I won’t bore you with all the behind-the-scenes details regarding the big event (those will be incorporated into the [anything but boring] essay I’m writing about the event). I will say I was most amused by hearing reactions of people when they saw the various newsmen. It seems television newsmen are real superstars, and when a recognizable one walked by, whispers followed. Here were some of the ones I heard regarding Brian Williams:
He looks older in person.
He looks ancient in person.
He’s much taller in person.
He’s kind of hunching over. (Said as he was walking past us)
These were observations made by a cluster of people (mostly students) sitting near me in the lobby.
When Chris Matthews walked by, the woman next to me said, “Look, there’s Chris Matthews! He’s much taller than he looks on t.v.” The same woman, upon seeing Jim Sackett (a local anchorman) declared, “Oh, Jim Sackett!” She then turned to me and said, “They all look so different [in person] don’t they?”
I sat next to a couple of ushers during the debate, and when Brian Williams was introduced, one woman turned to the other and said, “He’s a handsome man!” During the second part of the debate, David Gregory made his way into our section and the usher watched him intently. After a moment, she looked over at me with a big smile and said, “It’s David Gregory!” I was thinking the same thing, exclamation point and all. I recognized a phenomenal photojournalist from the New York Times; I stood up and screamed at the top of my lungs “Oh My God! It’s Stephen Crowley!” in my best Beatles-at-Shea-Stadium-fanatic-fan voice, but everyone just looked at me like I was nuts. Photojournalists get no love.
My assigned seat was appalling. All of the student/faculty seats were appalling. I mean, we may as well have been seated behind a wall: the various items on stage (technical items, scaffolding-type items, decorative items) completely obscured our view. I was on the end of a row, so I could make out 1 1/2 podiums. The folks to my left could not see anything. One by one (and sometimes in groups) we left to find better seats. At one point an usher came over to the section and announced that if we had moved from our assigned seats, we needed to move back because the seats we moved to were also assigned. We gave her a blank stare; crickets could be heard chirping in the background as she waited for us to confess to our transgression. She eventually gave up, so I ended up having a great seat (there were a lot of empty seats).
My favorite question of the evening was from a Florida resident and it was directed at Guiliani: If your immigration program insists all immigrants learn English, why is your campaign running an ad in Spanish? I thought it was an intriguing question and looked forward to his answer, but he didn’t answer it. He just spoke of the importance of speaking multiple languages.
And could the candidates have been any nicer to each other?