Bob Vaughn (former WCBS anchor) 7/1/05
As I thought back over 21 years at Black Rock, I realized I
could probably write a book about the myriad incidents I
recall....but...who would read it?! In the '60s and '70s I, like
several of the anchors, did a lot of street work, with many very long
days because of a strange AFTRA contract. We could put in a full day's
anchor work and be held over by a producer to cover either a breaking
story OR just to stand by in case a story developed. In those "overtime"
periods, If we didn't go on the air, we were not paid a dime: some
I anchored mostly in afternoon drive for the first
decade-or-so of all news, and what I remember most in those troubled
years was a sense that a lot of our work was downright dangerous. I was
nabbed one night to cover demonstrations outside Madison Square Garden,
while George Wallace was appearing inside. Streets were blocked, the
cops got edgy and suddenly I was running with the mob to avoid being run
over by New York's Finest...horses. Those big beasts charged right down
the sidewalks, but luckily I was able to spin into revolving doors into
the lobby of the New Yorker Hotel.
Another night, a tech and I were in a van covering a standoff at
Columbia University. A militant who called himself something like 37X
Kenyatta was talking the crowd into a frenzy; some of those good folks thought the van would look better upside down
and started rockin' our boat. University jocks who were keeping gates
to the campus closed suddenly gave way, the crowd charged through and we
were left, still upright, in the detritus of another demonstration.
Another tech and I were in Ocean Hill-Brownsville one night, covering a
big demonstration concerning local control of the schools. We were in a
big room of ticked off black people and maybe a dozen reporters, some of
whom were being pushed around by the militants. While the technician
and I tried to avoid being manhandled, some of the demonstrators got
into our gear bag and made off with two expensive walkie talkies and an
even-more costly tape recorder. We were not dumb enough to argue with
the thieves, but worried about possible consequences back at Black
Rock. CBS, however, did not say a word about the equipment when told
about the tense situation.
I also covered routine stories before or between anchor schedules. I
went to Harlem one day with the name and address of an elderly woman who
was stuck on the 4th floor of her building because the elevator
failed....during an elevator repairmen's strike. I was treated to a
lot of hostile stares in the side streets of Harlem, but didn't really
feel threatened until I started climbing the stairs of a smelly
tenement. I never saw a soul, including the old lady. I knocked on her
door and I felt sure she was checking me out through the peephole. I'm
sure she figured it would be dumb to open her door to some strange white
guy. As for me, I got the hell out of that building.
I believe Don Blair has a couple of anecdotes about being in the
line of fire when he and I were covering a hostage situation ( I in
studio, he on street) in a Brooklyn sporting goods store...and another
time when Don was covering exploding gasoline tanks on Staten Island....
Also I believe it was either Steve Flanders or Harvey Hauptman, with Jim
Harper, who went up under a WCBS van to avoid gunfire in the riots in
Harlem or Plainfield....Harvey might recall.
Best regards, Bob V