By Jim Bailey
For The Herald Bulletin
— Andersonians have laughed (in spots anyway) along with moviegoers across the country at Will Ferrell’s latest offering, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” What they may not have chanced to pick up on is an Anderson connection in the anchorman character.
It wasn’t long before the movie’s New York premiere that Ferrell publicly admitted that the character of TV announcer Ron Burgundy – starched suit, perfectly coiffed hair and all – was patterned after now-retired anchorman Mort Crim, an Anderson College/University grad who had a well-traveled career in radio and television broadcasting in big cities from Detroit to Philadelphia to New York City.
Crim, who now lives in Florida, is married to one of my former college classmates, the former Irene Bowman, who now goes by “Renee” Crim. Her first husband was my late cousin, Gene Miller. Her sons grew up in Anderson, Jeff now an Indianapolis city-county councilman and Randy a minister in Florida.
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Ferrell says he found inspiration while watching Crim in a Lifetime documentary on pioneering TV journalist Jessica Savitch.
“At one point they were talking to this anchor, Mort Crim, who was basically saying, ‘I was an (expletive) to her,’” Ferrell told Rolling Stone. “What made me laugh was watching him. He still spoke like this … He still used his on-camera voice.”
Typical of Crim, he took no offense. “You have to understand that I was a typical traditional male chauvinist anchor. … You know comedy and satire and parody is nothing but taking a grain of truth and stretching it out to an absolutely ridiculous conclusion,” Crim, 78, told ABC News.
The saga didn’t end with followup interviews, which ranged from his former TV stations and the networks to Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Esquire and even Australian Television. Ferrell’s agent actually contacted Crim and requested an autographed picture for the actor. That gave Crim an opening he couldn’t pass up, his inscription reading, “Dear Will: You almost got it – just a little more authenticity.” That garnered him and Renee an invitation to the New York premiere of “Anchorman 2” where he got to meet Ferrell in person.
“I walked up to him at the party that went on afterward,” Crim said. “He recognized me. I stuck my hand out and said, ‘Will, it’s nice for you to get to meet me.’”
A series of pictures on family Facebook pages documented the meeting as well as one with other industry high rollers. Renee was in a couple of them, including one with actress Brooke Shields.
Some people take advantage of elbow-rubbing opportunities most of us can only dream of. The only celebrity I recall being photographed with is Bill Gaither. It just isn’t the same thing …
Safe to say, as a journeyman anchor, Mort Crim has had a bit more fame than the 15 minutes pop artist Andy Warhol once allotted to every human being.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.