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Thursday, March 8, 2012

long live the queen

So here we are.
You’ll have to forgive the extremely local flavor of this particular post, but I have been moved by some very recent news: after more than three decades of service, longtime New York news anchor Sue Simmons is being dropped by WNBC-TV.
In other words, the Queen of New York City has been fired.

It was I, and I alone as far as I know, who pronounced the anchor team of Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons the King and Queen of New York City a couple of years ago via a small mention on my website. Of course, I have no real say in the matter, but I would wager that many other New Yorkers would agree with this assessment.
There is no actual royalty in America, and sometimes this gives me pause. I’m not saying I want to live in a monarchy, but there is something fascinating about that combination of power, poise, charisma, and glamour, all wrapped up in a carefully maintained inbred image of cultural identity. We like to think that our film stars and celebrities hold that honor, but such notoriety is fleeting, and their power is superficial at best. Even political figures, who do have real power, have no romance. You respect them, yes, but do they make you want to curtsey? 
But ah, the veteran news anchor. He or she has the whole package: The well-powdered, well-lifted face, the impeccable wardrobe, the unmoving coif... the years of experience, the commanding and authoritative voice, the access to the latest breaking news... the familiarity, notoriety, and fame... it’s all there. And if he or she happens to be paired with another fellow veteran, well, that’s the lynchpin. 
Every American city has a King and Queen, a Chuck and Sue, who look down upon us mortals on our grubby little sofas from their lofty anchor chairs. We may like them, we may dislike them, but we cannot deny their hold on our city. And everyone knows their names. Everyone. 
I’ll prove it. Name the Prime Minister of England. Now name the Queen of England. Right? Name your Mayor. Now name your longest-serving local anchor team. Right?
Chuck and Sue, in particular, embody New York City. They are ambassadors to our tourists who watch them from their hotel rooms. They are icons, outlasting mayors and governors and officials long-forgotten. They speak of the Yankees and Mets, Giants and Jets, Knicks, Rangers, and Devils as if they were beloved children rather than franchises. Sure, they probably don’t live in any of the five boroughs anymore. And yes, when they speak of the MTA, it’s obvious that they have not taken the subway in decades, but that is what makes them royalty. They know this city, they know New Yorkers, but they sure as hell don’t ride the bus. That’s why Mayor Bloomberg isn’t the King. 
And as in many monarchies, it is the Queen who is the cheekier one. Oh, Sue, you mistress of moxie. You may accidentally curse on-air, and make no bones about showing open displeasure when your vacation is cut short by historic events, and never, ever cease poking the bear and speaking your mind, but somehow you always, always remain a lady. 
The Queen is fired. Long live the Queen.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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