Friday, November 22, 2013


As do most Americans who were alive then, I vividly remember the day JFK was assassinated. As a fledgling newsman and announcer at WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, it was rather a surreal experience. Virginia had voted for Nixon in 1960 over Kennedy, 53% to 47%.  The management of the station initially refused to suspend commercials, but gave in when the entire on air staff threatened to walk out if they didn't follow the lead of all other broadcasting outlets.

At the time, of course, no one realized that an era of innocence and optimism was suddenly ending. Our TV station was a CBS affiliate, so Walter Cronkite was creating a note of calm in chaos as he soothed the nation with his mellifluous tones, while a somewhat hyper Dan Rather reported from Dallas, thus becoming a national figure for the first time.

Like most TV stations then, we went off the air following the 11pm news and a video of the Star Spangled Banner. No nonstop cable news, so we had to wait until the next morning to pick up what was happening.

We all knew something momentous had happened, but had no idea what was coming next. Some feared the Russians would attack, especially when it came out that Lee Harvey Oswald had spent time in Russia. In Richmond, I heard more than one supposedly patriotic citizen voice satisfaction at the turn of events.

There was a lot of attention focused on Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and celebrating of the elevation of the first Southerner in a long time to the White House. This was, after all, a time when
it was still illegal for a white person to marry a black person in Virginia, and where the concept of "massive resistance" to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision continued after nine years. The antipathy to Kennedy expressed by many Virginians was due in no small measure to the fact that most black voters had favored him over Nixon in 1960.

Speaking by phone (rotary dial phones were all we had then, Bell Telephone, in fact, introduced the first push button phone just four days before the assassination.) to friends and family in Philadelphia, it did seem I was on an island of disconnect. They described how people were gathering in groups to mourn together and offer each other comfort. This was not happening in Virginia. My girlfriend and I comforted each other in isolation and silence once I got home.  We were only 106 miles South of Washington, but might have been in another country altogether.

A few years later, I was working at WRVA Radio, also in Richmond, and filling in for Lou Dean, the all-night talk show host. For two straight nights, my guest was Mark Lane, author of Rush to Judgment, the first book to despute the Warren Commission's findings about the assassination. My opinion then is pretty much unchanged now. I felt that if any conspiracy was involved, someone would have come forward to tell their story. Today, with so many more media outlets available, and so much money to be made for stories like this one, it is inconceivable to me that the truth wouldn't have already come out.
Check out my prosperity blog:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I suppose for many people, reaching a certain age, say 70, allows one to feel he or she has been a part of a large segment of history. This has to be much more so in our current world of rapid change, when I think we have gone through more social, technological, political and economic changes than in any other times.

On a number of occasions, my own life reminds me of two films describing this via characters who get to sample a huge swathe of important things and people around them. These are Woody Allen's 1963 mockumentary, Zelig, and Forrest Gump, with Tom Hanks playing the everyman who seems to be everywhere.

I was reminded of this when looking at the two political races the spotlight was most focused on in Tuesday's election. The gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia. These felt familiar to me, somewhat like local news. 

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, so New Jersey was my backyard, and all our family vacations were in Wildwood on the Southern Jersey shore. When I worked at KYW Newsradio, our Jersey bureau was the biggest radio news coverage for that state. As a state, New Jersey is somewhat unique in that it doesn't have any powerful TV stations of its own. It lies between the huge markets of Philadelphia and New York, which both make a fortune when political advertising dollars are spent in The Garden State.

I had a further connection in that, for about 8 months, I actually worked at WBUD Radio in Trenton, and learned how very small town New Jersey politics was. And how corrupt. I even became personal friends with the young mayor of Trenton, a very liberal hippy type who was trying to make big changes.

On to Virginia, where I was much more involved by virtue of several years as a top newsman at WRVA Radio, the top-rated station in the entire state at the time.  We were located right across from the famed Capitol Building designed by Thomas Jefferson, and had our own studio in its basement. I was in charge of recording and editing for distribution throughout the state, the governor's news conferences, and was often the reporter who closed the session with a "Thank You, Mr. Governor." 

I myself was approached on several occasions about running for political office, starting with something local in Richmond. I never was interested. For several months, filling in for an injured colleague at WRVA, I wrote speeches for U.S. Senator Harry Byrd Jr., and was very friendly with the up-and-coming political star, J. Sargeant Reynolds. Sarge was just starting out when I got to know him, eventually becoming Lt. Governor when I had already moved on to New York. He was often touted as the next JFK. He was part of the illustrious Reynolds family--his branch was the aluminum one, though he was also related to the tobacco family. Like the Kennedys, the Reynolds family had more than its share of tragedy, and Sarge died at 35 of an inoperable brain tumor. 

So it is no wonder that I feel somehow connected when I watch all the political reporting from Virginia and New Jersey. But the truth is, like the world itself, politics are vastly different today and a lot less personal than they were forty-some years ago, and not nearly as much fun. But I was there, so following it all  is something like comfort food to me.

If you haven't been there yet, please visit my prosperity blog: