July 25, 2017

News Geezers

Tributes to Bob Long

 

     I first met Bob Long in 1973 when I joined KNXT in Los Angeles.  I was a green reporter and he was the assignment editor.  We were close in age but he always seemed much, much older. In that glorious land of the politically incorrect, the sharp witted tongue was King and no one wore the crown more rakishly than Bob.  He was acerbic, cynical, courtly and kind. He had a world class intellect.  I have sat on countless barstools next to Bob listening to his theories on cosmic existence, the origin of man, the glories of crewing on racing yachts, the mystical properties of cocaine and gonzo journalism. He was a marvelous bastard to spend time with.  I forced him to accompany me on tequila fueled trips to bullfights in Mexico mostly just to hear his play by play. Bob was a true original, coming of age in TV newsrooms where originality was celebrated ad not scorned.  Both he and that era we all occupied is passing.  Peace Brother.
- William Applegate

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      My first and longest tenured friend from my 25 year television news career.  We had a separate, out of the newsroom relationship that stemmed from a love of one day making movies - our families were close and we used to have Sunday dinner together ( but quietly) he will be very sorely missed.
A very sad day.
- Ken Levine
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    He was the best.  And all of us who were lucky enough to work with Bob Long, love and admire him, and will miss him terribly.
- Dave Bryan
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   The first time I met Bob we shook hands, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I invented television.” I have never doubted that he did.
- Tony Valdez
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Hi Bob,
    I stumbled across your site after reading the LA Observed’s obit, and I wanted to thank you for providing a fitting outlet to remember Bob. I know he got a kick from the News Geezers name.
     Bob was one of the most generous people I’ve ever come across in this business. I’m proud to have been one of many, no doubt, who called him “padrino.” He took me under his wing at a pivotal time in my career when I thought I was floundering, and he helped set me right with his wry wit and sage wisdom. He’d seen it all, changed with it all and still enjoyed it all. That was the biggest encouragement.
      Hearing Bob talk with that gravelly voice was to witness a mixture of Mad Men, Anchorman and Hemingway. We last spoke at the end of March. Come to find out, it was our final phone conversation because he said his voice wasn’t up to it again, but that didn’t stop him from emailing me for follow-ups.
      The man had a way with words; as a true journalist, he could pack a punch with so few. Looking over our email threads today, a favorite message from him came when we were trying to set up drinks back in late June ’12. It was “Alas, I have a rendezvous with one of my handlers, albeit a pretty one. I’m in LA next week, so let’s catch up the week of the 8th.” He always kept it classy.
    Bob, you were my dear friend and an invaluable mentor. I can almost hear your irreverent, joking response to the “Legendary News Director Bob Long” reference in your obit headline… but dammit, you know you deserve it. RIP.
- Sean Maroney, Evening Anchor, WNCN, Raleigh, NC
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    When the already-very-funny Kaity Tong arrived at KCRA as my anchor partner in the 80’s..little did I know that life..when Bob was in town..would take on such a riotous quality.
     The Long-Tong partnership was riot-squared.  Of course it could have had something to do with the near-toxic quantities of liquids that so well oiled our ‘social’ time.
         Robert had stories.   Oh my.. he had stories.. told in vivid.. hilarious detail.  One of them I still can’t get out of my memory-bank.. having to do with struggling to shut a window.  Ring a bell??
        He was the essential newsman..no foolin’ around when that was the play.  But everything within his hemisphere received his kind of wry..and irreverence.
         So good to know he was able to work right up to his expiration date (that’s what he would have called this..among other unprintables).
         He was one of the best bad boys I have ever known.
- Stan Atkinson
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      I  worked at KCRA-TV in Sacramento in 1980 and laughed out loud when I read Stan Atkinson's comment about the Bob Long-Kaity Tong partnership being "riot squared."  He was, and they were, a riot to be around, too.  Funny, witty, charming, erudite, and certainly no lack of self-confidence on Bob's part.  I never worked for Bob Long, but can only imagine what that would have been like.
- Mark Mohr
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Business and Marketing Director) and Broadcast News Consultants also with Jon. I have read all of the beautiful and eloquent tributes written by my colleagues and friends. When you put them all together you get a portrait of this giant of the industry.  
      Just yesterday, I called him on his cellphone and his voice mailbox was full. I immediately texted him with no response.  I became concerned and I called his wife, Joan Rebecca (JR as Bob affectionately called her) and she told me that he was admitted to the hospital this past Saturday and the prognosis was not good. I was overcome by the profound sadness I was feeling.
      (Missing from all the photos) is that beautiful baritone voice and his powerful presence we all felt knowing him. Rest in Peace, my friend.
- Jeff Wald (posted on Facebook August 29)

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     This one really hits home for me. Bob, I will never forget what you did for me an the hundreds of others you backed during some of the most unpopular times. Wherever you are, the angles are in good company and true journalism live on.
- Jim Holcomb

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      I have met very few news directors or bureau chiefs with whom you really wanted to go out after the show and share a drink. Bob was the rare exception. You could not have a bad time with Bob because he did not know the concept of a bad time. He was insightful, interesting, damn smart and always, always ready to listen -- even if you thought he was wrong. Of course, he promptly informed you that he never was wrong. He was a remarkable person who truly was devoted to covering the news and he understood intuitively what that really meant. Like everyone who knew Bob, I will miss very much our conversations over the years. I would tell him to rest in peace but he probably already is raising a rucous upstairs.
- Dan Blackburn
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     I never worked with Bob, but knew him as a friend and colleague. We had parallel careers. We used to joke about how we  both survived as news directors at two NBC O&O's. He, of course, was at KNBC and WRC in Washington DC. I was news director at WNBC in New York, but was also news director at WRC, a few years before him. We both loved that station, and were both very successful in making it number one.  I reconnected with Bob when I moved to LA to work at KCET. I loved his bow ties, and seemingly gruff style.
- Brett Marcus
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Bob Long - a beloved former news director in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. - passed away in Washington on Monday, August 29.    His wife - Joan Rebecca ("JR") Long - reports Bob died of complications from metastatic prostate cancer.   He was working in Washington on the board governing the operations of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.  Memorial services in both Washington and Los Angeles are pending.   Below are the tributes being sent to me.  I will post yours, if you e-mail it to bob@tarlau.com.   May God rest his soul... for his was the ultimate professional, a true leader, a Marine in heart and spirit till the day he died and a wonderful and unique friend to so many.   - Bob Tarlau

    Ten years ago, July 19th, a bunch of Channel Two geezers got together in Studio City.
      Of the few photos I took, there was one with Bob.  (Left)
   Certainly, there are many others of him from the hundreds of folks whose lives he touched professionally, always the ultimate professional, and as a wonderfully interesting human being.
  

From the Voice of America Obit:

A journalist, filmmaker, broadcasting executive and combat correspondent in the Marine Corps, Bob had a fascinating career developing motion picture scripts and serving in news rooms on the east and west coasts. He served as KNBC Vice President and News Director from 2003 to 2009 when he retired and accepted the teaching post in Istanbul. He had previously served at NBC as Vice President for News and Operations at the network’s owned station in Washington, DC (1999 to 2003). His prior television news experience included news gathering, production and management jobs at the CBS owned station in Los Angeles (1968-1975), UPN Television in Los Angeles (1991-1994), Disney Television in Los Angeles (1994-1997) and a first tour at the NBC Los Angeles flagship as managing editor before going to Washington as Vice President for News.

Long’s very early taste of what news reporting was like came when, at 14, he worked his way into Fidel Castro’s entourage during the revolutionary’s 1959 victory lap in Washington. By the time he got through high school, he was an office boy for Time Magazine’s Washington Bureau. Other early assignments included campus stringer for Time at Yale (he dropped out), writer for WWDC Radio in Washington, combat correspondent in the Marine Corps, and writer for The Associated Press. In 1975, Long left CBS to pursue an independent documentary film project in what was then Zaire, Africa. During the late 70s, Long produced a number of independent documentaries for network outlets in Los Angeles. In 1977, he became Series Producer for “In Search of…with Leonard Nimoy” and in 1979 became the Senior Field Producer for NBC’s “Real People”, a forerunner of today’s “reality” television. He was active in theatrical motion pictures as well, directing trailers or featurettes for “California Suite”, “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, and other major films. In 1984, he produced “Two Fathers: Justice”, an NBC movie of the week. He was building a motion picture studio in Turkey when the first Gulf War wiped out his financing. Long returned to television news in 1991.

In addition to a number of Emmys and Murrow Awards, Long received a Peabody Award in 2005 for investigative journalism. Long is also a recipient of the highest personal achievement award given by the Associated Press of California, and just this month was awarded the Presidential Award by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Memorial arrangements are pending.

     When I took over the Big News Sacramento Bureau from Bob Simmons in 1969 (sic), Bob Long was the Assignment Editor.  I was just four years into the business and a long way from Sunset Boulevard.  From a distance, Bob took me under his wing.  We both had experience in Washington, and that helped to guide our coverage of the State Capitol. But the appetite for politics and government wasn't enough to take up all the time of a reporter and camera crew. As Simmons had discovered before me, Northern California is a gold mine (pun intended) for feature stories. Bob Long gave me (and the camera crew, Cal Cape and Paul Hilton) carte blanche.  From mystics claiming to enter the very core of Mount Shasta to the Lady Bug harvest in Rough and Ready, it was the most fun I've ever had as a reporter--thanks to Bob. The crazier the story, the better he liked it and the more encouraging he would be. 

     When I was reassigned to politics and investigative reporting in Los Angeles, I was lucky to join his many admiring colleagues and close friends. I loved him, I owed him a lot, and I'm very sorry he's gone.
 - Warren Olney
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    Bob Long was the smartest, boldest most un-corporate leader we ever had at KNBC. He put the place at ease because people knew he was only interested in covering the news. He shielded us from the demands of higher ups in management by charming them. He charmed everybody because he reeked credibility. A fellow Marine, he encouraged me when I was right and kicked my butt when I was wrong. The women in his life were wonderful classy ladies. Bob broke into journalism as a teen ager when he interviewed Fidel Castro.News management can change people, it never changed Bob.
- Doug Kriegel

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   Every news person and newsroom he rubbed up against was left brighter for his passing.
- Joseph Benti

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    Another arrow lost from our news quiver…and it’s a big big arrow.  I first met Bob when I moved from Miami to LA in 1979 to work on one of the first so-called “reality” shows…REAL PEOPLE…my first freelance editing job.  Yep, before my CBS days.  Bob joined on this production with a whole slew of us who came from all over to help George Schlatter launch this crazy concept…and of course, this was right in Bob Long’s wheelhouse. Irreverent as heck…but always the professional and a guaranteed good time whenever he was in the mix.  
      Later, when he became news director at KNBC…i was a bit jealous of those folks at ch 4 who had this good fortune… especially compared to the turmoil of ch2/9 during that time.  Bob got the ship sailing at ch4…he got everybody on board…and made things happen…their newsroom had a new, positive vibe.
       It was all Bob.  And now with his passing…and judging from the many many posts,  it is easy to see the impact.   He was beloved and will be sorely missed by so many of us who had the good fortune of crossing life path with him.   Our palette is a bit less vibrant with his passing…but his memory will always be with us.
         You’re right, May God rest his soul…peace for Bob.
- Carl Stein

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    My friend Bob Long passed away today. Simply put he was an original. I have never met anyone like him and I know I never will again.
        We were friends for 43 years. He hired me at Channel 2, and I returned the favor by hiring him at Channel 13, here in Los Angeles. We were business partners in two consulting ventures, Intercomcon with Jon Fischer and Scott Lane (our
      

    Undeniably, he was one of the greats of our generation who was a hail- fellow well met if I ever knew one.
     One of his virtues was his dedication to the craft which came to the fore every year when the RTNDA (cq) board gathered in DC to judge the Murrow Awards.  Often the local NDs were asked to help out with the judging and Bob always responded.  As a board member I came in from LA to do this each year. 
    Bob and I judged the networks that year which contained all the 2000 Millenial coverage.  We were stuck in that room for ten hours in an unholy marriage of two hypercritical, caustic, opinionated TV newsmen who filled the room with blue smoke and crackling invective as we reviewed tape after tape in a marathon effort.
      Whenever business took me to DC, in the 1990's, Bob always insisted on  hosting me for dinner at his favorite DC restaurant where we swapped war stories, both of the industry and the Marines.  Later, he told me how he had to keep after his KNBC writers and producers who kept referring to Marines as soldiers during the Iraq War.  That despite the presence of his legendary bronzed combat boots sitting in his office just screaming "Semper Fi.".
      His grandfather was a White House reporter during the Eisenhower Administrations.  The child Bob came down with an illness akin to Ike's bout with Chron's Disease. The president dedicated a book to Robert (as he preferred being addressed then) with the words "I know exactly how you feel."
     Everyone has personal recollections from knowing this larger than life character.  After all, who else would introduce himself at News Geezers as "I'm Bob Long; I'm Pete Noyes' illegitimate son."
- Warren Cereghino

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    Bob Long epitomized the virtues of a true Bon Vivant and a genuine Mensch as well. Don’t make ‘em like that anymore, sad to say.
- Dan Gingold

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   Sigh. So sad to hear the news about Bob Long...my long-time friend and mentor who did so much for me and my career. At first I cried some... But then as tributes started pouring in,  I couldn't help but laugh out loud over all the wonderful photos and memories that we all have of Bob. Like walking into his office and hearing him yell "Hey Toots nice kicks!" But if you had a serious question about the newscast the answers came very quickly! Because Bob would just go down a checklist of classy journalism rules and if your suggestions didn't meet the checklist ... forget about it! Bob, you will be missed in so many ways! By so many people! I'm sorry for young journalists who will never meet you.
- Wendy Harris
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     I got to work with Bob at KCOP when Jeff Wald took a few of us over there from KTLA. Fond memories of a terrific fellow and superior journalist. He will be missed by all who knew him
- Allan B. Zeller, Oxnard
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