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Bill Richardson’s beard is much more significant than you might imagine. But, first, let me reminisce.It started like this. The late 1940s. The first television signal had been broadcast from New York two decades earlier, but the first signal this 10-year-old saw was a picture of flamboyant Gorgeous George prancing around a wrestling ring.We lived in a government project, which is noteworthy only to explain this was not a neighborhood where the latest technology would be on display. So there may have been more advanced television reception than that Ronnie’s dad proudly displayed, a 12-inch screen with an ugly magnifying glass showing a grainy, fuzzy, black-and-white picture.Our first TV showed up in the living room sometime in the mid ‘50s, and programming memories are skimpy with the exception of “Twilight Zone.”These are more than the pitiful ramblings of an old man. They are thoughts coming sharply into focus with the realization there are now something like 250 channels, maybe more for all I know, and most gobble up programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Fake wrestling has survived – indeed, thrived – as a programming staple, and perhaps paved the way for fake journalism. Would the guy who beamed that first TV signal done so had he known it was going to spawn the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck?Which brings us to Big Bill’s beard.So hard up is television to find just anything to fill the screen, it has sunk to these depths: on a Fox News TV show called “The Live Desk,” otherwise intelligent folks gathered to discuss our governor’s whiskers. I mean, seriously.Martha MacCallum hosted guests Dom Giordano, a Philly radio guy; Griff Jenkins, Fox News producer; and Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News “analyst,” who, you will see, kind of fancies Bill. Also at the table was Marissa Shorenstein, a “Democratic strategist.”Producer Jenkins quickly cuts to the chase. “Aren’t we going to talk about his beard, though?”The panel thinks that’s a good idea and strategist Shorenstein decides Bill’s beard has to do with feelings of inadequacy, maybe his very manhood.“I will say that after Al Gore lost his election, he also grew a beard. And I think it has to do with being sort of macho and wanting to feel like a man after you’ve lost something.”WHAT?Pirro, because she is a trained news analyst and presumably a heavy thinker, says, “I think he looks good.”There was no audible sigh.Producer Jenkins does not comment on the lost manhood angle, but offers an equally murky observation, “I think he’s campaigning to become the spokesman for Today’s Man.”Oh.You don’t easily divert trained news analyst Jeanine Pirro when she is driving home a point: “I think he looks good,” Jeanine insists. “He looks thinner.”Turns out, maybe, Bill’s beard has nothing to do with looking hip, or manly, or attractive. The panel argues about that awhile and radio guy Giordano sums it up: “Well, OK, he does look more Hispanic.”Shorenstein is intent on her manhood angle: “He’s tan – that’s why he looks Hispanic. I mean, it’s not because of the beard.”Hey, folks, stop this nonsense. Richardson dragged his buns back to New Mexico tired and irritated after a long campaign run and said, “screw it, I’m not going to shave for a while.” It’s that simple.Boy, do I miss Gorgeous George.
Ned Cantwell – ncantwell @ beyondbb.com – would kill to be a paid TV news analyst.