In case you haven’t been paying attention, Anchorman 2 is coming out soon, and Will Ferrell has been making the (early) publicity rounds, including by anchoring a real live newscast as Ron Burgundy, his ridiculous character in the movies. The New York Times recently interviewed Ferrell about the origins of Ron Burgundy and Anchorman, and Ferrell pointed to Jessica Savitch’s co-anchor in Philadelphia, Mort Crim:
The inspiration for the original “Anchorman” came one evening more than a decade ago when Mr. Ferrell was watching a television documentary about Jessica Savitch, one of the first women to anchor news telecasts. He was struck by a former co-anchor of hers in Philadelphia, who delivered his reminiscences in a silky baritone. “He literally said the line: ‘You have to remember, back then I was a real male chauvinist pig. I was not nice to her.’ ”
I called the 78-year-old Crim at his home in Florida to see if Ferrell does the role justice.
So does Will Ferrell nail the stereotype of the 1970s anchorman?
Well, as a matter of fact, I got an email a couple of months ago from Will's agent. He said, "As you know, Will is a fan of yours and we want to do something special for him at the end of filming. We thought it would be nice if you could send him an autographed picture." So I pulled out an 8x10 and wrote, "You've almost got it. A little more authenticity and you'll be there. Your friend, the real Anchorman, Mort Crim."
Did you get a response?
Yes, Will has invited my wife and me to the premiere in New York in a couple of weeks. His agent emailed me again and said that Will loved the photo and that it will be hanging in his office.
When you saw the original Anchorman, did you see yourself in the Ron Burgundy character?
I don't think you ever really see yourself in a parody, but it was fun. Like any good satire, he took a basic idea and took it all to the extreme to get comedic value from it. I didn't take any offense to it. I have been parodied before in other situations in my public life. In fact, they wrote a rock-and-roll song which played on the air in Detroit when I was on the air there. It was called "Mort Crim's Hairspray." People thought I'd take offense. But it was fun. I've got a great sense of humor.
You have to in your business.
Yes. Well, you have to in any business.
How do you spend your time now that you're not on the air?
Well, I'm still writing. And I do voiceover work; I have a studio in my house. And I do a number of speeches a year, conventions, conferences. I've had seven books published and I'm working on my eighth. And I've got grandchildren. Oh, and I'm going to be the commodore of our yacht club next year. And I still fly my airplane. So it's a very busy and active life.
What are your impressions of TV news these days?
It's a mixed bag. There are some really good people in the business, but the pressures of 24-hour news with the cable channels has diluted the quality in the sense of not having time to really think through and edit. So much of what we see comes on the air unedited. Good journalism demands editing. I don't care how good of a writer or reporter you are. I think that everything being so live and the deadlines being 24 hours a day has mostly eliminated the collegial input of being able to run stories by colleagues, your desk editor, your news editor. So there's a diminishing quality, but not because of the people. Because of the system. But I still see excellent documentaries on CNN and MSNBC. The thing on NBC on the Kennedy assassination that Brokaw did was just excellent.
Could I prevail upon you to read some Ron Burgundy lines from Anchorman?
Below, because Mort Crim is such a good sport, he reads select lines from the movie:
"I'm in a glass case of emotion."
"Don't act like you're not impressed."
"Well, if you were a man, I'd punch you. I'd punch you right in the mouth."
"She has beautiful eyes, and her hair smells like cinnamon."
"I immediately regret this decision." (I bet.)