Book Reviews


 

Wishy Wally & Loopy Larry – Peapod Blowhards

A Reporters Life 
by Walter Kronkite

and

Anything Goes! What I Learned from Pundits, Politicians, and Presidents 
by Larry King

 

Reviews by Rich Sheppard

 

August 29, 2001 -- You want to keep an open mind when discussing celebrity TV journalists. You want to remember that these people have clawed, hemmed, hawed, intercoursed, and fellated their way to the top of their celebrity-rewarded profession. That these nattering nabobs shouldn’t be considered “airheads,” as in the case of ditzy TV bimbos like Maria Shriver and Jane Pauley, or “pompous arses” as in the case of their self-aggrandized male counterparts such as the aforementioned Wally and Larry.  

In the interests of keeping an open mind, and perhaps getting some journalistic insights into some of the grand events of the past half-century or so, you go ahead and check Kronkite’s autobiography and King’s miscellaneous ravings out of the library. Thank the lord you’re not paying bookstore prices for these masturbatory epics.

"...Wally is famous after all for editorializing at the end of one of one of his overblown CBS newscasts that the U.S. had “lost” Vietnam during Tet in 1968 (note to readers: it still took several years for Nixon to extract American troops, but as far as Wally was concerned, the whistle already blew and tough shit to the guys who still had to fight and die)...."

 

To begin with Wally – or more grandiosely – “Walter Kronkite – Most Trusted Man in America” the book covers the entire “eventful” life of the self-inflated “first anchorman.”  Wally starts out in small town Midwest, takes a shine to newspapering, works his way into the local power structures, and looks ahead to being a reporter/hack grinding various written journalism and wire service work.  Wally spends time with the troops in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and probably sent back some interesting work, but there’s nary an example. These sections of the book read as though they are an  “I was there, it was important” travelogue. Wally’s presence on any scene creates the story. He disdainfully reports it.

'Lost' the Vietnam War

And maybe there shouldn’t be examples of Wally’s journalism in his book, because the book is about a Reporter’s Life (emphasis on “life”), not his work. Right here you can see the opening Wally gives himself to spout forth on topics as he sees fit. Mainly, he likes to tell witty wily tales about how coochy-coo he was with the big-wigs who populate his “storied” career, and the fantastic roles he played in ending the Vietnam War and bringing peace to the Middle East. Wally is famous after all for editorializing at the end of one of one of his overblown CBS newscasts that the U.S. had “lost” Vietnam during Tet in 1968 (note to readers: it still took several years for Nixon to extract American troops, but as far as Wally was concerned, the whistle already blew and tough shit to the guys who still had to fight and die). Wally also praises his own role in bringing Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin to Camp David. All he was really trying to do was get interviews, and Sadat and Begin likely used him as an intermediary. Jimmy Carter, of course, had little to do with this masterful diplomatic coup. Without going out on a limb, Wally’s great at reporting his own greatness.

Wally does take a stab at tackling some “tough” issues, i.e. he engages in some rambling pontifications about the “changing role of the media” now that he’s not in the picture anymore.  Journalism students – most especially female journalism students who are taking the fellatio route to the front of the camera – can take a pass on this book (as they do with any book that doesn’t have a supermodel on the cover and “guy advice” inside).  Also note: While Wally was on TV, the role of media was to keep his jowly mustachioed mug front and center. As you might expect, Wally denies the weighty liberal slant found in today’s mass media (particularly the evening national newscasts). Yet it’s easy to remember the genesis of today’s subjective coverage during Kronite’s reign as CBS anchor. His demoralizing ”we’ve lost Vietnam” comments are only his most famous example.  

Enamored With His Own Ascension to the Top

Quite simply Wally was often and still is quite enamored with his own ascension to the top of the news heap and his anointment as the “Most Trusted Man in America.” Fortunately for Wally (and perhaps unfortunately for those of us who had to suffer his insufferable self-inflating camera-hogging antics) the new radio and TV mediums were in their primary growth phases, and Wally, with his folksy dulcet voice and midwestern “aw-shuckedness,” hitched a gleeful ride. Once he was ensconced on the Idiot Box, with his boy wonder coverage of the early space program through the Apollo landings, it was inevitable that the vast unwashed masses of Americans TV-addicted idiots would fall for the doofus, and nourish his cushy career to the nauseating point of iconism.

In the end, Wally falls “victim” to the same anchor-eat-anchor infighting that afflicts all celebrity-driven newsrooms, and is swept off the newscast soundstage in favor of the ultimate pompous arse, Dan Rather. Surely Wally takes some satisfaction in the mighty ratings header which  CBS News took following his departure.  Yet this plummet had nothing to do with Wally’s leaving, but “rather” because of CBS News’ blatant descent into disgustingly obtuse and liberal coverage since Rather’s elbow-digging powergrab for the anchor spot.  There will be a sweet-smelling camel tent in Saddam’s backyard when you see a Rather book review on these pages.  Rather’s newscasts stink worse than sewage.

Turning to Larry King

Turning to Larry King, there’s very little biographical information in Anything Goes, but like Wally’s book, it sure contains plenty of celebrity ass-kissing and famous restaurant mentions and how often Larry likes to admit he’s wrong with his predictions. But even when he admits he’s wrong, Larry condescends, as if even when he’s wrong, he’s better than most poor schlubs who are wrong, because you see, he’s man enough to admit it. The book’s sub-title, “What I learned from Pundits, Politicians, and Presidents” is totally misleading, because while Larry admits to fallibility when it comes to outlandish predictions (who wouldn’t?), he admits to “learning” nothing from anybody, let alone the many big-wigs mentioned. Instead, it’s Larry who does the teaching and “kibbitzing” – coaxing Ross Perot into running, helping Bill Clinton “go over the heads” of traditional media to sell his socialist message and cover his abiding stench – and Larry is seldom “wrong” in this role. In particular, Larry’s incessant ass-groveling toward Perot and Clinton quickly wears thin, as does his sly references to his own manly prowess. In reality, Larry is a putzhead from Brooklyn who has a good line of shit and is facile on the boob-toob; in effect, Larry King is the northeast’s version of Slick Willie. In full Clinton rectum-lick at the end of this book, King rhapsodizes about how he is going to teach his newborn son what a giant of his age Slick Willie is.  And all because of course, Clinton himself enjoyed tongue-wiping the prime-time putzhead for his own slimy purposes.

Balance

On balance, Wally’s book contains a bit more historical context but both should still be approached with the recognition they’re written by egomaniacal name-droppers. Larry’s book reads like a self-congratulatory gossip column wherein the world quite literally revolves around the pipsqueak pundit, who is among the most wincing shrewfaces on TV - besides Geraldo Rivera.  Wally, the first of the breed of big-time TV news celebrities, is bumbling quietly off-stage, patting himself on the back while generally annoying readers of his autobiography.  All you need to know about Wally is that one of his pals is the insufferable Andy Rooney, who could well be Wally’s “autobiographical” ghost-writer.

 -- Rich Sheppard