My only son announced that Jerry Rice will be voted into the upcoming 2010 Hall of Fame Class during Super Bowl weekend. He specifically relayed this factoid to me because he knows that Rice will always hold a special place in my heart—not because of his maneuvers on the football field, but because of his special play on Columbus Avenue.
In 1994, I was one of five female producers at Live with Regis & Kathie Lee. Regis would often come into our meeting and request a specific guest, always a sports star. I consistently volunteered to take the assignment because the other female producers had no idea who he was talking about. Fortunately, I had a secret source at my disposal: my precocious 7-year-old son, Brett, who knew everything about sports. I immediately dialed my son’s grade school and got him out of class and on the line.
“Brett, Regis wants me to book Jerry Rice. Who do I call to get him and why is he important?” I asked.
My son irreverently referred to me as “Rosie” rather than “mom” when he asked if I was living under a rock. “You didn’t watch the Super Bowl this weekend? Jerry Rice helped win the game for the San Francisco 49ers with 10 catches and three touchdowns. He’s a great wide receiver,” Brett said.
Rice was booked for the following Monday, and Regis told me his vision for the segment: sit-down interview followed by a football pass between Reege and Rice on Columbus Avenue. No problem.
On the day of Rice’s arrival, I went to the ABC guard and said, “I’m going to need you and a couple of other large guards to hold back the crowds when Regis and Rice come out for a football pass.” He looked at me with attitude as he proclaimed, “We are not authorized to go outside of this building.”
There wasn’t another staff person who was free to assist, so I sought out the largest cue cards I could find to use for barriers.
Rice was handsome, upbeat, well-
spoken and engaging—a producer’s dream. As the tête-à-tête was ending, I ran outside with my giant cue cards and started shouting at the crowds to move back. Regis threw the football. Rice ran to the opposite side of the street. All of a sudden, a giant construction dude jumped in front of my cue cards and knocked the football out of Rice’s hands. All I could think about was how upset my beloved Regis was going to be. I dropped the cue cards and started pummeling the guy as I screamed obscenities at him.
When I re-entered the studio, the audience started to applaud and cheer: My maniacal behavior had been caught on camera. My incredulous son, who had never heard me raise my voice in anger or even use a curse word, meekly asked, “Was that really you out there?”
Someone at the news desk apparently thought the incident was humorous and WABC aired the clip during the evening news sports report. Then Regis, who never missed an opportunity to milk a segment gone awry, decided to re-air that same clip—in slow motion—the next morning.
I’m sure there isn’t a soul today who remembers this incident, except for my now-grown son. Every year when the Super Bowl comes around, Brett loves to come back home to watch the game. He never fails to toss a football my way while quipping, “Here’s to a Jerry Rice catch.”
Rosemary Kalikow was a talk show producer at ABC and Court TV Network for 25 years. She is currently working as a freelance writer in New York.
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