The green room, that's where Washington is at its most honest. And, if USA Today's Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page is to be believed, it's where NBC's Andrea Mitchell's character is most pure.
"Picture this, a makeup artist is trying to, you know, apply some makeup, which can be difficult because Andrea is simultaneously conferring with producer Michelle Perry and watching the State Department briefing on a monitor and dictating changes in her script," Page explained. "She's usually ignoring the poor sound guy who's trying to attach a microphone and the floor director who is begging with her, with rising desperation in his voice, to just get on the set."
Page was among those whose job it was to both toast and roast Mitchell at this year's Fourth Estate Award dinner, held Friday at the National Press Club. As she called Mitchell, this year's recipient, "the human tornado," former PBS anchor Jim Lehrer got up to the podium and said, "Amen," before explaining that Mitchell performs the function of "Big Sister" in media, because she's on television so often.
NBC News' Washington Bureau Chief Ken Strickland called Mitchell simply the best. "Who stays at one network for 35 years?" he asked. "That means ... we really, really like you."
As part of the roast, clips from Mitchell's early years in Washington were shown, much to her chagrin. "I don't know who that brunette with the bad clothes and the awful hair is – oh my God," Mitchell told the crowd.
The NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent recalled, in her 45 years in journalism, how much technology has changed. "We had walkie talkies – yes, we did – covering the Reagan White House we had walkie talkies. That's how we communicated; there were no cell phones," Mitchell said. "And then we got cell phones. They were about as big as a shoebox."
Mitchell remembered one particularly technology-fraught evening on the job. Her team had just covered the Clinton/Gore ticket at Madison Square Garden and were heading down the New Jersey Turnpike to the next campaign stop in Cherry Hill, N.J. "We had a winnebago, we edited in the vehicle, so we had folding chairs – I guess workplace safety was not such a big issue then," Mitchell said. "And the folding chairs were going back and forth – it was our version of twerking, I think," Mitchell said to great laughs.
But it wasn't the "twerking" that tripped up Mitchell's team. "The only thing we didn't think about, going down the New Jersey turnpike from Madison Square Garden, was gasoline," she remembers. "We ran out of gas."