10 QUESTIONS FOR DAVE WARD

Ken Hoffman sits down with Houston legend Dave Ward ahead of his new book

Dave Ward reveals his toughest moments and the experiences that shaped his 50-year career. Photo courtesy of Dave Ward

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

On May 6, his 80th birthday, legendary anchorman Dave Ward will publish his autobiography, Good Evening, Friends: A Broadcaster Shares His Life, packed with eyewitness stories about the U.S. space program, the Vietnam and Middle East wars, multiple presidential campaigns, one presidential assassination, and the rise to world prominence of his beloved hometown, Houston.

Ward began his television career at Channel 13 in 1966. More than 50 years later, Ward is recognized as a Houston treasure — a pure newscaster who literally has seen and reported it all. While the book awaits finishing touches, I caught up with Ward at Gow Media headquarters, where he is recording the audio book version of Good Evening, Friends.

CultureMap: A couple of years ago, I was watching the news, and you introduced yourself as "David" Ward. What the heck was that about?

Dave Ward:
That didn't last long, did it? I got to thinking, Barack Obama was called Barry in his youth, but used his real full name when he was president. My real name is David. I thought, if the president uses his real first name, I should, too. So I went on the air and said, 'Good evening, friends, I'm David Ward.'My co-anchor Shara Fryer asked me during a break, 'What's with "David?" Three days later, the general manager told me, 'We have you under contract as "Dave" Ward. We don't want to hear "David' anymore. So I went back to being Dave Ward. Then you wrote an article with the headline, 'David Ward, we hardly knew ye.' I'll never forget that one.

CM: Television news can be treacherous for career longevity. Anchors, reporters, weather forecasters come and go like the wind. I'll bet you've worked with 200 different on-air people at Channel 13 during your career. How did you manage to survive in one market, at one station, for half a century?

DW:
I worked very hard at getting the facts right, the information right. I have to tell you the truth, one big reason I was able to stay so long was Marvin Zindler. It was my idea for the station to hire Marvin and put him on the air as the first consumer reporter anywhere in the U.S. Marvin really hit the ground running.

That put us into ratings territory during the '70s that no one ever had before and may never again. Marvin was unique. He could come on the air and say, 'It's hell to be poor!" and you'd swear he knew what it was like to be poor. The fact is, he came from one of the wealthiest families in Houston. His father owned all of the Zindler clothing stores and probably half of Bellaire at one time.

CM: Writing an autobiography can be a difficult, cathartic experience. What did you learn about yourself?

DW:
I learned that I've been far from perfect in my personal life. I'm on my third marriage now. The lady I'm married to now is the love of my life. I've dedicated this book to her, to my wife Laura. I had to write in there about my heart attack, my hernia surgery, my heart surgery — just a whole bunch of stuff that I've never talked about on television.

CM: What was the most difficult thing to write about?

DW: That DWI was the toughest. I had to admit that I drove intoxicated. Here's what happened. I had lunch with Percy Foreman, the famous criminal attorney at the Rice Hotel. I mentioned that I had to go to the driver's license place to get another license, I had lost it or something. He said, 'You don't need a driver's license.' Huh? He said if you have a driver's license and you get arrested for DWI, they suspend your license. And if you get arrested for driving on a suspended license, you go straight to jail. But if you don't have a driver's license, they can't suspend it. Driver's licenses are just a way for the state to get money from you and keep track of you.' I figured that Percy Foreman knows what he's talking about. So I drove without a license for several years.

So one night — it was after midnight — I was driving to a friend's house from Kay's Lounge, which was on Bissonnet, very close to the TV station. There was a big pot hole on the left side of the street, and I veered right to avoid it. Then I veered left to avoid another pot hole. Well, the police lights came on behind me. It was a police woman and she said, 'Let me see your driver's license, please.' I told her that I didn't have a license. She called a supervisor, who made me blow into a Breathalyzer and I went to jail.

A lawyer bailed me at around 5 am. When I got to work the next day, the general manager called me into his office and said, 'Ward, you blew .34. You weren't drunk, you were comatose.' I had to go on the air and apologize during the 5 o'clock, the 6 o'clock and 10 o'clock news. After the 10 o'clock, Shara Fryer reached over and patted my hand and said, 'That's enough.' I never should have listened to Percy Foreman. I do have a driver's license now.

CM: Who is your broadcast news hero?

DW:
My real hero early on was Walter Cronkite. I thought he was the epitome of what a television anchor should be. He's the one who coined the term 'anchor.' It doesn't mean that you're the big honcho, it means that once you are assigned to that chair, you are anchored to it. Watching him on the air, you would have thought he was a conservative, a little to the right. In real life, he was a flaming liberal. I really admired him.

CM: You're famous for your disdain of technology. I remember asking for your email address, and you laughed at me. How did you write this book … on a Royal typewriter?

DW:
I wrote down things in a notebook, events I remembered from my early years. Jim McGrath got with me, and I bought a tape recorder. I just told stories about my life into that tape recorder, and then Jim talked to people and filled out the book. We spent a year and a half on this book. It's 30 chapters. The book starts with my heart attack and thoughts about my career coming to an end. After that, it goes in chronological order.

CM: Did you ever consider moving to another city, another TV market?

DW:
Never. I grew up in Huntsville, just north of here. Houston is my home. Since I moved here in 1962. I had no desire to go anywhere else, and I did have some offers from other markets. I wasn't interested. I had enough to do here.

CM: What are the best and worst things about Houston?

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about Dave Ward's thoughts on Houston.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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