Rubin: Everyone on the air has a Steve Harvey moment

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Unlike Steve Harvey, Paul W. Smith has never crowned the wrong beauty queen.

On the other hand, Harvey probably never bumped off somebody’s mother.

What he did do, to what will surely be his everlasting chagrin, was declare Miss Colombia to be the winner of the Miss Universe pageant Sunday night.

She’s a lovely woman, but the actual winner was Miss Philippines, which left Harvey with some explaining to do. Some apologizing, too – and to his credit, he immediately took responsibility for the mistake.

Anyone who has ever spoken into a microphone can feel his pain, though not as much as Harvey is feeling. And most everyone who speaks for a living has said something they wish they could buy back, no matter the cost.

For Smith, the longtime morning host at WJR-AM (760), it was a bit of well-intentioned commiseration with one of the Redgrave sisters.

He was working for WABC-AM in New York, and the interview took place long enough ago that he can’t remember whether he was with Lynn or Vanessa.

Whichever it was, she was appearing on Broadway, and the notes her team gave the radio station in advance mentioned that her mother had just passed away.

“I’m sure you wish your mother was here to enjoy your success with you,” he said.

“What do you mean?” responded the Redgrave.

So he rephrased the question a few times, and she repeated her answer, and finally he made specific reference to her mother’s unfortunate demise.

“My mother,” she said, “is waiting for me downstairs.”


Cue the (right) tape

To the credit of Stacey DuFord of WOMC-FM (104.3), she only killed the box office for a movie.

Evening news anchor Huel Perkins of WJBK-TV (Channel 2) hasn’t killed anything, but he did inadvertently assault the reputation of the governor of Louisiana.

Perkins was only a month into his job at a station in Baton Rouge when he introduced a story about Gov. Edwin Edwards, who was scheduled to go on a trip or sign a bill or do something else gubernatorial.

“Back then,” he says, “it was much harder to stop the tape.” He could see his career flashing before his eyes as his monitor showed footage not of Edwards, but a used-car salesman.

As with Smith, the mistake wasn’t his – but the viewers didn’t know that. Fortunately, Perkins’ bosses did, and his career progressed smoothly.

As for Edwards, he ultimately served eight years in prison for racketeering, so maybe it was the used-car salesman who had reason to feel insulted.

About that spoiler...

WOMC’s DuFord was part of the morning show at WNIC-FM (100.3) in 1998, when “Armageddon” hit theaters.

It starred Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and a few other people who deserved better. They were part of a team of drillers sent into space to deflect a giant asteroid, and perhaps it wasn’t the best idea for DuFord to disclose that Willis’ character dies at the end.

Co-host Jim Harper, who’s now retired, was aghast.

“In my defense,” DuFord says, “it was not that great a movie. If you got upset, your $10 probably could have been better spent elsewhere anyway.”

DuFord also played a starring role in one of Harper’s few regrettable moments. On the air one April 1, she concocted a thoroughly convincing tale of being offered a syndicated television show, and announced her departure from the station.

After maybe 30 seconds of stunned stammering from her co-hosts, she smiled and said, “April Fool’s.” Harper, who took pride in overseeing a program you could listen to with your kids in the car, couldn’t help himself.

“You b----,” he said.

He quickly apologized. The next day, he apologized again and put himself in time out, stepping away from the microphone for 10 or 15 minutes.

Harvey, unfortunately, won’t have it so easy.

He’s been a successful comedian, radio personality, game show host, actor and author. Now he’s the guy who messed up the Miss Universe pageant, and his mistake will live on until YouTube crumbles into dust.

That’s life in the broadcast business, Perkins says. In fact, that’s life.

“It’s a great wave,” he says. “As the wave passes on, so does that moment that made us triumphant, and also the moment that made us embarrassed.”

There’s always next year – and if the producers have any sense, Harvey will be back on stage.

After all, Miss Universe has never drawn so much attention. And what the heck, nobody died.