First there was Jim Vance, at 5 and 11 on WRC-TV. Then there was Dave Marash, also at 5 and 11. And while Washington was getting used to the stocky man with the slightly scruffy beard and the unruffled manner, back came Vance.
Now the two co-anchor Channel Four's weeknight news at 11, and each shares an early news slot -- Marash at 5 with Lea Thompson, Vance at 6 with Susan King.
"From my standpoint, it's going terrific," Marash said less than two weeks after he joined forces with Vance.
Vance noted that "I was not given the authority to pick with whom I would work . . . but the result is the same, as if I had . . . I have admired Dave's work for years and, frankly, I consider it a privilege to work with him . . . "
Marash's "Live at 5" partner, Thompson, is lavish in her praise of the new kid on the block. "I just have enormous regard for him. We just get along famously. The man is bright and witty and talented, loves music -- fills our halls with great classical stuff, because he has a stereo right here in the office . . . he really fit right in . . .Dave's here to stay.
"We're settling in, we're finding our way together," she said. "You know, a co- anchor is like your right arm . . . You really do share. You find you get a rhythm: You get to know them so well that when their mouth closes, yours opens."
Down from New York City, Marash is not the pretty-boy anchor that Washingtonians might have expected WRC-TV to hire. Nor, during the period of Vance's second absence, was he a new black visage in what had become virtually an all-white late-evening news show.
No, Dave Marash is a bit offbeat. He's a man who has won several awards but lost a few jobs, a New Yorker with a Southern background, a stocky man with a receding hairline and a graying beard who has succeeded in a world that puts a high priority on glamor. But Dave Marash is also an intelligent, thoughtful man with many interests. "He's a very nice human being," said Thompson, "and he's a journalist of the first order."
When Marash joined WRC-TV last July, he admitted that "I didn't know the city yet -- but I knew jazz." So he set out to make a tour of the local jazz spots for the "Live at 5" show, as well as to get to know the territory. In the process, he discovered a pianist he thinks ranks with the best, decided that the city needs both a better deli and a bigger jazz club, and concluded that Washington "has changed a lot."
Life for Marash has changed recently, too. At 43, after nearly two decades in New York City, Marash has become a midlife father and a suburbanite, choosing a house off Seven Locks Road in the Bethesda-Potomac area largely for the benefit of his son, Jack, nearly 2. "He can walk to school -- it's two bocks, through the woods," explained Marash. "And it's on a bus line," convenient for child care.
It is also close enough that Marash can get home between newscasts to see his wife, television producer Kerry Smith- Marash, their son Jack, and and their Vietnamese foster son, Son Kim Nguyen, a sophomore at Churchill High School.
On a crisp January day before Vance returned, Marash took snapshots of Jack down from his office wall to show to a visitor, then donned his parka for the walk to the parking lot and his black Dodge Challenger, equipped with his son's car seat in the back and Luciano Pavarotti cassettes in front for the tape deck.
Over lunch, Marash explained that "I understood the situation with Vance before I came. I did not come to Washington to fill Jim Vance's shoes. I expect him to come back and step back into those shoes himself. But I think Vance and I would work well together."
Even if Vance returns, he said, WRC has told him "there is plenty of work for everyone."
The following day, WRC-TV announced that Marash's 11 o'clock co-anchor, Bob McBride, would retire and that Jim Vance would return Sunday, Jan. 26.
Not long after Marash talked about his initial weeks at WRC-TV, he went off to Dominica, a West Indian island of wild jungle and mountain rivulets, to do an article for Regardie's magazine. Before he left, he understood he would begin co- anchoring the 11 o'clock newscast with Vance on Monday, Jan. 27. But on his return, Marash checked his message machine and learned he'd be sharing Vance's first newscast. They had met only once, "in the parking lot," said Marash.
Before the return of long-time anchor Vance, Marash was optimistic. He noted that "many of Vance's friends (at WRC- TV) have become my friends." He had noticed that they have some of the same interests -- music, for one. (Last week a pleased Vance commented, "How often does a guy get a coanchor who knows Pookie Hudson or who knows who was th female vocalist in Billy Eckstine's awesome band?") Both have been involved in small bands of their own, both sing ("Blues, folk music -- I'm a 'folkie' "). He says his personal record collection is extensive -- "about 40 percent jazz, 40 percent classic, the rest blues, gospel . . . I'm a compulsive listener."
He's also fond of things gastronomical. "I love to eat Chinese-style and I'm partial to French food and chocolate desserts," although he joked that "I eat anything that's not faster than my hands." With their foster son, the Marashes try a new Asian restaurant each Friday night.
Marash hopes that Washington will get a New York-style deli and a jazz showcase bigger and less expensive than Blues Alley ("Blues Alley can't handle anything bigger than a quartet"). But while doing his documentary on jazz spots, he happened on two musicians he admires, pianist Reuben Brown -- "the best I've ever heard" -- who plays Mondays at One Step Down, and singer Larry Sharpe, who appears at Ibex.
Marash is not a native New Yorker -- he's Southern-reared, born in Atlanta when his father, who was working his way up the Civil Service job list, took the first Civil Service job that came up: prison guard at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. He moved from there to a job with the Atlanta Young Men's Hebrew Association and then to the YMHA in Miami Beach. To age 5, Marash lived with his parents in the mansion that housed the club. During a 1947 hurricane, the posh building was flooded, and the family came back to find the two caretakers "sitting on the front steps fishing -- inside the house."
When his father took a job with the Jewish Community Center in Richmond, the Marash family moved again. "Ours was the last house in the suburbs," he said. The house backed onto a farm -- with a mule, he recalls -- belonging to the Lamberts, a black family who had been living on the land since 1865. Marash remembers an imposing woman, "6 feet tall with hair that stuck up another two feet," emerging from the back door each evening "in her one muumuu" to behead the chicken for the evening's dinner.
Marash may have been thinking of his grandmother, Henrietta, said Benjamin Lambert III, now 49, the eldest son of the seven Lambert youngsters. Lambert, an optometrist and a state senator (he gained the seat vacated by newly-elected Lieut. Gov. Douglas L. Wilder), certainly hadn't forgotten the Marashes.
"I remember the Marashes as a very fine family. They were our first white neighbors, and I learned a whole lot from the family . . . Their mother and father were two of the nicest people," said Lambert. "We babysat with the younger Marashes -- we grew the eggs, cut the grass, did the babysitting . . . We were awfully good friends, close friends, in and out of each other's houses."
The elder Marash arranged for the young Lamberts to use the facilities of an otherwise exclusive Jewish camp, said Lambert. "We played ball and went swimming two or three times a week."
But Lambert also remembers that David Marash "had an awful temper. They had been there three or four weeks, and he came out and said, 'Why's your face so brown or so dirty' or something like that, and his daddy came out and gave him the most awful whipping." (Marash, who said that as a child he sometimes went into "stratospheric rages," also recalled that incident. He admitted candidly that "that was the first -- and last -- time I ever called anyone 'nigger.' My father came out and hit me across the face.")
Young David Marash played with the seven Lamberts, who went to a different school in those days in segregated Richmond, and because he did the other kids in his neighborhood wouldn't play with him. But today, he said, "I feel very comfortable in black culture."
Lambert, who managed Wilder's first electoral campaign five years ago, said, "We couldn't have had better neighbors than the Marashes . . . kind, honest and good people. If everybody could have lived like the Lambert and the Marash families, the world would be a better place."
When Dave was 15, the Marashes moved to White Plains, N.Y., where his father became human rights commissioner and his mother eventually chaired the department of early childhood education at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale. Neither is alive now, but his brother Ralph, 37, still lives in White Plains, and Kenn, 35, lives in Ithaca.
Marash went to Williams College on a partial scholarship, majoring in English, playing baseball and doing play-by-play sports for the college. The local radio station carried the college's sports broadcasts, then hired the student announcer to work at the station evenings.
With a degree cum laude from Williams, Marash moved on to Rutgers University for graduate studies in English literature and worked for a radio station in New Brunswick, N.J., where his first major story concerned a teachers' strike in nearby Woodbridge. Thena friend told him that the rumor around WINS in New York City was that someone at that station was about to be fired. Did Marash want to audition? He did, and got the job. Ironically, the person who was eventually fired was the friend who relayed the rumor.
Marash spent 18 years in New York, working first for WINS radio in 1967, then WNEW-AM (he said he was fired after he helped in a campaign to get pay parity for the station's FM announcers). He moved to his first television job, at WPIX-TV, but lost it, he said, after he tried to organize the employees into an AFTRA unit. Returning to radio, he covered the Winter Olympics at Sapporo and the 1972 Games at Munich for WCBS, and won the prestigious Overseas Press Club Award for his coverage of the terrorist siege and massacre of Israeli athletes there.
In 1973 Marash moved to WCBS-TV to anchor that station's 11 p.m. newscast. Three years later he won a New York Emmy for his reports on the conflict in the Middle East, determining that the Israeli government's claim that it had no policy on the resettlement of Israelis on the West Bank was untrue, that the settlements were in fact a result of coordinated government policy. While working for WCBS, he went to Granada -- "it's the most beautiful island in the world" -- for a report on the island's politics. He and his crew were arrested and declared persona non grata, but got their story. When the United States invaded Granada in 1983, he said, CBS' background film footage was his.
In 1978 Marash joined the staff of ABC's "20/20" and won a national Emmy for his coverage of the post-revoluntionary government in Nicaragua, but returned to WCBS-TV in 1981 to anchor the 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts. Two years later he joined WNBC-TV, assigned to cover sports and news for both the New York station and the network. After a year, he said, he arranged to drop his network chores.
Working for WNBC-TV, Marash won a local Emmy for his documentary series, "Dave Marash Reporting," and another for one of the series' reports, a story on a penicillan-resistant strain of gonorrhea that had increased to epidemic proportions in New York City. He also won a New York Press Club Award for a story on the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning in the city.
And then he decided to leave.
Marash paused several moments before explaining why. "I left New York because I concluded that news reporting there had fallen under the influence of The New York Post and that it was impossible to do thoughtful (television) journalism, which is my specialty." He had worked with a former friend, Jerry Nachman, for about eight months before taking the job at WRC-TV. Nachman, now news director of WNBC-TV in New York and formerly general manager of WRC-AM radio here, had apprenticed under Marash as a reporter, but switched to management -- a change Marash decries on principle.
Marash is pleased with his move to Washington. For one thing, it is a city that seems tolerant of the beard that he has worn almost continuously since he was 19. Once, in the days when beards were verboten on camera, Marash said he shaved it off for an audition. ("I was disoriented. I grew it back when I didn't recognize the face in the mirror.") Now he believes he may have been the first television anchor in the business to sport a beard. Though he has been stubborn about the beard, it's more important, he thinks, that a television anchorman be "comfortable, confident and competent."
But more than that, he said, what pleases him about his new job is that "Washington is a city where people think, where people are literate," where news is still reported as news. And he views coming to Washington as "a career move. I stayed in New York 18 years. I hope to stay here at least as long."