Now that 22 years have passed, I guess I'm finally ready to do this post.
Yes -- I once passed out on live TV. In prime time. In front of a studio audience.
The video has never been on the Internet until now.
For about 15 years, I would play this video only for students at the Broadcast Journalism School that I taught for the Leadership Institute.
It's not that I don't understand the power of the viral video moment. A key Drudge link to a story I did in 2004 opened my eyes to that. Our mini-team at Breitbart.tv did 30,000 posts in the first three years (2007-2010). We've done 35,000 posts since TheBlaze launched in the fall of 2010.
So this is me tossing one more video out there. One simple, humiliating video.
In 1991, I was a news anchor at WSEE-TV in Erie, Pennsylvania.
George H.W. Bush had declared a "line in the sand" in the conflict with Iraq's incursion into Kuwait. The UN set the date for Iraq to withdraw -- January 15, 1991.
A day or two before (I don't quite remember), we decided to hold a televised town hall meeting about the impending confrontation.
I went into the newsroom early in the day to get things in order. I grabbed a quick take-out lunch. I'm not sure if it was food poisoning (or Ebola), but by 4pm, I felt terrible. I told the news director that I was going to skip the 6pm news broadcast and try to sleep. The town hall broadcast was set for 8pm.
By 7pm, I had a fever of 102.7. I took some Tylenol and headed to Erie City Hall.
Sometime during Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy, I did a live tease for the 8pm broadcast. I felt so-so. I told the live audience that I wasn't feeling great but that it would be a lively hour of discussion and debate.
This is what happened:
Fade to black. I think the long pause and the slurring of my last name signaled lights out.
The prime-time CBS program that we were preempting that night was Rescue 911.
After the about 30 seconds in black, the station joined the Rescue 911 broadcast. In this next clip -- you won't be able to hear the audio. It's the only copy I have. But people at home could hear William Shatner start talking about a medical emergency and how time was of the essence.
You will then see man passed out on ground. Another man leaning over helping him. An ambulance arriving.
A casual TV viewer who happened to see a local TV news anchor suddenly collapse on live broadcast might easily start merging the two events in mind...wondering...what the heck just happened. Why is William Shatner talking about Scott Baker passing out? Watch with that context in mind:
In the real world, I really was being loaded onto a gurney by paramedics. Apparently, I was unconscious for a couple of minutes. When I came around on the cold floor, I felt very peaceful. I could see the station's general manager talking on his large 1991-era mobile phone. The news director, Pierre Bellicini, was leaning over me in concern. Quickly, I was being wheeled to an ambulance and, a few minutes later, the program resumed with Pierre and my regular co-anchor Lisa Zompa taking over:
1991 was 14 years before YouTube. In the last eight years, we've all seen plenty of crazier videos. Including people passing our, or throwing up, on camera. Many such instances have happened in front of a studio camera. But not that many have happened on live TV. It's a relatively small club. One that does happen to include a notable episode involving a good friend of TheBlaze -- David Buckner:
There are a few more nuances in my recollections of that sad night in 1991.
I might share some of them briefly on Twitter if you want to follow me @bakerlink. A brand new account!
Or -- we talked about it at length, with great mockery by writers for this site, on this edition of the Blazecast: