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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where There's Smoke...

Life in a newsroom has changed in so many ways, and I'm not just talking about news content. In those days, people smoked pot out in the open, even in front of “adults”. Those that didn’t partake, usually looked the other way. Such was the way it was in the late 70s and early 80s.

I was ushered into the WCIX world of weed on my very first day at the station. Before I’d even known my way around that crazy round building, I was shown the ledge on the fourth floor, behind some of the big equipment in the engineering department. People visited that ledge at all hours of the day and night. I tended to wait until after the newscast to partake, but many people did it from the moment they arrived for their shifts. It truly was a different world then!

(Look carefully at the fourth floor. You never know who you’ll see!)

Another favorite spot was out on the dirt road along Biscayne Bay. Cars would park there every night after the newscast was through. It was a favorite way to unwind in those days, but there was always the fear of getting caught by the police. For a long time they turned a blind eye to our activities, but after the Luis Alvarez police shooting gave the department a black eye (and we reported it aggressively), they weren’t quite as accommodating, and we had to be a lot more careful.

Then there was the art room, on the second floor. One night in 1980, a bunch of us went there after the newscast, thinking our illustrious assistant news director had left for the night. You can imagine our trepidation when he walked into the art room, at the same time many of us were passing the pipe around. We thought we were all in big, big trouble! The boss man walked over to us, and without missing a beat, asked (to our surprise), “hey, would any of you like to buy some sinsimilla?” Whew! The “Newser” was a User! I guess that would describe so many people that I worked with. Not Bob Rossicone, though.

Rossicone, the tough associate director with a pronounced New York accent, walked in on security guard Lazaro C. and me one time after hours. Lazaro was paid to watch the building, but spent lots of his time socializing and getting high. With the smell of pot permeating the room, Lazaro was afraid Rossicone would blow the whistle and cost him his job. When asked if he was bothered by what we were doing, we were greeted by one of the funniest lines I’d ever heard. Rossicone just looked at us and said, quote…

“I don’t care if you burn the f*cking place down!”

And so it went in those days. Times changed, the station grew more competitive, and soon drug testing was the norm. Eventually I stopped smoking, and I’m sure so did most of the other Boys From Brickell. But for quite a number of years, lighting up was a big part of my Channel 6 experience. It helped me cope with the pressure and frustrations, and being a shy person by nature, helped greatly in social situations.

And no, we never burned the place down.

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