bill welsh -
He was a newsman. Bill Welsh, who died this past Sunday, was there from the beginnings of TV in L.A., coming to work in Southern California when it contained only about 300 television sets, and I'm sure I was watching him before I could walk. He was a fixture here, always emceeing KTTV's coverage of the Rose Parade, but he did real news too, as the reporter on the scene with the mike and the raincoat and the sincere interest. A journeyman broadcaster who could be reporting on a fire one day, hosting a beauty pageant the next, and doing football play-by-play the day after that, he seemed like a very nice man who didn't suffer fools. You figured he was smart because he was articulate and a master ad-libber.
As I got older and paid more attention to the television business I realized what a rarity he was becoming. He stood up and did the job in front of the camera with integrity and reliability and I can't help but believe he must have grown disappointed as the industry was invaded by prettier men and women most of whom have the news savvy of a halibut.
I never knew where he stood politically, but his demeanor was conservative. In the 1980's he got involved in the local politics of revitalizing Hollywood, and I suppose anyone who takes up the task of wiping out grime and seediness will seem to belong to the Right, but I don't know about Bill. He seemed more sensible than political.
I took the photo above when I saw him at the Reagan Library a couple of years ago. I wondered then if his presence indicated some affiliation with the place beyond that of a man with basic civic interest. I forget what the event was, but since I live only a couple of miles away I go up there every once in a while with a camera just to poke around and make sure the propagandizing doesn't get out of hand. When I saw Bill Welsh across the courtyard I got that instantaneous familiar face flash through my brain, but about two minutes went by before I could place him.
And it was only then that I realized how undetectable his fade from the L.A. television scene had been. I tried to remember the last time I'd seen him on the air, and recalling that it was on a Rose Parade broadcast several years earlier, it made me sad to think that a man of his caliber could disappear without notice. When I read his obituary this morning I was surprised to discover that he lived here in my town.
His passing feels more personal than the deaths of most other notables, mostly because of the nature of his job, I suppose. He was just so "always there" on the TV in my house as a kid, with that kindly flat voice and that egoless interest.
Goodbye and thanks, Mr. Welsh.