Sometimes you need to speak up, the old truth to power, to avoid sending mixed messages that otherwise spoil a well-intentioned act.
In this case the power is statuesque and beautiful. It resides gracefully and elegantly in a quietly intelligent immigrant known as the First Lady, Melania Trump,
So big deal, she wore a coat with the now infamous message scrawled on the back: “I realy don’t care, do u?” referring to what she thinks of what her husband incessantly calls “fake news.”
But oh the context, that reviting platform, made it a BIG TEXAS DEAL, her
visting children in waiting in what is now the Alone Star State where children
displaced and separated wait to be reunited with their parents.
It turned that expression on her back on her high heels. The headline in the Washington Post blares “Why Didn’t Someone Stop Melania Trump From Wearing That Jacket?
It’s not easy!
I know personally how hard it is to tell powerful superiors they’re dead wrong, that their driving toward a high-heeled cliff, heading for a Supertrain crash.
I recall leaving meetings with the high and mighty wishing I had disagreed with his or her magisty, which could have averted Supertrain, a disastrous TV series on NBC or a PR blunder like going along with AT&T’s naming its then video conferencing service, Picturephone Meeting Service, with the unfortunate acronym PMS. Ugh!
Supertrain is the gold standard against which all other television bombs are measured. It was so heinous, so horrible, that it tarnished a previously stellar career of my ex-boss Fred Silverman and nearly bankrupted our network.
Did Melania take a Supertrain to Texas?
I decided I would never shut up again when I heard ideas that I knew would bomb. So I started speaking my mind, telling the kings, tsars and monarchs I worked for that they were wrong when I felt they were wrong. And the result? I got fired just as probably many in the White House would be for speaking up.
The story of Supertrain begins with the man it is most irrevocably tied to: then-NBC president Fred Silverman. In the days before Supertrain, Silverman could practically do no wrong.
He was head of all CBS programming in the early ’70s. He got rid of evening game shows as well as series like Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies in what was later called the “Rural Purge.”
Silverman helped set up a comedy lineup still unparalleled in the annals of TV history: All In The Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Bob Newhart Show. He then became president of the flagging ABC, where I first met Fred, wrote his speeches and traveled around the country with him as he made ABC the home of many hits in the late ’70s: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Charlie’s Angels, and The Love Boat. My PR helped Fred became famous for his “golden gut,” with his ability to predict which TV shows would draw viewers, which I called uncanny.
After Silverman’s resounding successes at the other big two networks, NBC wanted its Silverman turn, hired him as president and he jumped ship taking me along with him as his Vice President, Assistant to the President. Together we flew around the country in the NBC private jet visiting network affiliates, promising Happy Days were coming to the network’s prime time schedule.
Alas his streak ended with a giant Supertrain crash. He came aboard NBC in June 1978, and publicly predicted that the red network would be No. 1 by the end of 1979. Silverman later admitted that was a foolish boast, but at the time he and I thought, “If it could happen at ABC, why can’t it happen here? All it takes is just a couple of hit shows.”
Supertrain is usually is cited as the prime example of Silverman’s hubris, even though it was already in production by the time he made the jump to NBC, taking me along with him, the only executive he took from ABC at that disruptive time. Still, we tried. We even brought the NBC peacock back.
Unfortunately NBC’s Supertrain was little more than The Love Boat on land, as a crew steered its passengers cross-country on an atomic-powered two-story “supertrain. Instead of The Love Boat’s romantic angle, Supertrain tried to go for suspense, an attempt “to do Hitchcock every week on a train,” as Silverman described it. Unfortunately, Hitchcock proved much harder to replicate than romance.
Back to Melania’s back