On the Air, and on the Edge

DIANE SAWYER: One of the things that always amazed me the most was watching Peter get into the desk. He would wait very late, I gather, when he had that feeling that he had to come in. Most of us would come in breathless, but he would come in and he would slide right into the desk, and then he'd say, "Good evening. We begin tonight…" No pause. One breath, "Good evening. We begin tonight." It gave you a sense of what he felt about the day, which was: "I can't wait to tell you what I've got to tell you."

JON BANNER: One of the things he was famous for, which made us always very nervous in the control room, was that he would frequently start answering his e-mail when he went to commercial. People would get e-mails from him while the show was on the air, and they would be mystified as to how he could be broadcasting the news and answering their e-mails. Well, he did it.

LINDA BIRD FRANCKE: He developed a terrifying habit of calling in the commercial breaks during the broadcast. You'd be watching the broadcast and they'd go to Alpo dog food or whatever it was and suddenly the phone would ring and it would be Peter. I'd say, "You can't talk now. You're about to go back." He'd say, "No, no, no. Tell me, do you want sausages for the cookout this weekend, or should we have hot dogs?" And I'd say, "Peter, you can't do this." I would be a total wreck. He'd hang up and go sailing right on with the broadcast. He said he loved to do it, because it whee-ed him up; it put him on a bit of an edge.

JOHN WCWETHY: When we were about to do something live, Peter would talk in generalities about what we might do, but he would never tell me the questions he was going to ask. I never had a clue. His response to me was, "You'll only rehearse it, McWethy." Or, I don't want you to become stale, McWethy." Stale?! I was often caught completely off guard. He loved it. I hated it.

JOHN COCHRAN: He never asked those questions we'd already discussed. He wasn't trying to embarrass people; he just wanted you to be spontaneous. He thought that was good for us, good for the show, and he's right.

BARBARA WALTERS: Just before you went on the air, you sort of figured out what you were going to say, and then, two seconds before the camera was on you, Peter would ask you a question that you never expected. You'd stumble around trying to get the answers and when it was done, Peter would look at you, wink, and give you that dazzling smile. Those were the days I wanted to kill him.

DIANE SAWYER: He would do it with all of us before we went on the air, this thing where he'd turn and say, seconds before you had to talk, "You really want to wear that?"

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