spent only a page and a half on the shots fired, the pivotal question in more than one assassin theory. Bishop bristled, saying I was demeaning his book. Later Barbara ended the segment with, "And we want to thank Jim Bishop, a second-rate author who has written a second-rate hook."
I didn't mean anything disrespectful in a 1970 Panorama show when I hauled in the name of Jesus Christ. John Willis had been up to his usual, damning those long-haired hippie-like antiwar commies, and I said, "Look, what's wrong with wearing sandals, long hair and robes? That dress was created 2000 years ago, by a man called Jesus walking around Galilee. He was the first hippie."
Some 420 phone calls later, I was called into the manager's office for repentence. I was willing, though I clung to the First Amendment like Linus to his blanket. The next day, once removed from the scowls of management, I recanted on the air with, "I'm sorry for my remarks yesterday regarding the dress worn 2000 years ago. On reflection, Jesus was the first alleged hippie."
Much has been written about the art of the interview over the years. There are those who would caution the interviewer to lie back, allow the subject to answer questions fully and withdraw into the listener. Others advocate a technique bordering on the prosecutorial, the approach so successfully employed by CBS' Mike Wallace: bombard the subject with questions in attempts to reach some sort of embarrassing contradiction.
i think now that both are needed and that it is the atmosphere created that determines the shape of the interview. I have been more a student, though, than an expert despite my amazement that, as I thumb through the logs, I count no less than 10,000 guests during ten years of Panorama.
The interview is a hectic trip, the interviewer working his way through the subject, reacting constantly to answers, editing out prepared questions that become superfluous and naive. Your confidence grows only through your research and your grasp of the subject and his personality. It is a five-speed gear box being used in city, country and beltway traffic, down-shifting, stopping, snicking into first, and at times redlining into third.
There have been moments of joy and sheer terror.
To be able to have John Cassavetes, the talented movie director, on his knees showing me how the director and actor must relate on a set gives an insight to the movie medium that only a visual interview can produce.
And yet the armpits of an interviewer can yearn for Ban when, after listening to Buckminster Fuller for fifteen minutes, you have no idea what he's talking about, and then he stops and waits for your next question.
But in 1969 and 1970 the thoughtful interview was unthinkable. John, Barbara and I were still going at it, creating more havoc than any of our guests. We were the show; the guests had to put up with us.
Howar: I tell you ladies and gentlemen out there I have the smartest dog around.
I found out he will only go to the bathroom on the New York Times.
Povich: Is that what you call yellowed journalism?
Barbara Howar left in 1970. Oh, there was a fuss. She claimed that the two boys were getting paid twice as much as she. Overlooked was the workload John and I carried. We both worked five nights a week on the news, and I came back to do the weekend sports too.
Barbara left for better things: TV syndication; then to write her memoirs, a novel and free lance articles; plus lecturing, and a standing invitation to the Johnny Carso Tonight Show and other goodies.
I even convinced Lloyd that she would be missed, that those sparks among the hosts would never return, and they never did. The Seventies are here and we let the events provide the energy, not the hosts.
John and I worked alone for a while and then Alice Travis was hired.She had no television experience and the opening days were rocky, though she improved somewhat as time went on. But three years later she resigned, illustrated. And two months later John went to Boston, following Bob Bennett, the legend who created Panorama and our fate.
Suddenly I was there alone, with a new producer, Jane Caper, and full of fear that I could not carry it by myself. It was September 1973. The Watergate cloud hung heavy. "Now, Murph, don't think you can't handle it," said Lloyd. "I'm here and we'll stick together and I don't care what those broads upstairs do, we'll make out."
That was Lloyd's clarion call every day. The "broads" were my producers, led by Caper, who had come to Panorama as apart time Kelly girl and worked her way up. There were four in all, and they hustled, by day in the office, by night at every social function in this powercrazed city. I kept saying the show is only as good as the guest (trying to get myself off the hook).
We struck hard, running with Watergate every day, journalists like Jack Nelson of the Los Angeles Times, Tad Szulc who wrote for everyone, Nick Horrock, Chris Lydon, Bernie Gwertzman, David Binder of the New York Times, and my most frequent regular, Bonnie Angelo of Time, who would race over daily after the press briefing at the White House, spewing suspicion at Ziegler and the rest of the stonewalling administration crowd.
We would have both sides: members of the Senate Watergate Committee, and Father John McLaughlin the Nixon apologist. Representative Bella Abzug, one of the first to call for impeachment, and Pat Buchanan, the White House speech writer who could turn a lost cause into sudden victory in the minds of the viewer.
The dozens of newspaper reporters in this town who dropped their lunch hours and some deadlines to give insight into Watergate were saving us.
In the spring of 1974, Watergate was in full bloom along with the pollen count and Martha Mitchell got her finger caught up in the Touch-Tone and reached Panorama instead of UPI's Helen Thomas. Martha was ready to come out of hiding, and had picked Panorama as her mouthpiece.
The coup brought out the network news papparazzi, and in came Martha, looking over her shoulder for the shady characters she claimed had been following her ever since they turned her into a stuck pig in that motel room in Newport Beach, California, during the 1972 campaign.
The shock of Martha shivering and clutching for protection was not the image I expected.
Her mouth had always been in front of reason, and her come-what-may air was as familiar as her outrage. But this woman seemed scared, ironically, of the media she had used so well.Those forced tranquilizer shots in California had taken effect and, on Panorama, Martha was four crinolies of fear.
She recounted the miserable days of isolation, but the spunk had died replaced only by Martha's thirst for television. Ma Bell wasn't enough. To calm her, we invited over her phone pal Miss Thomas and Martha brightened a bit, but through the pink flowing dress (Martha's favorite color) the sadness was showing. Martha had been consumed by the ambition of others, and now she was struggling to regain what was lost in Watergate crush: her good name.
She came on twice more before she died, each time talking about her television show hopes and the book which she swore would tell the whole ugly story. Neither happened.
In July of 1974, on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, five members of the House Judiciary Committee sat for Panorama's live remote, discussing how and why they voted impeachment the night before. It was an exciting end to the Watergate years of Panorama.
For the last three years Panorama has been developing special formats for the show with one guest - like Joseph Alsop, Hubert Humphrey, Eric Severeid - for ninety minutes. Channel Five then replays the show for the nighttime audience.
Spiro Agnew's ninety minutes into a disarming interview for him. Fresh from his remarks on the Today Show about Jews, Agnew launched into his anti-Israeli tirade anew, claiming he didn't know what all the fuss was about since he was here to promote a book. I reminded him of the Jewish support he has enjoyed in Maryland as governor, noting that one of his most ardent defenders, Joseph Rash of Baltimore, a friend of his and mine, had died recently. I asked the former Vice President what Joe Rash would think about his statements. Agnew never answered.
Sometimes, of course, answers become heated, and once Panorama ended at 2:20 p.m. because Senator Barry Goldwater, listening to the show, called in to not only answer, but berate a guest.
As they say in the control room, "Povich, you went over twenty minutes." It was television at its spontaneous best. The guest, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Herbert, had written a book about Vietnam atrocities and the American troops that had participated in such cruelty. Herbert had been making the television circuit, had wooed CBS' Sixty Minutes on one show but then had stumbled during a second Sixty Minutes appearance at which he was held up for closer scrutiny, failed to substantiate his charges and heard many of them refuted.
Five minutes before the end of our show, my producer held up a sign. SenatorBarry Goldwater was on the phone answering charges by Herbert. Goldwater had done his own homework and on the phone talking to Herbert, with thirty seconds to go, Goldwater said "Colonel, you're nothing but a damn liar." Only on live television - the following movie was bumped and for twenty minutes Herbert and Goldwater jumped in the pit, Goldwater winning the battle and the war, leaving Herbert searching for a Purple Heart.
Usually, though, there is a formula for taking viewer comments on Panorama.
The first ten calls every day are from the same anonymous people. They don't like anything, or anyone.
If you sat there for the first ten minutes of the show with nothing but a picture of a piece of apple pie and a baby, they would find some relationship to communism.
My friend Frank Getlein once defined the success of Panorama: "Only on that show," he said, "can one see the education of a young man in public."
My viewers, at least those first ten, have other ideas. The other day a friend asked me if I can take criticism now. "Sure," I said, "With all the head wounds, my skull is nothing but a steel plate. War injury, you know."
Criticism wrapped in humor, though, is a treat. I'm a sucker for wit. And here's one of the best in ten years, a Mailgram:
"Without a doubt after forty years in the clothing business in the finest stores in the world Brooks Brothers, Tripler, Press Brothers, etc you without doubt are the worst dressed man I have ever seen that cardboard suit you have on tonight which I presume to be Polyester five and one half inch lapel's and a polka dot tie would put you possibly a the worst dress list in america for god's sake get some advice your personality is bad enough but your clothes are atrocious.
Ray J Neville, 1314 Mayflower Dr, McLean Va 22101"
One does not leave easily. I can't.
For ten years, I have had something to do every day in my home town, the best news town in the world.
Too many people have told me recently that I've mellowed, matured, grown up, that I'm not the same as I was that day in January of 1967.
I had better not be the same.
The academicians and sociologists says that television has shaped the minds of a generation, but I won't assume a part of that role. I have learned as much as any viewer. It has shaped my mind as a student, not only of my craft, but of my personality. I have used it, abused it, let it be my shrink, my confessor. I was honest enough one day to say, "I apologize for the show but I was out late last night, and frankly I'm hung over." Those first ten calls strung into a hundred and ten. The management warned me never to do that again. I have been warned so many times not to do it again, I am hardpressed to list what the "don'ts" are.
My producers, led by Phyllis McGrady, who at 25 is as street-smart as they come in this television business, are now on a talent hunt. It will be successful. This show has always improved with freshness. With no network back-up and a budget that would make Romper Room look like a Hollywood spectacular, Panorama is still known by more people in the Washington area than any other local show.
On the night of the announcement of my leavetaking, I went celebrating in Georgetown. After some months of negotiation and indecision, I was smiling. I was leaving Washington, trying to find a way back eventually. I closed Nathan's and I walked to the car. There on the windshield was this note: "Do not try to remove this car. We like your show, but you should pay your parking tickets." I glanced down at the wheels. I was given the ultimate farewell from my home town. The Denver Boot.