April 20, 2008
Tough times for an old friend
Posted by: Chris
I read the news today and oh boy (that's a Beatles reference, for you young'uns). My old friend Richard Quest, who anchors CNN's "Business Traveler" and his own show "Quest," was arrested in Central Park last Friday for being there after-hours and for possession of crystal meth.
I have known Richard since college. When I was an undergrad at Vanderbilt, Richard was there working on his LLB, a master's degree in law. We were both "tunnel rats," working in the student media offices in a tunnel of the student center. I was editor of the school paper, the Vanderbilt Hustler (we had the name first) and then Versus, the student magazine. Richard was a DJ at WRVU, the college radio station.
Richard was one of a kind, even back in the '80s. (Yes, we're that old.) A Brit from Leeds with a big curly 'fro easily stood out on our conservative, Southern campus. His hilarious, quirky personality was contagious and I had a total blast every time we hung out together.
He even recruited me to do the sports portion (stop laughing) of his regular news reports. I'll never forget the time he invited me to guest DJ with him, even picking the records to play. I violated every rule of college radio; I'm not sure the station's reputation has yet recovered from the Styx triple-play I inflicted on Nashville.
Even then, it was clear Richard's personality was way too big for radio. So it was only mildly surprising to hear he turned up as a regular on BBC, although that staid network seemed a bit of a misfit. A few years after, I would catch him as a late-night anchor on CNN, where the broadcast time allowed him to be more himself. (I remember Anderson Cooper in his ABC late-night new gig, too, around the same time.)
Right about that time, Richard tracked me down. During one of his trips to CNN's Atlanta headquarters, he picked up the Southern Voice, Atlanta's gay newspaper, and saw I was the editor. We eventually met up when I was visiting London and renewed our friendship. Turns out we were both closet cases at Vandy -- one of dozens more I never would have imagined at the time. Richard is openly gay in an industry where others lack the courage to be. (Are you listening, Anderson?)
The great success and fame (especially outside the U.S., where he is on-screen at CNN multiple times daily) hadn't changed Richard at all. He was and is the same cheeky, genuine, unique person he was then.
As difficult as I know this time must be for Richard, and the knives are certainly out for him, I have zero doubt that will recover from all of this. He's already agreed to a six-month drug treatment program that will result in the charges being dropped.
Hopefully CNN will stand by "one of the most instantly recognizable members of the CNN team." Living outside the U.S., I have been able to view both of his shows much more often. "Quest," in particular, tackles unusual subjects in an entertaining way, and with a depth that is unusual for fast-paced cable news.
Whatever CNN decides, I am sure Richard will survive and thrive; he's got way too much talent going for him, and I wish him nothing but the absolute best.
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