May 18, 2001, New York City: In an otherwise slow and predictable ceremony, retired television news broadcaster and journalistic icon Rex Rohrman moved the audience to laughter and cheers last night during the twelfth annual Federation of Area News Broadcasters Awards show. Rohrman, who worked at seven different television stations over a twenty-seven-year career, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for pioneering the art of the segue.
“Now familiar to viewers and second nature to broadcasters,” FANB President, Bob barely began his introduction speech, “the art of tying together two unrelated stories with a witty play on words was a revolutionary development in the verbal reservoir of television anchors at one time, and Rex Rohrman is the man credited with that development.” After recapping Rohrman’s career for the audience with several anecdotes that were failed attempts at humor, Barely stepped aside, and a large screen descended from the shimmering ceiling.
A seven-minute montage of some of Rohrman’s most colorful, witty, and acclaimed verbal weavings then regaled the audience, which alternated between rapt attention, raucous laughter, and loud applause. The final clip showed the beloved anchor uttering the most famous and at-one-time-controversial segue of his career: the “Body Bag Segue”.
As the audience watched intently, the grainy picture from 1967 showed a visibly-younger Rohrman, sitting stiffly behind a news desk, finishing a reading of the weekly body count from the Vietnam War. Raising one eyebrow ever so slightly, the younger Rohrman paused thoughtfully and then said, “and from body bags to grocery bags, Jane Collier is standing by live at Pullman’s Grocery for a story on rising bread prices.” With that, the screen lifted, and a more aged version of the “Segue King” strode to the stage to a standing ovation.
“I think I had a little more hair back then,” the veteran newscaster said after taking the podium; the audience chuckled. “Really, though, after seeing that clip, I aught to apologize once again to Jane Collier. That poor girl had only been on the job a few months, was doing her first live piece, and was nervous enough already. After I sprang that on her, she froze up like a statue and they had to cut to commercial.”
Unlike many of the verbose award winners last night, Rohrman kept his gracious acceptance speech short and sweet. After thanking several past coworkers and his parents, he imparted a few anecdotes and closed with a gem. “Thank you for letting an old-timer like myself back into the lime-light for a little while,” he began nonchalantly. Then, that trademark eyebrow climbed slowly up his forehead and he added, “From lime-light to lime-flavored-liquor, there’s a margarita with my name on it back stage, so I’ll see you all at the party!”