Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Scenes From a Funeral


Amidst the bizarre grief porn genuine outpouring of sentiment attendant to the press coverage of the death of Tim Russert, the news that Bruce Springsteen had weighed in with condolences struck me, immediately at least, as a tad puzzling. I undertood that Russert was a fan, which of course proves nothing. Hell, an unabashed rightwing asswipe like Brent Bozell (who famously told Eric Alterman that "all my favorite entertainers are Communists") is a Springsteen fan, so the idea that a corporate lackey like Russert might have had the Boss on his iPod isn't all that surprising. Still, I couldn't quite figure why he and Springsteen might have bonded on some personal level.

Turns out the answer is simple, if still puzzling: I'd forgotten that Russert's wife, celebrity journalist Maureen Orth, was the author of the famous Newsweek Springsteen cover story that shared the stands with a Time cover story in October 1975.

From Dave Marsh's 135th Springsteen bio Two Hearts:

Newsweek's real intent was to discredit Springsteen and hopefully the rock business, for which the publication does not conceal its disdain. Maureen Orth, a glamour sniper recently returned from a European vacation, was assigned to research and write the story. Orth had occasionally written about rock performers before, although her style is about as compatible with rock as cannibalism is with missionary work...Orth's thesis was that Springsteen was the creation of CBS -- although she never got around to explaining how CBS had done the job, despite the "Making of a Rock Star" cover headline. According to Newsweek, Springsteen was an unlettered dummy, and [his managers] Landau and Appel were shadowy subcriminal [emphasis mine] figures manipulating gullible press people who in turn twisted a captious public around their typing figures.

Hey -- you know, if somebody had written that shit about me, I might have held a grudge. At the least. So maybe Bruce really is the living saint people like Marsh have painted him as for all these years. Or maybe he just made a few deals with the devil like any other mega-successful superstar.

Update: Just watched Bruce singing "Thunder Road" at the service on MSNBC. Let's just say I have seriously mixed feelings about this.

15 comments:

TMink said...

Seems like in the article she missed one little point: Bruce is hugely talented.

I wonder if any label could have KEPT him from being a huge star.

Don't get me wrong, I was married to a person who worked at a label, I am familiar with how clueless and full of shit they are. But to give the credit to CBS misses the point in a big way.

Trey

Brooklyn Girl said...

Seems like in the article she missed one little point: Bruce is hugely talented.

Um ... yeah. That pretty well sums it up.

DFH in Dubrovnik said...

Bruce is walking on the top of the world, I doubt he has any need for a 30-year grudge against a nonentity like Maureen Orth. Or Tim Russert, for that matter.

My guess is the reason he said some nice things about the Punkinhaid is that Russert was a big fan. I don't think politics has anything to do with it.

steves said...

I don't know if this is true or not, but while I was flipping channels the other day, I stopped for a moment on NBC's non-stop Russert Grief-fest, and heard Brokaw say that one of the things Timmeh was most proud of was that he booked Springsteen to play at his school in Buffalo way before he was famous.

He then sort of implied that they've been pals ever since.

MikeJ said...

The appropriate video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5scpDev1qps

Anonymous said...

Maybe Bruce watched "Meet The Press" each Sunday morning and was a fan of the show. Could be simple as that.

ROTP(lumber)

MJConroy said...

"on NBC's non-stop Russert Grief-fest, and heard Brokaw say that one of the things Timmeh was most proud of was that he booked Springsteen to play at his school in Buffalo way before he was famous."

Oh yeah! Except it wasn;t in Buffalo, it was at John Caroll University in Cleveland.

Jay Ackroyd said...

Dave Marsh?

Sheesh.

Bruce is part of the media world, so hey, what the heck?

Jay Ackroyd said...

pondering....

trenchant is harder than I thought....

dave™© said...

Knowing how the newsmagazines operated, especially back then, Orth could have done little more than talk to Springsteen on the phone and turn the notes over to her editors. It's worth remembering that Jules Siegel's famous "Eye" magazine piece on Brian Wilson and "Smile" started out as a "Time" magazine assignment, until Time's editors decided Siegel wasn't being snotty enough to the punk no-talents and switched it to a slam of the then-popular Monkees.

And yeah, Springsteen probably truly is the living saint he's imagined to be.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Update: Just watched Bruce singing "Thunder Road" at the service on MSNBC. Let's just say I have seriously mixed feelings about this.

I can't watch. I am officially OD'd on the Grief-a-Thon. You'd think God died. (Well, maybe in their insular little world, he did.)

But it's an interesting choice of song.

NYMary said...

I have nothing on this topic, but I am startled at how much Brett MacKenzie looks like young Bruce.

danny1959 said...

I haven't watched any mainstream media since election night 2004, and "events" like this make me remember why I stopped. Russet was one of the big reasons as well. If I want to know what GE thinks, I'll just go to their website.

danny1959 said...

Sorry, Russert

When's the next bus to Oswego? said...

guys, guys, guys-

seems to me way too much credence is being given here to dave marsh's usual paranoid protectiveness of The Boss.

i read that 1975 newsweek cover story on the boss, both at the time (when i was ten) and more recently. it was no hatchet job and did not imply that springsteen was untalented. every major label is in the business of 'making' rock stars (in at least two senses of that word), so even if one were to judge the article by the title alone, what of it? i unclog my nose in the general direction of major labels, too, but it's a simple statement of fact that the star-making machinery generally includes them.

anyway, it looks like russert and the boss - and maureen orth, too, of course - went back a long way. and it's not surprising that russert would have kept in touch and that something like a friendship would have developed over the course of thirty-plus years.

maybe most of all, russert seems to have been (at least he always came across as) an actual nice, down-to-earth guy, and i bet bruce responded to that. russert's air of decency was a rare commodity on the sunday morning beltway shows. i think that more than anything else explains why so many people miss him.

a 'deal with the devil' this ain't.