Mr. Newman, recognizable for his balding head and fierce dark eyebrows, was known to three decades of postwar television viewers for his erudition, droll wit and seemingly limitless penchant for puns--like the one about the man who dried his wet shoes with newspapers, explaining, “These are The Times that dry men’s soles.” He began his association with NBC in the early 1950s and was variously a correspondent, anchorman and critic there before retiring in 1984.During the early 1980s, I had the memorable opportunity to interview Newman in his office at Rockefeller Center in New York City. (That was the same visit during which I literally ran into NBC film critic Gene Shalit, as he was exiting an elevator at a run and I was trying to enter.) I remember that we talked mostly about his years as a broadcaster, but also about the decline of the English language. Newman was a gracious man, very helpful to a young and ambitious journalist. And I remember that he poked fun at his storied stature in the broadcasting biz.
An anchor on the “Today” show in the early 1960s and a familiar presence on the program for many years afterward, Mr. Newman also appeared regularly on “Meet the Press.” He won seven New York Emmy Awards for his work in the 1960s and ’70s with NBC’s local affiliate, WNBC-TV, on which he was a drama critic and the host of the interview program “Speaking Freely.” ...
Mr. Newman’s best-known books, both published by Bobbs-Merrill, are “Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English?” (1974) and “A Civil Tongue” (1976). In them, he declared what he called “a protective interest in the English language,” which, he warned, was falling prey increasingly to windiness, witlessness, ungrammaticality, obfuscation and other depredations.
Until reading in the Times today about Edwin Newman’s death, I hadn’t realized that he was still alive. I’m glad to know that he had many more years after our meeting to cast his wit and erudition upon the world.
(Hat tip to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.)
READ MORE: “Edwin Newman,” by Tony Figueroa (TV Confidential); “NBC Newsman Edwin Newman Passes On,” by Mercurie (A Shroud of Thoughts).