Monday, April 28, 2008

The Crystal Method to His Madness

When I learned that Richard Quest had been busted with meth in his pocket, my first reaction was to chuckle a little and shake my head.

"Well, that explains a lot," I said to my wife.

Just about anyone who's seen the manic, occasionally unnerving on-air antics of CNN's resident eccentric Brit has probably -- at one time or another -- asked him or herself just what the hell Quest is on. The fact that, as it turns out, the answer is crank is as shocking as it is, well, not very shocking at all. During my years at CNN, particularly the time I spent as a senior producer in Atlanta, I admit that I rarely passed up an opportunity to put Quest on television; no matter where he was or what he was covering, his humor and brash unpredictability brought a welcome shot of pure adrenaline to the typically staid CNN proceedings. I looked forward to his stories, never doubting that they would provide the most memorable moments in any broadcast, and considered the man himself to be something of a rock star -- a true "personality" in a place that was, for the most part, sorely lacking any. His pieces didn't always carry the kind of weight that would make him a first or even second block hit, but there was no denying his special brand of insane gravitas.

Quest has always been one-of-a-kind, and despite the current scandal surrounding him, he's someone CNN is wise not to be summarily throwing to the wolves. But the fact that he does still have a job at the network, after what could very well be the most embarrassing arrest in recent memory, is a bit of a head-scratcher to someone whom CNN unceremoniously fired almost three months ago for the apparently unpardonable sin of personal blogging (Say What You Will/2.18.08). I admit, it just doesn't seem fair: Quest breaks the law and becomes a walking punchline and CNN issues an official press release wishing him a speedy recovery during his obligatory stint in rehab; I write on my own time, never once identifying myself as a network employee, and I'm sent packing with no warning and no severance -- despite my supervisors' knowledge that my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. Quest likely violated a morality clause in his contract and not only drew negative publicity to CNN, but may have damaged his future credibility beyond repair (as much as I'd like to believe otherwise, I'm not sure anyone will be able to look at him for quite some time without wondering what's wrapped around his crotch or stuffed into his boot), while I failed to note a single and comically vague line in the employee handbook which supposedly forbade me to write anything at anytime without first having it approved by CNN standards and practices.

CNN shouldn't fire Richard Quest, but if his indiscretion doesn't meet the threshold for termination then my offense didn't even come close.

For the record, I'm well aware of the -- pardon the pun -- bind that CNN finds itself in with respect to Quest: By predictably checking into rehab, he's making the claim that he has a serious drug problem, rather than simply being a recreational user (believe it or not, those still exist), and therefore wasn't responsible for his actions on the night of his arrest; the network can't legally abandon him. Meanwhile, whatever sexual kinks Quest may indulge in are his business and his alone; once again, from both a lawsuit-avoidance and a public relations standpoint, CNN can't be seen to cast a disapproving eye on his lifestyle. But it's damn interesting that a news network wouldn't be willing to risk offending the gay community -- and before anyone grabs the phone and begins dialing GLAAD, of course I'm not implying that gay-equals-deviant -- yet has no problem hanging both proponents of new media and the first amendment itself out to dry.

What this likely all comes down to, however, is something that was mentioned to me several times during the hoopla over my untimely dismissal: Many of those who were kind enough to support me wanted to know why CNN continued to pay opinionated blowhards like Lou Dobbs and Nancy Grace, yet found a writer with a personal opinion -- someone working completely outside the confines of the office -- to be unworthy of a place at the network. Needless to say, the reason was that the former -- the big-budget talent -- was using its collective voice to make money for CNN and Time Warner, while the latter wasn't. (He wasn't making money period.) It always comes down to ratings and revenue, and there's a reason that on-air talent is paid more than those behind the scenes: It brings in the dollars. Viewers will never tune in to watch the work of a smart producer or manager, but they'll damn sure be in front of their TVs if they like watching Lou Dobbs complain about Mexicans.

It's ironic that Richard Quest's notoriety as a familiar face on CNN is not only what made his arrest such a big deal, it's what will wind up saving his job in the aftermath of it. I love to watch him too, but that doesn't make the double-standard right -- the one that saves his job and not that of someone working behind the scenes.

Next time, I'm checking into rehab -- or if I've already been there, can I just grandfather that in?


Ally said...

As much as I hate to point this out, you have to be thinking the same thing: CNN had something personal against you, Chez. Probably nothing valid, probably nothing you did intentionally. But they were looking for a reason, and they found it in your blogging. Which is completely retarded, considering how popular you are, and how utterly brilliant your writing is.

No, it's not fair, and it's totally baseless and humiliating, and it's a real kick to the gut, considering you have a child on the way. But, I'll give you a piece of advice that has gotten me through some unfair times, and one that might have you laughing and scratching you head, rather than fuming and mulling over the unfairness.

The advice? Fuck 'em and feed 'em fishheads. Which means, basically - since you're a little rusty on southern speak - don't even give them the time of day. They can go to hell for all we care. They're worthless bastards, and we're above them. You're so over their bullshit, it's not even worth thinking about anymore.

Fuck. them. Focus on what you do best: write this blog, and forget the rest. You've got a good thing going with Deus, and with Jayne and with the new baby. Screw CNN. I can't stand them, anyway. Headline News is way better, as far as news networks go. Robin Meade is totally cute.

VOTAR said...

Yeah except for one thing, ally. As my psycho addict ex girlfriend used to enjoy saying, "have fun being kept company by your morals and principles, they don't put food on the table."

But see Chez it looks like you handled it all wrong after all. The moment they sat you down to confront you about DXM, you should have come clean and admitted that you have a serious blog addiction, issued a very public apology explaining how embarrassed you are that the internet totally took advantage of you, and then checked yourself into remedial grammar school. Get Annie Lebowitz to do a blurry Vanity Fair pictorial of you with your Blackberry rubber-banded to your dick, and it's all gonna be gold-plated baby booties and diamond encrusted binkies for little Inara.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Bittertown. Population: you.

Chez said...

Actually, I'm not bitter at all -- CNN made me an overnight sensation and brought thousands of new readers to this site. Thanks to their decision to can my ass, they've positioned me as a next-gen media critic, and I have no issue with that. I was desperate to get the hell out of TV anyway. But whether I'm better off now than I was before has no bearing on the legitimacy of firing someone behind the scenes for blogging while keeping a guy who got nailed the way Quest did.

Incidentally, my reviews while at CNN were stellar; if they wanted to get rid of me, they sure as hell weren't starting a paper trail.

Blenderab said...

Listen, I know you are supposedly above, as well as over it, but you gotta admit that it would look very odd to a jury of your peers that you don't have a valid beef over your termination. Quest gets busted with the meth, the sex toy safely tucked away, and a rope with one end tied around his neck, and the other around his " winkie," and he still has his job I'm front of the public?

Yeah, I said "fuck em" back then.... But the only way to teach them a lesson is to give them more bad press and to hit them in the wallet. Others have sued for less. Use the (tax free) settlement to promote and fund your new endevour. (perhaps the DXM radio show or cable access show or something bigger.)

VOTAR said...

blenderab makes a point. Wrongful termination civil suit. I mean, seriously...come on!!!! Even if you lose, it'd make a huge splash... they might even pay you just to go away.

Too bad you pissed on Gloria Alred. I'd spit diamonds out of my ass laughing at the sight of you sitting next to her on the O'Reilly Factor shredding CNN into oatmeal.

Anonymous said...

"But it's damn interesting that a news network wouldn't be willing to risk offending the gay community"

It took you long enough Chez but you finally "get it", this is what it's all about. Klein being a gay man and CNN being #3 on the list of channels watched by gay men is what makes it tick. It's why Anderson Cooper is promoted as a gay man (even tho you're never really supposed to know which way he really swings), why Thomas Roberts (I heard he wouldn't sleep with Klein) got the boot (hee hee) quietly and why Quest will not be fired.

Maybe you committed the sin of being straight.

Seriously CNN needs to grow the fuck up and if they piss off a few gays,so what? If they won't watch CNN because the anchor is straight then let them go.

And if this is the case "It always comes down to ratings and revenue" then CNN needs to look at the 10 pm hour because Campbell Brown a straight woman and John Roberts a straight man get better ratings than Anderson Cooper a reportedly gay man.

Personally I think it depends more on who Jon Klein gets a hardon for.

Anonymous said...

Is Klein really gay? I just saw a picture of his wife Jen, being a hostess for Kiran Chetry's baby shower. Is his marriage to Jen just a cover?

kanye said...

As raw a subject as this is for you, and you still manage to work two band names into the title...that's dedication.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, Quest is a known face. They didn't know, at the time of your firing, that you too have a fan base. I think your boss was fired when people like me started calling and emailing CNN to protest your treatment, thus informing them that you were more than another drone producer. That this "blog" you kept had a large and devoted following because you are talented, and that they had made a BIG mistake. Consider the law suit (not the Gloria Allred part). It can fund your down time while you write the blockbuster I know is coming next!

Anonymous said...

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Not that I'm trying to kiss your ass, by any means. But it seems applicable.

Samuel said...

Tangentially related:

When's the hard-copy version of Dead Star Twilight coming out? You know you want more of our money.

slouchmonkey said...

Bravo on the band names! I didn't even notice until Kanye pointed it out. Dedication, sir. Dedication.

Your argument is almost to lucid and clear and thought out. Any wrongful termination suit you chose to file, I'm certain you would win.

The settlement, however, would not be tax free. Sorry. The IRS would like to feel a little of your pain and suffering.

ian in hamburg said...

Late to the game as usual, but I wanted to ask you, chez:
If you were desperate to get out TV anyway, don't you think you owe CNN a thank-you note? If you wanted out, why should you care about how they're handling the Quest case?

Anonymous said...

LMFAO! The REAL reason Quest was retained (while you were not) is because he is JEWISH. It's no secret that CNN is Zionist dominated; Wolf Blitzer who is the chief anchor for CNN, is a Mossad Agent (everybody know it, nobody says it) and most of the reporters there shill for Israel; they're only 'liberal' when they criticize anybody else - otherwise they're hawkish when it comes to protecting Israeli interests. Hey, they fired their BEST reporter Peter Arnett because he was unbiased and they fired Octavia Nasr for having an opinion (something that I'm told is common in a democracy) so dumping a meth head (especially someone stupid enough to tell his arresting officer he has drugs in his pockets!) would be a no-brainer; But NOOOOOOO! The Mr. Bean copycat still has a job. I used to enjoy Quest when he was on The BBC; he was so insane (I think they deliberately let him run riot just so that they could laugh at him behind his back) at the drab BBC that he livened up the proceedings; but at CNN he was insufferable. It's hard to stand apart when you're a clown because the circus around you is even more ridiculous than you are! He seems to get picked for news that's NOT in his field of expertise and I don't learn a thing from his reports! No good if you're going to call yourself a journalist. I wouldn't be surprised if this is HIS (unique) way of getting himself fired! Amazing! Perhaps you should have tried to DELIBERATELY get yourself fired; then they would have retained you!