'ANCHORMAN' SPOOF OF 1970S TV NEWS IS BASIS FOR NEWSEUM EXHIBITION

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c.2013 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal. ... People know me. ... I’m very important. Uh, I have many leather-bound books, and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”

That was the pickup line that Will Ferrell’s character used in the movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” His delivery, made while wearing an orange bathrobe at a pool party with his colleagues, was part of a crowd-pleasing sendup of 1970s television journalism, which was dominated by heavily sprayed hair, huge egos and newsrooms with a paucity of racial and gender diversity.

Now “Anchorman” is at the heart of what might seem to be one of the unlikeliest exhibitions at a serious museum.

On Thursday, the Newseum, an interactive museum dedicated to news and journalism in Washington, is opening an exhibition built around the 2004 film, with props — which Newseum employees call “artifacts”— like the burgundy polyester suit worn by Ron Burgundy and the flute on which he plays jazz to impress his love interest, Veronica Corningstone. Visitors to the exhibition can create their own “Anchorman” television spot, introduced by Burgundy. Displays playing up the film’s slapstick humor also are included. After a sequel, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” opens Dec. 20, the Newseum will add props from that film.

On a more serious note, the exhibition explores the history of sexism and racism in television newsrooms in the 1970s. (In the movie, Ron Burgundy refers to diversity as “an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”)

The exhibition chronicles a time when women made up only 11 percent of local television anchors, according to a survey by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, and at one Seattle television station, the anchor Jean Enersen was advised to drink whiskey and smoke “so her voice would be lower and more appealing to viewers,” according to the exhibition.

The exhibition also features an eight-minute film called “Anchorman: Real News Teams of the 1970s” with television personalities like Connie Chung and Maury Povich reminiscing about 1970s newsrooms.

In her recollections, Chung describes a work environment of “sexism, racism, boys’ club, all of the above.” She noted that Burgundy’s personality was not such a stretch from some real newsmen.