Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sometimes I wonder: Is Bryant Gumbel Still an Ass?

Remember when Bryant Gumbel was on television? And an ass? Is he still either or both of those things?

I'm sure a quick google would provide the answer, but it's easier and more fun to speculate. I'm going to go with. . . yeah, still an ass. I'm not sure recovery from his level of assitude is even possible.

We live in a privileged time. In 2006, I can simply gorge on reality shows like American Idol and The Apprentice when I feel the Faustian urge for overstimualtion, particularly of the areas of my brain dedicated to hating others. In 1997, however, finding objects of loathing on television was still somewhat hit or miss. And then, in October of that year, John Denver died, and in my grief I did something I had never done before: I got up in the morning and turned on the Today show.

Please understand that I was not seeking a hatee that day. (But don't the best ones tend to find you?) I tuned in because I had heard that some guy named Gumbel ("Isn't he a sportscaster?" I thought) would be interviewing Annie Denver, John's ex-wife and subject of the lovely "Annie's Song."

Appallingly, it wasn't so much an interview as a confrontation. I never saw such a bully in my life. Annie Denver was on remote camera, not in the studio, which is probably the only reason Gumbel is still out there somewhere assing up the world, because by the time it was over her hatred of him was even more of an elephant in the room than his roaring ego, and I have no doubt she could've taken him. In fact, the positive flip side of the lip-curling disgust I developed for Gumbel is the awed respect Annie inspired in me. Beneath the cocoon of dignity she had spun around her you could see she was shattered; upon Gumbel's first question, "How are you doing?" her lips quivered and her eyes welled as she answered with raw honesty: "It's been real hard."

I think she had Gumbel's number, though, and knew something of what she was in for. I watched through my own tears as, after that brief tremble of weakness, she snapped her shell back into place and faced her enemy. Then things got weird. Gumbel, enmeshed in some bizarre delusion, took it upon himself to rewrite the particulars of Annie's life as if he knew more about it than she. And he did it all with a giant smirk on his face. He's interviewing someone who just had to tell her children their father was not only dead but in several pieces, and he's smirking.

Annie Denver 2, Bryant Gumbel 0

Here are the two most egregious acts of assness in the interview:

1) Gumbel--who clearly believed himself in possession of an adoring public that tuned in to hear his hot gas instead of, oh, the interviewee?--declared with absolute conviction that Annie Denver and John Denver had remained "the best of friends" after their divorce. She interrupted (causing a twitch of the smirk) to correct him: "Well, people get divorced for a reason, Bryant. We had our problems, but he was a good man." Good for her, but where the hell does he get off twisting her tragedy into his narrative in the first place? "They were the best of friends" brings more drama, I guess, and he obviously didn't expect her to have the will to confront his fictionalizing. Ugh.

2) Even more laughable, Gumbel, smirk turned up to eleven, played "Annie's Song" and told her that of course it was her favorite John Denver song. Told her it was her favorite song. She, cementing her position in my hall of fame, didn't let THAT go either, but said firmly, "NO, it's actually NOT," and told him which of her own ex-husband's songs she herself did, in fact, like the best, while he smirked some more and acted all "OK, sure," like he was going to be a nice guy and let it go even though he knew he was totally right. So patronizing. So ass.

When he finally stopped yapping at her my sigh of relief echoed hers. Wherever she is now, I hope she's happy, because wow do I admire her for sticking up for herself against that insufferable know-it-all, especially considering she was doing it with a busted heart. It would've been so easy to just play along and let the baby have his way. As for him. . . actually, I don't give a damn about him.

[below, "Call me Assmael."]


At 12:41 PM, Anonymous 0tto said...

i used to like mainstream media figures but now i'm much less enameled of em. so many, so full of themselves. they get hurt on the job and its front page stories for days, weeks. then there's cruddy little dim wit twits like bryant grumble. haven't heard about him in ages but all examples given point to a true answer to the question: yes he's still an ass.

what is the fav song? for pseudo suave self-stroking, auto-tongue grooming smirking schmucks like bryant gamble the only possible answer is the one written about you.

but really, what are Annie's fav songs?

still feeling bruised and blue from newly discovered reality that i'll never be able belt out on key and in tune anyway "almost heaven west virginia" without risking rotten fruit being tossed in general direction of self or without making the cat cry nor be the one, to change genres (easier than genders) to bellow out in life affirming defiance "tell the teacher that we're surfin, surfin u.s.a." catch a wave they say and you're sitting on top of the world. can't sing out all that euphoria and beauty. crap. life's a ripoff. i want a refund.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Shell said...

Excellent--loved this comment. Thanks!

You know what though? As strong as the general memory of that interview is in my head, I can't remember what song she said was her favorite. Actually, I don't think I heard it when she said it. I recall very clearly her saying "My favorite John Denver song is a little-known one called. . ." but nothing after that. Perhaps the ass started talking over her again at that point, as the camera would have been off him for way too long by then.

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous 0tto said...

it was an inspiring bit of blog, like hearing an echo of the muse in the old blogosphere.

my personal fav john song for a while was "eagle and the hawk," but that was in my younger days when i thought that if i just followed the trail and walked steadily rain or sun warm or cold I'd crest the ridge and clear the treeliine. nowadays i find that behind every treeline lurks another ridge . . . .

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Shell said...

I'm glad you liked it, Otto!

I was listening to some JD just the other day and had a moment of thinking, "God, he was such a hippie!" Meaning it in a good way, of course--it's just kind of funny.

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous 0tto said...

ya a hippie, but a hippie that could see beyond the length of a joint.

poems, prayers, and promises didn't have to age well, but it has.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Nancy said...

Came across your blog while surfing John Denver. In case you still don'tknwo the song was "Perhaps Love"

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous anotherannie said...

glad to know i wasn't the only one who thought the interviewer was needlessly and exceptionally harsh at such a sensitive time. never cared for his smugness previous to the interview anyway. guess that's what happens when one's ego takes control. let us be comforted by the fact that we were affected in this way. too bad mr. gumbel wasn't influenced more by JD--or at least showed it. we can't have too many humanitarians in this world, and a little thoughtfulness goes a long way. mr. gumbel, are you listening?

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eleven years down the road, still on TV, still an ASS!


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