Picks and Pans Review: David Brinkley
12/04/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
by David Brinkley
The windy subtitle of this breezy memoir—"11 Presidents, 4 Wars, 22 Political Conventions, 1 Moon Landing, 3 Assassinations, 2,000 Weeks of News and Other Stuff on Television and 18 Years of Growing Up in North Carolina"—does not do its author justice. Sure, Brinkley, at 75, has been there, done that, longer than any other network anchor. He has also presided (since 1981) as the Yoda-like chief pundit of ABC's This Week with David Brinkley, the Sunday-morning talk show most likely to generate headlines on Monday morning.
But the Brinkley in this book is rather modest about his accomplishments. "I wrote pretty well, and Huntley looked good and had a great voice," he says of his famous 14-year teaming with NBC coanchor Chet Huntley (who died of abdominal cancer in 1974). In fact, the pair hated their much-parodied sign-off—"Good night, Chet," "Good night, David"—the inspiration of their producer.
On the air, Brinkley can be both droll and caustic, and that style translates well to the page. He calls Joe McCarthy (for whom Brinkley's sister Mary worked as executive secretary) "the Grand Champion American Liar." Richard Nixon (on whose Enemies List the author found his name, inexplicably, at the very top) was "highly intelligent but socially a total bust." Brinkley is kinder toward JFK (whose brother Bobby was a frequent visitor to the author's Chevy Chase, Md., home), but he ruefully recalls the night a clutch of Kennedys plopped down at his table in a posh Washington restaurant and stuck him with the bill (almost $2,000).
Juicy stuff. Yet Brinkley, a twice-married father of four, is downright circumspect about his domestic life. He'd rather sound off about Democrats and Republicans ("I find one to be about as bad as the other and both pretty bad") or carp about the tax system ("written in the nonlanguage of idiots, as foreign to English as Urdu"). Why, you can almost see his brow arching in indignation. (Knopf, $25)