Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Guest Post - Five Career Highlights by Richard Evans - Blog Tour

1. During my time as US correspondent for the Evening News between 1968-1972, I covered one of the most volatile periods in American political history. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated and Richard Nixon won two Presidential elections. 

There was a police riot when students protested in Grant Park at Chicago ‘68 and huge liberal resentment towards the way Nixon was running the country. When he won a landslide victory over George McGovern in November 1972, the vast majority of newspapers in Britain went with the “Nixon Triumph” line. But, in my opinion, that was too simplistic. My instincts told me that Nixon was a crook. I couldn’t write that at the time because the true story of Watergate had not unfolded and there was no proof. 

But, equally, I felt it my duty to present the other side of the argument. So I wrote an op-ed piece for the Evening News with the headline “Four More Years of Nixon the Slick” with the sub-heading of “Why I fear for America under this cynical salesman.”

Peter Jenkins, the Guardian’s political columnist, was the only other British journalist reporting from America to take a similar line and evidently Lord Harmsworth, the right wing publisher of our Associated Newspaper group, was furious. 

The piece made it into the first three editions of the day but was taken out by the time the 5.00 pm edition hit the streets. It was the only time I had been edited out of the paper from above. But I was right and his Lordship was wrong. Nixon resigned once the Watergate tapes revealed his involvement in a crime. 

2. At the age of 18, seven months into my first job, Reg Hayter, who ran his free lance sports reporting agency in Fleet Street, sent me to cover the England Under 23 football tour to Bulgaria, Romania and Czechoslovakia for the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and News Chronicle. Reg was taking a huge punt on a very green reporter but it was a challenge I relished and managed to fulfill. 
The trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1958 was fascinating in so many ways but, for me, the most memorable moment came when the England manager, Walter Winterbottom, decided he wanted a full practice match and only had 20 players, including himself. So he turned to the press corps and, as Peter Lorenzo and I were the only reporters remotely young enough to pull on a pair of boots, we played! 

I was totally out of my depth but being of the same pitch as Johnny Haynes, Brian Clough, David Pegg, Bryan Douglas and Jimmy Armfield was certainly something I will never forget. 

3. I have been incredibly fortunate to work on so many great stories but I suppose the job that gave me the most enjoyment and satisfaction was commentating on Wimbledon from the BBC Radio box which offers the best view in the house. It took time to feel really at home but I was so lucky to have summarisers of the calibre of Fred Perry, Frew McMillan and  Christine Truman Janes sitting alongside me. Play by play on tennis is demanding but so much fun!

4. Of the twenty books I have written or edited, I feel “Open Tennis” was the most worthwhile because I was lucky enough to have an insider’s view of the tumultuous events of 1968 and 1973 which changed the game forever.  First Wimbledon went Open when chairman Herman David invited the pros to play and then, in a revolt against authoritarian amateur rule, the ATP pros boycotted the Championships in ‘73. The details needed to be written down quickly before word of mouth and fading press cuttings distorted the story. So I wrote it as it happened in “Open Tennis”. 

5. Of all the film stars I interviewed for Entertainment Tonight, it was the encounter with a director, David Lean, that stands out. Master of telling a story for the big screen, the man who made “Lawrence of Arabia” & “Dr Zhivago” was working on his last film, “A Passage to India” when I met him in Bangalore. His PR people were very nervous “He’s quite old, you know” but Lean was charming and totally professional, filming Alec Guinness from behind his camera just for us. It took no time at all. I love working with pros. 

I think you will agree with me that Richard Evans has clearly had a fascinating life and if you want to hear more then you will need to read The Roving Eye!

The Roving Eye: A Reporter’s Love Affair with Paris, Politics & Sport

Go. Be there. For the past six decades Richard Evans has followed that dictum  – being where the action was, not just as a tennis writer and broadcaster – 196 Grand Slams and counting – but through his years as a foreign correspondent in America, France and Vietnam as well as a spell as a roving global reporter for the US television programme Entertainment Tonight.

Evans, whose English family fled France in June 1940, also became a National Service Captain in the British army, without having to dodge a bullet which was not the case in Cambodia nor in Miami where he was struck by a cop during an anti-Nixon demonstration.

Evans was in Memphis hours after Martin Luther King was shot; campaigned through Indiana and California with Bobby Kennedy – “a unique politician” – before he, too, was assassinated and witnessed the pre-Olympic demonstrations in 1968 against the Mexican Government which ended in massacre.

He accompanied the Wimbledon champion and activist Arthur Ashe on two trips to Africa, witnessing the dark days of apartheid and was back in South Africa in 1990 covering Mike Gatting’s rebel cricket tour during the historic weeks that saw Nelson Mandela released and apartheid abolished.

Evans paints an insider’s portrait of Margaret Thatcher and No 10 Downing Street during the time he was with the Prime Minister’s daughter, Carol; a romance with the actress Gayle Hunnicutt and two marriages; friendships with Richard Harris, Michael Crawford and more Wimbledon champions than you could fit into the players’ box. He was also the last person to interview Richard Burton.
A life lived to the full, covering the globe with a Roving Eye – being there.

About the author:
Richard Evans has been a journalist since the 1960s where he began his career writing for the Evening Standard. He has covered tennis for outlets including the Sunday Times, Fox Sports USA and Tennis Magazine, reporting on more than 196 Grand Slams over the course of his career. Evans was the play-by-play commentator for BBC Radio at Wimbledon for twenty years and was a commentator for the Tennis Channel at the French Open and AO Radio at the Australian Open. He is the author of 18 books, including biographies of tennis legends, the official history of the Davis Cup, and most recently co-authoring Pain, Set & Match.

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