empresspatti (empresspatti) wrote,

Fran Lewine

Just wanted to share a wonderful experience.  Last Saturday was a memorial service for a beloved CNN colleague, Fran Lewine.  Read about her – she was AMAZING, GROUNDBREAKING and any other good adjective you can think of.




I love the picture of her grinning and holding the winning horse race ticket.  That was Fran’s attitude on any day.



So:  Memorial Service


Imagine the august National Press Club, very Washington insider, complete with a large crowd and lots of CNN star power.  Think marble floors, dark wood paneling, appropriate hushed grandeur and impressed-with-self but obsequies kiss-more-important-persons-ass ambiance.


My assignment was the speakers’ lineup – basically a pioneer in women’s journalism who’s who - Helen Thomas, Linda Deutsch, Edith Lederer, Bonnie Angelo.  Look ‘em up. 


These women stepped in when the manjournalists went overseas for WWII and never gave ground.  None of them would ever see 80 again.  They were all less than 5 foot tall and not one of them weighed more than 90 lbs.  They had the ‘tude, dude.  


These women busted open the males-only National Press Club and The Gridiron.  The reason you see women in journalism today is because they paved the way, in heels and white gloves.   


My job was to wrangle them.  I had to make sure that they were on stage on time, and didn’t overly exceed their 5-minute limit for remarks (can I just say HA right now?  I didn’t even bother to interfere once they got to the podium).  Presidents couldn’t stop them, who was I? 


Collectively, they took one look at the podium and decided that they could not possibly be able to go up and down the step from the audience, since some had either walkers or canes. 


Cue scampering around getting comfortable armchairs – and they all had to look identical to comply with the pecking order - from other rooms to the podium.  This kept Mr. W and I busy with a side of sweating in our dry clean only. 


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Ladies decamped to the closed bar and bullied the 20-something bartender into breaking out the Southern Comfort.  There they stood, with their walkers and canes, knocking back 16 ounce glasses.  Who on earth can drink like that?  I would have just lain down on the floor after that cocktail, but it just fired them up.   I got them on the podium and the service started. 


Women in the workforce today – I say unto you -   We stand on the shoulders of giants. 


Each of those remarkable women spoke movingly.  They have the authority of competitors who have cornered heads of state, presidents since Eisenhower, dictators, potentates and anyone else that crossed their paths.  None of them EVER pulled punches and they always nailed their stories by asking the hard questions. 


Fran was the reporter who asked President Ford why he golfed at Burning Tree (white men only) since he professed to believe in equality and equal rights.  Ford’s press secretary called it “my single worst day at work – ever.”


I sat with them at the reception, getting them food and MORE drinks.  Helen Thomas told me about busting the Gridiron’s boys-only code by hosting the alternative Gridiron dinner. 


Helen and Fran, who were work rivals during the day, but had dinner together almost every night, were the first two women admitted to the NPC.  That made them even more determined to bust into the Gridiron. 


They came up with the alternative GI dinner,  sked the same night as the Gridiron’s affair.  However, their shindig was jeans, boots and chili/beer menu – in direct contrast to the white tie, dried chicken Gridiron. 


The alternative Gridiron was a HUGE success.  Dan Rather sold dances for $1.  Ann Richards, then Texas governor, had a booth where you could pay her $5 and she would call ANY member of congress AND broadcast the conversation over the loudspeaker system at the party. 


“It was a big hit,” Helen told me,  “Ann had ‘em all on the ropes, and she could go for hours since she never felt her liquor.”  


I about died laughing.  Helen Thomas ROCKS!


The Gridiron finally begged Helen and Fran to join because their dinner was a smash hit and the Gridiron wasn’t getting any of the good guests


Once again I say to you – I have never been around such fab women.  It was an amazing experience. 


After the reception wound down, I went out to lunch with some CNN buddies.  Mr. W was heading home when a little old lady named Turde Feldman (go ahead = google her) asked him for a ride. 


When she found out he was leaving “right then” she guzzled a huge glass of red wine and fired up her walker.  Mr. W had the pleasure of driving her home and getting her into her house. 


The 15 minute trip took almost two hours – mostly because Turde thought Mr. W was cute and didn’t understand why he didn’t want to “come up and have a drink.”


I aspire to that behavior when I am 85.  

Tags: fran lewine
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