Deborah Norville will receive a career achievement award at the ReMARKable Women Live! Luncheon at The Henry Ford in Dearborn. (Evan Agostini / AP)
First things first: newscaster Deborah Norville would like to pirate away the general manager of the Detroit Tigers.
Baseball was not the only thing we tossed around in a phone conversation last week. In no particular order, we also covered convenient bouts of laryngitis, a website called FamousHookups.com, the reason she’s in Detroit today and why beauty queens used to spray stick-um on their derrieres.
Most of that was tied to a discussion of her deliberately upbeat television show and the increasingly angry face of gossip. But it turns out she has known Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski since she was a cub reporter in Chicago and he was a cub executive with the White Sox, and she was giddy when the team he built knocked off Oakland Thursday and advanced to the American League finals.
“How fabulous is that?” she said. “I just wish we could get him here to work on my beloved New York Mets.”
Since that was wishful thinking rather than an actual offer, it’s OK — and not at all difficult — to like Ms. Norville, the 18-year anchor of the syndicated “Inside Edition.”
Works her pathetic squeak
When the show began 25 years ago, it was scorned as tabloid television. By today’s standards, it’s tame, partly because it ratcheted down the gotchas and mostly because so many other shows and websites edit tape with a switchblade.
“They brought me in to get away from that definition of negativity,” says Norville, 55, and she has ways of steering the program up the high road.
“One of my mottos,” she says, “is that they can force you to show up to work, but they can’t make you speak.”
Then her voice falls into a pathetic squeak: “You’ll be surprised at how quickly laryngitis can flare up.”
Ultimately, she concludes, “you may be sleeping alone, but you can sleep with your conscience.”
Not that Norville sleeps alone — and that’s a segue to FamousHookups, a website devoted to which famous persons are or were commingling with one another. Her entry is blessedly brief: She’s been married to a Swedish businessman named Karl Wellner for more than 25 years.
They have three kids. She’s been a born-again Christian since her mid-teens. She loves to sew, and she sells a line of craft yarns on the Home Shopping Network.
Her value to a salacious website is zero, but she still can’t help but ask, “Why does a website like that exist? I’m sure it’s not to celebrate people whose marriages have lasted 25 years.”
Will receive career award
Her one turn in the tabloid dunk tank came from 1990-91, when she unsuccessfully replaced Jane Pauley as co-host of NBC’s “The Today Show.”
Amid the maelstrom, she recalls showing up at her usual 4 a.m. and seeing a camera crew from a tabloid program.
“Who looks good at that hour?” Norville asks. “The only reason to have a crew there is to catch you in a bad moment.”
But that was a long time ago ... and now things are worse. Much as each new action movie needs more spectacular explosions than the last, a 24-hour news cycle and relentless competition make gatherers of gossip ever more spiteful.
“Why are we this way?” Norville asks. “I don’t know. Doesn’t the story of Adam and Eve work because Eve screwed up? We retell the stories of people who make mistakes.”
Standards and tolerances evolve. At the University of Georgia, a sorority sister who had competed told her how pageant contestants would use stick-um to keep their one-piece swimsuits from exposing too much skin.
Now the women wear bikinis.
But enough of that, she says, and she steers the conversation to Weight Watchers tycoon Florine Mark’s annual ReMARKable Women Live! Luncheon at The Henry Ford in Dearborn.
Norville will receive a career achievement award at the event that has steered nearly $200,000 to charity across 14 years.
“It sounded like a really cool thing,” she says. “If I can help, I’m happy to.”
The world can always use more cool, after all, along with more good news.
The city is bankrupt and the ex-mayor just got smacked with a 28-year prison sentence.
“More negativity?” she says. “Honestly, you guys are over-served.”
Focus on the good things, she says. The Tigers, for instance — whose general manager is staying put.