When I was a kid in the late 1970s, we got four or five TV channels, but for news we needed just one. Come 6 o’clock every night, the TV would be tuned to Channel 9 and Larry Moore.
Well, except for Saturday nights, when we had to watch “Hee-Haw.”
KMBC called its newscasts “Total News” back then — Channel 4 had “Action News” and 5 was “Eyewitness News” — and I can still hear the theme music. Larry, along with sex symbol/weatherperson Cheryl (she added another “l” later) Jones and non-sex symbol/sportscaster Don Fortune, sat behind these barrel-like things that reminded me of an amusement park ride.
Now, all these years later, Moore is finally getting off the ride.
Moore, 71, who grew up near Kirksville, Mo., started as a reporter at Channel 9 in 1968. He became anchorman in 1972, and eventually Channel 9 would enjoy huge ratings for its newscasts. I remember Larry starting the news one night in 1978 by saying something about how if he were going to run for office, he would have removed himself from his anchor chair.
He’d apparently been asked to consider running for Congress. He was that popular.
He departed that same year for a TV job in San Francisco, then later landed in Chicago. To read The Star’s accounts, neither gig worked out very well.
Meanwhile, Channel 9’s ratings sank, and in 1981 it added a female co-anchor, Christine Craft. At that point, “Wendall and Anne” at Channel 5 were the big game in town.
Craft didn’t last long. After being booted from her anchor job, she sued KMBC’s then-owner. Channel 9’s news director had informed her, she said, that viewers thought she was too old, too ugly and basically too mouthy with the men on the news set.
Truth was, she was 30-something, attractive and obviously bright.
My family, I might mention, never stopped watching Channel 9, although a high school friend of mine was in love with ultracute Anne Peterson.
In the middle of all the drama and horrible publicity — and we’re talking bad publicity on a national scale — Moore returned to Kansas City and KMBC in 1983. After one of Craft’s two trials, I recall her biting back during a live interview with Moore on Channel 9, which was gamely trying to cover a story about itself.
The station had hired a woman, a lawyer I think, to observe the trial and offer commentary. But, Craft asked Moore, how could the lawyer do that when she was rarely in the courtroom? Moore abruptly ended the interview but did put Craft’s question to the commentator.
Anyway, this time Moore stayed put at Channel 9. In late 1985 he’d be paired with Laurie Everett, and by the 1990s “Larry and Laurie” had helped KMBC regain much of its lost ground. More recently, Moore has anchored with Lara Moritz and Kelly Eckerman.
I don’t know that we’ll see another KC superanchor in the Larry Moore mold. Yes, Channel 9 still has Kriz Ketz on the morning show, and Fox 4 has long-serving anchor Phil Witt. But stations across the country have been cutting costs, sometimes their high-paid anchorpeople.
And the information universe, or whatever we should call it, seems to expand by the minute. When Moore was riding high in the 1970s, he didn’t have to worry about a gazillion cable channels, the Internet or cellphones. When we had fewer distractions and fewer choices, TV news seemed more vital.
I still try to keep up with local TV news, but I don’t watch as much as I did growing up. But it’s been nice to know that Larry was always around at 6 o’clock. Delivering the news. Musing about his tomato crop. Spinning ghost stories every Halloween.
Not seeing him there in my living room is going to take some getting used to.