Uncle Walter

I was remiss in not commenting on CBS' Walter Cronkite special last Friday night, which I stumbled on by accident. That may say something about how much CBS promoted it, or about how much of that network I watch on a regular basis, even though I am now so in its wheelhouse at 50.

One thing I didn't know about Cronkite that I learned on the show was that he does some kind of fake strip tease to the delight of partygoers, which he did to the delight of George Clooney on a visit to his house.

That's the sort of information that would have been too much when he was holding court atop CBS News, but is fine now, though try as I might, and I haven't tried that hard, I still can't picture it.

I also discovered that Robin Williams does a good Cronkite impression, though that should have come as no surprise.

I was glad that CBS aired the special now, while Cronkite is still able to bask in the love that remains for the shoot-from-the-heart icon of the day when his word was law and his opinion could sway a nation, as it did when he concluded Vietnam was unwinnable.

"If I've lost Cronkite, " President Lyndon Johnson said at the time, "I've lost the nation." How right he was.

There are no Cronkites today to galvanize us, which is not really the fault of the Katies and Charlies of the world. We are too fragmented and too cynical to take anyone at face value, even that unforgettable face, with its professorial overarch of eyebrows and those klunky glasses that were so hipply uncool, or was it cooly unhip.

I once raised a glass or two with Mr. Cronkite in Annapolis, where he was a chick magnet in an avuncular sort of way that was nonthreatening to them–he was happily married–though somewhat dispiriting to those of us who were a third his age, weren't married, and wanted to threaten.

I remember him as incredibly happy, as who wouldn't be fresh off a boat and docked at a great restaurant just a bowline's throw from the water.

By John Eggerton

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.