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Thread: December 17, 1973

  1. #1
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    Forty years ago, on December 17, 1973, the media world changed forever. I had started my first TV news reporting job.

    It was at WHEN-TV in Syracuse... just a few weeks after my winter graduation. Yes, I got out of college early for good behavior. WHEN-TV later changed its call letters to WTVH.

    Andy Brigham was the news director who hired me and he changed my life. Literally. I worked in radio through high school and college and Andy gave me my big break. Ron Curtis, the legendary anchor man in Syracuse and the dean of Central New York broadcasters taught me more about writing and performing in front of a camera than I learned in my years at Syracuse University where I graduated cum lousy... I mean cum laude.

    At WTVH I worked with Al Roker and Jay Newman and Larry Price and other great names in the business. My first story there was about a traveling salesman who couldn't make ends meet because the price of gas had hit fifty-cents a gallon.

    WTVH had a telethon for kidney disease... and I helped out... not knowing that years later I would have kidney failure and then a transplant. I met a girl by the name of Linda who was volunteering at the telethon and one day I will reveal the strange and almost super-natural connection the two of us had over the years in Syracuse and New York City and even here in LA. I wonder if she remembers me?

    I spent about three wonderful, cold, snowy, and important years at WHEN/WTVH before being hired at CBS News in New York in 1976 as an Associate Producer (I think I was the youngest Associate Producer at 24) and then working up to being an Assignment Editor / Reporter.

    I left CBS when I broke the story about the Hunt Brothers failing to meet the margin call for silver -- when they tried to corner the silver market. CBS would let me do the story on radio, but some managers said I was too young to be on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite so I had to brief Ray Brady, the business correspondent, and give him the tapes of my interview with the Chairman of Bache Halsey Stuart, the broker for the Hunts. I never revealed who tipped me off to the story, and like a good reporter, I won't reveal who it was.

    John Lane, one of the execs at CBS was on my side. He said if my youth was an issue, the make-up department should dye my hair gray.

    Douglas Edwards, who preceded Cronkite as anchor of the CBS Evening News, was responsible for getting me hired at CBS. He and his wife came to my house in suburban New York (Nanuet) to buy a Yorkshire Terrier from my mother who raised them. Doug saw pictures of me on the wall from my radio days at WKQW and WRKL (the local radio stations) and that got the conversation going with my mother. A few months later I had an interview at CBS and I was in the door.

    Those were the days when if you were hired by CBS you had "a job for life." Those days ended in the 1980s after the death of William Paley. But I wasn't at CBS during the head-chopping days. I left when the place was still the Tiffany network and the news people and managers were the greatest in the business. Larry Doyle and Peter Sturtevant were giants. Cindy Samuels was wonderful. Bob Little was my first boss at CBS and on my first day on the job he walked me around and introduced me as "the future president of CBS News." But that was not to be.

    At CBS I did some very important work: I wrote the article on Phantom Unemployment for the Washington Journalism Review that led to changes in the government's unemployment data reporting; and I researched the Consumer Price Index and reported on its problems which led to changes in the CPI. I wrote for Barron's and had a cover story on the death of Norman Rockwell and what that did to the art market. I wrote about the art market and the problems with limited edition prints for New York Magazine. I had frequent articles in New Jersey Magazine. And I wrote for the Syracuse New Times while I was at CBS -- and this is because CBS encouraged its news people to write on the outside.

    Then on to Miami and WTVJ where the legendary Ralph Renick hired me with the blessings of Ruth Sperling who really ran things. Ruth is the one who told me to call my bargain shopping reports "Best Buys" and that was in 1981 and I've been reporting "Best Buys" all these years. So much has been written about Ralph but he was the greatest.

    At WTVJ I had some of the best years of my professional life working with the best reporters, anchors and news managers in the business... and also one of the best News Directors in the business -- Al Buch -- and one of the best General Managers in the business -- Alan Perris. Al Buch was more than a boss -- he was a caring friend. When I told him I was getting divorced he offered to let me sleep in his apartment until I landed on my feet (but I stayed with an aunt in North Miami). He also let me work overtime on the weekends so I could pay my alimony and child support.

    In 1987 I moved to LA and a three year stint at KTTV before there was a Fox News network. In 1990 I was hired by Bob Henry at KCAL. Bob was another great news director who saw the value in my Best Buys franchise and let me do one-hour specials that blew out the regular 9-PM Prime 9 Newscast. Because of Bob I have a business and a career today in Infomercials.

    I was at KCAL/KCBS for 16 years, and even did a few years of the morning business news at KFWB. They were all very good years.

    But all those good years started with Andy Brigham 40 years ago hiring me.

    Thank you, thank you everybody.
    Alan Mendelson
    www.AlanBestBuys.com
    "(Alan) simply can't get past a die having six sides." -- Michael Shackleford May 12, 2015

  2. #2
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    Great write up. Lot of history there. Glad to see you are still going strong Alan.

  3. #3
    I was less than 2 years old on December 17, 1973. I can't say I remember life in 1973.

    Some member of my family got screwed by the Hunt Brothers thing in 1980. Well, not really screwed, but they failed to capitalize on what was happening. They owned a LOT of silver, and when the price skyrocketed to over $50 per ounce, they were tempted to sell, but didn't. It eventually crashed to something like $7 per ounce.

    Also, people started hoarding silver quarters by then (1932-1964 dates), as their value also skyrocketed. That persists to this day. You will find almost no quarters in circulation from before 1965.
    Check out my poker forum, and weekly internet radio show at http://pokerfraudalert.com

  4. #4
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    Actually, the first run up in silver was in 1963-64.
    Alan Mendelson
    www.AlanBestBuys.com
    "(Alan) simply can't get past a die having six sides." -- Michael Shackleford May 12, 2015

  5. #5
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    That's a nice story, Alan. Glad things worked out for you. It's really odd because 1973 was by far the worst year of my entire life. At least your 1973 was a lot better.

  6. #6
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    I was just told that Andy Brigham passed away. "Who loves Ya baby?" he would ask, mimicking Kojack in 1973. I loved you Andy.
    Alan Mendelson
    www.AlanBestBuys.com
    "(Alan) simply can't get past a die having six sides." -- Michael Shackleford May 12, 2015

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