As the old year dwindles away, it is time for this column's annual nomination of favorite broadcast figures from the 12 months just past:
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf: The first military man to go directly from combat duty to correspondent duty! In January, the commander of the Persian Gulf war alliance was all over television and radio with press briefings particularly brief on comprehensive information. Just this month, the retired general joined Charles Kuralt as co-host of a CBS special on the 50th anniversary of Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Mark Russell: Long the funniest man on PBS, the political satirist was a good choice in February to appear in Baltimore before potential underwriters of Maryland Public Television. A favorite line: When then Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev visited Washington, Russell said Mayor Marion Barry "gave Gorby the kilo to the city."
Delta Burke: Off-camera nastiness swirled all last season around the allegedly difficult Suzanne on CBS' "Designing Women," and by fall she'd been dumped. Too bad. Burke's byplay with Anthony (Meshach Taylor) was the best thing on the show, and newcomers Jan Hooks and Julia Duffy have not filled the gap.
Bob Denver: The beloved Gilligan of "Gilligan's Island" came to town in April in a promotional gimmick for WYST-FM 92.1 radio (with The Professor/Russell Johnson and Mary Ann/Dawn Wells). In a radio appearance, he revealed he once actually hired a houseboat in the Florida Keys only to run out of gas miles from port! But he was rescued by a park ranger who kept mum to avoid the embarrassing publicity about Gilligan finally being rescued.
Pete Rose: The ballplayer showed in July that he still earns the nickname "Charlie Hustle," for a self-serving appearance on NBC's "Real Life With Jane Pauley." The host got the context exactly right, at least, when she asked, "Is the man once known as Charlie Hustle hustling us to get back in baseball?"
Pee-wee Herman: Public shame or shame on the media? The vote from here is the latter, for salacious coverage of the talented star's July arrest in an X-rated movie house.
Diane Sawyer: Speaking of salacious, ABC's "PrimeTime Live" host defined the term earlier this month with the program's highest-rated outing ever. Although apologizing for the need to do so -- what need? -- Sawyer managed to dig into all the nasty details in interviewing Patricia Bowman, the woman who accused William Kennedy Smith of rape. Not only that, Sawyer made a mockery of the American ideal of justice by giving a continuing national platform to charges of which Smith was acquitted.
Sen. Orrin Hatch: Only the Utah Republican surpassed the aforementioned Sawyer in false sensibility during the salacious Clarence Thomas nomination hearings in October. Over and over Hatch apologized, while dwelling with apparent relish upon the crudest details of Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment against the soon-to-be-confirmed Supreme Court justice.