To be perky in America is to be treated like a pet (or pinup): People may adore you, but they're not expecting you to explain the implications of higher grain tariffs. That's why Katie's accession to anchor is so important: Not that she made it to the big time, but that she made it while being perky!
She didn't hide her sunny nature she flaunted it. She knew she could dress up like Marilyn Monroe and interview a Saudi prince (though, wisely, not at the same time). She could even show us her colon a brilliant idea but a little wacky, too. She could have become a national joke, but she didn't, because we all knew her personal story a sad one. And yet, she was happier than most of the folks in TV news. She kicked it up (nice legs!) and smiled shamelessly. As such, she gave new hope to a group long dismissed as lightweights: the perky people.
Katie Couric is the Jackie Robinson of Perky Liberation.
Now, perky folk may seem like the last people to need liberating, but in fact, there's still a heap of prejudice against them.
"I was at a barbecue on Monday and everyone was talking about, 'How can you take Katie Couric seriously?'" says Lois Whitman, president of a PR firm here in the city. "I said, 'You've got to be kidding! Yes, she's perky, but there are very few people on Earth who can take the front page news, understand it and get us all to comprehend it. I was pretty astounded at everyone's attitude just because she's female, pretty and perky."
Well, I wasn't. "Perky" may sound sweet, but it hints of condescension, too. "You never hear anyone lanky called 'perky,'" notes my diminutive friend Marla, who is, in fact, perky. "It's only the short ones."
It's also only the female ones. "I cannot think of any male who'd be called perky," said Nancy Deihl, a professor of fashion history. "It carries a certain cheerleader edge."
A cheerleader edge is not the quality we usually associate with intelligence or promotion, or leadership.
Or anchorship. Until now, the quality most sought after was (snore) "gravitas," which somehow always came coupled with a deep voice and zero giggling.
Then along came Katie (never Katherine) an actual former cheerleader who combined smarts and smiles for 15 years. She showed America that just because you sometimes act silly doesn't mean you're not a heavy, too.
It's called rolling with the punches. It's called intelligence. It's called being perky, and it's something to be proud of.