Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
"When I was a teenager, I was always a show-off," says Shelly (keeping up with the news, above and opposite). "And becoming a TV anchor was not a far fetched idea. A lot of today's newswomen were formerly Miss This or Miss That. And I was once Miss Arizona Boat Show," she confesses. "It was cheesy stuff, really: You put on a bathing suit and stood next to a boat." Eventually, Shelly was introduced to the news business by her stepfather, then one of the town's top talking heads. "Now he's the weekend anchor for the NBC affiliate in Phoenix," she says, laughing. "He's my competition!" Not here, at least.
Although her news job has put her in the spotlight countless times, Shelly (on and off the set, below) admits that posing under the Playboy lights was something entirely different. "It was this whole psychological thing," she says. "First, they dressed me up in this sexy outfit—push-up bra, panties, the works—and then slowly had me undress for the camera. For the first six rolls of film, I was pretty uptight," she says, giggling. "Then I started to warm up." Happily for all.
this just in: phoenix newscaster is amazing arizona
TV NEWS KNOCKOUT
I had this horrible dream—a real nightmare—that the magazine came out, I was fired from Channel Ten and wound up autographing pizza boxes at a Pizza Hut opening. I thought, Hell, I don't want to lose credibility—I want to gain exposure. -SHELLY JAMISON, October 1988
NEWSCASTER [smiling]: Good morning, Arizona—here's today's top story: In a move that has shocked co-workers, bosses and friends, Channel Ten newscaster-producer Shelly Jamison has bared all in an exclusive pictorial in this month's Playboy magazine. A local television personality known best for her intelligence, enthusiasm and good looks, Jamison kept the details of her magazine debut, ah, entirely under wraps from the hard-working news team at the local CBS affiliate. . . .
That's right, Shelly Jamison, newscaster, has become Shelly Jamison, news maker. And for the time being, that suits her just fine.
"I've been in the business long enough to know you want a good sound bite—a good explanation as to why I did this," Shelly told us last October during a whispered interview at her desk at KTSP, Channel Ten in Phoenix. "But, to tell the truth, I'm not really sure. I know I wanted to expand my horizons, I wanted something more. Instead of being the reporter, for once I felt like being the subject.
"Face it," she continued with a half-smile, "I'm a product—whether I'm reporting on TV or appearing nude on the pages of Playboy. Plain and simple: I'm a package."
Far from plain or simple, the Shelly Jamison package arrived at Playboy in a somewhat roundabout way. When the magazine announced its 35th Anniversary Playmate Hunt, Shelly sent in some bathing-suit shots just as a goof, really—and more or less forgot all about it. "That is, until I got a call from the Photo Department," she recalls, "telling me they were interested and asking me to send more shots—nudes. I hung up and started to giggle. I called my parents and grandparents; I sat down and talked to my husband, Ron. He said, 'If you send those nudes, they'll call you in for sure.'
"So we tore down the living room, took the lamp shades off the lamps, put the baby in the baby swing and began to shoot. Ron took out his Playboy collection—there's a stack of them a mile high by the bed—and told me how to pose. It was like he was Pompeo [Posar], Jr."
Obviously, Ron's lensmanship cut the mustard: One look at Shelly's shots and Playboy Managing Photo Editor Jeff Cohen whisked his Arizona discovery off to Chicago for a bona fide test shoot. "But he told me I shouldn't try for the Anniversary Playmate," says Shelly. "He convinced me that my job as a newscaster might make an interesting story."
Interesting is putting it mildly: Shelly is more than a popular talking head. Wearing the proverbial "many hats," she churns out 16-hour workdays ("Nobody should have to wake up at three-thirty A.M.!"), not only producing the station's noon newscast but also serving as on-camera field reporter for the morning and evening news. "As producer," she explains, "I whip the show into shape—everything from deciding how much time the weatherman gets to giving that first segment punch. But I really like the reporting," she adds, "meeting new people, wringing them out for information. That's what the job calls for."
NEWSCASTER: So how did the twenty-six year-old, down-home, native Phoenician get herself into the center of such a media storm in the first place? For Jamison, the tale begins when she was a child.
[Roll video of Jamison family scrapbook pictures.]
JAMISON VOICE-OVER: As a kid, I was always the little show-off—"Let Me Entertain You" and all that. My parents divorced when I was eight and my mom remarried a man who was the top anchor for the ABC affiliate in town. One day, he asked me if I wanted to go with him to work. When I got there, I took one look around and thought, This is great! From that point on, I knew I wanted to be in TV news reporting . . .
Indeed, when the news bug bit, it bit hard. Majoring in broadcast journalism at Arizona State University, Shelly filled her after school hours with internships, serving as a tape editor and news writer for various local stations. Fresh from graduation, she waltzed into Channel Ten and a just-vacated position. "My title was assistant producer," she says, "but, to be honest, I was a grunt. They paid me near minimum wage to do things like paste scripts together. The job was fun, but I still dreamed of being an anchor—and I let everyone within a hundred-mile radius know exactly that.
"Everyone told me that I'd have to start small, at a little station somewhere else. I thought, Fuck that, and began producing my own stories on my own time. Week after week, I'd take them to my producer, each time changing my make-up, my hair, my voice. And each time, it was close-but-no-cigar."
But in August of 1986, Shelly gave it one more push. The station was replacing a regular anchor and needed a one-week fill-in for the morning news cut-ins (four brief local updates during the CBS Morning News). "Frankly, I just beat them down," she says, laughing. "And when they actually said yes, I was elated, scared and sick to my stomach."
As is her style, however, Shelly turned her newscast debut into an exercise in self-improvement. Watching a video replay of herself directly after her first segment, she decided to make changes for the second one, 40 minutes later. "In that first cut-in, I looked stiff and nervous and my eyes looked like piss holes in the snow," she remembers. "I knew I was much better than that, so I fixed my hair and make-up and the way I carried myself. And I got better each day."
Her weeklong stint as a morning anchor sparked a new determination in Shelly, and she stepped up her treks into her bosses' offices. Eventually, they agreed to let her join the Channel Ten news team as an on-camera reporter.
NEWSCASTER: But now Jamison has placed it all on the line with her Playboy appearance. [Roll video of exterior of Channel Ten.] Despite her four and a half years of loyalty and service, it is unlikely that station managers will take warmly to Jamison's newfound popularity.
"I can tell you exactly what they're going to say," snaps Shelly. "They'll tell me that my credibility is shot—that viewers will now think, How can I believe her about the Central Arizona Project if she's in Playboy? She must be dumb. That's so hypocritical. Connie Chung is a looker and her credibility isn't questioned. But my appearance in Playboy will be considered crossing the credibility boundary. That's crazy. Playboy is an institution—like The Wall Street Journal. Besides, I'll still be talented. I'll still have a good voice. I'll still be smart. I'll still be good-looking and I'll still be good in front of a camera. There's your dichotomy."
When Shelly talks of an imminent dismissal, she isn't bluffing: "Right before the magazine hits the stands," she warned us last October, "I'll have already cleared out my desk." The problem, according to Shelly, stems from the news industry's preoccupation with image. "On one hand," ' she says, "news ratings are based on popularity; at work, we're constantly being reminded of our numbers, the people we reach. And in Playboy, I know I'll be seen by more people than my bosses could ever dream about. But on the other hand, Channel Ten is not the kind of station to take advantage of the publicity and suddenly put me up on billboards or on the sides of buses," she says, sighing. "No, I'm pretty positive I'll be fired—if not, at least yanked off the air."
And just suppose Shelly's suspicions come true—if suddenly, overnight, she finds herself back on the sidewalk with little more than a résumé and a smile?
"I'm not going to curl up and die if I'm fired," she says with typical confidence. "I was always a big ham and, now that I've done news, I know I can do anything. Hand me five things on a platter and I'll tell you which one's good.
"I'd love to be an anchor for Entertainment Tonight," she confides, blushing. "I know it's not considered as serious as a news job, but it's glamorous, high profile and has great exposure—if you'll excuse that word popping up again.
"But when it comes down to it," she concludes, "this is exactly what viewers want when they tune into the news. They want to reel from the day's big shocker—to be amused by it, to feel it. Then the next day, they're back in front of the TV again, looking for another story. That's what the news is all about, isn't it?"
NEWSCASTER: Although the end of her story has yet to be written, one thing can definitely be said of Shelly Jamison, Phoenix' newest rising star: She had the courage to put herself in the very spotlight she has so often aimed at others. And to this reporter, at least, she looks darn good. . . .
Film at eleven.