Ever since I heard that Andy Cohen was a CBS Intern I have been thinking about my own stint there in the mid 90s. Then I found out Dan Rather was a WWHL guest a few nights ago and it brought back a long tucked away memory, of probably one of my best celeb run in stories. (I have had a lot of celeb run ins over the years).
About 16 years ago I was in college studying communications with a focus on broadcast journalism. I was able to score an internship at CBS with their Sunday Morning program. Twice a week I woke up at 4am, went to the gym and then drove into midtown Manhattan where I parked in the studio’s comped garage and felt like someone of major importance. The Sunday Morning offices were bright and cheery with friendly producers, editors and on air personalities. The only unfriendly folks were the administrative assistants who, having survived CBS’s page program, maintained such serious personas to ensure they continued to climb the network ladder. My tasks were of the fetch kind, but being that I was fetching reels from places like Paula Zahn’s office made it so exciting I didn’t mind.
My experience there was rewarding and the rules of the office, so long as I was there on time, seemed fairly liberal, except for one golden all important not to be broken rule… Never, ever, ever approach Mr. Dan Rather, for any reason. Mr. Rather was a veritable God in those days and everything in that building halted when he passed. We were told that Mr. Rather’s rigorous schedule allowed no room for any distraction, no matter how minor it seemed to us. So long as we didn’t greet, smile at, even glance at Mr. Rather we interns would be just fine.
There were two other interns working along side me. One a brunette from New Jersey who I remember looked a lot like Jersey Shore’s Angelina. The other was a perky blonde with an overly outgoing personality. She was thin, confident, and extremely eager to succeed. Her brother worked in the traffic helicopter which gave her some false sense of being a much bigger deal than she actually was. Looking back she was kind of obnoxious, but at the time she was everything I wished I could be. I was a a strict rule follower and she wasn’t afraid to push the envelope. One day on an errand little Miss perky blonde stopped in her tracks. She nodded her head down the hall and whispered to us, “Look it’s Mr. Rather.” Brunette and I looked up, indeed it was him. “Let’s go say hello.” Brunette and I looked at one another in fear. “We were told not to bother him,” I said, as the brunette, obviously even more meek than I, nodded in agreement. “Oh puhlease,” said perky blonde, “What’s the big deal about a hello? Besides my brother works in the traffic copter. I can say hello.” Brunette and I locked nervous gazes again. “Go ahead, I think we are going to hang back. Good luck.” Brunette and I watched as blondie straightened her skirt, smoothed her hair, and took confident strides towards Mr. Rather, who appeared to be studying some kind of script. “Hello Mister Rather. My name is (obnoxious blonde intern) and I just wanted to say hello.” Mr. Rather peered up from his script with a rather disdainful expression. In his eyes perky blonde must have looked less like a perky blonde and more like a cockroach. Blondie could see she wasn’t welcome and uncomfortably retreated back to the slums of internland where brunette and I stood waiting to see which one of us would say “I told you so” first.
The rant that ensued from blondie as we traveled up the elevator let us know that she didn’t need any more blows to her ego. Mr. Rather had deflated it enough. We remained quiet. As the elevator door opened we could see cranky administrative assistant on the phone. She was apologizing profusely into the receiver and as she saw us exit the elevator she gave us a look that told us we were in for it. We got called over with a wave of her finger. “That was Mr. Rather’s assistant on the phone. She is very upset, Mr. Rather is very upset. He is a very busy man. Apparently you disturbed him. You were told the rules. If it ever happens again…” And so it was that all three of us were in deep doggy do, whether we were the guilty party or not. Myself being extremely sensitive was devastated. There went my whole career, and I didn’t even have a brother in the traffic copter to swoop down and save me like blondie, of course, reminded us that she did. Thankfully we weren’t fired and with a slap on the wrist the Dan Rather debacle was let go. Until, two days later I was out on an errand alone. I was riding the elevator by myself when suddenly the door opened. In stepped a pair of men’s shoes connected to men’s trousers and as my eyes traveled up, to my horror, I found myself face to face alone in the elevator with Dan Rather. I started to sweat and my eyes tried to look anywhere but at him. So this is how it would end? Fired for being one of the three criminal interns, the one that dare breathe the same elevator air as the busiest man on network news? As my mind went crazy with all the scenarios of what would be my subsequent firing I noticed Mr. Rather looking right at me and… smiling? Yes, he was smiling at me, Mr. I’d Rather not be bothered by a lowly intern was smiling at me. It was a genuine smile and, without any words, Mr. Rather had told me that he knew I was OK. I was innocent, forgiven, and could carry on the rest of my days at CBS without fear, and have a hell of a story to tell my kids one day! Thank you Mr. Rather, thank you CBS, and thank you perky obnoxious blonde, wherever you may be.