Politicians in TV spots: 5 minutes to look good A chance to pitch positions at no cost

February 28, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

If this were the real world, the politicians would have a frayed-at-the-edges look that comes from eating too many chicken dinners or from staying up past midnight in legislative sessions and zoning hearings.

But this is not the real world. The county elected officials appearing in five minute spots the next two weeks on Howard Cable's Channel 16 -- the headline news channel -- are dressed to the nines.

Any flaws are glossed over during 15 minutes in the makeup room prior to taping sessions with Lynn Doyle, owner of a Baltimore-based television production company.

These spots are produced by Storer Cable at no charge to county politicians and Storer wants the politicians to be comfortable.

Ms. Doyle's job is to put them at ease and help them talk in such a way that it doesn't sound too much like bragging or promises. She does a good job.

Del. Martin G. Madden, R-13B, tells her that the anti-smoking legislation he proposed is no longer necessary now that the Orioles have banned smoking at Camden Yards.

Others are more subtle.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he doesn't want to raise taxes. Del. Robert L. Flanagan, R-14B, tells how he will oppose gambling as a state revenue source. Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, talks about his plans for a bill to rid the county of cigarette machines.

Mr. Drown is first. He is slightly nervous as he is being made up. He recalls aloud the Richard Nixon legend. The legend has it that Mr. Nixon lost the first 1960 presidential debate to John F. Kennedy not because of what he said, but because of how he looked on television.

Mr. Drown patiently endures the makeup process until lipstick -- "clear, no color; it keeps your lips from being chapped" -- is applied to his mouth and his jacket is whisked clean.

"There we go," he says in voice and tone that says, "Enough!"

But it's not enough. Just before the interview, the makeup artist rushes in to apply a last dose of hair spray. When she tries to the same thing later to Mr. Madden, the delegate begs off, telling her it's all right for his hair to look "a little wind-blown."

When Mr. Ecker enters for his taping, Mr. Drown tells him, "A lot of light is going to bounce off that head."

Mr. Ecker never misses a beat. "The Lord made only a few good heads," he tells Mr. Drown. "The rest he put hair on."

The atmosphere is lighthearted. Mr. Drown counts into the microphone to give the technicians a voice level, and Ms. Doyle tells him: "With a little practice, you could get up to 18." He laughs.

Ms. Doyle turns serious for a moment and asks what Mr. Drown wants to talk about.

He is enthusiastic about the possibility of banning cigarette machines in the county and tells her he is working on legislation to do just that.

Ms. Doyle makes a couple of notes, gets a 10-second cue and they're on. "I hear you're planning some innovative new legislation," she begins.

With flattery like that, Mr. Drown is off -- talking about banning cigarette machines every place kids might get at them. He also throws in a pitch for campaign reform that would put a ceiling on campaign spending. He wants to restrict incumbents and challengers alike to a certain amount per registered voter.

"That seems much more equitable," Ms. Doyle says.

Ms. Doyle uses phrases like that to spoil everybody. When Mr. Ecker says he doesn't want to increase local taxes on top of the federal tax increase he believes is coming, Ms. Doyle says, "Sounds like good news for your constituency!"

She tells Mr. Flanagan at the start of his interview, "I understand you have played a major leadership role in opposing keno," an electronic gambling game.

Mr. Flanagan uses that opening to talk about not only what he has done, but also about what he intends to do. He finishes with a campaign-like flourish: "Let's not advertise. Let's not encourage people to gamble. We've got to reduce our dependence on gambling."

Ms. Doyle tells Mr. Madden prior to taping that they have only five minutes and if they talk about everything he wants, the spot would be at least 15 minutes long. Mr. Madden agrees, yet still manages to squeeze in talk about Camden Yards, his vote against the state budget last year, his refusal to give patronage in the form of state scholarships and his desire to make future video movies closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired.

The interviews will be shown the next two weeks on Channel 16, five minutes before each hour and 25 minutes after each hour.

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