by Diana Davis
On Saturday, January 11, 2014, I attended an event at St. Louis County Library Headquarters across from Frontenac Plaza to hear Jane Pauley speak of her new book: Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of your life. This event was an onstage interview with KMOXs Debbie Monterrey.
Jane Pauley is a highly respected broadcast journalists; she has been on television for more than 30 years. She spent 13 years on the Today Show, co-hosting with Tom Brokaw and Bryant Gumbel; in 1989; she made the decision that she would leave the Today Show, but not leave NBC. She then spent 11 years on Dateline NBC, and finally she hosted the short-lived Jane Pauley Show. Even today, NBC still has her under contract; she does 5 minutes spots, in partnership with AARP each month, for the Today Show. She interviews Baby Boomers who are going on living productive lives into their later years. She grinned and stated: “Less is more.”
Deborah Monterry started the interview with questions provided by the attendees asking Jane if she would be willing to answer their questions. Jane graciously agreed.
Has your Midwestern upbringing influenced your success?
“Absolutely. I built a foundation of my success upon an exaggerated idea of what it meant to be Midwestern. My Dad kept me grounded. He thought my name was too plain. I laugh because he was the one who had picked it out for me. He thought I should have a stage name like Jan Grandlusion. When I was a kid, I wished I had been named ‘Giselle.’
“You know, broadcasting companies do surveys and studies on what their clients like about their people on the air, and I never knew that for years. But being a Hoosier kept me grounded. After 25 years, the broadcast chiefs finally told me that the quality that I had, according to the viewers, was my “authenticity.” The people felt that I was genuine and didn’t put on airs. That goes back to Midwest living where the only thing you’re allowed to boast about is “humility.”
This question is from a Mass Communication Student who wants to know what advice you would give for a woman wanting to get into the broadcasting business now.
“You have to realize that I got into broadcasting almost by accident. I would never have made it today. But back in 1972, the FCC had just added two words to the corporate vocabulary—“And Women.” I happened to be there, in the right place at the right time. I had no credentials, no degree in communication. I had been a weekend anchor on an Indiana news station. I was 25 years old, an ingénue, when I was tapped for to be the Today Show. I had no broadcasting education, little experience, and frankly, I agreed with the people who said I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t….I really didn’t…. and I was terrified. She laughed. Tom Brokaw has been quoted as saying, “Jane Pauley is very aware of her deficiencies.”
I had a wonderful career. I got pregnant. While working on The Today Show, I grew as big as a house. I then delivered the twins on January 30. (That is also Matt Lauer’s birthday. Last year, my 30-year-old twins pushed the cart with Matt’s birthday cake out on the show for him).
But when the children were little, Garry and I did not allow them to be on the show and/or to be photographed by the Paparazzi. Those photographers were around even then, you know. In those days, NBC would send me out on assignments when I would have rather have stayed at home with my three little kids. Garry did a great job with the kids while I was gone. He’s always been very supportive of me and of my career.
For those of you who do not know, my husband is Garry Trudeau. We have three children, twins: Rachel and Ross and then Thomas. Garry is a hard-working artist. He didn’t mean to be a cartoonist. He started Doonesbury in his junior year of college, but he’s a creative genius. He drew cartoons for 44 years. Now he also has a political sitcom called Alpha House starring John Goodman which has been a huge success. (Alpha House is a TV series about 4 Senators who live together in Washington, D.C.) Garry does everything on the show that comic genius, John Goodman, does not do.
Jane asked to talk a bit about her book. She said, “It used to be that people lived to mid –life and then retired and played golf for a few years and died. Now, however, with better health, the elimination of bad habits like smoking, and the focus on better health care and medicines, people are living longer. Midlife used to be 40; now people are routinely living into their eighties and nineties. And they are active into their 90’s. See those ladies over there? (She pointed to three guests). One lady is 96, and she is active and alert. She’s here tonight at her local library to hear about the latest book which just came out on Tuesday). So if you retire at 50 or 65, what are you planning to do with the rest of your life—the next 30 or 40 years? Many people are starting to think about that.”
This is the subject that Jane Pauley’s new book addresses. Her advice to everyone is: Don’t quit your current job, but if you feel dissatisfied or feel that you need to get more out of the later years of your life, start thinking about your other interests and making some inquiries and plans now.
Pauley is a wonderful storyteller. She has interviewed 37 men and women and written their stories in her book which will inspire others. For example, Betsy McCarthy traded in her executive briefcase for knitting needles; Gid Pool became a stand-up comic; Richard Rittmaster joined the National Guard Chaplain Corp.
“I find it amazing that of all the people that I interviewed for the book, 4 out of 5 men cried—wept—and said, ‘Why didn’t I find this sooner!’ One man had been an accountant and worked alone in an office all his life. In his later years, he became a volunteer EMT and hangs out with the firemen at the fire house. He cried tears of joy because he was one of the guys and he had never experienced knowing that kind of personal acceptance before.”
Pauley also said that many new business start-ups are by people over the age 55, for instance Paula Gee is in the book. She opened a successful pizzeria in Brooklyn. People are no longer curling up in a corner and waiting to die. Now, they are vital, active, and healthy; their retirement years are here, and they are prepared to start a new type of life.
If you need ideas and inspiration for your later years, read this book.