The cheesy mustache. The macho persona. The cheap polyester suit. The lacquered hair. The fake smile. Will Ferrell's Scotch-loving, sexist, superficial anchorman Ron Burgundy certainly looks like the perfect parody of a 1970s local TV anchor.
Bumbling and ridiculously egotistical, Burgundy was Ferrell's over-the-top portrayal of the worst stereotype in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”
He's back for more “Stay Classy”-action in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which opened this week. This time he and his motley news crew land in New York at an all-news cable operation.
Burgundy is a silly stereotype that we immediately recognize. It's an easy parody because there were real versions of Ron Burgundy out there in TV land in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. And some can even be found at anchor desks today.
Just ask any local TV news staffer and you can get a Burgundy-like memory.
“I have been anchoring the real news for about 45 years and have sadly met many, worked with a few and fired one,” says Fox 13 anchor John Wilson of WTVT, Channel 13.
“Ron Burgundy is truly an amalgam of a lot of the old-school 'I am the news' men which I have seen in various forms from Baltimore to Greensboro to here,” says reporter Bill Logan of ABC Action News on WFTS, Channel 28.
Former TV anchor and talk show host Bill Murphy, who worked at WTSP and WTVT and is now with Bay News 9, recalls an event in the early '80s when he was at an NBC affiliate in Salinas/Monterey Calif. He and other local anchors were flown to New York to tape promotional spots with Tom Brokaw, John Chancellor and Roger Mudd.
Included were a man and woman anchor team from a market that Murphy can't recall. But he did see that when the teleprompter came on, her name was first. “But the man was used to always being the first to speak so he started with 'Good Evening, I'm Sally Jones'.”
Independent filmmaker Lynn Marvin Dingfelder worked as a TV reporter for several years and says the first “Anchorman” movie got the sexism right.
“It was almost too painful for me to watch,” she says. “In my years in TV news I worked with several Ron Burgundys. Anchormen were a different breed back then. When I was starting in the biz, there weren't that many women. I remember one guy shouting at me “Marvin, where's my coffee?”
She says she was assigned the “supermarket report” where she reported on whether the price of eggs or milk went up or down. “So many anchormen back then thought they were gods and that (reporters) worked for them,” she says. “Some I worked with back then were very flirty, inappropriate and sexist. That first movie was pretty close to what it was like.”
Mike Deeson, longtime investigative reporter for 10 News on WTSP, Channel 10, says he has worked with people just like Ron Burgundy.
“In Buffalo, there was a news director I worked for who said the station needed a new anchor,” Deeson recalls. “He did a nationwide search and told the general manager there was no one who had fit bill. So he would make a sacrifice and step up to the plate, take one for the team, and become the main anchor. He was more concerned how he looked each night than what he read or was saying.”
Deeson also worked with “a sports guy who wore lip gloss and said it made him “pop” on the air. “He may have “popped” but was clueless about sports,” Deeson adds. “Then there was a meteorologist who had a note from his psychologist saying he couldn't work during hurricanes because it stressed him out too much. And finally I had an anchor who once told me 'You do journalism ... I do TV'.”
Anchor Brendan McLaughlin of ABC Action News on WFTS, also has met his share of Burgundys. “A weekend anchor I worked with in Austin, Texas, occasionally wore makeup on his days off,” he recalls.
McLaughlin remembers seeing this anchor at his desk typing one day when a co-anchor noticed the anchor had two pieces of tape crisscrossing his forehead. “When asked about this, he explained that it was to train himself not to furrow his brow thus preventing permanent wrinkles,” says McLaughlin. “This is the same guy who was so incapable of making actual conversation with his co-anchors, that when the wide shot of the studio and the final music came up at the end of the newscast, he would mouth gibberish words to the others on the set so as to appear to be having animated conversation.”
Mark Douglas, investigative reporter for WFLA, Channel 8, says that in Fort Myers he once worked for a news director who was a would-be Ron Burgundy.
“He loved to anchor the evening shows as an anchor substitute, even though he was terrible and had absolutely no instinct for 'happy talk' between stories,” Douglas says. “On one particular night, he read a tragic story involving drowned Haitian refugees washing up on beaches in the Miami area after a rough passage.
“With barely a pause, he turned to the weather man for a segue into the forecast and said 'Well, Bill, it wasn't such a bad day for boating on this coast, was it?”
The weather man was, of course, speechless.”
NBC Correspondent Kerry Sanders, who used to work in Tampa at WTVT, says he also encountered Burgundy moments in his career.
“There used to an anchor in Tampa who would ask long, convoluted and meaningless questions to reporters during live shots in an attempt to show how smart he thought he was,” says Sanders.
Sanders also tells of a reporter who was fed up with this anchor. One day, when the reporter was finishing a live shot in the field the anchor popped a long-winded question. The reporter pointed to his earpiece, frowned and said, “Sorry, I can't hear anything.' The pompous anchor repeated the question and the reporter shook him head and pointed to the earpiece. The frustrated anchor said 'Well, we have to go now. I know you can't hear me but thanks for the report.' The reporter smiled and said 'You're welcome.' ”