I was the first African American to do regular movie reviews and celebrity interviews on Milwaukee television. WISN, an ABC affiliate, is the station that started my on-camera career. Some of my celebrity interviews got picked up for national airing on the syndicated 1980s show, PM Magazine. Five years after my professional TV debut there, I got discovered by an executive at WPIX. I left the Midwest to work on local TV in midtown Manhattan. Leaving WISN in Milwaukee for WPIX in New York City was like going from Dorothy Gale's humble farm to the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. One day, you're on the #30 Jackson Downer bus on the east side of Milwaukee. The next thing you know, you're sharing a cab with Quentin Crisp one night on the lower east side of Manhattan. New York City was amazing in the '80s. And overwhelming. Noted entertainment journalist Liz Smith and I worked in the same building. At the time, she was a syndicated columnist for The Daily News. I'd interviewed her on WPIX/Channel 11.
think of the show." Then her eyes sort of leaned on me.
We finished reviewing her sitcom. She thanked me, gave me a little hug and said, "Well, Bobby, I gotta go to the ladies' room and shoot up." I watched her walk off, my eyes were the size of dinner plates. Liz Smith was laughing. Larry Ashmead was laughing. "Don't worry, honey," Liz drawled." "Elaine's not a drug addict. She's diabetic."
This week, Liz and Elaine shared a birthday on the same day. The entertainment journalist is 89. The original cast member of Stephen Sondheim's Company is 87. I can't remember who got married that day of the reception. But I do remember the thrill of Elaine Stritch, a Broadway musical legend, sitting on my lap and chatting with me like we were old acquaintances. What a great New York moment.