INSIDE TODAY by Judy Kessler


The Battle for the Morning
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 Inside scoop from a former Today show talent booker. Kessler was a writer for People magazine when she caught the eye of the executive producer of Today by snaring a rare interview with Priscilla Presley. In 1980, the author was hired by the show to book celebrity guests for hosts Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley. Rival Good Morning, America was flourishing, and Kessler had to battle tooth and nail for the most desirable celebs. Powerful publicists routinely played the shows off one another. War stories here include: the middle-of-the-night effort to put together a show after John Lennon was shot; Kessler's boss's obsession with getting Elizabeth Taylor after her stay in the Betty Ford Clinic; the mad rush to get a star, any star, for Bryant Gumbel's debut day. When Gumbel took over, Kessler says, the show increasingly took on a ``a boys' club'' atmosphere. While acknowledging Gumbel's skill as an interviewer, the author shocks with details of his behavior toward women--his unprintable nickname for Pauley; salacious talk in meetings; his habit of running his hand down women's backs to see whether they're wearing bras; his barely hidden extramarital interests. Kessler left the show in 1984, but reports on what follows: the infamous Gumbel memo that excoriated Willard Scott; the disastrous ascension of Deborah Norville; the ratings-boosting arrival of Katie Couric and 26-year-old producer Jeff Zucker. The frenetic pace, the producers' imaginative aggressiveness, and certain oversize egos are all documented. A lively blend of reminiscence, reporting, gossip, and canny analysis.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-40764-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992