What happened to HHS Secretary Tom Price reminds me of a similar embarrassing incident years ago that happened to me. It nearly shot my rocketing career in network television right out of the air.
Price’s resigning under pressure after racking up eye-popping travel bills for chartered flight takes me back to a time when similar optics nearly got me jettisoned from NBC.
It wasn’t a chartered flight I took back from Paris. It was the most expensive flight available at the time—on the Concorde.
I was carrying a film about the “Making of Shogun,” the mini-series that was to be shown on NBC. I flew to London to meet with author James Clavell, whose book the series was based on. During a lunch of incredibly delicious Dover sole, he suggested I take a little side trip to Paris for the weekend. It was a tempting idea I couldn’t resist.
The Optics Aftermath
I remember being called into the CFO’s office. He was smiling, but he still reprimanded me as I had spent more money on that one flight than most vice presidents chalk up in a month on their expense accounts.
My extravagance was ruining it for everyone, he said. What gave me the right to travel so expensively?
I was embarrassed and contrite, but deep down I was glad I did it because there was nothing, absolutely nothing in the skies as amazing, thrilling and as awesome and impressive as taking the Concorde.
It had a hideously small cabin with seats close together, but what it lost in space, it made up for 100 times in glamour. Entering the Concorde was walking into the most chic, upscale salon in the world.
Cabin of Who’s Who
It was a sleek high-end boutique populated by the most famous and powerful people on earth: movie stars, billionaires, corporate chieftains, political leaders, legendary authors all sipping champagne, sampling caviar and enjoying eye-popping amenities. Talk about a Who’s Who, this was a Who’s Who in spades.
My seat was next to Norman Lear, creator of mega TV hit series like “All in the Family” who was returning from a visit with his friend Gore Vidal. Norman was impressed that I was working for his buddy, TV wunderkind Fred Silverman, to whom I reported at 30 Rock. And then the takeoff. The first one.
Smoothly we glided up to the highest altitudes I’ve ever been. Out of my window I could begin to see the curvature of the earth.
Then the pilot said to prepare for the next takeoff. The next takeoff? Did I hear that right? It would occur shortly after we left the continental shelf so the boom wouldn’t disturb any earthlings.
It came. Wow. We all felt the centrifugal force of that second take off. For a few awesome seconds it thrust us back into our seats and my mind back in time. Was I aboard the USS Enterprise? Was this Star Trek?
And now in just under three hours we’d be landing in New York. It was just staggering. Amazing. And poor optics or not, I’ll never forget that fabulous flight.
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