By Wendy Walker with Andrea Cagan
*A Book Review*
by Michael C. Gray
© 2011 by Michael C. Gray
For seventeen years, Wendy Walker was the senior executive producer for Larry King Live.
In Producer, Wendy tells the story of how she came to be one of the most influential people in television and some of the lessons she learned along the way.
Wendy didn't start out with a goal of being involved with television production. She was an art major in college and initially planned to continue her education. She also wanted to leave home, work and become independent of her parents. Her fateful decision that many should take note of was to find a job and live in Washington, D.C.
Wendy didn't have a great business education background, but she did have great people skills. Her first job was as a salesperson at Brooks Brothers. Despite the fact that she was not permitted to sell men's suits (back in 1975), she developed a non-threatening approach that made her very popular with customers and the biggest producer in the store. A customer that was one of her biggest fans was Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy.
Eventually, Ethel Kennedy offered the job as her personal secretary to Wendy Walker, which she accepted. During her year working for Ethel Kennedy, Wendy was able to make many valuable connections with politicians, media representatives, and entertainers. She also met and spent personal time with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
As Ethel Kennedy's secretary, Wendy participated in organizing the RFK Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament. Here she learned she loved organizing big events. Her lesson from Ethel Kennedy was, "Details matter: They are everything."
She met Dorrance Smith, a White House producer for ABC news and thought, "This guy has a job that I'd like to have someday. I think I could do it."
In 1978, Wendy went to work for ABC as a secretary, hoping to work her way to becoming a producer. She made a friend who started the same day who became her room mate. You might have heard of her. Katie Couric. In those early days, they worked very hard and were so poor they would go to cafés and ask cute guys if they could have a bite of what they were eating. They also worked their tails off. They called it "Sunday School." They went to work on Sundays just for the experience of learning the news business.
When George Watson left ABC as bureau chief in 1980, he asked Wendy to join him to start the Washington bureau for a new network, the Cable News Network (CNN). The reason he asked her to joint him? "She worked harder than anyone else."
In 1983, Wendy began her White House producing job for CNN. She worked in the basement of the White House, and continued working for CNN at the White House under several administrations, including Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush (Sr) and Clinton. Part of her job was to organize the international negotiation summits that eventually led to peace treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union.
In 1993, Wendy became the executive producer for Larry King Live. She became responsible for the coverage of a show to handle the major events of our time and arranging interviews with major newsmakers.
Through charitable activities, Wendy and her then-husband, Ralph, became acquainted with Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. Ralph surprised Wendy on her fiftieth birthday with a private party performance by Paul McCartney! (In exchange for a generous $1 million donation to the McCartney's land mine foundation.)
Sadly, Wendy's marriage to Ralph ended in divorce.
Wendy is still a very hard working person. She has a CNN media center in a room in her home so she can work at home.
Her final lesson? "Know when to hang up your nightly suspenders." Larry King decided to finish his regular show at the top of his game. Now he will perform periodic "special" programs.
Wendy Walker's story is a great Horatio Alger success story that is great reading and from which you will learn valuable life lessons. Although her life hasn't been all roses, it certainly is a remarkable one.
Buy it on Amazon: Producer: Lessons Shared from 30 Years in Television.
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