Katie Couric has finally shed that perky persona. It’ll cost her. Her gossip-filled autobiography “Going There,” published Tuesday, reads more like a never-ending vendetta than a memoir.
Almost every short chapter comes across like a rabbit punch aimed at the kidneys of one former acquaintance after another.
Tom Werner may have helped the Boston Red Sox return to their winning ways, but he was a loser of a boyfriend. Former CBS chairman Les Moonves is a close talker with bad breath. Prince Harry had a strong aroma of alcohol and cigarettes oozing from every pore.
Former CBS execs Jeff Fager and David Rhodes are “self-satisfied schmucks.” The “60 Minutes” crew wouldn’t give her a second of their time. Marissa Mayer was in over her head at Yahoo; even worse, she once arranged for a lunch meeting at a joint that specialized in soup.
Many of Couric’s victims deserve the jabs. The former “Today” show and CBS news anchor paints a world full of masochist gatekeepers who get away with bad behavior — or at least they did during her rise to the top.
She meticulously documents her relationship with Matt Lauer and how it slowly unraveled after he was fired for inappropriate workplace behavior, reprinting their text exchanges that became more and more chilly.
Producer Jeff Zucker goes from being her staunchest ally to a smug know-it-all who helped doom their short-lived syndicated series, “Katie.”
Even her late husband, Jay Monahan, doesn’t escape criticism. While she spends much of the book drooling over her beloved (there’s a little too much about their sex life) she questions his fascination with the Civil War and speculates that he had misguided affection for Robert E. Lee.
Couric would argue that she’s also tough on herself. That’s somewhat true.
She confesses that she “protected” the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from public scrutiny by cutting inflammatory comments that Ginsburg made in an interview about quarterback Colin Kaepernick. She shares how she dressed as a flight attendant on a doomed air flight for a Halloween party and was tone-deaf in covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
But too often Couric paints herself as either the victim of her times or someone on the sidelines. In one chapter, she addresses the controversy around “Under the Gun,” the documentary she produced in which an editor made gun owners look like they couldn’t answer the simplest of questions. Couric acts the innocent lamb. I’m not buying it.
She’s nonchalant about buying an expensive vase for Nancy Reagan, arranging a tea party at the White House for her dying sister and planting her daughter on Hilary Duff’s float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade — acts that would make a journalism ethics professor shudder.
But to Couric, it’s all part of breathing rarefied air. So is snagging box seats at the Super Bowl, spending weekends in the Hamptons and throwing herself a 50th birthday party at Tiffany’s with performances by Tony Bennett and Bette Midler. It’s good to be the queen.
If you want to know what designer clothes Couric wore at key moments in her career, she’s more than willing to dish. She’s also not shy about disclosing that Larry King and Neil Simon made passes at her and that she turned down a date with Michael Jackson.
I got a kick reading about how Louie CK tried to snag her for a perverse cameo on his show, and how Zucker once arranged for an NBC traffic helicopter to buzz Dionne Warwick during an outdoors performance for “Good Morning, America.”
But ultimately I wish Couric had spent more time focusing on her journalism chops and less on her celebrity status. Her ability to do a little bit of everything made her one of the best personalities in morning-show history. She was underappreciated during her five-year stint as anchor of the “CBS Evening News.”
She does share anecdotes about some of her best-remembered interviews, most notably with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley Sullenberger. But insights like these are few and far between.
Couric isn’t terribly interested in prepping the next generation of journalists. “Going There’ seems more about getting her name back in the press — and getting revenge.
If those were her goals, she’s succeeded. I just hope she doesn’t expect any congratulations from her former friends.
By: Katie Couric.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 514 pages, $30.
Neal Justin covers the entertainment world, primarily TV and radio. He also reviews stand-up comedy. Justin is the founder of JCamp, a non-profit program for high-school journalists, and works on many fronts to further diversity in newsrooms.
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