Excerpt: Wendy Walker's 'The Producer'


Among our staff, one producer is assigned strictly to knowing all the books that come out and which authors might be right for the current show. Two producers are in charge of the ?fteen-minute water cooler stories, such as local tragedies that include people who are not normally in the news, which is how the Scott Peterson case began. Another producer handles celebrities and their agents and publicists. There are political bookers who work with Washington and the White House, and all of them have their A list: people we would have on at any time, such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt or a sitting president.

In other words, we are always working simultaneously on whatever is going on today, the rest of the week, and way into the future. While we do this, one of the editorial producers does the research for the open of the show: Larry is extraordinarily well- versed since he watches news all day long, but he still needs speci?cs. So one producer writes the open, others produce the video components, and still others are in charge of the live show. That includes satellites, audio, graphics, phone calls, the rundown, content, remote locations, and breaking news during the show. There are publicists, cameramen, makeup artists; everyone is doing his or her individual job to create a live show.

And so each job is a piece of the whole, like a set of dominoes. It all has to ?t together in harmony because if one domino goes down, so do all the rest. Everyone has to know what everyone else is doing, and we perform this intricate dance every day, all day long. If the show changes suddenly in the middle of the day, which happens very often, we start the process all over again, with less time and more scurrying around. But we always get the job done.

So far so good for this particular day. It seemed that Larry King Live would go forward as planned. On our roster, we had conservative Ann Coulter, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Elizabeth Edwards, who was struggling with inoperable cancer and her ex-senator husband's stunning in?delity. I thought we might include some information on Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina who was also embroiled in an extra-marital scandal, so the show was off to a solid start.

I gave the go-ahead to check into the availability of Governor Sanford and a few others, but as executive producer I had to keep in mind that Barbara Walters was airing an ABC special about ailing actress Farrah Fawcett that night. In her advance publicity for the special, Barbara had suggested on Good Morning America that Farrah, who was struggling with the last stages of cancer, might not make it through the day. It sounded a little presumptuous on Barbara's part, but the actress had supposedly been at death's door for quite a while. If she died today, I would have to change the show. That was par for the course. I often changed the focus of a show when we were in the planning stages, since I had to respond to what was going on in the world at each moment. But I hoped I didn't have to.

I was in the middle of the morning booking call when, at 9:28 a.m., a ?ash showed up on my computer. Farrah had passed away. Barbara had been right and we had some adjusting to do.

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