story by Bruce Farr
(Bruce Farr is a Ludlow-based writer, editor and commentator for Vermont Public Radio. Bruce kindly agreed to share this recollection of his lunch with Walter Cronkite. Article is courtesy of Black River Today.)
A shrimp cocktail. That's what legendary news anchor and journalist Walter Cronkite ordered and ate that early afternoon back in May of 1994, when I had the tremendous good fortune of sitting down with him for an interview over lunch.
Don't ask me what I ordered that day; for the life of me, I can't even recall whether I even took a single bite. In fact, a lot of what occurred during that momentous meeting exists as a kind of blur in my memory; understandable considering how nervous I was.
The interview had sort of fallen into my lap. I was then working as an executive speechwriter for American Express, and Cronkite had come to town to inaugurate the brand-new Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe.
Because Amex had underwritten a large portion of the cost of getting the school up and running, Cronkite had agreed to be interviewed by Amex for an article in its employee magazine. So I - the nearest thing the Amex "suits" could conjure up as a "journalist" - was conscripted for the job.
The setting for the lunch was the Phoenician Resort, a toweringly decadent, overwrought and overbuilt token of the affluent 1990s. Before we ate, I sat in a gilded hall listening to a number of congratulatory speeches by local politicians, business magnates and celebrities who had all gathered to pay their respects to Cronkite for championing the new school.
At one point, I stopped to shake the hand of Helen Thomas, herself an icon of the reporting business, who had shown up to pay tribute to her esteemed colleague.