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Parsons Yields Punchline To High School Awardee

6/06/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

About 300 guests dined al fresco in the atrium of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to celebrate the Trustees Award bestowed on Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Richard Parsons by the National Television Academy last Thursday (June 3).

The evening proved that just because you’re a media big shot, the technology won’t necessarily cooperate — even on your big night.

Cable News Network’s Larry King was the moderator, cracking wise and telling tales about himself.

He trotted out the oft-told story of his most memorable moment in the business, when Marlon Brando kissed him “full on the lips” on the air, at the end of an interview years ago.

“I have a confession to make — I still think about him,” he said, mock wistfully. As the laughs died down, he transitioned into an introduction of a short film, produced to illustrate the dedication to public service shown by Parsons and Time Warner.

The lights went down and the crowd stared at a dark screen. Then false starts of sound were heard. Then it went quiet again.

Out of the blackness boomed Larry King’s voice: “Tonight, technical assistance is provided by Fox” — a dig at the competition.

The film finally aired and when Parsons took the stage, he managed to upstage King by gesturing the talk show host away from kissing him.

Parsons was gracious. He said his only qualification was being a very lucky guy with good colleagues. But he was also rueful about the glitch.

“World’s largest media and entertainment company, and we can never get the video to work,” he said.

True to his self-deprecating style, Parsons spent only five minutes on stage, allowing most of the presentation to be devoted to the winners in the young journalists’ competition staged by the Time Warner Foundation.

Apropos of a company that includes America Online, 405 entries were submitted and judged via the Internet. Student producers of the six winning entries, their parents and teachers were at the event.

The best line came from one of the future Larry Kings: “I had two goals for myself this year: To win this award and to get a B in calculus. So I’m really grateful for this award!” said Stephen P. Neary of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, who won in the Technical Achievement category with “LC Current Where It’s @: Mrs. Hanna’s Dance Party.”

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