When you think back on some of the oddest things you've done in your life, this one makes the list. I actually barked, growled and sneered at another human. Not as a joke, but seriously. As in seriously angry. Only one person has brought me to that curious and somewhat out-of-character behavior. It was Chris Burrous. And he kind of deserved it.
Chris Burrous, while working as an anchor at KOVR CBS 13 in Sacramento, tried to barge into the KFBK 1530 studio one morning while the morning news show was in progress, demanding to talk to Rush Limbaugh, whose national show began at KFBK.
Did you catch what I said? A news anchor from another news station conned his way into another newsroom and walked into their studio without permission during a live show. Can you imagine anyone doing that?
Only Chris Burrous would do that. Because he was not like anyone else.
It was 2007 and Limbaugh started a controversy by playing a musical parody called "Obama the Magic Negro." He drew fire from Burrous and others who called it racist. CBS 13 had a poll asking its listeners to weigh in. (Editor’s Note: The term "Magic Negro" was actually coined by black writer David Ehrenstein in an editorial he wrote for The Los Angeles Times.)
You can only imagine how furious I was. I was the Senior Editor at the time. I wasn't at work yet when the incident happened but I was infuriated at Burrous' attempted ambush.
Nothing was done about the incident until one day I arrived at work and a reporter immediately pulled me aside and told me with a sly smile that Burrous was once again in the building, behind a closed door meeting with the Program Director. Instead of barging in like Chris did, I took a different if somewhat unorthodox approach. I stood outside the door and barked and growled like a dog. Like an angry dog ready to attack. I was literally a grown woman growling at a man while my staff looked on incredulously.
My boss opened the door, angry with me, and asked me what the hell was I doing? I was brought in, sat on the small two-seater couch next to Chris and sneered at him. Told him why I was angry and how he must never do that again. He just smiled back, apologized and laid on the charm. I was then told Chris would be filling in from time to time for Kitty O'Neal on the afternoon news, the show I produced. I would be working side by side with my sworn enemy Burrous!
It didn’t take long for Burrous to soften me up, especially with that big smile of his. One day I was discussing audio ethics with the staff and Chris walked over and looked intrigued. "You are actually having a conversation on ethics?" He said it was rare and refreshing.
As his editor, we talked often and soon built a mutual admiration and respect for each other. Chris was such a natural talent who amazed me with how easily he slipped into the radio anchor position. He never slipped up. Not once with another station's cues, tosses, teases and promos. I've found in my long news experience that TV anchors who rely on scripts and TelePrompters often have a hard time adjusting to the free flowing, spontaneous and conversational radio format.
Chris and I had many talks in the studio. Ironically, the same studio he once barged into he was now sitting in as anchor. When his time at KFBK ended, he wrote me a beautiful email, thanking me for my professionalism and guidance. He added: "I wanted to do good for you."
Journalist Matthew Keys was mentored by Chris. Keys shared with me that Burrous spoke fondly of me and showed me a text from Chris that said:
"Judy Farah is wonderful."
We lose the familiar faces and voices of news people we bring into our lives to layoffs, departures or moves but rarely to death. That is why we are all so shocked by Burrous' unexpected death at the too young age of 43. (Authorities are investigating a possible overdose.) A heart wrenching Facebook Live video Burrous took with his family on Christmas Day has 2,700 shares. A GoFundMe account to raise money for his wife and 9-year-old daughter has surpassed its goal of $75,000.
Chris, you were wonderful, too. I wish I had one last chance to tell you that, my friend.