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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Primary 2012 didn’t draw out many big celebrities

Mike Morin

The TV satellite trucks have long left New Hampshire, and the Granite State is in the rearview mirror of Republican hopefuls who shook hands and talked to the media, looking to win the first-in-the-nation primary last week.

It was my third New Hampshire Primary as a radio guy, and by most accounts, it was the quietest in terms of street buzz and celebrity star power. With clear pavement and balmy breezes, we weren’t bunched up on slick sidewalks confined by snow piles like past years.

There was no Daryl Hannah or Ted Danson. Seems Republicans don’t pull the hot Hollywood names the way the Dems do, unless you count drag queen/actor/songwriter RuPaul as a big Hollywood name. His Queen City visit was to ensure no one confused him/her with candidate Ron Paul. Mission accomplished, Ru.

After spending a couple days at the Radisson in Manchester, where the media set up their live shots, the biggest rock star I spotted was Dan Rather. You’d think Lady Gaga was in the house anytime he passed through the lobby or cafe adjacent to the front desk. For news junkies, Rather is their American Idol.

As our WZID crew was preparing to set up our broadcast gear Monday morning for a Tuesday 6 a.m. New Hampshire Primary broadcast, the former CBS News reporter and anchor sat down for breakfast at the table we’d be using the next morning for our live remote. While tech people connected and tested our digital equipment off to the side, it was interesting to watch so many people approach Rather, who was sitting, presumably with staff members of his show on HDNet. Even though he was at a breakfast meeting, he graciously stood up, shook hands and chatted with fans who recognized him.

“I always enjoy having my picture taken with such a good-looking woman,” he said, obliging an 80-something woman (he’s 80). “Thank you for your service to our country,” I heard him say to a Marine seated at the next table. Rather politely stood for every new handshake and engaged them in conversation for as long as his fans wanted.

Primary morning was no different. While broadcasting from the restaurant, we watched candidates enter the Radisson lobby, complete with handlers and entourages. Cameras and microphones everywhere. Then, there was current CBS Evening News anchor, Scott Pelley, walking by unscathed. But not Dan Rather. The journalism rock star entered the lobby and signed autographs and took more pictures than anyone else I saw for a second morning.

It’s nice to see a celebrity news personality, who must get bugged all the time in public, treat every admirer with charm and sincerity.

He’s the poster child for public celebrity civility. Makes me glad I watched The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather for the many years I did after he succeeded another gentleman – Walter Cronkite – in 1981. And if I may re-work Cronkite’s nightly sign off line: “And that’s the way it was, the morning of Jan. 10, 2012.”

Hear Mike Morin weekdays from 5-10 a.m. on “New Hampshire in the Morning” on 95.7 WZID. Contact him at Heymikey@aol.com. His column runs the first, third and fifth Tuesdays of the month.