When I was young — and maybe when you were young, too — there was a newscaster named John Chancellor.
I loved him.
Of course, I didn’t think of it as love. (That came later, when I first saw Al Parker.) But there was something about John Chancellor that I found comforting and reassuring. He was manly, but not in the usual, Mississippi way I knew, which was related to fishing and spark plugs and ogling women. He was manly simply because he was a man — a confident, intelligent, articulate, handsome man.
Also, he looked a lot like my dad, but he was a version that I could’ve gotten along with — unlike my actual dad. (Footnote: we’ve since become good friends, dad and me.)
And he had great glasses. The first pair of eyeglasses I ever bought were horn-rimmed numbers like the ones he often wore. They looked terrible on me, but I loved them anyway.
John Chancellor died in 1996, when he was just 68 years old. Even though he hosted the evening news on NBC for more than a decade — back when NBC, ABC, and CBS were America’s only options for TV news — he never achieved the kind of superstardom that, say, Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw or David Brinkley earned during their careers. Chancellor was a news anchor, not a personality. In some way, I guess that made him interchangeable with all the other news anchors on television: replaceable.
I feel as though he’s been forgotten. As though I might’ve dreamed him up. (Google isn’t helping: I tried to find a decent-sized image of the man and discovered that the pickings are oddly slim.) But then I stumbled across this tiny paragraph in a years-old profile of one of my other quiet crushes, Zach Galifianakis, and I thought: I’m not the only one.
“My husband and I had no doubt Zach would go wherever his dream would take him…When he was three or four years old, he named his stuffed Easter bunny John Newman for John Chancellor and [Edwin] Newman, NBC [Nightly] News co-anchors. Around the same time, he pointed to the TV screen and asked, ‘How do I get in there?’ I guess we always knew he would eventually figure that out.”
— Zack Galifianakis’ mother in Paste magazine