Answer Man

“Anchorman” based on a composite of personalities

Will Ferrell as TV anchor Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman”
Will Ferrell as TV anchor Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman”

Q: Yesterday on the local Fox radio station, the late afternoon drive-time guys were chatting about Patrick Emory, the former St. Louis TV anchorman (KMOX, KSDK, KDNL) who recently died in Florida. One guy said he had heard that Emory was the inspiration for Ron Burgundy, the egotistical TV newsman in “Anchorman” 1 and 2. Another said he actually heard the writer say he based the movie on Emory, who lived a few doors down from him. Do you know if that's true?

J.W., of Belleville

A: As in the movie, it sounds as if someone was messing with those Fox jocks’ teleprompters. According to the time frames and memories of those who shaped the movie, I can tell you Emory clearly was not the inspiration for Will Ferrell’s goofball character.

Yes, Emory quickly was branded a “pretty-boy news reader” by his boss during a short stint in Los Angeles at a time when TV execs tried to pull in larger audiences with young, sexy anchorhunks and anchorbabes. But at that time (1975-1976), Adam McKay and Will Ferrell — co-writers and star of the two Ron Burgundy movies — were just 7 and 8 years old so it’s hard to imagine Emory leaving any lasting impressions on them even if he had lived next door to them. McKay wasn’t even living in L.A. then, and when Emory moved back to California for another brief period in 2000, he was approaching his late 50s and hardly served as a Burgundy role model anymore.

Instead, Will Ferrell told The Mercury, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in Pottstown, Pa., that he modeled Burgundy after Mort Crim, an anchor at KYW-TV, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. (Crim apparently once was a leading candidate to be a co-anchor for ABC’s “World News Tonight.”) In fact, when the first “Anchorman’ was still on the drawing board, the writers gleaned much of their knowledge about anchors from talking to Philadelphia TV people. After all, McKay grew up in Malvern, Pa., which is just west of the City of Brotherly Love.

“We asked all of these anchors for their best stories about what it was like broadcasting the news in the ’70s,” McKay told The Mercury’s Amy Longsdorf. “We wanted to know what the social life was like and the vibe in the office. We wanted to know about the parties. And we wanted to know how these guys got scoops and if anyone fought them for the scoops. What we learned as we kept going is that the stories got crazier and crazier — even crazier than what we imagined.”

By the time shooting began, producers decided that working in Philadelphia would be too expensive. When they were ready to start filming in 2003, they chose San Diego, where they turned for even more information from KGTV-TV’s Jack White, who had been an anchor there in the ’70s. Then, the film crew paged through White’s scrapbooks to look at old pictures of anchors in leisure suits and bad, Trumpish hair. Voilà, Ron Burgundy, a man only Ted Baxter would idolize, was born.

“The first time I saw Will Ferrell in makeup, I thought it was Harold Greene,” White said, referring to another KGTV anchor at the time. “I looked up and said, ‘What’s Harold doing here?’ (But) the Ron Burgundy character is a composite of a lot of people. It is not Harold Greene. It is not anyone, hopefully, we ever knew.”

Q: With the Fourth of July coming soon, I’m already dreading my one dog going crazy because of the fireworks. He becomes extremely skittish during storms, but goes absolutely bonkers on the Fourth. I hate to keep drugging him because the effects last for hours, and I thought I heard about something new. Do you know anything about this?

Desperate, of Freeburg

A: Firecrackers would be out of the question, but pet owners may wind up lighting a sparkler or two to celebrate the recent launch of Sileo (SILLY-oh) as the latest answer to keeping Spot and Fido from either going nuts or cowering under the bed during storms and fireworks.

Developed by Orion Corp., of Finland, Sileo is the first prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically aimed at calming animals through loud noises. Easily applied at home when necessary, it is distributed in the U.S. by Zoetis Inc., of Florham Park, N.J., and was supposed to be available to veterinarians by late last month.

As you obviously know, fear of loud noises is a common headache for owners of the 70 million dogs in the U.S. Stories of dogs jumping through windows, destroying doors as they try to escape a room or being killed when they run wildly into traffic are common. According to a Zoetis study, July 5 is the most common day for frustrated owners to dump their once-adored pets at a shelter.

“I have seen the absolutely worst things that can happen with noise anxiety,” said Dr. J. Michael McFarland, who now heads Zoetis’ pet marketing division after working for years at animal hospitals.

Current treatments range from such human drugs as Xanax and other tranquilizers to therapy, such as confining dogs to a small area or desensitizing them by exposing them to increasingly loud noises. The trouble is that the effects of the drugs can last days and may produce appetite problems, upset stomachs and even abnormal heart rhythms. Behavioral therapy is time-consuming, costly and not always successful.

Sileo comes in a needleless syringe that is placed between the dog’s gum and lip to apply the gel on the dog’s cheek. It works by blocking norepinephrine, a brain chemical that ramps up anxiety. It starts to work within 30 to 60 minutes and wears off in two to three hours, according to McFarland, who says he uses it on his Finnish Lapphund. The suggested price is $30 per syringe, which is enough for two 80- to 100-pound dogs or four 40-pound dogs. In tests on 182 beagles on New Year’s Eve, 75 percent of owners rated it good or excellent compared to 33 percent who applied a fake gel. Side effects were reported as rare and minor.

Today’s trivia

What’s the only state whose name can be typed using keys on just one row of a standard keyboard?

Answer to Friday’s trivia: This must be a sight to behold: Archerfish are famous for their ability to prey on insects by shooting them down by spraying them with water from their mouths. They reportedly are extremely accurate and can nail a bug flying up to 3 meters above the water with their specialized mouths. They can be found from India to Australia.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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