Happy Birthday, Daniel Schorr

Just as I've finished my whinging about the good dying young, comes news of Daniel Schorr's 91st birthday. The last of Murrow's Boys still working: the guys who could write well, speak well and had the moxie to "tell the truth and run". (Marvin Kalb was actually the last hired by Murrow, four years after Schorr, but he took the king's shilling years ago to teach at Harvard and become a Gray Eminence, a Lippman instead of a George Seldes or I.F. Stone.)

Murrow hired Schorr two years before I was born, for God's sake, when Schorr was 37-- and very much the "kid" around CBS, compared with colleagues like William Shirer, who'd stuck around Nazi Germany and didn't get out until 1940, or Cronkite, a wire-and-print man at UPI until 1950, who'd landed with troops behind enemy lines in a glider on D-Day. Shirer himself gave Murrow a civics lesson by quitting when CBS was late coming to the table against McCarthy and failed to stand up for Shirer when he was being red-baited as prematurely anti-fascist. (We like to remember Murrow at his best, but at the time, Murrow's eloquent speech against McCarthyism was akin to Stalin declaring war on Japan after the US bombed Hiroshima.)

Kid Schorr got his chance to show what it takes to be a "Murrow Boy" when he got in a pissing match with the Pentagon, the Nixon White House and CBS itself, which fired him over his reporting on CIA villainy and the Pike Committee hearings. It's part of guy lore that a man is defined not just by his friends but by who his enemies are, and there are few more deserving of a great soul in opposition than the secret murderers at CIA, or moments more delicious than Schorr reading Nixon's "enemies list" on-air without realizing that his own name was on the list.

If I seem in a valedictory mood, it's inspired by watching in quick succession Richard Pryor's first concert film (the one with the dead pet monkies and a sympathetic German Shepherd) and a Paul McCartney broadcast, Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road, with McCartney fiddling around with Elvis' bass or explaining how the chords of "Blackbird" were born of a mistake he and George Harrison used to make while trying to play Bach as kids. This inclines me to appreciate our treasures while we have them.

Some of my my favorite moments in the week are Schorr's conversations with Scott Simon on Saturday mornings. Apparently it's a favorite joke at NPR to send the most naive interns around to ask Schorr questions about covering the Spanish American war, but he seems to be enjoying himself. Long may he continue to be a Ring-Tailed Wonder, pissing off the right people and much loved by the best.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that! Lately people have groused to me about Daniel Schorr, wondering who that old geezer is. Most are duly upbraided if I TELL them who he is. I adore the man and worry every Saturday that last Saturday might have been his last commentary. May he continue to be our benevolent, grouchy conscience and memory for many years to come. --Pat