Yeah, it’s a cheesy cliche, but Roger Murtaugh knew what he was talking about.
I turned 50 this week, and while, with the help of modern medicine, that may be no great accomplishment, it did cause me to stop and think. I doubt I’ll live to be 100, so that means I’m already half dead.
At 50, I’ve already spent more than half my life under the heavy glass. My fancycam has been my ticket to the front row of history in-the-making. It’s given me unfettered access to the good, the bad, and plenty of ugly. I’ve watched the inept rise and move on, and the truly talented stifled at nearly every turn.
I’ve seen grunts burn out and stars fade away, and I’ve seen some of the most passionate people I know knocked down, chewed up, and spit out at noon only to pick themselves up and do it all again at 5, 6, and 10.
I’m not a bright man, but I’ve learned a few things in this business we call news.
Llamas aren’t the only animals that spit. Phlegm may not be your first choice of ammo for a pre-emptory strike, then again, you’ve probably never been handcuffed and paraded before the local paparazzi. If you had, you would know not even the free donuts at the mayor’s monthly debrief can inspire photogs move like a flying gob of lung butter.
Murderers are people too. I don’t care how many people he’s accused of killing, that mugshot of Charles Manson-Bundy the cops just sent over aint gonna be enough for your boss. He wants to know who this guy is, and he’s sending you to talk to the one who knows him best, Momma Manson-Bundy. She’s only too happy to tell you through her tears that the PO-lice have it all wrong. Chuckie is a good boy. Why just last week, he stopped selling crack to first graders, went back to church, and vowed to begin taking care of his seven babies. Your boss will salivate over this news and present this version of little Chuckie to the masses.
Nothing is more important than Victor Newman. Don’t believe me? Interrupt Young and the Restless for 15 seconds and see what happens. I don’t care if Airforce One flew into the papal jet and the whole mess crashed into the local shopping mall on Black Friday. That shit can wait! Victor is about to tell us if he and Nikki are getting back together . . . or divorcing. I can’t remember which it is this week.
Hair gel may come and go, but Aqua Net is forever. I don’t care what product your lensmeat chooses, moose, gel, or even Daper Dan, when Sally Goodhair needs her hair to look good in gale-force winds, I tell her “Go old school.” That shit produces a hair helmet that rivals the Israeli Iron Dome. And if it was good enough for all those hair bands, It’s good enough for you.
Nobody wants this job. Interns want to be associate producers. Associate producers want to be producers. Producers want to be reporters. Reporters want to be anchors. Anchors don’t want to work. Nobody wants to be a photog. Next to Assignment Editor, Photog is probably the most thankless job in the newsroom. But you didn’t get into this business for thanks. You did it for excitement and adventure. You did it to expose corruption and hold the powerful accountable; to get back stage at the best concerts and glad-hand the glitterati.
You got into this business to watch history as it’s made, to see things that other people dream of seeing. So what if that means peering one-eyed at bent sheet metal or an over-inflated ego most days. It is those two or three stories a year where everything comes together that stoke your fires and fuel your passion. It’s that really cool sequence that makes you forget about your rickety knees; that one soundbite that soothes your sore shoulder; that perfect closing shot that turns you giddy as your first day with your TK-76 and makes you want to go to work tomorrow.
That, and a hefty supply of bourbon.