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GET THE SCOOP ON RON BURGUNDY

Ron Burgundy is kind of a big deal, and he has one important question: “What took the Newseum so damn long to give me a call?”

In anticipation of the release of the “Anchorman” sequel, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” this Friday, the Washington, D.C., museum partnered with Paramount Pictures to create “Anchorman: The Exhibit,” which includes film artifacts, interactive displays and historical anecdotes of the real-life anchors of the 1970s.

Released in 2004, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” tells the story of a 1970s-era news anchor (Will Ferrell) accustomed to the privileges of a male-dominated workplace. The newsroom is turned upside down when ambitious anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is hired and quickly rises to the top—much to the dismay of Burgundy and his news team.

The Newseum has more than 60 costumes and props from the original movie on display, including many of the news anchors’ signature outfits, like Burgundy’s burgundy anchorman suit, Corningstone’s three-piece suit, Brick Tamland’s (Steve Carell) glasses and Champ Kind’s (David Koechner) suit, cowboy hat and boots. The exhibit also features reporter Brian Fantana’s (Paul Rudd) “Sex Panther” cologne, Burgundy’s jazz flute and mustache brush, and a prop stuffed animal that was used as a stand-in for Burgundy’s dog, Baxter—complete with Channel 4 pajamas.

“You can’t help but chat a little bit about the fashion differentials throughout the eras,” said Carrie Christoffersen, curator and director of collections at the Newseum.

The “Anchorman” exhibit also includes props and costumes from the sequel, to be unveiled once the movie is released to avoid any spoilers.

“We’ve got wonderful props and iconic costumes from the movie, but also we have images … posters, and stuff about the real-life news business—which sometimes is just as funny as the movies,” said John Powell, a writer for the exhibit. A poster nearby exclaiming “Don’t mess with the anchor hair!” proves his point.

Throughout the exhibit, visitors can interview Burgundy via “Ask Ron,” or steal the anchor spotlight from him for a moment behind a Channel 4 desk—perfect for photo ops. Those who aren’t camera shy have the opportunity to participate in a TV-news spot with an introduction from Burgundy himself.

BEHIND THE BIG SCREEN

Beyond showcasing the movie, the Newseum taps into the history of television news anchors, particularly the dramatic changes that took place in the 1970s as more anchor chairs were filled by women.

Ferrell was inspired for the original “Anchorman” while watching a biopic of 1970s Philadelphia anchor Jessica Savitch and the struggles she faced getting into the male-dominated business, Powell said.

Christoffersen said the biopic featured interviews with Mort Crim, who embarrassingly admitted he had perpetrated the chauvinistic ideals of the era. Ferrell, in making “Anchorman,” sought to highlight the clash between chauvinism and feminism that was found within the newsroom.

“That sort of idea of getting at this side of things from a male perspective was of interest to Ferrell and his production team,” Christoffersen said. “They felt like it would give them the opportunity to give it a little fun, as well.”

Many of the real-life stories written throughout the exhibit highlight these setbacks, like Christine Craft suing a Kansas City, Mo., station after being demoted because of her age and appearance and Jean Enersen being told by a Seattle station to “drink whiskey and smoke so her voice would be more appealing to viewers.”

In 1972, women made up 11 percent of local news anchors, and earned about half of what the men did.

Of the visitors who are walking through the exhibit, Christoffersen said the reactions are a bit “incredulous.” “[They say things like] no way, they made this woman or that woman cut her hair or change her look just to fit some sort of mold that they’ve determined,” she said.

HISTORY AS INSPIRATION

It was the real-life history behind this era of news anchors that also inspired the “Anchorman” exhibit at the Newseum, Powell said. “We want to draw this story out and tell kind of the real truth behind the movie.”

In order to relate the movie to the actual time period during which it was based, the exhibit touches on evolving trends in reporting, as well as the shifts in culture throughout the 1970s.

“We’ve got stuff on the eyewitness news trend in the 1970s, that kind of revolutionized the news business, with live-on-the-scene reporting and news teams and all that stuff that’s still with us today,” Powell said.

The culminating scene of the original movie parodied one of those eyewitness stories, as all the competing anchors raced to the San Diego Zoo to report on the birth of a panda.

Powell said that while the eyewitness news trend is certainly still present in today’s television reporting, the news has gotten even more fast-paced with the advent of technology, and thus a shift in viewership has occurred. In the 1970s, anchors pulled in about 80 percent of viewers, whereas now audiences have a multitude of sources to gain information.

According to Christoffersen, it was important to the stations to make the news teams reflective of who they were covering.

“They wanted to generate [and] utilize that chemistry [between anchors],” Christoffersen said. “There was a real effort during this era to have this news team, the group, to be representative of the people they were covering and not make you feel like you were being just sort of told the news … this impulse to have that sort of good-natured banter going on to increase the attachment to a particular news team so that you would keep coming back to that team for your news.”

One sign in the exhibit reads, “Local TV stations in the 1970s wanted viewers to think of their news teams as one big happy family.” This on-screen chemistry and banter between co-anchors was thought to gain more viewers, and as such was heavily parodied in the film.

Powell said that this “happy talk” is another example of what has survived in news throughout the years, in addition to human interest stories.

The contrast between the more upbeat stories and hard-hitting news is perhaps most evident within the walls of the Newseum itself. Steps from a life-size “glass case of emotion” is the tribute to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, on display until Jan. 5, 2014, and the permanent collections depicting historic events, including the World Trade Center gallery and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“A lot of the news is heavy and dark, so it’s nice to add a lighthearted touch to the Newseum,” Powell said of the “Anchorman” exhibit.

WANT TO GO?

What: “Anchorman: The Exhibit”

When: Through Aug. 31, 2014

Where: Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington

Cost: $21.95 adults 19–64; $17.95 seniors 65 and older; $12.95 youth 7–18; free for children 6 and younger. Students and military receive a $4 discount. Admission includes access to the entire museum.

Info: 888/NEWSEUM; newseum.org

 

Anne Elder is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and a freelance writer.

 

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