Some of the Big Stories – Part One

At the publication of this post, the Democratic National Convention is in full swing. Without going into detail, it’s making all of us aware of just how much things need to change.

Yet, as the old adage says, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mort Meisner is no stranger to this concept.

Back in 1980, he happened to be working in Detroit where he covered the Republican National Convention. Things needed to change then too.

And while the current Democratic National Convention is certainly a different scene, it does make one wonder what folks are up to on this green and blue sphere?

After decades in the news industry, Mort can tell you it’s a lot.

Just a Few of the Darker Stories

Mort is the first to admit that broadcasting is largely focused on stories that will generate ratings. And in his career, as in many others’, a lot of those stories involved rapes, murders, breaking and entering, and armed robberies.

Still, Mort always felt he was doing more than just boosting ratings. As someone who is quick to make friends out of random strangers, he quickly  recognized you can’t put a price on having friends in the right places. And that gave him a specific edge.

Operation Greylord

Mort Meisner Field Producing

Mort field producing for CBS in Chicago, President Ronald Reagan’s visit, September 2nd, 1981. That’s CBS reporter Frank Currier with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth over Mort’s left shoulder.

For example, one of the biggest stories out of the courts in the history of Chicago in the early 1980s was Operation Greylord that involved a full-blown investigation of corruption in the judiciary of Cook County in the Chicago jurisdiction. Mort had a friend who was a source in the U.S. Attorney’s office who gave him inside information. From his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous:

I went to my boss Bill Applegate at WLS in Chicago and shared what my friend had given me.

He gave me a dead serious look. In terms of accuracy, are you willing to place your career on the line?”

I had the utmost confidence in my friend, so without missing a beat I said, Absolutely.”

Once he was satisfied that my source was good, we broke the story. It was huge in Chicago, and had both local and national repercussions.

In the end, over 92 federal officials were investigated, indicted, thrown off the bench and even went to prison – along with some attorneys.

Air Canada Flight 1983

Another amazing story happened when Mort was at ABC in Chicago and the Air Canada flight had to make an emergency landing in Cincinnati. During the flight, a fire started behind the lavatory and spread between the outer skin and the inner panels.

The plane began filling with toxic smoke. The fire also burned through electrical cables that disabled most of the instrumentation in the cockpit:

Ninety seconds after the plane landed, the doors were opened. The heat of the fire in combination with the fresh oxygen from the open exit doors created dangerous flashover conditions. The planes interior was immediately engulfed in flames – killing 23 passengers who had not yet evacuated.

I had a source with the FAA based in Atlanta named Jack Barker. He was able to provide me these grim but crucial facts. But the network newscasts were reporting there were few or no injuries. Even in my own building, ABC nationally was reporting that.

In other words, because of Mort’s connection, they were reporting the facts and not fake news. This underscores the importance of having impeccable sources. Especially now when a lot of bad information is getting rolled out as fact.

Prostitution Ring

You hear the term prostitution ring and you likely think of young women in the wrong place at the wrong time. And in Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort talks about the way the industry would ignore stories about prostitution. We’ll tackle that in another blog.

This particular story is about a gay male prostitution ring in St. Louis upon which Mort was partially responsible for putting the kibosh.

At the time, I was good friends with two cops who told me they were having big problems in one of the parks. So we put wires on them and sent them into the park. I dont recall if we cleared this with the police department or if we were working with our own unique brand of vigilantism. Either way, we did it.

One of the cops – a heavyset guy named Jim – went into the bathroom and got someone to solicit sex from him. A man approached him and said he was looking to get sucked and fucked.”

Jim pulled out his handcuffs and said, Well, you got one of them. You just got fucked.”

Powerful stuff. And once again, it came down to Mort having friends in the right places.

Stay Tuned for More…

While reading Enough to Be Dangerous, you’ll be taken with all of the different layers and complexities of the broadcast industry as well as with Mort’s life.

The book will be available October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, but you can preorder your autographed copy today.

And in our next blog post, we’ll look at some of the stories that mattered to Mort on a very different level. So be sure to subscribe!

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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.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to stay in the know about the launch party and other book-related events.

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Enough to Be Dangerous – Thank You, Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen and MortMany of us remember the first time we saw a musical act that transformed us. For Mort Meisner, it was Bruce Springsteen.

In fact, Mort would hold the record in Michigan for attending the most Springsteen concerts, were it not for 97.1 The Ticket radio personality Mike Stone. Stone is such a diehard fan that it’s written in his contract that he gets time off to see Bruce when he’s in town, as well as when he’s on tour to go see him out of town.

Of course, it’s not a competition. They both share a fierce passion for both Bruce’s music, and for the musician. And this is no more apparent than in Mort’s new memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, where he committed not just one, but two chapters to Bruce Springsteen.

He even goes so far as to call him his hero.

You Never Forget Your First Time

Mort had never heard of Bruce Springsteen that fateful night he went to see him in September of 1975:

I was 22, but felt like a young teenager—sitting there, front and center, waiting for this Bruce Springsteen guy to come out on stage. I had no idea what to expect. And before I knew it, there he was, playing Incident on 57th Street. He went through his array of songs—none of which Id heard—including Born to Run.

Hearing them that night changed my life.

It was a transcendental experience for him.

Working as a rock and roll promoter at the time, he knew immediately it was essential that he book Bruce at the Michigan Palace. So he went to talk to Bruce’s manager and booked him two weeks later.

And so began Mort’s journey toward becoming a Bruce Springsteen groupie.

Following the Boss

Mort’s friend Nelson was equally as swept up by Bruce Springsteen as Mort was, and they were soon traveling to see him perform.

On one occasion, they went to Asbury Park, New Jersey, in hopes of catching Bruce slumming at the famous Stone Pony. After a visit to sax man extraordinaire Clarence Clemons’ home, and several more attempts at the Stone Pony, they finally scored.

Bruce treated them like royalty. He was genuinely interested in them and curious about why they’d come all that way. Then he proceeded to play there for an hour and a half in what was almost a private concert.

Listening to him perform, I felt profoundly different. I cant really explain it. I thought, this guy is like Bob Dylan. But different. More upbeat. More spiritual, maybe?

The way I interpreted his songs resonated with something deep inside me. He ran sentences and words together which I didnt understand, but I had no need to understand. He got me.

It became another life-changing night for Mort.

Still Loving Bruce Springsteen

Throughout Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort recounts a childhood riddled with violence and abuse. He lived his young adult years hard and fast, eventually succumbing to drug use in an attempt to outrun the demons that haunted him. But there was always one thing he knew could bring him back to center.

Over the years, from then until now, Ive seen Bruce Springsteen 131 times. It seems that in my tormented life—as its often been—hes always been there as a salve or balm to bring me relief.

Even when I had tragedies and losses in my family, I always took solace in listening to Bruce.

His abiding faith in Bruce Springsteen remains to this day.

What Makes Bruce Springsteen Mort’s Hero?

You’ll have to read Enough to Be Dangerous to get the answer to that question. Don’t worry.

Just click here to pre-order your autographed copy of this action-packed yet emotional memoir – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.

And be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on all the latest around the release, launch party, and other exciting events.

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Enough to Be Dangerous – When a Guidance Counselor Truly Guides

Harry Weberman, Mort’s Oak Park High School Guidance Counselor, 1970-1971.

Most of us know the adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” And chances are, a great many of us have experienced this.

Sometimes the teacher is an actual teacher – the English teacher who introduced you to an amazing author or the science teacher who shared your passion for chemistry.

Maybe it’s a coach who encouraged you to dig deep and give it your all. It could be a friend, a family member, a child, a pet. Perhaps a stranger on the street. The teacher can take on many forms.

For Mort Meisner, it was his guidance counselor, Mr. Weberman.

The Misguidance Counselor

By the time Mort landed in high school, he wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do once he graduated.

He’d had more than a handful of experiences by then that had sparked a passion for broadcasting. But he’d had an even bigger handful of experiences that left him feeling deflated and stupid –  one of which was delivered by a man who was supposed to be his guidance counselor.

In his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, he recalls the day he was called down to the alleged counselor’s office:

 Youre a nice boy, but I just dont see you amounting to much,” [the counselor] said, glancing down at a pile of papers. I could only assume that at the top of that pile was a sheet that displayed my grades.

He lifted up that sheet to partially conceal his face. I recommend you go into the military or into a good trade like plumbing, or you could become an electrician,” he said, looking at me from over the edge of the paper. This suggestion was beyond laughable—if it werent so sad—because of my inability to work with my hands.   Hell, I had struggled to pass shop class and art.

I didnt know what to say. Yeah, I knew my grades werent stellar. But did that really mean I had no future? All I could do was nod, then get up and leave. Utterly humiliated.

Of course, Mort was no stranger to being told he wasn’t worth much. His father regularly dealt him verbal blows such as, “If you had two brains you wouldn’t be a halfwit,” or, “I do more accidentally than you do on purpose.” And his mother had told him countless times when he was younger that he was not her little boy and she wished she’d never had him.

Yet, in a surprising turn of events, his parents did not take to the counselor’s words kindly. In fact, they had quite the opposite reaction. In a rare demonstration of protective parenting, they charged into the school and demanded that Mort be given a new guidance counselor.

And when Mort’s 350 lb. father made demands, people didn’t take them lightly. Not if they knew what was good for them.

Enter Mr. Weberman

Mort’s parents had finally made a significantly positive impact on his life because the next day, he was assigned a new counselor.

His name was Harry Weberman, and he would be one of the few highlights of my high school tenure. He acknowledged that I didnt have the best grades. But he nevertheless encouraged me to apply to Wayne State or the University of Detroit, then pursue whatever interested me.

That interaction with Mr. Weberman made me realize that I really had believed I was stupid. But I also realized that my grades didnt truly reflect my intelligence. Truth was, the only subjects that really interested me were English and speech. I simply wasnt interested in other topics, and therefore didnt try very hard. But language and speaking made me tick.

This fact, along with Mr. Webermans words, gave me hope.

Mr. Weberman was truly an amazing man. He challenged me to follow my dream of becoming a journalist—which I did.

Whatever it was that enabled Mort to hear Mr. Weberman’s words with clarity and, even more importantly, without the echoing reverberation of the rage-filled sleights and slurs from his parents over the years, no one knows.

Least of all Mort.

He just knows that to this day, he is eternally grateful for that day in Mr. Weberman’s office and how it would change every day that followed.

For years after that, every time he saw Mr. Weberman, Mort reminded him what he meant to him. The year before he died was the last time he’d see him. He thanked him one final time and his last words to him were, “Mr. Weberman, you are everything that is right with education.”

The teacher came. And the student was indeed ready.

Read More About Mort’s Fascinating Life

For anyone who knows Mort as the confident and successful person that he’s become, it’s tough to imagine he had such a rough start.

But his fight, his spirit, and his resilience are undeniable – in every aspect of his life from his abusive childhood, to his days in the rock and roll scene, right up to his years in TV news broadcasting and now as an agent.

Read about them in Enough to Be Dangerous – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing – by pre-ordering your autographed copy today.

And in the mean time, subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on all the buzz around the book, the launch party, and other exciting events.

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