Today my former co-anchor Gayle King debuted on the brand new “CBS This Morning,” joining PBS host Charlie Rose, and shoreline native Erica Hill, who grew up in Clinton. Even though it has been a dozen years since Gayle left the big 3, she remains in the hearts of many of us here, and definitely in the hearts of viewers across our state. She clearly qualifies as a Connecticut television icon, although Gayle winced when I called her that once.
In fact, after Gayle left to work as editor-at-large at O Magazine, Channel 3 viewers missed her so much I was sent to Manhattan to interview her. Sitting in her office across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater, Gayle told me Hartford will always be a part of her.
“Without sounding sappy, I became a woman, I grew up at Channel 3. I fell in love at Channel 3, I got married at Channel 3, I had children at Channel 3, and I got divorced at Channel 3.”
Now that Gayle has made it big time, it’s time to look back at where she came from. We’ve hauled out some old video out of the dusty archives from her years as a cub reporter at WFSB. We gave fellow WFSB alumni Mika Brzezinski and Bill O’Reilly their nostalgic trips down the Hartford Memory Lane earlier this year, and it still amazes me how many people still go to my blog every day to see pictures of vintage Mika and vintage Bill.
Sadly, a while back, some managers who are now former managers, ordered the disposal of dozens, perhaps scores, of old videotapes. As a result of their short-sighted housecleaning, Gayle’s first story here at WFSB in the fall of 1981, no longer exists in our archives, along with many of her reports from 1981 to 1985, everything from festivals, to shootings, to fires, the standard fare for newbies. Thankfully, a few reports from that era did survive. They are in an old 3/4″ tape format that must be played in a rickety old relic of a machine. The quality is grainy, at best.
Anyway, Gayle worked at WFSB from 1981 to 1999. Most of the stuff from the 90s appears from time to time during our anniversary specials, but the really old stuff has not been seen, well, since it aired.
This the oldest image I’ve been able to find of Gayle’s tenure at WFSB. It is from a weekend edition of Eyewitness News taken in our studio in the since demolished Broadcast House sometime in late 1981.
This next image here is from the summer of ’82, when Gayle interviewed a boy who found a $10,000 lottery ticket in the trash. I’m not sure if she was moonlighting as a flight attendant for Air Lingus, or as a spokesperson for National Car Rental.
The new CBS This Morning will be heavy on politics, and with the 2012 election getting into high gear, the timing couldn’t be better. Gayle’s new boss is Chris Licht, a native of Newtown, and the former executive producer of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, who will try to bring that successful formula to CBS. Gayle will no doubt be grilling candidates, politicians, and pundits.
Gayle actually did some political reporting during her time here. According to the archives, Gayle was out in the field on election night in 1981 and 1982, and interviewed Senators Weicker, Lieberman and Dodd over the years, along with mayors and members of congress. In 1988, she anchored our coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.
As Democrats chose Michael Dukakis to be their nominee, Gayle showed off her sneakers she wore to climb the stairs of the Omni, to avoid tripping in her trademark heels.
To me though, and I’m hardly a fashion expert, it seems that scarf might have been a bit of a tripping hazard.
I know many people see Gayle as Oprah’s best friend, but during our nearly five years of sharing the anchor desk, and sitting at the same pod in the newsroom, I saw her in a much different role. First, she’s a real news junkie. After Gayle left for O Magazine, she called me during the Michael Skakel trial looking for information and it wasn’t unusual to get an e-mail from her seeking information about something in the news. She told me it was during the big stories like that, and 9/11, when she really missed the news biz. More recently, I was a guest on Gayle’s radio show being questioned by her about news stories from Connecticut that made national headlines.
Gayle also has a great sense of humor, which will serve her well on the Early Show. I’ll never forget having to read a report of a man who was suing a stripper, because she hurt his neck with her breasts during his bachelor party. Apparently, the whiplash was so bad, he was going to miss his nuptials. Gayle started to laugh so hard, I could not finish reading the story. There are countless other television moments like that.
The most important thing I can say about Gayle is that she is a great mother. She brought her daughter and son to school before she started her work day, and like any suburban mom, shuttled them back and forth to school events and practices. I remember a few times she brought Kirby and William to work, and they sat at a couple of desks and did their homework with help from mom if they needed it. Another time she told me how William no longer wanted to seat in back seat of the car, as was required by Connecticut law for someone his age. Gayle explained he would be sitting there until he turned 11, or whatever the legal age was for a child to sit in the front seat.
As for Gayle’s new co-anchors at CBS, Charlie Rose, and Clinton native Erica Hill, I think they”ll find Gayle easy to work with. There was never any tension on the set, and she made me feel right at home when I was named as her co-anchor. She instantly called me her “television husband,” and gave me the nickname “Denzel.” In a profile of our newscast in a local newspaper, Gayle talked about her philosophy (which I share) that co-anchors should be partners.
“Some teams quibble about who gets to lead the newscast and who gets to read the most stories,” King said. “I don’t keep track and I don’t care.”
I think Gayle is going to do just fine at CBS. She’s one of the nicest people in the biz and I wish her the best at Studio 57.
Here is the clip that aired on Sunday on Face the State: http://www.wfsb.com/video?clipId=6474528&flvUri=&partnerclipid=&topVideoCatNo=221670&c=&autoStart=true&activePane=info&LaunchPageAdTag=homepage&clipFormat=flv
Mika Brzezinski at WFSB http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/mika-brzezinski-at-wfsb-the-hartford-years/
Bill O’Reilly at WFSB http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/bill-oreilly-the-lost-wfsb-tapes/
also read: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/marking-20-years-at-wfsb/