From the very beginning of my writing career, I had no doubts about my ability to be a journalist. My first paid writing job was as a reporter for my hometown newspaper the Anaheim Bulletin, which ran a weekly page of reports from all the local Junior and Senior High Schools, with each reporter telling the important news of what happened that week at their school, whether it was a sports team win, a science fair or a student who had done something extraordinary. I was paid 15 cents per column inch, so I always tried to get as much “news” printed as possible!
By college, I was co-Editor of the college newspaper and it was during this time in 1965 that I was recruited by the publishers of the Rhythm n News, a weekly music newspaper which sold at local record stores, to be one of their reporters. No pay, just a chance to cover musical groups and performers and that was fine with me. The majority of my assignments for Rhythm n News were to cover the “Negro” music artists who played in out-of-the-way clubs in South Los Angeles. In most cases, I was the only white person in the room. My friends would sometimes express concern for my safety, but I not only never felt fear, I felt privileged to see some of the up and coming “Negro” artists and their unique music. The added benefit was that they rarely got press coverage, so they would be eager to be interviewed and their talents reported publicly, however big or small the Rhythm n News audience. In one of my first pieces for Rhythm n News I covered James Brown’s appearance at the Crescendo, a club in South LA, taking photos, writing up the review of his show, and doing my first interview with James. He was so nice to me, such a gentleman, and I would interview him many more times over the next few years as his fame grew and grew.
Once I had interned at Tiger Beat and was hired full time, I reveled in the opportunity to cover all the stories I was assigned. While I would often be anxious the first time I would go out to interview a TV personality or a recording star, I always managed to get past the butterflies and eventually relax and thoroughly enjoy the moment.
Most of my readers would never know this, but after a year or two with Tiger Beat, I was asked to do a few live appearances or appearances on television. That’s when I would turn into a huge bundle of nerves. I barely made it through my Public Speaking course in college. I was always extremely nervous speaking before a group of people.
My first experience on television was when Dick Clark who had begun producing “Happening ’68” a rock show with hosts Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere of Paul Revere and the Raiders, performances by the Raiders and other popular groups of the day. It followed Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” on Saturday afternoons. They would often present 3 new bands from around the country who would compete for great prizes. The winner was chosen by 3 celebrity judges. One segment they added for a few shows was called “What’s Happening in Hollywood,” and they would have guest reporters who would look into the camera and tell the news of the week in Hollywood. It was the rock and roll version of an anchor presenting the nightly news.
I was asked to star in a segment for episode 17 which aired on March 29, 1969. I had worked and worked practicing reading from my note cards (no help from teleprompters in those day), but when the day finally came to tape, I was sick to my stomach, I felt dizzy and I couldn’t get the trembling out of my voice. I was scared to death I would make a mistake, make a fool of myself or make Dick Clark regret he had ever asked me to be on the show.
Once behind my “news desk,” Mark and Paul, who I had now known for four years, did their best to joke with me, get me to calm down, take my mind off the job ahead and somehow put me at ease. But I never was and never will be comfortable on that side of the camera! When my cue finally came, I looked into the camera, looked down to my note cards and began reading the news I had rehearsed. To my own ears it sounded horrible and I could feel the fear as I spoke my lines, but afterward, to my great relief, Dick Clark came up and told me what a great job I had done. My co-workers at Tiger Beat said the same thing on Monday morning. But I was never convinced because I just felt totally out of my comfort zone.
The next time I would be asked to appear in public was when a local radio station sponsored a huge “Battle of the Bands” at the Hollywood Bowl. I had been to the Hollywood Bowl many times, so fortunate to see the Beatles live and the Monkees live, but I had never been on the stage. Bobby Sherman and I were asked to announce the winners of the battle. I can’t remember who the judges were.
Even though Bobby and I were close friends, even his support, emotionally and physically (reassuring me with his arm around my waist as we walked on stage and up to the microphones) was not enough for the nausea to calm even a little bit. Again, my voice trembled and Bobby had to nudge me to get me to speak up so I could be heard speaking into the microphone. Luckily, we took turns reading the winners, so half the time I only needed to open the winning envelopes and hand them to Bobby to announce the winners.
Just like the “Happening” appearance, after the show the dj’s were all thanking me and complimenting me, and Bobby told me “you did great, babe!” In my heart I didn’t believe them. I just could not fathom that in my petrified state that I could have done a good job.
I did make one more public appearance when I was asked to be on a panel at a B’nai B’rith public forum in Hollywood. B’nai B’rith International is the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, is committed to the security and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and combating anti-Semitism and bigotry. I believe the topic was “Is there discrimination in Hollywood against Jews?” Again, I was in front of a large group of
people (this time maybe a hundred in the audience). I was on the dais with five other guest panelists, but it was my good fortune to be sitting next to Frank Zappa.
I was well aware of his unique talent and his creativity and that of his Mothers of Invention band. My impression of him, having never met him, was that he was a far-out, counter-culture, hippies’ hippie. His hair alone made you think of him as a total freak! That may have been true, but on this night he was just the most down to earth, pleasant young man who could immediately sense that I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Before the forum began, he just visited with me like we were long-time friends, asking me lots of questions to take my mind off the upcoming spotlight. He literally held my hand under the table throughout the public forum as each of the panelists would be asked questions and would answer them speaking into their own microphone. He would squeeze my hand a little tighter when I would be asked and answer a question. I know I could have never made it through this night without his support. And I realized how intelligent he was and once I listened to his answers, it helped me to know how I should answer the questions posed to me.
At the end of the night, the reaction was the same. The organizers thanked me for participating, Frank told me I did a “marvelous” job, and on this night I went home feeling I had performed better than my first two attempts.
After that I shied away from making live appearances. I would give anything to have a tape of my appearance on “Happening ’68,” so I could assess just how good or bad I was with the passage of time. What I learned from these experiences was that I was in awe of the performers, actors and singers, who could perform in front of live and TV audiences and be consummate professionals. I learned that it was not my forte and I would stick with my role as a behind-the-scenes reporter.
Good times. . .Ann Moses reporting about “back in the day.”