warner wolf

Interns, Part 2 (or the time I almost became famous)


That was the inside joke that rang regularly through the WCBS-TV sports office.

The room looked like nothing I have seen since in local television news. It was a traditional edit bay surrounded by multiple TVs showing different events, but it also included three rows of stadium seating so that nearly a dozen staffers could watch at once.

We interns were relegated to the middle row. On a given night, we would monitor the major New York sporting events — which, during the summer, typically meant Yankees and Mets games — and log the highlights. We would then report back to that night’s anchor about which ones he should use during the 11 pm sportscast.

Occasionally that anchor was a New York broadcasting legend: Warner Wolf.

By 2001 Wolf had worked in broadcasting for 40 years. He had developed a renowned catch phrase: “Let’s go to the videotape!” As an intern, I marveled at his ability to go off-script for highlights; Wolf stiff-armed the TelePrompter and simply wrote a few words on a piece of paper to guide him through the show.

Wolf had also, by this stage, become one of the few remaining examples of a full-blown New Yorker on local New York news. He neither looked nor spoke like a modern assembly-line anchor; he wore a thick accent and a brash yet kind-hearted demeanor.  This showed up behind the scenes, too; Wolf did not say much but, when he did, always commanded the room. Every now and then, Wolf would ask one of us interns to run down to the cafeteria and get him a sandwich; he would always give us enough money for our meals, as well.

And he would always ask for the same thing:

“I want a tomato sandwich … with a slice of cheese … and a bag of Lay’s potato chips … CLASSIC.”

His voice would then rise comically:

“That’s CLASSIC. None of that sow-uh cream s*** … none of that baw-be-cue s*** … CLASSIC!”

Wolf would then leave the room, and the inside joke would begin. (more…)