History Became Legend, Legend Became Myth…

(A reprise post from SSDB archives – about the legendary ‘teflon man’ broadcaster who shall be nameless here, although anyone who served in certain units will recognize the legend of whom I speak.)

And some things which should not have been forgotten… Have not been, because they are either funny or excellent cautionary tales. The Teflon Man, for instance: he bestrode the small world of military broadcasting, providing a rich legacy of horrible gaffes, cringe-inducing miscalculations and antics which reflected no credit whatever upon the unit to which he was attached. Spend more than a couple of years as an NCO in military broadcasting, and you will know everyone, or know of everyone, and the Teflon Man was a legend, like Bigfoot or Elvis, because nothing ever seemed to stick. He had more lives than the wily coyote, bouncing back time and time again from incidents that would have seen any other military broadcaster sent back to civilian life, working the overnight TV board shift for the last-rated station in Sheboygan or Bakersfield. I was swapping gossip with one of the TV reporters at AFKN-Seoul in 1994 or so when the Teflon Man’s name came up. The reporter (an Army broadcaster) related to me how the Teflon Man was interviewing the Social Actions officer one day.
“She was a major and a real good-looking woman, and with the camera rolling, he said ‘Major, I’ll bet you could suck the windsock right off this microphone!’ ”
I cringed. I remembered the Teflon Man, too. “He was at FEN-Tokyo when I was on my first tour at Misawa. Remember, Tokyo used to do a live five-minute network newscast at the top of every hour? We could count on him to mangle at least two words per story. When Pope John died, you should have heard him try and tackle “papal encyclical” and “ecclesiastical”. And then there was the thing with the Russian MIG…”
“Never heard that one, must have been before my time.”
“Our Program Director told us about it when it happened. Later on, I worked with the guy who was the news director in Tokyo at the time. He said he still broke out in a cold sweat, thinking about how close it came to being an international incident.”

Overseas, more than Americans listen to AFRTS; it must be some kind of guilty pleasure, like Baywatch and Big Mac Quarter-pounders. Our FEN-Misawa afternoon DJ, Dickie the Crazy Marine, claimed that during an epidemic of what was termed the ‘Russian flu’ he once asked all his listeners to face east and cough. Supposedly, the Russian embassy demanded an apology, reminding everyone that we had a considerable shadow audience out there.

A Russian MIG had buzzed an American aircraft carrier at an uncomfortably close distance, and the Cold War was still current enough that this made the newswires as a three or four line item. Teflon Man pulled that story off the teletype as part of his top-of-the-hour newscast. On his way into the studio, he stopped at the News Director’s desk and asked how to spell “strafed.” The News Director, busy with another project, spelled the word for him. Teflon Man took his news copy and went into the studio to practice, and the News Director went back to his own project… until he was stricken with a sudden, certain, cold-sweat inducing conviction at a minute or so into the live newscast. He sprang up and ignoring the lit “on-air” warning light, ran into the studio and grabbed the news copy out of Teflon Man’s hands. Years later, that News Director assured me that he nearly had a heart attack, looking at that news copy and realizing how close Teflon Man came to announcing on AFRTS live network news–which had an audience all over Japan and the Kanto Plain— that a Russian MIG had strafed an American aircraft carrier.
Afterwards, as the News Director and the Program Director took turns chewing large chunks off the Teflon Man, he looked at them blankly and said, “Strafed… buzzed? What’s the big difference?”

They eventually made him an instructor at the broadcaster technical school, but that is another story.

8 thoughts on “History Became Legend, Legend Became Myth…”

  1. So why was he Teflon? He sounds like a fool.

    One would think he pissed off enough over time that he would have been gone a long time ago.

    Reminds me of this movie I saw many years ago on broadcast bloopers – the news reporters continually getting dumped on by bird crap, toupees being blown off by the wind….my all time favorite was this sports announcer’s gaffe – obviously getting into a football play, in this case a kick return:

    He’s at the 10, the 20, the 30, the 40, the 50, the 40, the 30, the 20….look at that son of a bitch run!

  2. Well, that was the mystery that no one could figure out. He kept showing up again, after every gaffe, disaster, and hideous embarrassment to the service – and usually promoted, too. IIRC, he retired as a master-sgt.

  3. I don’t know anything about the military side of it but I saw this kind of thing over and over in civilian broadcasting.

    Without going into too much detail, I think it is a matter of management having different goals and standards of measurement than I do… or probably the listener/viewer has.

    When mid level management also says: “Strafed… buzzed? What’s the big difference?” a thing like that doesn’t count in any significant way.

    To them it’s a minor blip of the kind you usually handle with a pickup and a quick edit. Add in some other criteria — he plays a great game of golf, or his wife is the boss’s niece or they went to the same school, or better still he’s got some contacts in government or wherever who will give interviews, or is just good at BS’ing those folks in to making a statement, and he’s golden.

  4. “of the kind you usually handle with a pickup and a quick edit.”

    Sorry, what I meant by that wasn’t that they’d go to the trouble to fix it before air, just that they’d see it in the same light as a stutter or a misplaced word, not as a substantive error.

  5. I knew a similar fellow. Unlike your guy, Mom, this one was slowly going down. Glib, hail-fellow-well-met. A Domer with a degree in communications. Bounced around the country losing jobs within a year of being hired.
    His problem was, once you got to know him, he was ignorant, shallow, grasping and mean spirited, with a massive, unmoored ego. He was good at bootlicking, I’ll give him that.
    I found him fascinating. I’d never met anyone so lacking in self awareness. It was like watching YouTube videos of Russian dash cams-a string of wrecks and crashes.

  6. I actually found him fascinating, myself, although I never met him in person until close to the end of my own career. But I heard about him – oh lord, did I hear about him! We used to call him the Ted Baxter of the Far East Network; he had a good voice, and was recruiting-poster good looking. Perhaps he had raised ass-kissing to a whole new level, or someone in higher authority rescued him time, and time again. Nothing he ever did ever stuck to him, not even a number of sexual harrassment complaints. His continued carreer baffled the h*ll out of everyone who ever worked with him for long.

  7. It would be evidence of a tremendously great sense of humor if he actually knew the diff. between “straffed” and “buzzed” and just asked the News Director to get a rise out of him.

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