The job's worst hazard: an angry woman's yells

MIKE ROYKO

February 01, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

There can be moments of stress in my line of work. Over the years, I've had slashed tires, bricks through my living room window and the computer has eaten some of my columns.

But the single worst thing that can happen is to be yelled at over the telephone by an angry woman. Especially by an angry woman who really knows how to yell.

Because I am mild-mannered and a gent, I can't yell back. So when an angry female yells, I am struck almost dumb and can do little more than mumble a few soothing words -- "Now, now, there, missy," or "Darlin', you're just tired."

This just happened. I'm so shaken that I can barely type these words. But I'll try.

To make the experience even worse, this angry female is quickly becoming one of the best known and most influential women in America.

If you pick up a copy of the special presidential issue of Newsweek, you'll see her picture and biography among those the magazine says are the true in-crowd of the Clinton administration.

Her headline says: "Linda Bloodworth-Thomason Image Czar."

As the profile points out, she and her husband, Harry Thomason, wealthy big-time TV producers, are old friends of the Clintons. They ran the inauguration festivities and slept in the White House.

And Newsweek says: "She'll be there to remind the Clintons that PTC news and entertainment are the same business. She'll also monitor the Clintons' physical appearance, provide a link to other celebrities and offer advice on what will sell with the middle class."

So why is someone who is such big heat in show-biz and the White House interrupting her busy schedule to yell at a mild-mannered Chicago reporter?

It appears I offended her with something I recently wrote about one of her hit TV shows, "Hearts Afire."

As some of you might recall, I noted a remarkable similarity between the main character in the show and an old friend of mine.

The main character in the show is named Georgie Anne Lahti, a blond woman with bangs, who began her newspaper career in Chicago, moved to Washington journalism, became a famous foreign correspondent, interviewed many world leaders and wrote an important book about Fidel Castro.

My old friend is named Georgie Anne Geyer, a blond woman who used to wear bangs, began her newspaper career in Chicago, moved to Washington journalism, became a famous foreign correspondent and columnist, interviewed many world leaders and wrote an important book about Fidel Castro.

And I said it looked to me as if Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, writer of the scripts, pilfered Ms. Geyer's persona for her TV character, who, incidentally, is a bit of a bimbo.

This led to the phone call that made my eardrums quiver. She talked so loud and fast I can't reconstruct the entire thing, but here are some of the highlights:

"I am absolutely shocked," Linda Bloodworth-Thomason said. "I don't even know who Georgie Anne Geyer is."

I mumbled that she recently said on TV that she admired Georgie Anne Geyer as a journalist.

"I said it now because people have told me. . . . I have never in my life read a book by this woman. I think I saw her on television once. . . . I would not know her if I saw her on the street. I don't know Georgie Anne Geyer from George Washington."

(A hint: George Washington is the one who wore the wood false teeth.)

"I don't need to steal. I would hope that I'm as prolific as you are."

I mumbled that some Hollywood people have been known to steal identities in creating characters.

"I'm not from Hollywood," she shouted. (That is true. She and her husband own a huge estate on the ocean near Santa Barbara, Calif.) "I don't know Hollywood. My husband and I have not been to one Hollywood party. I don't know any movie stars. I know one movie star. Burt Reynolds, who stars on my show 'Evening Shade.' I wouldn't know a movie star if they laid down under my car."

"It was a flagrant misuse of your power as a journalist. Because I used a name, Georgie Anne, you're assuming Georgie Anne Geyer is the character on whom I based the entire series.

"The similarities, they're coincidences. I'm amazed at you, impugning my husband's character and my character. I have never been accused of this. I didn't know Ms. Geyer had a patent on the name Georgie Anne.

"You know her, she is your friend, but from what I'm told, she is not an interesting enough person to base it on.

"You're calling us liars all over America, and that's a slanderous thing. We have a professional reputation. We've won every award in the book. . . . I'm not accustomed to people treating me like this. I'm not greedy. I give my whole $1 million-a-year salary from 'Designing Women' to charity. Fifty-six women are now in school on scholarships.

"I did not consider this a big deal until today" (which is when the Washington Post also did a story) "but if she [Geyer] wants to go to the mat on this, we will fight. I'm going to have to be aggressive now; I'm not going to have my reputation impugned. I swear to you that I have never read her book. We're going to fight you all the way about our reputation . . ."

If Linda Bloodworth-Thomason says it was a coincidence, I suppose I'll have to take her word on it. But I don't think the real Georgie Anne will.

Now I'm going home to have dinner with my wife. I hope she's in a good mood.

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