Friday, February 06, 2009

I Screwed Up

by Libby Hellmann

Three simple words. But how refreshing. When’s the last time you heard a President admit he made a mistake?

Not that I want to gush about it – or excuse it-- because, hey, he did screw up. And so did Daschle. It’s clear that you can’t vet administration picks on the Honor System.

Still, the fact that so few people in public life are willing to admit their mistakes is – to me – significant. It shows an awareness, at the very least, of individual humility. It begs the question of where the narcissistic need to always be right comes from. Who says? Why?

Admittedly, Obama wasn’t apologizing for some deep, dark sin or secret about himself or his performance. And I realize that for some people, paying lip service to a problem by apologizing can be a substitute for actually trying to correct it. But I think it’s a good first step. It is kind of cleansing.

So with that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to share screw-ups. What do you admit to screwing up? Again, you don’t have to ‘fess up to your innermost sins or fears. Just your average, stupid, screw-up that you wish you hadn’t made.

I’ll start.

I was hired by Good Morning America when it first went on the air (David Hartman was the host). I was one of two “talent coordinators” -- AKA the person who gets the guests. In addition to other guest segments, I was responsible for something they called “Face-Off,” a rip-off of the old Sixty Minutes’ Point/Counterpoint segment. I had to come up with controversial issues, book ten guests a week on both sides of those issues, plus book -- or dodge requests from agents representing -- other guests, stars, authors and one trick ponies. It was a crazy time. I was going pretty much all day and all night.

For the first four days, everything went well, and I was feeling pretty good. Then came Friday. The two Face-Off guests were Pat Buchanan and Nicholas Von Hoffman. I can’t remember what the topic was, but for some weird reason, they actually agreed. On the air.

Fortunately, that first week of the show was entirely pre-taped for just that reason. And I have to credit Pat Buchanan for being incredibly courteous and helpful – he and I came up with another issue about which they disagreed on the spot, and the segment was re-taped. No problem. They Faced Off.

Except I was fired. And I suppose I deserved to be. I screwed up.

There. I feel better.

What about you?

By the way, four members of the Outfit will be at Love Is Murder this weekend. If you’re going, be sure to say hi.


Dana King said...

I had my midlife crisis early, at about 37. Got divorced, quit my job, and moved to the Chicago area. The career change worked out; frankly, so did the divorce, as all parties are happier than they would have been otherwise, and the two alleged adults get along much better, secure in the knowledge neither wants the other back.

Where's the screw up? Moving. I love the Chicago area and would move back in a heartbeat, but the move cost me about three years of close contact with my daughter (ages 2-5) that I can never get back.

"Screw up" is not a strong enough word for that.

Sara Paretsky said...

Libby, my most painful screw-ups have all been caused by letting my temper ride me and not thinking of the consequences. These are, in fact, so painful that I won't reveal them on the blog, but I have had to admit way too many times to family and co-workers that I screwed up--and never in as glamorous a setting as the ABC studios or the Oval Office. On NCIS, Abbey calls these "MOASS"==the Mother of All Shameful Secrets

jnantz said...

"When’s the last time you heard a President admit he made a mistake?"

Clinton...eventually...sort of....

Libby Hellmann said...

I like "MOASS," Sara... will have to remember that. You're right, Jnantz, presidents just don't tend to admit ANYTHING that's less than perfect, and Dana, I can understand your sorrow.. but at least it's done with. We do miss you around these parts, though...

Michael Dymmoch said...


How is it your fault that two guests happened to agree on something? Especially since they eventually agreed to disagree?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same thing as Michael

... and think too that it would have been a more interesting broadcast if those two unexpectedly agreed on something. There's no way anyone could know in advance exactly what guests such as these might feel about every issue.

Annie Chernow

Libby Hellmann said...

Annie and Michael.. I appreciate the belated support.. .tell that to the executive producer.. whose name, of course, I forget.. no.. it was Mel something. Technically, I was supposed to know their positions of the issue, and I either forgot or assumed they would disagree. No matter.. I ultimately went back to NBC and all was well.

Morgan Mandel said...

Hi Libby,
It was good to see you at LIM. I came here from your tweet. See how great it works!

Morgan Mandel