There are certain advantages to having family in Kansas City. For one thing, when you visit, you can usually count on someone offering to take you to a barbecue joint. (Bryant's, where is thy sting?) The major airport is halfway to Des Moines, which means that people you barely remember have their life histories completely updated by the time you cross the Missouri River. And somewhere in the dark corners of memory, I remember seeing Christine Craft and the news.

You might also remember Christine Craft. She was the news anchor at a Kansas City station who found herself out of a job after the suits decided she was "too unattractive, too old and not deferential enough to men." Especially men in suits, one assumes. Not being the sort of person who speculates on a woman's deference level, I paid little attention to that angle, but she struck me as neither old (she was 38 when she sued the station in question) nor unattractive — not that either of those characteristics is essential to the task of reading wire copy.

On the other hand, watching Good Morning America yesterday, it occurred to me that not a whole lot had changed in the fourteen years since the Craft affair. Joan Lunden was off for some medical reason, and parked in her place on the couch was the GMA newsreader, Elizabeth Vargas, a thirtysomething stunner with a voice that would melt zinc. Reading the news in Vargas' place was correspondent Deborah Roberts, borrowed from one of ABC's magazine shows; she was positively luminous. After about five minutes of this, I was yearning for the good old days when Bryant Gumbel would scowl at the world.

The age barrier, perhaps, has been bent a bit. Lunden is past forty; Diane Sawyer, the world's oldest debutante, is fiftyish. And the most senior of ABC's on-air female contingent, Barbara Walters, sixty-six if you don't count the two years she spent in suspended animation, is apparently neither too old nor too unattractive, though there are times I think she'd defer to anyone this side of Tony Danza.

As if to underscore my point, there now exists something called The News Babe Index, which is intended to commemorate the authentic beauties who occupy Serious Electronic Journalist posts. Now I have nothing whatever against authentic beauties, even in S.E.J. positions — the last item on my home page [this has since been removed - Chaz] portrays one of the hosts of GMA Sunday (hint: it's not Kevin Newman), who has actually been a model — but there's always that little nagging voice in the back of my mind that has the nerve to ask if ABC would have hired someone for the job who looked more like Love Canal than like Willow Bay.

I don't actually know the truth about network correspondents of the female persuasion, but according to a recent film, the truth about cats and dogs seems to be that if you're dreaming of Uma Thurman, not even Janeane Garofalo will do. As one of those putatively weird types who shrugs at Uma and yearns for a Janeane of his own, I suppose it's possible that somewhere in the midst of being churlish and testosteroneous, I just might have survived a smidgen of low-level consciousness-raising — in which case, thank you, Christine Craft. And, in some unknown universe parallel to this one, I might be pounding out some windy verbiage about the TV Sports Dudes.

The Vent

#38
25 January 1997

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