Tag Archives: TV

Happy Birthday, Beatrice Arthur

13 May

BeaArthur2-smBea Arthur, born Bernice Frankel in New York City on this date in 1922, would become an American icon from the 1960’s through the 21st Century.  She would have been 91 today.

My first introduction to Arthur was in the early 1970’s when she was starring as Maude, the loud mouthed, opinionated, liberal taking on topics like race, gender, power, sexual orientation, and even abortion.  I loved this show.  Who knew I would grow up to become Maude.  Maude was a true pioneer in addressing equity and the disparities in how we treat other people.  I loved her voice of social justice, even when she would get it wrong.

When we first moved to Oregon, I was horribly depressed and hated living in Salem.  My first job here, I was accosted by a Mormon woman who came into my office and said with great sincerity: “Michael, I just want you to know I pray for your sin.”  I would like to say I handled this with grace and dignity, but I didn’t.  My reply was: “Tammy, I pray that you will stop wearing brown double knit polyester everyday.” Not a shining moment for as a social worker.

The only highlight in moving to Salem was that my husband bought us tickets to see Bea Arthur live at the Elsinore in Salem.  She made me forget my miseries, my woes, and my temporary misanthropy.  She was authentic, kind, generous, and had a mouth like a sailor — I know I had to clutch my pearls many a time during her show.

Arthur had the power to transform us all and make us laugh at our selves, laugh at the world, but yet charged us each with the obligation to make the world a better place for all marginalized and targeted people after we left the theatre. As a true feminist/social worker should, she acknowledged that everything is political: “”I’ve been a Democrat my whole life. That’s what makes Maude and Dorothy so believable, we have the same viewpoints on how our country should be handled.”  Seeing her live is one of my top 10 memories, for which I will be forever grateful.

She channelled her phenomenol energy into so many worthy causes. She was an animal rights activist and an active advocate for civil rights for the elderly and the LGBT community. Three days after her death, all the marquees on Broadway were dimmed at 8pm. What a fitting tribute to a woman whose passing left the world a little less bright.

Women’s History Month 2013: Soledad O’Brien

6 Mar

soledad-OBrien-Today we honor and celebrate a woman whose recent push to restore journalistic integrity to cable news may have cost her her job. María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien was born on Long Island in 1966. Her parents — an Afro-Cuban mother and Australian father — met in the Washington, DC area a decade earlier. They lived in Maryland, which did not allow mixed-race marriages, so they wed in DC and soon moved to New York. Soledad is one of six children (all of whom received degrees from Harvard).

She began her television career as an associate producer and news writer in Boston. She joined NBC in 1991 and worked a variety of on-camera and production jobs over the next decade. She settled into regular roles on MSNBC and as co-host of Weekend Today. She contributed reports to NBC Nightly News, honing her desire to move away from soft news.

Soledad joined CNN in 2003 as co-anchor of their morning news program. Smart, likeable, and possessing good journalistic instincts, she helped that show rise above standard morning fare, even as the rest of CNN began to devolve into FOX-light in a desperate ratings grab. Confused network executives moved her out of the morning show in 2007 and she spent the next few years contributing reports to other CNN programs and doing In America documentaries. When CNN scrambled to re-re-redesign their morning show in 2012, they brought Soledad back to host the two-hour news program Starting Point.

A stark contrast to most CNN programming and other morning “news” offerings, the show featured engaging conversations and showed her strengths as a real journalist. Numerous guests complained about their treatment (including the odious John Sununu), a sign that she was actually doing her job rather than letting them spew talking points. Sadly, that success — even combined with good ratings — seems to have been too much for CNN to take–JEERS to CNN. Ms. O’Brien was the only reason I watched CNN. The new network President, Jeff Zucker (who spent the previous decade destroying NBC) wants his soft news, so Soledad is out.

Her new documentary, Latino In America, will be out soon. After that, Soledad O’Brien will find her next role in broadcast journalism — not, as she put it, “cooking salmon and doing fashion shows.” Wherever she lands, her colleagues will be lucky to have her talent and mature confidence in doing journalism right.  I hope NPR is able to secure her journalistic prowess.

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