Ah, the good old days.
That was very much the vibe at a party Wednesday night to celebrate the release of Terry Ann Knopf’s new book, “The Golden Age of Boston Television,” which looks back fondly at the heyday of local news, a period that lasted from the early ’70s to the early ’90s.
But whatever old wounds there were have clearly healed because a crowd of familiar, if slightly faded, wizened faces from back in the day filled a conference room at WGBH to salute Knopf for telling their story. (This being the media, many were also there for the free wine and beer.)
“This is like a high school reunion on the island of broken toys,” said Barry Nolan, who hosted WBZ-TV’s “Evening Magazine” in the ’80s. “Look at these people. Age has ravaged us, bad decisions have plagued us, failures have followed us, but we’re still here.”
Nolan was kidding, sort of. As Knopf points out in her book, Boston TV stations have a proud legacy of producing a lot of on-air talent that went on to national prominence, folks such as Martha Raddatz, Jay Schadler, Hampton Pearson, Lesley Stahl, Dan Lothian, Rehema Ellis, Mike Taibbi, and David Muir.
Another in that category is Haverhill’s own Tom Bergeron, the affable host of “Dancing With the Stars” who hosted WBZ-TV’s talk show “People Are Talking” in the ’80s. Bergeron drove up from his home in Greenwich, Conn., to attend the party and see old friends.
“My wife once said to me that when the ice sculptures disappeared from the Emmy parties, she knew it was all coming to an end,” said Bergeron.
Francine Achbar, the former executive producer of programming at Channel 4, shared a similar memory.
“About every two months there would be an awards thing and I’d take out my black velvet dress and we’d go to some city and get another award, and I’d say, ‘This can’t last,’ ” Achbar said. “Then, in 1990, I laid off about 40 people and I knew that was it.”
Yesteryear was well represented at the book party. Guests included longtime anchor R.D. Sahl, “Sonya Hamlin Show” host Sonya Hamlin, Dan Rea, Joe Bergantino and wife Candy Altman, former Channel 4 medical reporter Jeanne Blake, Hank Phillippi Ryan, former Channel 5 anchor Susan Wornick, Jon Keller, meteorologist Harvey Leonard (who skipped his station’s 6 p.m. broadcast Wednesday to go to the party), Sharon King, Channel 4 exec Barry Schulman, Dick Albert, Jim Boyd, the estimable Christopher Lydon, Callie Crossley, Gail Harris, whose great haircut made us wish she was still on the air, Lydon’s former co-anchor Carmen Fields, and Sarah-Ann Shaw, the former WBZ-TV reporter who was the first female African-American reporter on Boston TV. (Knopf dedicates her book to Shaw.)
Monica Collins, a friend of Knopf’s and a fellow former TV critic — she wrote for the Boston Herald for many years — was also there, to the dismay of legendary former Channel 4 sportscaster Bob Lobel, whom Collins apparently skewered in the past.
“Where’s Monica?” Lobel said after Knopf acknowledged Collins in the crowd. “Come up here and say you’re sorry.”
The crowd laughed.
Knopf gave Emily Rooney a shout-out of sorts — “I don’t care what anybody thinks of you, Emily, I think you’re great” — but also gave her props for being a pioneer in TV news. (Rooney was executive producer of ABC’s “World News Tonight” — the first female to hold that post at a major network.)
Since everyone in the room is, or at least was, in the news business, there was a lot of chatter about the Trump effect. Viewers are tuning in to hear about the latest news or outrage or scandal, and that makes Rooney miss her late father, cranky CBS commentator Andy Rooney.
“What he’d say would be so good,” Rooney said wistfully. “It would be career-ending — for both of them.”