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10 Things I Learned at Topic A


My book deadline looms so I had to kiss goodbye to my merry little CNBC show Topic A last week, though we’ll still be on air till May 29th. I’ll miss wolfing the chicken salad in the green rooms on Friday with that strange ravenousness that descends after taping a show. Especially as I was usually sharing it with the most entertaining people I could bully to come out to Englewood Cliffs at 830 a.m. in gridlocked traffic. But after a year of A.D.D., I also had a huge hunger to be vertical for a while. You can take the girl out of print but you cant take print out of the girl.

Ten Things I learned at Topic A.

1) After listening to historian Thomas Cahill talk with especial erudition and charm about the Nazi pope the response next day will be, “So, what was going on with your hair last night?” – as if there is some inside story to the fact that your blow-dry was below par.

2) Insincere smiles are strangely hard to do even after years of practice at cocktail parties. Insincere smiles even harder to do when listening with fascination to guest speak about his theories about class warfare and producer is saying into earpiece “Blah. Blah. Can’t you put a bomb up his ass?”

3) The most common excuse for guests not being asked to come on show was “I am taping my own show at that time.” Realized I no longer know anyone who doesn’t have own talk show.

4) Orange is the new TV red!

5) On next week’s show that I taped early, I pronounced Jordanian editor Salameh Nematt’s name five different ways until a look of desperation briefly crossed his face.

6) You cannot say the words George Clooney and Englewood Cliffs in the same breath. Venue of taping has to be kept as undisclosed until approximately 40 minutes before star leaves and CNBC kidnap car hurtles off on a route it's too late to challenge.

7) Jim Cramer makes just as much noise off air as on. Mad Money would be even more of a success if he'd let go of his subdued persona.

8) The better writers are on the page the worse they sometimes are on the air. What TV requires is not someone who is authoritative but someone who looks authoritative. Genuine articles are often hopelessly out of the demo, with coke bottle glasses or unfortunate predilections for a thoughtful pause.

9) Make up rooms at cable stations are the TV version of Glengarry Glen Ross. If you sit in that chair with a cape on long enough you will hear the hopes and dreams of pumped-up male anchors of shows with names like Ball Spin and Cash Cow who come crashing through the door looking for a touch up. Sample: "My numbers suck so you know what I’m going to do? JUST GO FOR IT! Fuck it! I’m just GONNA BE MYSELF!”

10) Topic A had one of the most professional and dedicated staffs I have ever worked with. Hiring alert: Molly Conroy. Ron Fried, Sarah Horne, Rich Flynn, Miriam Reinharth. Sara Leeder and Alexandra MacCallum are some of the smartest comers around, and my dynamo producer Kathy O'Hearn is simply superb. (My wondrous assistant Kara Simonetti stays with me.) Before I go on air forever more I shall hear O'Hearn say, “Teeth! Teeth! Show me some teeth!”

Thanks to all of you, gang. And lets have fun with the last few shows.