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What A World! What A World!

June 23, 2009

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We live in very strange times, my friends.  Strange times, indeed. 

Big auto has been nationalized for the most part.    

Iran is protesting its own for a change. 

North Korea feels psychotically impervious.   

The Gosselin’s are preparing for their new reality show on TLC,  “Jon and Kate Plus an Eight Page Divorce Decree” .

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I woke up this morning only to find out that a beloved late night TV icon has dead.

ed mcmahonEd McMahon, Johnny Carson’s human laugh track on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” for 40 years, is dead.   From what you ask?   How about from being the ripe old age of 86.     

Carson was a comedy staple for me and a host of other wannabe funny people while growing up.   His dead pan timing was incredible.  You can’t be taught timing.   Especially timing of the funny variety and Carson had it in spades.   But Carson was the Tonight Show and Ed McMahon helped make Johnny.    He served as buffer, foil, pawn, shill and other things,  all under the simple title of sidekick.   When I was a kid and still naive to the world of  more mature humor, half the time I didn’t know one of Carson’s jokes was funny until I heard Ed laughing at it.  

Did Ed McMahon contribute great things to the world as a mere mortal man and TV sidekick?  Well, unless he handed you a million dollar check from Publishers Clearinghouse, probably not.  But if his reactive chuckle ever made you laugh, then yes, he did his job. 

Johnny and Ed often joked that  The Tonight Show was  “America’s night light”.   Their faces were the last things I’d see before drifting off to sleep every weeknight.

And when I learned of Ed’s death earlier today, I was reminded of another story.  

Back in the mid-80’s, I used to anchor news for the CBS affiliate in Laredo, Texas, right on the border with Mexico.    Interesting  town, Laredo.   In Spanish, I do believe  its name means “ambitious” and I assure you, the city is.

It plays home to just under 200-thousand  people and it continues to try very hard to emerge from it’s once sullied border town reputation.  It would love to be deemd  the jewel of South Texas and regarded as a burgeoning city of taste and cosmopolitonia.  Despite drug cartels fighting it out with Mexican troops just across the river in Nuevo Laredo, the city is trying to separate itself  from it’s deadlier sister city.    It does that with theatre, art, attempts at culture and lots and lots of debutante balls.  

I’ve not been back for two decades, but when I was there, Laredo  was fairly progressive.  It had two city dailies at one time;  a philharmonic orchestra, three TV stations, two small,  but fully accredited universities.

And a Dillards.  

I left  just as NAFTA was kicking up dust, but I remember it being a rather impressive little community.  Like a little bi-lingual engine that could.   

There was  certainly enough money down there.  It was made through huge, storied  Texas cattle ranches; transportation between the US and Mexico, import/export and of course, South Texas oil.    South Texans are all pretty happy that dinosours decided to die on their lands back a million years ago.   “Texas Tea” has made many people very wealthy here in Texas.tony_sanchez

One prime example of liquid capitalism is a one Mr.  Tony Sanchez.  

Mr. Sanchez is a very, very wealthy Laredo businessman who in 2002, ran an unsuccessful campaign against incumbant Republican, Rick Perry for the position of Governor of Texas.   He’s got something of a Midas Touch in business and except for the governor’s race, this man isn’t used to losing.  I knew Mr. Sanchez when I was in Laredo.  He is a very nice guy–even if he is a Democrat. 

In early 1987,  Sanchez opened or assumed control (I can’t remember which) of one of the largest bank’s in Laredo.   The old bank building was completely renovated and modernized and to celebrate such a coup, Sanchez invited Laredo’s elite to a party celebrating the grand re-opening.   Believe it or not, members of the media were considered to be celebrities of sorts.  I laugh when I think about it now, but we were about all the city had.   If Laredo’s  rich and stodgy only knew how much we made at that very early stage of our careers!!!   I was pulling in $5.25 an hour and I wasn’t only the solo news anchor, I was also the Executive Producer…and I was making a whopping 25-cents more than the reporters on staff.

I RSVP’d the invitation to the soiree the following Friday night.  I wanted to go.  It would be fun and good PR for my station.    The night arrived and I got all gussied up and drove to the reception.   It was an affair that was pure gala.   The building was looked new and it was beautifully decorated.   Tuxedo clad waiters offered champagne in crystal flutes served on baroque silver trays.   The food was sumptuous.  I seem to remember lobsters.    An orchestra played and that night, Laredo looked the way it hoped it was received. 

There was a receiving line whicj I joined.   I wanted to wish Mr. Sanchez well in his banking endeavors.  It moved slowly, in part because of  Tony Sanchez’s dynamic personality.  He is nothing if not charmingly Latin.  He spoke with everyone in line like he’d known them all of his life.   

It was my turn and Sanchez instantly recognized me and grabbed my hand with both of  his and bestowed a social kiss on both my cheeks.   That’s  part of the Mexican culture pool in which Laredo swims.   Upon greeting, a kiss is even given to strangers.  Mexicans (even those living on this side of the Gold Standard)  love doing that and frankly, I love that they do.   I think it’s a lovely custom.

“Well, it’s Laurie Kendrick!  I’m so glad you could come to our little party.  I hope you enjoy yourself! 

“I will Mr. Sanchez.   Thank you for inviting me!”

“Oh, it’s my pleasure.  You know Laurie, you’re my favorite news anchor here in Laredo.   You sure are!  I watch you  all the time.  In fact, you’re the last thing I see between my legs before I go to sleep each night!”

He smiled, obviously unaware of how that last sentence sounded.   My first impulse was to respond with something completely smart ass.   As always, I fought the desire,  but this time, I would be poised and genteel.  I would contain myself.  I just replied with another “thank you” again.  To be honest, I was a little rattled by the comment, but it was innocent enough.  Besides when he looked at me with those big, amber/brown eyes of his,  I saw in them his net worth:   his left eye contained the numbers, “600”.

The other one read, “million”. 

As in 600-million dollars.

We hugged briefly. casually, said goodbye and he continued greeting others in line behind me.

I giggled as I walked away.   l knew what he meant .  It was just as I lived with Carson and Ed McMahon all those years.  He watched my newscast before going to sleep and the TV was angled in his bedroom, so that he actually had to look down between his legs to get a view of the  tube which housed my talking head.   

I walked over to the bar, ordered a Dewars and grabbed a napkin and a pen.   I thought to myself,  Wow!   I just had one very weird conversation with one of the wealthiest men in the country!!

Then, I started scribbling:

Mrs. Laurie Sanchez

Mrs. Tony Sanchez

Mr. and Mrs. Antonio R. Sanchez 

Laurie Kendrick Sanchez

I only jokingly entertained the notion for a few seconds, laughed at the thought, then crumpled the napkin and tossed it in the trash as I exited the bank.  I had to head back to the TV station to prepare for another late night “appearance” between a very wealthy man’s legs.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 1:58 pm

    LMFAO. Only you, LK – only you. Well, okay – maybe me too, but not this particular time. BTW thanks for the blogroll add – though now I’m feeling the pressure of being scrutinized and compared no doubt unfavorably to the great blogging goddess that is LK! 😉

  2. Blanche permalink
    June 24, 2009 4:44 pm

    Poor Margaret Hamilton. She endured painful burns doing that movie.

  3. June 25, 2009 2:52 pm

    Laurie! You’ve caused me an epiphany, a sudden realization of what I’ve been doing wrong all these years . . .

    I don’t have a @#!$*ng TV in my bedroom. Hell, if I’d known it was that easy . . .


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