Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 25, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

The Walter Cronkite Award Luncheon


  • Donít miss this special coverage of the 22nd Annual Cronkite Luncheon, which honors ASU alumnus and humor columnist Dave Barry.


View Transcript
Michael Grant: Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. This is a special edition of "Horizon." Each year, Arizona State University's school of journalism and mass communication honors a leader in journalism with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence. This time, the school turned to a humorist. Dave Barry syndicated in more than 500 newspapers. He has written 25 books and he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. The luncheon was held at the Arizona Biltmore. Enjoy.

Milton Glick: It's difficult to introduce Walter to this audience. He once told me the most dreaded words of a speaker are, "he needs no introduction." So, I won't do that. But, in a sense, introducing Mr. Cronkite to this audience is like introducing him, someone to his own family because for many of us in this room, Walter has always been a part of our extended family. He told us about important events that changed our lives, but he did it in a reassuring way and a positive way that inspired hope and confidence for the future. It's my pleasure and honor to introduce a special member of the ASU into the Cronkite family, our namesake, Walter Cronkite.

>> Walter Cronkite: You know, I would like to say, I would like to take a great deal of time right now to tell you all how great Mr. Glick is to this university, as provost, someone said he's the managing editor. Without his help and his knowledge, we would not have, have achieved the stature that we have today with the promise of the stature we will have in the future. Milt, we can't thank you nearly enough. I consider you my dear friend and always have. And to today's business, Mother Nature has treated Florida rather savagely, of course, as late, and has created and left Dave Barry virtually nothing to be humorous about, so he hasn't won a Pulitzer Prize in he last several years. Now, that's what has brought him here to Phoenix, ASU, and The Walter Cronkite Journalism School, and, of course, its highly prized annual award. Now, his column in the Miami Herald has been syndicated to, I don't know how many, hundreds of other newspapers and is, is invariably consumed each morning by several thousand chuckling readers as their first order of business of the day. For those few Arizonans who are not regularly Barry fans, Jim Dove and Jim Rush are film historians who have prepared the following documentary, which would seem to me to relieve me of any further duties. But, let's watch the, the documentary right now.

Announcer: The following is a paid announcement by the Dave Barry for president campaign fund. Dave Barry, a candidate you can count on.

Dave Barry: Hi. I'm Dave Barry.

Announcer: Dave Barry believes in honest Government. That's why he has refused to accept any large campaign contributions.

Dave Barry: Next!

Announcer: Unless they are in cash.

Dave Barry: You want to build a toxic waste dump, a nuclear power plant, a strip mine, and a golf course in the grand canyon?

Business Man: You have got it.

Dave Barry: It's going to cost you 200 big ones.

Dave Barry: Add it up, America. You know what the answer is.

Director: And cut.

Dave Barry: How was that? Do you think maybe we need another kid in here?

Announcer: Dave Barry for president. The price is right.

Gene Weingarten: It is true that I am the guy who discovered Dave Barry. I was the editor of the magazine at the Miami Herald when I first saw something by Dave Barry. It was terrific. It made me laugh out loud, which I couldn't remember anybody doing through their written word, so I called him up and offered him $400 per story, which at the time he seemed to think was an enormous amount of money, so we were taking advantage of him for quite a while. Dave is probably the, the oldest 13-year-old boy in the United States, but I have known him for too long, so I know that that's not the case. he's just really extremely immature.

Carl Hiaasen: I would trust him on a breaking story as much as I would trust any reporter I know on a breaking story to come back with not only the information in the notebook, but the ability to write it fast in a deadline in an incredibly compelling way.

Charlie Rose: Twenty five years later 13 Florida based writers play homage with their own collaboration, "Naked Came the Manatee." Joining me now, Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist, Dave Barry-

Dave Barry: -and if we had known how you pronounced naked -- I'm sorry. We are not used to people saying Naked like that. I'm going with naked. That's the way you say it.

Charlie Rose: The way we always say it.

Dave Barry: Everyone else is going naked. I don't know about naked. If they were going with naked, we would have written it Differently --

Charlie Rose: He would have written a better Book.

Tom Fiedler: One of the things that Dave impresses people with is how hard he works in order to get just that right moment or just the right anecdote or the situation in which he would frame something, and with his ability to bring humor to it, also slip a lot of truth in there. He, in many -- on many, many days Dave would be the first one out in the morning and the last one to finish up at night. And all the frequency with which he accepts invitations to appear at a local charity or the ones that, that he really puts, puts the top of his priority list are those that, that he doesn't get paid. It has to do with, with a cause that he believes deeply in, or it's a way to help people who really need help. It's, again, Dave gives back a great deal.

Pat Sajak: Dave Barry, I didn't ask you the most important question, is it Pulitzer Prize or Pulitzer Prize?

Dave Barry: You don't have to worry about it, I guess. But it's Pulitzer, Pat.

Pat Sajak: Is it Pulitzer?

Dave Barry: Yes, it is. Some people say it differently, but they are wrong.

Pat Sajak: Well, you would know.

Dave Barry: Or, I could just be making it up. Who will ever check?

Walter Cronkite: In 1988, Dave Barry won the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary at the Miami Herald. His creative humoristic approach has entertained readers of his column for almost 20 years authoring over 50 books published around the world in numerous languages. Dave is known worldwide for his light-hearted look at every day Life.

Shelly Acoca: Out of our summer entering class, usually about 50\% of them want to grow up to be Dave Barry. In fact, there are always one or two who approach me and say, I wanted to become a journalist because of Dave Barry, and, and he, he is absolutely inspirational with, with the summer interns. He speaks very honestly about what's wrong with the newspapers. Even about what's wrong with the Miami Herald. He's dead-on in his observations of what we're doing wrong. And he's just a really great person for younger journalists to look up to, and he's always available to them.

Walter Cronkite: While we are on the subject of inspirational mentors, it appears that Andy Rooney has made an impact on Dave.

Andy Rooney: I like expressing an opinion that so many find offensive. It will end my career here.

Dave Barry: And how about the people who call you up when you are eating dinner to find out if you want to buy mutual funds? Of course, what else would I want to do during dinner? Many of the folks never signaled their turn or hold their cigarettes like this in restaurants, so the smoke goes in your eyes instead of theirs. Gosh, there are just so many people I would like to thank. I wish I could get them all together in one room and express my gratitude to them personally. I think I would use some kind of high-pressure hose.

Walter Cronkite: In the mid 1990's CBS Produced "Dave's World," a series based upon the book written by Dave Barry. Barry Andersen played Dave on the show, and 98 episodes were produced over four seasons.

Barry Andersen: I don't do jokes. I do observational humor. It's humor from stuff I observe in every day life.

Actress: Why did the blond stair at the orange juice carton? Because the carton said concentrate! Andy Rooney would pay big for that.

Actor: She called me "sir." Walter Cronkite is sir, the pope is sir, when did I become sir?

Dave Barry: You know, the way I picture it, adulthood is a big sleep jungle snake swimming just around the bend in the river of life. It swallows you, slowly, an inch at the time so you barely notice the signs. You start using phrases like, "you will put your eye out", or "because I said so", and before you know it, you are talking to your friends about the benefit of high-fiver. You have monogrammed towels in the bathroom. All your furniture is nice. I mention all this to explain how I finally came to buy, at Age 40, an amp for my electric guitar.

Carl Hiaasen: Americans who watch TV news in my generation, you didn't get to dinner without watching Cronkite saying ok, not only what happened in the world, but how it was presented. It was a reassuring presence. There is so many, many readers, something big happens, first thing you say is what is Dave Barry going to say about this? How is Dave Barry going to handle this? How is he going to make it funny or how is he going to write about it? It's a tragedy if it's New Orleans, if it's 9-1-1. When you have someone like that, that everyone is looking to, what's he going to say, you know, you have an institution, and that's what he really is, an institution.

Walter Cronkite: Well Dave, I think that leaves me no further alibis, and so I take great pleasure in the name of the ASU Journalism School to present you with the Walter Cronkite award for excellence in journalism. Will you step forward, please? It's heavy.

Dave Barry: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Walter Cronkite. I never thought I'd say thank you, Walter Cronkite, but thank you. I'm tremendously grateful to be here today, and I'll tell you why. You have electricity. As of this morning, I don't. Back in Coral Gables, where I live, we're having, as you probably saw, we have had a bunch of hurricanes. The hurricane season currently runs from, from June through the following June. And so we're without power -- this is the longest I have been without electricity since Hurricane Andrew, which went over what was my house in 1992, which was also pretty bad. After Hurricane Andrew, I learned there is no form on life on earth stupider than dogs, and I include zucchini in that statement. At the time of Hurricane Andrew, I had two dogs. I had a large main dog, named Earnest and a small emergency back-up dog named zippy. You need a back-up dog in case your main dog goes down in the hurricane. Prior to Hurricane Andrew, I let Zippy every morning out by a two-stage procedure, and if you have had a dog, you know going out in the morning is a big deal to the dog, and they learn the procedure. In this case, it was two stages. I would open the back door to our house, and then we had a patio with a screen closure around it, which you need down there to keep the mosquitoes from stealing your patio furniture. From the back door, Ernest and Zippy would run across the patio to the screen door, and I would go and open the screen door, and they would be out in the yard. They learned that procedure, back door, screen door, yard. When it came Hurricane Andrew and the screen enclosure was or by orbiting the earth. It was gone. But, the screen door was still there. So some of you are dog owners -- just a door surrounded by nothing, you know. You have got a two-week learning curve. I would open the back doors, and he would run through the screen door because that's, because that's the procedure, you know. That's why I think the least realistic television program made was Lassie because you had this brilliant dog living on this farm with this unbelievably stupid farm family. So stupid they never left the kitchen. Every episode they are looking out the window going, how come all the neighbors have crops? And it was a good thing they didn't go out because whenever they get into life threatening danger, you know, the boy, little Jeff, who later became little Timmy, and they didn't even notice that. That's how stupid these people were - would fall into the quick sand. Every week this kid is in the quick sand. Who the hell buys a farm with that much quick sand on it, you know. So Jeff slash Timmy is sinking in the quick sand. Lassie goes racing back to the farmhouse, barking, scratching on the door, very agitated. Every single week, and these people never figured it out, you know. Normal people would go hey, the moron is in the quick sand again, isn't he? Not the Lassie family. They would go, what's wrong girl? Are you hungry? Now, a real dog would go, Yeah! I'm hungry, I'm always hungry, you know. She would come in and eat and spend the rest of the evening licking herself and forget all about Jeff slash Timmy. Every episode, he would be bubbles in the quick sand, you know. Tune in next week, and they get a new little boy named Billy, but not Lassie. He makes them go and rescue him. They come back to the house and everybody would be happy. Lassie would fill out the agricultural subsidy forms, but that's really not what I'm here to talk about today. I'm here to talk about what an honor it is to, to receive this award from Walter Cronkite, and like Carl Hiaasen, my colleague at The Miami Herald, said Walter Cronkite, some of you younger people maybe don't remember, but with the most amazing institution in this country, I grew up with Walter Cronkite. Fortunately, he had a really big house so he didn't notice. But those beers missing in the 1960s, that was me. He was there. He was there for America. He was there for the good times and the bad times, for the space program, for the Battle of Gettysburg -- Walter was there, and we, we -- and he was part of the reason why I went into journalism. I was always interested in the news, and unfortunately, I went to work for a newspaper. I don't know what I was thinking. No, it was a good thing. I went to work at a little paper in Pennsylvania called "The Daily Local News." A little local paper. My first newspaper job out of college, and it was one of those papers that was local, I mean, if somebody in our circulation area grew zucchini that looked like Dwight Eisenhower, that was the front page picture in the Daily Local News, and we did it a lot. When you think about it, a lot of zucchini looks like Dwight Eisenhower. I covered -- I mean, I did what you do, wrote obituaries, went to fires. I would go to a simple meeting, some of which are still going on. But when I could, when I could, I would write humor. That's really what I wanted to do with, with the, was to be a humor writer, and I was able to, over the years, gradually by continuing to do it, to get to the point where I didn't have to, to write facts at all any more. I could just sit around in my underwear and make things up. It's a lot like being a consultant. Except a consultant would be wearing your underwear. But really, that came to be my job, and it was, and it was a wonderful job, and I have had -- you know, it's, it's -- in a way, it's a glamorous job. Things I have gotten to do that other people have not gotten to do. I will give you one example of something glamorous I got to do. I got into a situation with North Dakota. I don't know if you ever heard of it. But apparently, it's a state, North Dakota, and they are losing population up there. Wolves are eating them. Or something, but the population is declining and we want people to come back to North Dakota. If you go there, they will pull you over and say, hey, do you want to be in the legislature? Anyway, a couple years ago, they came up with an idea, and I am not making this up, this is really a proposal made in North Dakota to change the name of the state, to improve the image by changing its name, which has never been done, and this is really true. They were going to change the name from North Dakota to Dakota. They were going to take the north off, the theory being that then you would stop thinking of it as tundra, basically, and think of it more like other romantic one-word places like Tahiti, Hawaii, Dakota, you know. I thought that was pretty stupid. And I wrote a column about it. I'm making fun of that, and that was a huge mistake. Don't mess with North Dakota. That's what I learned from this. First, I got an angry letter from everybody in North Dakota. Nearly 115 letters. Second of all, this is the really big part of the North Dakota revenge scheme, they invite me up there in January and they dedicated a sewage lifting station in my honor. This is really true. If you go to Grand Forks, North Dakota, for any reason, such as your plane has crashed there -- you can see there is a brick building, and I tell you in all modesty, it's a tourist attraction, a brick building, and on the side in high letters it says, "Dave Barry Lift Station Number 16." And, and inside is, is the equipment that lifts the sewage, which is a concept I don't get. Me, I would leave the sewage down there, you know. But in North Dakota, they lift it, you know. I think they are bored. See what we got, you know. Anyway, they had this ceremony, and they had, they had a, a -- a good little crowd show up. It was 20 degrees below zero. True. Very cold. And we were standing there, and they had media people and political people, and they had a brown piece of paper over the sign on the side of the lift station, and the mayor of Grand Forks read a proclamation, very eloquently comparing my work to the production of human excrement, and then at the big moment, they had me tear the piece of paper off the sign, and I remember standing there in the Freezing cold air smelling the sewage looking at my name on the side of this building and hearing, thump, thump, which is the sound of people applauding in mittens. So yeah, it's glamorous, but also, it's incredibly rewarding, and this award today is, is, I would say, one of the two great rewarding moments I have had as a journalist. The other was when I won a Pulitzer, and they briefly flashed a picture on there. I don't know if you saw it, it shows -- it was the front page Of the Miami Herald the day I Won the Pulitzer Prize, and my son, Rob, who was 8 years old, is hugging me with a huge smile on his face, and I want to tell you how that picture came about. That day, the day they awarded the Pulitzer in 1988, I was Planning to go to Key West with my son, Rob, and he was very excited because he loved to go to Key West. I did not expect to win a Pulitzer Prize. I still don't know why I won a Pulitzer Prize, but I didn't expect that on that day in 1988. It was kept a secret from me by my colleagues at the Herald. But my editor, Gene. He contrived to get me to the Herald that day, which I didn't want to do because I was going to go to Key West, and he said no, just come in for a few minutes, and he made up some complicated reason why I had to be there, so I had Rob with me, and we went to the Herald, and we get there, and there's all these people gathered in the newsroom, and I realized it was Pulitzer announcement day, and I said hey, this is -- you are going to see -- somebody is going to win a Pulitzer here, apparently, you know. And, you know, so we're standing there, and then about a minute before they made the announcement, somebody who had not been clued in, that was supposed to be a secret, said something to me, and I realized, I was about to win the Pulitzer Prize. I also realized that I would not be able to go to Key West that day because when you win the Pulitzer Prize, you have to suddenly -- you get caught in this whirlwind -- well, it's a lot of drinking, to be honest. But, but other things you have to do, so I turned around and said Rob, I'm afraid we're not going to be able to go to Key West today, and his face fell because he'd been looking forward to this trip, and I said but, I'll get you a Nintendo. When he's been bugging me and bugging me for like a year to get a Nintendo game, and I said, I'll get you that, and he said "really?" And I said yes! He jumped up into my arms, a huge smile, and at that moment, they announced the Pulitzer and took my picture, and it ran in the front page of the Miami Herald the next day, and everybody told me how great it was that my son was so excited that I won the Pulitzer Prize, but other than that, this is the big one for me. Winning this award, getting to meet Walter Cronkite, and I thank you for that, and I thank you, especially, Mr. Cronkite. I'll take this, this award with me back to, to Miami with great Pride, and I will also take back a really long extension cord. Thank you. Thank you.

Walter Cronkite: Well, ladies and gentlemen, we now know why he won the Pulitzer Prize and have a hint of why he upon the prize here today. I wish his son had been with you for the occasion. Of course, ladies and gentlemen, Dave is now obligated to amuse you, if he really wants to take this award home with him. We do thank you very much, Dave, for being here with us. I hope you come back next time. Thank you all for being here again. Thank you.

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