Egos Aplenty in Enough to Be Dangerous

It seems in the past few years (let’s say a little over three and a half), many of us have had the experience of trying to stomach the antics of a raging ego-maniac.

In some respects, at least, navigating the trails of the ego-maniacal has been familiar territory for Mort Meisner.

Working in the world of broadcasting certainly afforded him a family-sized sampling of blustery and bigger-than-life personalities. And dealing with them first-hand became something of an art form for him.

In his new memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, he takes the reader into the newsrooms and other venues that were populated by these characters.

The Legendary Bill Bonds

Bill BondsIf you lived in Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s, you’ve heard of Bill Bonds. He was a brilliant and tough-as-nails anchorman whom Mort regards as one of the five greatest anchormen of all time.

Mort worked with him in his early days of broadcasting when he was at WXYZ. He remembers Bill as a passionate man. This passion wasn’t always pretty.

After each newscast, Bill would hold up the scripts in the newsroom and ask, Who wrote this? Who wrote this piece of shit?”

Someone would meekly raise their hand and Bill would stare them down and say, We are better than this. This is terrible.” Then for dramatic effect, hed sometimes fling the scripts into the air and walk out on his way to dinner or, more likely, the bar.

It was no secret that Bill had done more than a dozen stints in rehab for drinking and had lost a daughter to a drunk driver. Yet, no matter how hard a day he was having, he’d end every newscast with, “Have a peaceful evening.” His outbursts were just par for the course. As Mort says, “That was just Bill. I loved him. We all loved him.”

The Not-So-Nice Al Ackerman

Mort did not share the same affection for sportscaster Al Ackerman and considered him one of the most negative guys he’d ever met.

During Ackerman’s tenure, Mort was running the evening assignment desk where one of his jobs was to be traffic cop for the crews getting moved around. If a big news story was breaking, he’d have to pull a crew for it. One night, he pulled Ackerman’s crew.

Let’s just say, it didn’t go well.

You dirty mother fucker, you took my crew last night,” [Al] seethed. Youre a piece of shit!” he yelled and stormed off.

I wasnt going to take that. So I went into the sports office.

You need to apologize to me!” I said.

Fuck off!” he answered.

The guy was so determined to not apologize that he tried to leave, but I blocked the door. So he turned around and tried to crawl out the first-floor window. It came down on his hand and severed a tendon in his middle finger.

As Mort says, “Al was a curmudgeon who, given the chance, would have kicked Mother Theresa in the ass rather than walk around her.” Yet despite his boorish behavior, he was very popular, knowledgeable, talented, and even feared by many in management of our professional sports teams.

The Blowhard Walter Jacobsen

While working in Chicago, Mort had the distinct (dis)pleasure of working with Walter Jacobsen. Walter had a Napoleon complex and was quick to fly off the handle.

Jimmy Carter often came to Chicago during this time to visit his grandchildren. Stations sent crews, just in case there was something newsworthy. There never was. So Mort made the decision to not send a crew. When Walter discovered there would be no story on his visit, he blew his top. He stuck a finger in Mort’s face and began yelling at him.

Do you like working here?” he finally asked with a threatening tone. 

Not in particular,” I said, feeling heated, because I dont like you.”

Oh yeah!? Well, Ill call Gene Jankowski and make sure you get fired then!” he yelled. Jankowski ran CBS News and was one of the people who could easily get me fired. I didnt care.

Get the fuck out of my face,” I yelled back, waving him away.

He stared into my eyes and tweaked me across the nose!

You just alienated the most important man in journalism,” he said. Then he turned on his heels and walked back to his desk, where his assistants sat behind him like a pack of rats. 

I was approaching a rage. And even though I had a broken leg from a tackle football game, I hobbled over to him. To do what? Honestly, I was ready to beat the shit out of him for everything hed ever done to anyone at all. I got right in his face.

If you ever touch me again,” I growled, Ill put my foot so far up your ass, it will come out of your mouth.”

It’s certainly a provocative image.

Of course, Mort never got the chance to actually do that, since the general manager had been warned that a brawl was about to break out and came to settle it. And in spite of Walter’s massive ego, Mort always regarded him as an outstanding journalist and for that, he respected him.

The Dismissive Mike Royko

Mike RoykoDuring Mort’s time in Chicago, one of his goals was to meet Mike Royko, the late Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the city’s papers. When he was  out at a local watering hole with his friend Jim, the opportunity presented itself.

Theres Royko!”

Jim warned me not to approach him, but nothing was going to stop me. I went up to Royko.

Hi Mike, Im Mort Meisner,” I said. Assignment Manager at WBBM. I think youre the greatest columnist ever, anywhere.”

With a drink in his right hand, he looked directly at me. He made a circular motion with his left hand and said clearly and succinctly, Who gives a fuck what you think.”

So much for first impressions. Even so, Mort still considers Royko the greatest columnist that ever lived.

The Mayhem Doesn’t Stop There

Of course, not every behind-the-scenes story from these major newsrooms is quite so chaotic or mean-spirited.

But there are still plenty more to explore in Enough to Be Dangerous – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing. Pre-order your autographed copy today.

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