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October 27th, 2009
07:45 PM ET

Californitwitter

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

It was around the time that I explained why I was going to Los Angeles – "Soleil Moon Frye invited me to a Twitter conference at The Kodak Theatre"  – that my friends’ heads exploded. It was as if I had never before flown cross-country to discuss social media with a TV icon at a Hollywood landmark. They had completely forgotten about that night outside Whisky A Go Go and the woman I thought was Alan Alda.

Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to be in L.A., a city I visit far too seldom. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed its palm trees and Kardashians.

Frankly, the reason I don’t come to Los Angeles more often is that I have a slight to moderate fear of flying. Luckily, on my flight out, I was distracted by the gentleman next to me; a man who – for reasons known only to his grocer and/or therapist – kept fiddling with a variety of deli meats.

Transcontinental salami aside; it has so far been a great trip. The only caveat is that I’m nervous about this afternoon. That’s when I’ll be joining Ms. Moon Frye (call her Punky Brewster and she’ll cut you) and businesswoman/writer Jane Buckingham (she’ll hold you down while Punky cuts you) for a panel discussion of Twitter. Hardly a seasoned public speaker, I have no idea what to expect of myself. I suppose I should just play it safe and stick to religion and politics.

Of course, our panel discussion is just one of many over the course of the two-day 140 Conference. And while it and the fake Oscar acceptance speech I may or may not attempt to deliver before being ripped from the stage are stressing me out, it’s nothing compared to the anxiety I feel knowing that my boss, CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein, will be there. In. The. Same. Room. Watching. Me. Speak.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Behind The Scenes • Jack Gray • Technology
September 20th, 2009
07:45 PM ET

The Emmy Awards Live Blog

Jack Gray
AC360° Writer/Producer

Good evening and welcome to the AC360° Emmy Awards Live Blog. The winners, the losers, possible Kanye West interruptions…we’ve got your running commentary. And sure, considering all that’s going on in the world, the Emmys aren’t hugely important. But if you’re looking to get away from the bleak news-of-the-day for a few hours, then this blog is the place for you.

As for my qualifications to moderate this blog, well, I once saw Angela Lansbury in the grocery store.

We should point out that we’re not encouraging you to change the channel from CNN, but if you’re going to watch the Emmy Awards anyway, you might as well watch them with us.

And even if you’re not watching them, we think you’ll still enjoy the live blog. I’ll be with you from 8:00pm Eastern Time until the Emmys finish airing.

If you would like to participate in our Live Blog (and we hope you do) please follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Please keep your comments short
2) Don’t write in ALL CAPS (we don’t like screaming)
3) Use your real name

Please note that due to volume we may not be able to post all comments.

Follow Jack Gray on Twitter @JackGrayCNN


Filed under: 2009 Emmy Awards • Jack Gray • Live Blog
August 26th, 2009
03:45 PM ET

Memories from Kennedy Country

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

In a way, I now realize, I have always subconsciously considered Ted Kennedy to be immortal. I remember the first time I saw him in person. It was the summer of 1994 and I was at the Yankee Homecoming Parade in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a few miles from where I grew up.

The senator was at the time locked in a tough re-election bid against a little-known businessman named Mitt Romney. From my perch on the sidewalk I heard the crowd down the street start to cheer. And then I saw him. The famous face, the wavy hair, the stylish polo shirt. And then I heard the voice – that inimitable sound.

He bounded down the street with his beautiful new wife Vicki in tow, shaking hands and greeting the crowds in that uniquely Kennedy way. For a teenage news junkie like me, shaking the hand of the man whom I had read about and watched on television for my entire life was a thrill beyond words. He was one of the original political rock stars.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Jack Gray • Sen. Ted Kennedy
August 19th, 2009
10:43 AM ET

The birthday girl has fleas

Jack's dog, Sammy, on the west side of Manhattan

Jack's dog, Sammy, on the west side of Manhattan

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

My dog is snoring. It is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the sweetest sounds in the world. Especially considering the alternative – a duo of pub-goers on the sidewalk below my window pondering that age-old question, “Why aren’t you wearing underwear?”

At a time when the future of health care seems more uncertain than ever, it’s worth pointing out that a dog snoring is not just among life's more pleasant sounds but among its healthiest, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that having a pet can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and feelings of loneliness. Unless, of course, your dog runs away, in which case the loneliness thing becomes a bit of a gray area.

My canine health care comes in the form of a Labrador Retriever named Sammy, whose birthday is today. Ah, Sammy – the center of my world, the odor of my studio apartment. I can’t believe she’s already 5-years-old. It seems like only yesterday that I picked her out of a squirmy puppy pile in southern Maine. Now she’s just another maladjusted New Yorker, unabashedly flatulent and all too eager to fornicate in public.

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July 22nd, 2009
01:48 PM ET

What would David Beckham’s abs do?

David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes a shot against AC Milan during the international friendly last week in Carson, California.

David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes a shot against AC Milan during the international friendly last week in Carson, California.

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

You can only take your health for granted for so long. Never one to have been a fanatic about blood pressure and cholesterol, I’ve lately become somewhat of a gym rat, unyielding in my devotion to physical fitness unless there’s a compelling reason to stay home…like it’s cloudy outside or I’m watching The View.

I’m not entirely sure what prompted this renewed interest in my overpriced club membership. Perhaps, selfishly, it has something to do with my recent beach vacation – a coconut rum-fueled derailment of self-esteem if there ever was one. Or maybe I’ve realized – amid all the talk about health care reform – that, although I’m one of the fortunate ones who currently have coverage, there are no guarantees in life.

I suppose it’s a byproduct of me trying to accept that if – at age 28 – I’m not as healthy as I could be…well, I have no one to blame but myself: I used to smoke and have been known to enjoy a drink or five. And I’ve tried, with varying degrees of success, to end my love affair with chicken fingers. Though, frankly, I’m not sure I want to live in a world without breaded poultry.

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June 19th, 2009
03:00 PM ET

Happy Father’s Day from my therapist

Jack Gray and his father, John Gray, circa 1985.

Jack Gray and his father, John Gray, circa 1985.

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

I am not a good athlete. The only sport at which I ever showed a modicum of skill while growing up was tennis. And even then I was less concerned about my serve than I was about squeezing in a Marlboro Medium before practice.

It’s not that I didn’t want to be a good athlete. It just wasn’t in the cards. And, frankly, I was fine with that. But my father, intent on instilling in me a commitment to one day put him in a nursing home against his will, insisted I stick with the teams on which he had signed me up behind my back.

There was soccer, which I objected to on the grounds that there wasn’t a snack bar. There was basketball, which discriminated against those of us unnerved by buzzers. And, of course, there was football, an experience that immediately downgraded my father’s twilight years from a mediocre nursing home to one known for its health code violations.

Still, I hung in there, remaining on whatever sponsored-by-the-local-pizza-parlor team I was on until the end of each season. And, as much as I hate to admit it, not every game was awful. Sure, I spent a lot of time on the sidelines, staring at my shoelaces and planning what I’d say when Connie Chung grilled me on the circumstances surrounding my dad’s lawnmower “accident.” But, there was the occasional triumph, like the time I hit a home run in Little League. Let me tell you, it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s a moment that’s stayed with me all these years, not just because I can so clearly recall the thrill of watching the ball sail over the left field fence, but because it was witnessed by my father. Also in attendance at that game was my grandfather, who apparently had a few free minutes in between arguments with the staff at Radio Shack.

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June 10th, 2009
11:35 AM ET

If this used station wagon’s a rockin', don’t come a knockin'

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

There’s nothing like a hot ride. And my first car was nothing like a hot ride. A 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon. Baby blue with a generous array of leathery rust spots, it was the vehicular love child of an obese Smurf and Dog the Bounty Hunter.

The car was a gift from my grandfather, for whom it had served the dual purpose of smoking lounge and elderly chick magnet. As with most things – especially his changeover from a black toupee to a white one – my grandfather had impeccable timing, giving me the car at the height of my high school insecurity. Because nothing makes a 16-year-old more self-confident than a battered station wagon manufactured in the previous decade.

That said, I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, or toupee. So I accepted the car just as I had accepted puberty, with profuse gratitude and quiet shame. And to my surprise, even though I would have preferred something red and Italian, The Celeb – as my friends and I called it – would come to serve me well. It was clean, the engine started on cold mornings and the brakes – unless I needed to stop – worked great.

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June 8th, 2009
11:43 AM ET

In hindsight I should have shown more skin

Cast and crew of 'The Norman Conquests' speak on stage during the 63rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2009 in New York City.

Cast and crew of 'The Norman Conquests' speak on stage during the 63rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2009 in New York City.

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

The Tony Awards were given out last night here in New York. I boycotted them over the snub of my one-man show,  Nice to Meet You, Now Please Get Out of My Bed.

I’m at a loss, frankly, as to why I was passed over. It’s not like I was a diva. In fact, I went out of my way to encourage audience participation. I don’t care what the critics say, folks in the mezzanine loved those diet pills.

The only reason I can think of – aside from the unpleasantness with that jar of Nutella – for this theatrical injustice is that the Broadway establishment didn’t like my burlesque tribute to Angela Lansbury: “Murder, She Wrote…All Night Long.”

I mean, yes, there were those who raised their eyebrows at my habit of spending intermission arm-wrestling with Kathleen Turner. But those are the same people who criticized the opening line of the show. Which, by the way, I think says less about me than it does about their fear to consider the question: “What would Jennifer Love Hewitt do?”

And sure, 43 minutes of the show were me weeping over a spilled container of body glitter. If you didn’t like it, well, I’m sorry you hate America.

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May 19th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

The King and I: CNN Style

Larry is featured on a WKAT radio sales sheet from the 1960s.

Larry is featured on a WKAT radio sales sheet from the 1960s.

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

I remember the first time I saw Larry King in person. It was the summer of 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. “Mr. King!” I shouted as I chased him down the hallway and gently placed him in a headlock, “May I have a photo?” Ever the class act, he graciously agreed, though he drew the line when I asked to try on his suspenders.

It was a moment for which I had been waiting my whole life…or at least since my grandparents got cable. While other kids my age were busy developing social skills, I sat wrapped in a quilt watching Larry King interview Elizabeth Taylor and her jewelry.

Afterwards I’d go upstairs to rehearse what I’d say to Larry on the inevitable night when I’d be a guest on his show:

Hi Larry, it’s so good to be here. I love your glasses frames. What’s that? Is it true that I’m having an affair with Shannen Doherty? Now, Larry, you know better than to ask about my love life. How about we just take some calls?

During the commercial breaks Larry and I would relax because, of course, we were buddies off-camera. We’d smoke cigarettes and talk about our mutual friends like Jon Bon Jovi and Florence Henderson.

It was a golden age.

Fast forward to 2009 and I’m still in awe of Larry King. It’s cliché to say he’s an icon, but he is. The memorable moments are too many to count. Interviews with the biggest stars, debates among the most important politicians. And, of course, that time he made out with Marlon Brando.

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May 18th, 2009
10:59 AM ET

Pomp and Circumstance and Breast Implants

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

All this talk about President Obama’s commencement speeches has gotten me a little bummed out. Sure, cable news producers aren’t exactly A-list speakers, but I’m still disappointed that not even one college invited me to deliver my inspirational address, “It’s All Downhill From Here.”

So, I thought I’d share with you – you being Anderson Cooper’s pet Komodo Dragon, Debbie – what I had hoped to share with the Class of 2009:

Good morning Class of 2009. It’s an honor to be here at (insert name of unaccredited plastic surgery medical school and/or halfway house). Never in a million years did I think I’d be awarded a doctorate, especially one printed on such lovely scented paper. But today isn’t about my degree or the pharmacist who is now obligated to fill those prescriptions I’ve been calling in for myself.

It’s about you.

You, who have proven that hard work and perseverance do indeed pay off. You, who exemplify the notion that education is the key to success. You, who will end up defaulting on your student loans to support your addiction to body glitter.

Indeed, today is a happy day. And you have much of which to be proud. But as joyous an occasion as this is, let’s not forget that these are challenging times for college graduates. The economy is in tough shape. Jobs are scarce. You know it, I know it, Kim Kardashian knows it.

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