Roger Ailes

May 19, 2017

Roger AilesIt’s the mid-to-late 1990s. My manager at the time, Stanley Bernstein, got me a job with a fledgling “all-news” network. It turned out to be FoxNews, and of course I didn’t know anything about it at the time because it was a job. It wouldn’t have mattered who or what it was, the opportunity was too good to pass up. I moved my wife and two young children across the country from LA to Jersey, and got to work.

My job was really fun. I’d been hired to write, manipulate and voice the White House dog. This was during the Clinton Administration, and they had a chocolate Labrador named Buddy. I actually created the puppet myself, based on the same kind of dog Marsia and I had – a chocolate Lab we’d had for years named “Elvis” – and the TV network made a “dog bed” that looked like the presidential seal. We cut a hole in the bottom, right in the middle, so I could make it look as if Buddy was talking directly to the camera, from somewhere inside the White House.

We shot some 30-35 short “episodes” over a 10-day period. It was slick. State-of-the-art production plus a really cool set, the whole nine yards. The concept was simple: Buddy gave up-to-the-minute reports on what was really happening in the West Wing:

“Wow (pant, pant) things are crazy! Last night the chief came home late. Mrs. Clinton was waiting for him in the big room. There was a lot of screaming. I heard a lamp break. I tried to peek in through the door, but she was coming out at the same time and tripped over me, and she got even angrier… (pant, pant)….”

After 10 days, however, the subject of getting paid came up. I needed some cash. I went to my producer, Marvin Himmelfarb, and he said, “Call me tomorrow before you come in.” Which I did.

It’s an old, OLD, showbiz story. So I won’t bore you. I called. I left a message. I went to work and was told, “Sorry, we’re not filming today.” I called the next day. Etc.

I finally got up the nerve to call someone I’d never met. I was familiar with Roger Ailes for his political work on behalf of George H.W. Bush. He was the boss. I called him. His secretary took a message. He never called back. And that was the end of my job.

Around the same time I did a radio show with the once-famous Dick Cavett. Mr. Cavett was on the downside of a long successful career in media, and he was hosting a comedy series. We met, briefly, and I mentioned I was working for a new cable news outlet. He said, “I’m working there, too!” He mentioned Mr. Ailes.

I said, “I’ve never met him. I hope to sometime soon.”

Cavett responded, “You won’t meet him tomorrow. He’s not feeling well.”

I said, “Oh, so you’re saying Roger… ails.”

Cavett laughed out loud. “You can use that!” I said.

I don’t blame people for business stuff like this. I don’t hold grudges. Stanley Bernstein always did his best by me. Marvin Himmelfarb is probably long gone by now. Cavett did actually work for FoxNews for a time. And I never met Roger Ailes.

But FoxNews? I don’t watch.