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For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Jane Pauley

She was there, every morning, and I didn’t pay attention. At that hour, I was either going to sleep or sleeping, so the brief glimpses I had of her were charming, but quickly forgotten, like cotton candy.

One summer I developed a habit of walking through town late at night, returning to write until the sun rose, then making breakfast. Too keyed up to sleep, I started watching "The Today Show." And in a couple of hours, I fell in love with Jane Pauley.

Obviously, not in a creepy stalker way. It was more in that soft-boned way shut-ins become enamored of soap opera stars: you see someone attractive and interesting every day and you want to be with them all day. Jane was not a traditional beauty. She didn’t look artificial or Hollywood-bound. What she had was much more special: intelligence, vitality, perspicacity and that vague but valuable quality called heart.

She was all-too-human. I read that she had lost twins and missed her on the show. She returned a couple of weeks later, pale, drawn, evidently sad. That first moment on the air was weighed with pain, and her co-host (Gumbel?), reached over and held her hand for a few seconds. Her smile was brave, but flickering. For the first time, I cared about a celebrity as if she were one of my own.

Her hairstyles were the playful exuberance of a teenager, while she dressed with the savvy of a career woman who thinks fashion is a good place to start. I know the show had a wardrobe coordinator, but Jane made her own choices, adding touches that were hints of both flair and defiance. Who else would pin a chiffon scarf with a Snoopy brooch on a Dior jacket and make it look great?

There’s one moment I absolutely cherish: During the overbearing wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, Jane, Bryant and some British newspeddler were commenting on the wedding. Bryant was playing it cool, but Jane was like a teenager, soaking in the pomp and pageantry. The British guy was pointing out the significance of events in a monotone, so he may have been “frightfully excited.”

At one point, the British hysteric said that Lady Diana would enter the church unescorted, but after the ceremony, she would have a Royal escort. Jane immediately said “Oh, that’s when her blood turns blue?”

I cracked up. Coming from me, it would have been the depths of sarcasm. Coming from Jane, in innocent fashion, her question was too obvious for television, but perfect for the audience. Bryant tried to hide behind his tie, the British guy appeared to have sucked on a lime and as the silence stretched into several seconds, Jane was looking like a schoolgirl who’d been caught drawing unflattering doodles of the headmistress.

British guy unpuckered his face long enough to pointedly change the subject, while Bryant and Jane exchanged a look that means more than just sharing glances. For the rest of the show, Jane was subdued, making quiet and accurate remarks that met with the approval of the British pinhead.

I wished I’d been there. She and I would have had a blast.


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