Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2002 / 13 Teves, 5763

Burt Prelutsky

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Consumer Reports

Tonight: TV's worst interviewer ... tick, tick, tick | When it comes to "60 Minutes," I hear a lot of people suggest it's high time they put Andy Rooney out to pasture. While I will readily admit that I find his whiny, nasal voice almost as annoying as Bob Dylan's, and that I start to get a migraine as soon as I hear him say, "Have you ever noticed...," it's Ed Bradley I'd send packing if I, instead of Don Hewitt, were running the show.

My friends will think I am biased towards Mr. Bradley because, at 61, he's till trying to look hip by wearing one of those silly studs in his ear. Not so. While it is true that I don't like that affectation any more than I do ponytails on bald men, goatees on baseball players or pinky rings on anybody, the earring in his case is the least of it.

My problem with Bradley is that he is forever doing stories about wildly successful black Americans like himself, and instead of celebrating their accomplishments, he invariably portrays them as victims, playing the race card for all it's worth.

For instance, when he did a segment on the legendary Lena Horne, instead of trumpeting a singing career that was still going strong in her 80's and a bi-racial marriage that had endured for decades, Bradley concentrated on her humble origins and her bitterness over Louis B. Mayer's not having turned her into another Ava Gardner.

When Bradley interviewed Ray Charles, did he focus on the man's fabulous career? Of course not. Instead, at one point he asked Charles how much money he was worth, and Charles, too much the gentleman to tell him it was none of his beeswax, replied, "About thirty-five million dollars."

Now, if I'd been interviewing Mr. Charles, I'd have probably slapped my forehead and said, "Holy Magoly!" But Bradley merely furrowed his brow, shook his head in that woe-is-me way of his, and opined, "Not bad, but don't you think you would have made a lot more if you'd been white?"

And Charles, to his discredit, reckoned he would have.

Oh, really? Well, I venture he would have made a lot more if he'd been Michael Jordan or Diana Ross or Michael Jackson or Berry Gordy or Oprah Winfrey or Bill Cosby. But I'd like Ed Bradley to show me a blind, white blues singer who's got that many zeroes in his bank account.

I suppose we should all be grateful that Mr. Charles wasn't encouraged to whine about Louis B. Mayer's not having turned him into another Ava Gardner.

Bradley even managed to pull out the crying towel for his interview with Denzel Washington. I honestly figured that not even Bradley would be able to turn a good-looking, happily-married, two-time Oscar winner, currently pulling down $20 million-a-picture, into a poor, downtrodden, wretch. Which only serves me right for underestimating the combined chutzpah of a professional sob sister and a major movie star.

Because Washington had grown up in an affluent section of New York, a child of privilege, Bradley couldn't indulge in his patented stroll down mean streets or dusty roads. Instead, he took Washington back to visit his prep school, so that the actor could get misty-eyed while pointing out the spot--yes, the exact spot, as if it had historical importance--where Denzel's mother had broken the news that she and his father were getting a divorce!

As Bradley's colleague would say, "Have you ever noticed how people are always making fun of the way Larry King and Barbara Walters conduct their interviews, but nobody ever says anything about the way the old guy with the fercocktah earring conducts his?"

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JWR contributor Burt Prelutsky is a veteran TV writer whose credits include, among others, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and Diagnosis Murder. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.

11/25/02: Andrew Carnegie Day
11/21/02: A welcome guest

© 2002, Burt Prelutsky