Wanted Red!!!!! Abating

Oct 10, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Cliché of the day: Some reporters will do anything for a story.

Take Bill Geist, who is Mr. Wry-te to fans of CBS News’ “Sunday Morning.”

Mr. Geist didn’t just submit to the “Trading Spaces” experience-which starts with rolling over and playing dead for “decorators” whose sense of aesthetics has a lot in common with Ashton Kutcher’s “Punk’d” and ends with reveals designed to repulse-for a piece that aired on “Sunday Morning” in 2004 and recently was rebroadcast. He has had to live with it for more than a year.

“Trading’s” Hildi Santo-Tomás and Carter Oosterhouse (now helping Amy Grant grant “Three Wishes” on NBC Friday nights) turned the CBS Broadcast Center office Mr. Geist has occupied for perhaps a third of the 18 years he’s been with CBS News from corporate drab and cluttered to black and white and red!!!!! all over.

Well, to be precise, Mr. Geist hasn’t lived with the color-coordinated red!!!!! goldfish for more than a year-the red!!!!! goldfish died at least six months ago. But everything else is still there: walls papered in pages from Mr. Geist’s best-selling books and then polka-dotted in red!!!!! … the red!!!!! couch (it’s been no good for naps since the “Trading” crew sawed off the arms) … plus the red!!!!! shelves, red!!!!! kneeling bench (“Oh, man!”) and red!!!!! curtains that cover his south-facing office window.

“It was very funny for a day,” Mr. Geist said, “but the joke’s worn thin.” It’s still good for the occasional punch line: “Sunday Morning” anchor laureate Charles Osgood stopped by the other day and said, “Still red, huh?”

But if Mr. Geist still doesn’t like the made-over office, why hasn’t he done anything about it?

“I think it’s inertia. I think it’s kind of a guy thing. It’s easier to live with it than to do anything about it,” said Mr. Geist, who also suspects building service staffers are “letting me live with it. I don’t think they’re willing to come up here and change it back.”

His office stood out in the sea of greige when it was first redone, but it really stands out now that the hallway that houses Mr. Geist and the CBS News P.R. department is undergoing a less extreme but more livable makeover that revolves around pale-green walls.

One person described the color as a pleasant avocado. “It’s more of a mental-health-institution green,” Mr. Geist responded. (The official answer: Benjamin Moore #473 “Weekend Getaway,” which one could argue sounds like a euphemism for mental health institution. But we digress.)

Whatever the color is, it doesn’t go with the unpleasant-avocado sit-down trash-masher, which speaks to Mr. Geist’s obsession with collecting Ron Popeil products and which is the only item currently in Mr. Geist’s office he says he’d save.

The Insider, still a-tingle from witnessing the many examples of rescue/do-good journalism during and since Hurricane Katrina, has offered to measure Mr. Geist’s office window and then escort him to the new Home Depot in Manhattan’s Chelsea district to show him how to buy white!!!!! curtains and perhaps even a white!!!!! throw for that red!!!!! couch. And then perhaps move on to Petland for a white!!!!! goldfish as a finishing touch.

But The Insider isn’t going to be too aggressive in her offer to rescue Mr. Geist for fear of making a move that could be misinterpreted as nudging aside a real decorator.