One May night in 2003 the Today Show sent me to a veterinarian‘s office in Clear Lake to deal with a dog. Dosha, the rasputin dog. Dosha had escaped from her yard, been hit by a truck, shot (that is, put down) by a cop, put in the animal morgue and left for dead. (Her picture is borrowed from People) But Dosha was alive, and pretty well, all things considered, and Matt Lauer was booked to do a live interview about it…. Matt in his studio in New York City, me and Dosha and the vet in Clear Lake. Our slot was 7:40 AM Eastern, 4:40 AM in Clear Lake California.
When I got to the vet’s there was a satellite truck in the parking lot and I said hi to Phil, the operator. Phil and I had done this a lot. But Phil said he was there for Good Morning America. (Actually, we’re cool people so Phil called it ‘GMA‘. More insider stuff.) So ABC was gonna see the dog too, at 7:20 Eastern. And my truck and crews (two cameras) arrived. GMA got one examining room and I got one. Lights, cables, audio stuff. We’re working away in the night. And at some point I told the control room producer in New York that GMA was there too.
And the control room producer went berserk. Seriously off. Very bad language. And she told me I was to tell the ABC crew that ‘Today has an exclusive.’ So I’m supposed to go tell these other guys who’ve been working along side us much of the night that they should pack up and leave because, you know, we have an exclusive with the dog. So I did. With not a lot of passion, and kind of pushing it off on the crazy person in New York.
The ABC people did not pack and leave, and of course, they concluded I was a jerk. Fun.
Then the control room producer — who runs the on-air show — called to tell me I was to produce Dosha for a 7:20 ‘live tease.’ Of course — and the producer knew this as well as I — at 7:20 Dosha was gonna be on TV, live on GMA, the competition. It was surely unnecessary for me to have pointed that out, but I did. And she said, ‘Get. The. Dog.’
There are in fact a handful of people in America who do watch all the morning shows and pay attention to who has what, and who has it first. The NBC producer’s boss at 30 Rock is one of that handful…. of what, twenty people? Thirty? What had happened here was a Today booker had nailed down the vet, a very nice person named Dr. Sally, but did not nail down the dog. I hid Dr. Sally in my satellite truck so ABC couldn’t get her, but, you know, GMA got Dosha.
Anyway, I groveled, and bugged the ABC people, who hated me very much, and I got Dosha back, not at 7:20 Eastern, but in time for a ‘live tease, dog only’ just before the local news break at 7:25. And we had the dog for a live picture during the Today Show news at 7:30. And Matt Lauer had a very nice chat with Dr. Sally and admired Dosha who had altogether much better manners than the control room producer and under much more trying circumstances, having been run over, shot and frozen and all.
We cleared air and the producer and I went at it by cell phone. She told me essentially I was a disgrace to NBC News and my profession. I said back really intemperate things, beginning with ‘it’s JUST a DOG,’ and ending with ‘go fuck yourself.’ And I got fired. I am no longer hired to stay up all night for 300 bucks baby sitting dogs, heroes, nut cases, violent death, cute children, and the other things that make the Today Show producers happy. I do not miss it, but do feel a bit sorry about being rude to the over-caffeinated, under-experienced, silly producer who has to deal with considerably worse people in her chain of command. But I win, because she’s probably still doing it, and I’m not.