Friday, December 18, 2009

Hal & Me, Another Black Eye, and Charles Gibson

It's another boring memory from the big box of photos I referred to a few weeks ago.  Today, it's Hal & me.  I'm not totally sure, but I'm fairly certain that's me at the upper left of the above photo.

I've always been a big "Barney Miller" fan.  Huge.  Great characters.  Great writing.  Funny and clever.

Hal Linden, who played Det. Capt. Barney Miller, came to Wilkes-Barre in 1986.  He was campaigning for Rep. Bob Edgar, who was running for U.S. Senate.  Edgar beat Don Bailey in the Democratic primary.  He faced incumbent Republican Arlen Specter in the general election.  Specter switched parties earlier this year.  I was with WARM radio at the time.

As I've noted before, there's always a danger in meeting celebrities.  They often turn out to be complete jackasses.  If you enjoyed their work, finding out what they're really like is a major disappointment.  Hal Linden wasn't a jackass.  Far from it.  However, he was cold and distant.  He seemed a bit tired and really not up on Pennsylvania issues.  He parachuted in to lend some star power to the campaign, and Linden seemed a tad annoyed that I was asking a lot of political questions.  I will say that Linden was very nice to non media fans who approached him on Public Square.

Edgar lost to Specter in November.  He left the house the next year, and Bob Edgar now leads the political watchdog group Common Cause.

Hal Linden is 77 now.  His last project, according to, was a movie last year called "A Kiss at Midnight."

While our meeting wasn't the greatest, I still like Hal Linden, and still love "Barney Miller."

* * * * * * * * * *

The feds got their big fish.  Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak has agreed to plead guilty to something.  We should know the specifics later today.

Remember when Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid ran for commissioner several years ago?  People thought "Here are two young guys, fresh faces.  Things will be different."

Yeah.  Right.

Vonderheid was tied in with the elitist Chamber of Commerce crowd back then, and that's where he gets his paycheck now.  He's not common folk.  I will give Vonderheid credit for calling me back, quickly, when Boscov's declared bankruptcy in 2008.  He didn't run and hide from a difficult issue.  I'm still waiting for that call back from Mayor Leighton.

Skrepenak?  What were his qualifications to run the county?  Proof of that is the following paragraph from a statement Skrepenak released yesterday.
I did not believe I did anything wrong until I met with the authorities.  They demonstrated to me the mistakes I made and now I must hold myself accountable for those mistakes and accept the consequences, no matter how difficult it may be.
While we all make mistakes, Skrepenak didn't know the law, and he didn't know how to do his job.  I don't want to kick the man when he's down, but Commissioner Skrepenak also made a slew of bad personnel choices, people who didn't serve him, or the county, well.

If that isn't enough, here's where Skrepenak's statement collapses under its own weight.  The county has solicitors for everything.  Believe me, you don't do anything these days without running it past an attorney first.  There is no excuse for the commissioner's lack of knowledge.

Prosecutors said Friday morning that Skrepenak accepted a $5,000 bribe from a developer for voting to accept the developer's project into a government funded tax incentive program.  How could he NOT know that was wrong?

Vonderheid bolted for the private sector.  He didn't stick around to see things through.  People had faith in Vonderheid.  They looked to him to move the county is the right direction.

Unfulfilled promise.

Skrepenak could be going to jail.

Did you get the change you wanted?

Young people can be just as disappointing as career politicians.
* * * * * * * * * *

And finally...  Charles Gibson leaves ABC News after tonight's "World News" broadcast.  He is unapologetically old school, and I think that's fantastic.

He is so quiet, and so comfortable that he is underappreciated.

I thought Chralie Gibson was okay during his first stint on "Good Morning America."  Then, he left and started working on other ABC broadcasts.  Gibson filled in for Peter Jennings several times, and I then realized "Hey, this guy is really good."

Kevin Newman, Lisa McRee, and some bad ideas sent GMA into the tank.  Gibson and Diane Sawyer were then sent in to save the show, which they did admirably.

Peter Jennings got sick and died.  Management wanted Gibson for the anchor job.  They disagreed over how long he was to stay, so Gibson passed.

Bob Woodward was hurt in Iraq.  Elizabeth Vargas became pregnant, so Charlie took the "World News" job three years ago.  The man stabilized two faltering broadcasts.  ABC owes him a lot.

At the age of 66, and after three and a half years in the anchor chair, Charlie Gibson is retiring-- quietly and with dignity.  Yes, there were some "look back" pieces this week, but it was nothing excessive.

There is one thing that's bothering me.  In an interview with the Washington Post, Gibson says he's looking forward to voting again, which he gave up when he became a journalist.

I've never missed an election in which I was eligible to vote.  I didn't give up my citizenship when I went into radio and television.  Voting is a privilege, and I don't take that lightly.  You can have opinions, and park them at the door when you go to work.

Overall, and by no small margin, ABC was lucky to have Charles Gibson on the payroll for 34 years.