When I was a page at the CBS television network many years ago, I can remember dreaming about the big time.
I'd walk down West 57th Street in New York City practicing my tag, "In New York, Mike Straka," over and over again. Never mind that I was ushering audiences for "Geraldo" in my little page uniform, or answering phones for people like Mike Wallace (search) or Joe Peyronnin -- a news VP.
My buddy Joe, a fellow page, would call me up on whoever's phone I happened to be answering that day, disguising his voice while pretending to be some media bigwig.
"Mike, this is Steven Spielberg calling," he'd say. "I have your picture and resume in front of me and was thinking you'd be perfect to star in my next film."
Then, abruptly, he'd break into the Supertramp (search) song "Dreamer," singing "Dreamer! You Stupid Lit'l Dreamer!" We'd laugh so hard.
And you know, I'm still that "Stupid Lit'l Dreamer," but in order to survive in this business, like so many others, one must have a sense of humor.
Which brings me to the Grrr! column. It is not meant to be some serious commentary on the social state of our great nation. It's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be a forum for venting the Grrr! elements of every day life.
And even though I might come across like I have some major anger issues, I don't. Perhaps because I know how to vent. So lighten up folks. It's fun to Grrr! Go ahead and try it.
Hear that guy in the elevator chomping on his gum like a cow? Grrr! See? Doesn't that make you feel better?
How about the people who ride the commuter bus every single day? They know the bus will eventually fill up, yet they will always give a dirty look to the person who asks them to move their jacket or bag from the seat next to them. Grrr!
Or how about ...
You know who I mean. They're usually driving circa 1990 automobiles or older. They're wearing a professional baseball team's varsity jacket and have a license plate frame bearing the logo of their local professional football team, or a bumper sticker that reads, "My child is an honor student."
They're the ones driving in the left lane at EXACTLY the speed limit, not one mile per hour more. And they're the ones who force you to pass on the right. Hey. Keep right, pass left. Grrr!
Almost as annoying as the lady in the New York Times commercial who says, "The only thing I like more than doing the Sunday crossword puzzle ... is actually finishing it," are newscasters and sportscasters who try to be witty.
NOW ... I do stand corrected, thanks to a few hockey fans who responded to one of my earlier columns. They enlightened me that when I complained about my local sportscaster's bizarre goal highlight call of -- "Right where mama puts the peanut butter" -- he was actually referring to a player shooting the puck high into the net, or on the "top shelf."
OK ... that's fine. But I still think it's stupid.
Besides, most mamas put the cookies on the top shelf, not the peanut butter. My mom is too short to reach the top shelf, but that's beside the point. Grrr!
It seems that a lot of sportscasters are constantly either auditioning for ESPN or trying to compete. Hey, there's always "Dream Job," the new reality show where the winner gets a yearlong SportsCenter contract. Grrr!
Weathercasters also have it rough. I can imagine it must be tough to come up with witticisms for snow or ice or extreme heat, but I want to scream every time I hear something like, "we're getting more of the white stuff heading our way," or as one reader e-mailed me, "Ol' Man Winter is making a comeback' -- Dude, he never left." Grrr!
Bad Teleprompter Readers
Trust me, it's not as easy as it looks. Reading the teleprompter well takes a lot of practice. But that's why anchors and reporters or hosts get paid good money. Now, not everybody has to be FNC's Shepard Smith (who is probably the best off-the-top-of-his-head anchor in the business), but there's nothing worse than watching someone on TV bantering with their co-anchor in a very natural way, and then all of a sudden sound like a robot when they return to the prompter ...
Up ... next ... we'll ... have ... an ... ex-clu-sive ... inter-view ... with ... so and so. Grrr!
In the eighties it was "Word." In the '90s everybody was saying, "Show me the money," after the movie "Jerry Maguire" (search) came out. These days "It's all good" and "bling, bling," are way overused phrases. But how about the people who pause each sentence with "but ummmm?" I always add "bump" when they do that. "But-um-bump!" That's annoying "as all get out." Another Grrr! phrase.
There's no question Mark Burnett (search) is a television genius. He created "Survivor," "Eco-Challenge," and now, "The Apprentice." I have not watched the two former during any of their runs, but I am a fan of "The Apprentice." (search) I am thoroughly disgusted, however, by the Versacorp team of the guys. First of all, the name is stupid. Versacorp. Please! The women are so much more resourceful. And don't bring up the excuse that they're using their sex appeal unfairly. Their company, Protege, is wiping Versacorp up, fair and square. The men are pathetic. Grrr!
It's a good thing Donald Trump mixed up the teams last week, otherwise I'm sure the guys' team would have been down to three. My prediction to win: Amy Henry (search). She's Texas tough, Texas beautiful and Texas bright.
Incidentally, singer Rod Stewart was reportedly upset that his air time on The Tonight Show was cut short last week because Jay Leno added an extra segment with the recently fired "Apprentice" Sam Salovey. Sam was the most annoying of the men, and while I did appreciate his attempt to sell a cup of lemonade for a thousand bucks in the first episode, his dramatic exit after The Donald (search) fired him was so over the top I was expecting NBC security to escort him out of the boardroom. But alas, he's now a star worthy of bumping a legendary performer like Rod Stewart (search) from Jay Leno. I don't get it. Grrr!
Now for your Grrr!s
Here's one that made me laugh so hard I had to post it in its entirety:
Chris L. writes about my last column: Yo! Never miss an opportunity to drop a name or empahsize your 'celeb' connection, do ya'? I could care less about the 'celebs' you saw (which really validate NOTHING) and your personal odyssey through the SleazeBowl landscape. Bill O'Reilly was RIGHT ABOVE you, huh? Maybe if you'd tossed a beer up at him he would have noticed you ... Went to all the HOT after-game spots, huh? Must have been SOOoooooo exciting and all, seeing all those 'major celebs!' Gee, how couldja' stand the excitement! And managing a few Grrrrs(!) in betwen the 'celeb' spotting! AMAZING!!! You sound like a back-woods hick with no taste or couth gone to the big city for a day and determined to make the rest of us insanely jealous ... Little Man!
Your Friend - Chris Long.
With friends like you Chris ... By the way, O'Reilly doesn't drink alcohol, and how'd you know I'm a little guy? Grrr!
Jeffrey F. writes: How about all the jerks whose complaining about smoke in the workplace forced the smokers outside and who are now complaining because the smokers take smoke breaks outside.
Giordana B., an Atlanta restaurant server, writes: People come in and spend $150.00 on dinner. They have a gift certificate or coupon that covers $100.00 of the check. They then tip on the left over $50.00. Instead of making $25 to $30 on the table (which is deserved), I make $8 to $10. Big Grrr!
New Yorker Diane L.F. writes: Women, young and middle-aged, who put on all their makeup on the NYC subway. I'm not talking about a quick look in the mirror to apply lipstick. I'm talking foundation, eye shadow, liner, mascara, eye lash curler, eyebrow pencil, lip liner, blush applied five times, powder and lipstick. The best part is they don't look any better.
Bob L. from Anacortes, Wash., writes: I jumped on somebody for this just yesterday and got cussed out for my trouble. It's the person who is so lazy that he can't push his empty shopping cart ten feet to the cart rack but instead leaves it in the middle of an open parking space, causing me to have to get out and move it so I can park. Grrrrr.....!
S. Snider of San Francisco writes: When I go to my local coffee shop in the morning and there is a line out the door...the two slow poke servers insist on serving one person--so one server will stand by the toaster waiting for a bagel and the other one will stand by the espresso machine steaming milk--while 15 people stand in line--DRIVES ME NUTS!
I'll add to that one. My local coffee shop counter clerk doesn't know me, even though I go in every morning and have for years. Yet the same person, who often times looks like she just rolled out of bed, insists on asking me if there will be "any pastry with that?" I have never bought a pastry with my coffee. It's always the newspaper and coffee. The same thing. Everyday. If it's her boss that makes her do it, I still say "Grrr!"
On celebs at the Super Bowl, Kristen Hunt writes: They all get paid to tell our kids in PSA's never to forget who your friends are, where you come from and where you are going, but at the same time these people have left all their childhood friends for other celebs, couldn't tell you what street they grew up on, have no idea where they are going...and worst of all, FORGOTTEN THE PERSON THEY WERE WHEN THEY STARTED IN THIS BUSINESS!!
Kristen, you're right. A lot of celebrities can't see further than their noses, or more accurately, past the mirror.
I recently interviewed screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who used to be a famous screenwriter in Hollywood. About 10 years ago, he gave up the mansion in Malibu for a house in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, where his kids' classmates aren't bringing mommy or daddy's Oscar to school on show-and-tell day.
Unfortunately, it took the throat cancer that nearly killed him that forced him to, in his own words, "meet himself." As the saying goes, "better late than never." Good luck Joe.
Thanks for reading and responding. As we say in TV, stay tuned for more Grrr!s.
Mike Straka is the project manager for FOX News' Web operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine" (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC), a producer on "Sunday Best" (Sundays 9 p.m. on FNC), and as a reporter and columnist for Foxnews.com. Straka appeared in the film "Analyze This" and was an actor in the long-running Off-Broadway hit "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."