Charles Winokoor: Old white men still got it going on
A piece of advice to Jesse Jackson: Call Andy Rooney.
The Rev. Jackson, at 65, is no spring chicken. But compared to “60 Minutes” commentator Rooney, who is 89, he’s a Generation Xer.
As increasingly sordid details of Jackson’s open-mike faux pas emerge — besides wishing he could perform rough surgery upon Barack Obama, word is he also lisped the N-word — it’s clear that some solid career advice from an older, wiser TV personality would be in order.
But that’s not very realistic when one considers that the curmudgeon-like commentator probably doesn’t merit membership in the Rainbow Coalition.
Which is too bad, because if Jackson really did subscribe to Martin Luther King’s credo of judging a man or woman on the basis of character, and not skin tone, then he’d pick up the phone.
It brings to mind how fashionable it’s been for some time now, among some youngish dudes and dude-ettes, to poke fun at and denigrate so-called “old, white men.”
And while I haven’t specifically heard anyone call John McCain old and white (though I’ll bet plenty of bloggers have), the issue of advanced age has legitimately been raised during his run for president.
Politics aside, it’s really a shame that advertisers and companies continue to shun experience and wisdom in favor of cosmetic prettiness and youth. A quick glance at “breaking news” television newscasters — an increasingly female and attractive lot — is proof of how desperate that cutthroat industry has become.
The equivalent of scantily-clad, boxing ring-card girls, these high-strung fillies breathlessly vie for the attention of bored men and women, of all ages, clicking through channels to see who has that night’s best car crash or drive-by shooting.
Forget content. Give the male masses enough eye candy and they’ll follow you clear through commercial break, network logic seems to suggest.
Local talk radio — which, like newspapers, is looking for ways to draw in a new generation with a shorter and shorter attention span — has also been grasping at straws to boost ratings.
If not, then why did WRKO groom Tom Finneran over the course of at least a year only to tag-team him with a rotating cast of women and younger men on his morning show?
Just when I had gotten fully comfortable tuning in the ex-House Speaker, I started to notice that a lawyer and former prosecutor named Wendy Murphy had somehow slipped in as part-time co-host.
The schtick was (and unfortunately is) that the two engage in sometimes heated and colorful debate, usually on matters related to gender. But the often brutally strident Murphy only serves to goad Finneran — as well as the callers — who, out of desperation, try to out-shout her.
Other mornings the station has tried spiffing up Finneran’s luster by playing the youth card. Some bright pup named John Gonzalez, aka Gonzo, just this week announced that he was moving on and leaving the station.
Praise the heavens. Because during the months the two of them were matched up, Gonzalez — who sounded like a whinier, more liberal version of Sean Hannity — did little more than draw out the pit bull in Finneran.
At least Howie Carr’s afternoon show is still undiluted.
Over in Providence radio management is just as desperately clueless. How else to explain why WPRO would hire bad boy John DePetro — whom ‘RKO in 2006 fired for calling an obscure gubernatorial candidate a “fat lesbian” — only to limit his on-air time and saddle him with a female sidekick?
The formerly pugnacious fighter has been transformed into a touchy-feelie Beanie Baby — one that is content to make small talk with some cupcake, which is just one more reason for me to turn to 880 AM out of New York.
At least the inimitable Buddy Cianci, who follows DePetro, takes no prisoners, although I can’t figure out why he needs Ron St. Pierre as a support system.
Perhaps the worst example of an entertainment industry foolishly shunning age and wisdom, in exchange for a devil’s pact for eternal youth, was HBO’s Merchant-Kellerman swap.
For years Larry Merchant, who is now 77, has been a very good reason to tune into the cable network’s boxing matches. Whereas Jim Lampley would prattle on like a windup doll, it was the far more experienced, insightful and witty pugilistic professor who cut to the chase and made sense of an often senseless sport.
But in 2007, as part of a new two-year contract, he agreed to step out of the limelight and allow the overly exuberant and obviously greener Max Kellerman to take his ringside spot.
I’m happy to report, however, that Merchant last weekend made a return appearance on the occasion of the heavyweight bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Tony “The Tiger” Thompson.
It was living proof that old, white men still have a lot going for them.