I Told You They Were Doing It
A short story about Love, featuring 'Good Morning America's' Amy Robach & T. J. Holmes set during the Georgia Senate runoff election.
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Loretta was waiting with her iPad
when I reached the front door. She knew it was me because she’s got one of those video doorbell ringers.
“I told you they were doing it,” she said before I could step across the threshold.
“Who? Doing what?”
“These two. Just look at this!” She handed over her precious first-generation iPad. The thing weighed a ton.
I read the first headline from the notorious tabloid The Daily Mail.
Exclusive! From Co-Stars to Lovers: GMA anchors Amy Robach, 49, and T.J. Holmes's, 45, romance is revealed - as the two married co-hosts are seen cozying up at a NYC bar, spending a romantic weekend away upstate, and holding hands in an Uber.
“I don’t care about this stuff, Auntie Lo. Why are you showing me this?”
She’s not my real aunt,
but Loretta was my mother’s best friend. I’ve known her all my life and had driven here to take her for early voting in the Georgia runoff election.
When she first handed me the iPad, I expected the story to be about the Neanderthal football player running for United States Senate.
Auntie Lo had been railing about that ever since she heard the candidate say we couldn’t do anything about climate change because our good air would trade places with China’s bad air. She’d go nuts every time that man opened his mouth.
But this Robach/Holmes story was another of her pet peeves. And she wanted me to eat my words.
“It’s platonic,” I’d been telling her.
“Why can’t a man and woman be good friends and let it stay at that?”
“Plato is nowhere to be found in those two,” she’d said. “They are doing it.”
Loretta had first noticed the couple’s chemistry when Good Morning America sent them to London to cover the platinum celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.
I saw the special energy between them too. You can’t fake chemistry like that. As Dan Rather said back in the day, “The camera does not blink.”
“Come on, Auntie Lo. They’re just friends,” I’d said.
“Just because they look good together and get along well together doesn’t mean they’re sleeping together. Trust me. I know. Been there, done that.”
“Thad Jackson, I’ve known you ever since you were born. You and that Hollywood co-anchor of yours may have fooled everybody else in your Area of Dominant Influence. But you did not pull the wool over my eyes, young man. No you did not.”
Clearly, she wanted me to know she knew what ADI stood for.
“Have it your way, Auntie Lo. But we do need to get going. Nearly a million people have voted so far, and the lines are long.”
I turned to place the iPad on the foyer-table next to the poinsettias.
“Don’t put it down yet, Thad. Look at this one from Radar Online.”
“Auntie, please. Not another one about Robach and Holmes? I don’t know everyone in TV News. I’ve been off the air a long time. Why should I care about them?”
“You may not care about them,” she said. “But you should care about the way the media is framing this. Just read this one last thing from Radar Online so we can talk about it in the car.”
I knew what this meant.
Church was about to be held in my Prius. I would drive. Auntie Lo would preach.
I understood at once why the Radar headline upset her.
The Ultimate Betrayal: Amy Robach's Husband Andrew Shue Helped 'GMA' Star Through Cancer Before Her Affair With Co-Host T.J. Holmes.
This time Auntie Lo let me put down the iPad and help her out to the car. She was really getting up there in years now, and I walked slowly alongside her, careful not to be too obvious that I was there to keep her steady.
A former model who frequently graced the pages of Ebony and Jet magazines during her day, she refused to tell anyone exactly how old she was. Although I used to think of this as vanity, I had recently come to see it as self-esteem.
Just because she could no longer wear stilettos and strut her stuff down a runway was no reason to send her to the mortuary while she was still breathing. A fact she often reminded me of.
The weather had turned cold since Thanksgiving.
But the sky was clear, and the sun threw the last leafy trees of autumn into shades of muted red and golden brown. I was glad senior citizens were allowed to move to the front of the line on voting days. There was no way would Aunt Loretta would allow me bring along the walker.
In the Prius, she did not disappoint.
“Number one,” she said. “They are trying to shame that girl because she’s dating a Black man. If Amy Robach was having an affair with Whit Johnson or Matt Gutman or even George Stephanopoulos, most people would just yawn. The only reason this story blew up is that she is white, and T. J. Holmes is Black.”
“Well, that’s why the network put them together as co-hosts in the first place,” I said. “A few weeks ago, Ted Koppel—remember him? He’s in his 80s now—did a special report citing a recent Gallup poll that says 96 percent of Americans approve of interracial marriage.
“Fifty years ago, only 4 percent did.
Nevertheless, the networks know that pairing a pretty white woman with a handsome Black man tends to create a certain frisson. That’s why they paired me with Claire Crosby back in the day.”
“Oh, so you thought you were handsome? I see.”
“No, I uh, er…”
“Never mind, Thad. You were always handsome to your Aunt Loretta. But let me finish about this ultimate betrayal thing because it stinks on so many levels.
“First, they’re trying to say Amy is a ho.
Because it’s wrong to have an affair with a Black man. And because her husband Andrew Shue stuck with her during her breast cancer battle nine years ago.
“But the media doesn’t know what was going on in her marriage. Yet here they are trying to shape the public’s perception. What if all the love has gone out of that marriage? What if her husband only stood by her because he was afraid of how it would look if he didn’t? What if he was having affairs while her body was unavailable to him? We don’t know anything about the husband. But the media is quick to make the woman wrong.”
“You’re right about that, Auntie Lo.”
“Please let me finish, Thad. I don’t want to forget. Second, why do these headlines always blame the woman? What did Amy Robach do, run across the parking lot and drag T. J. Holmes to the ground? Hell no, he’s in it too, for whatever reason.
“But no matter what happens, it’s always the woman’s fault. That’s the double standard, see? And I don’t care what Ted Koppel has to say about changing attitudes toward interracial marriage. People still blame the woman whenever sex is involved.
“We may not be killing women like Iran did for not wearing a damn scarf on their heads, but plenty of people over here would love to turn America into a religious state. You can’t tell me that some folks here aren’t as bad as Iran’s morality police.”
Aunt Loretta stopped to take a breath,
and I jumped in before she could start up again.
“The Daily Mail has the highest circulation in the UK,” I said. “But its readers tend to be conservative, over 58 and believe it or not, mostly women. The paper is just telling its audience what it wants to hear. But listen, Auntie Lo, Claire Crosby and I were never lovers. Random people used to stop me on the street all the time asking if I was banging her—pardon my French. And I was offended.”
“Why were you offended, Thad? I want to know.”
“First because of the language.
Why did the word have to be banging? But I was also offended because the questions were demeaning to both of us. It denied us the right to be something other than sexual creatures driven by jungle fever.
“And it bothered me that it happened so often. It was as if the audience was waiting for me to stick my tongue down Claire’s throat on live TV. Hell, I went to Stanford University. But that’s all the audience used to care about.”
My aunt looked at me, her eyes huge behind thick eyeglasses. She had allowed her hair to go gray but except during the pandemic, she made it to the beauty parlor once a week to keep it coifed and rinsed.
Her makeup was tasteful, never used to mask the wrinkles she referred to as character lines. Even though she was voting early, she wore a green fur-collared tweed suit. Voting for her was a special occasion. She always dressed for it.
I opened the passenger door near the entrance and led her to the front of the line, which was queued up around the corner outside. As I waited for Loretta to cast her ballot, I looked at my fellow Americans and wondered what drove them here.
What was happening in their heads?
Where would they fall on a Gallup poll about the issues that matter so much today but will likely be forgotten by the next election, replaced by some other burning conflict.
What did any of these people know about Amy Robach and T. J. Holmes? What, for that matter, did any of them know about love? How many of them lived their lives in the absence of the only thing that matters in this world?
Who among them would be brave enough to heed the frightening advice of Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet?
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound…
I suppose it is frightening to follow love.
When your mind is telling you that you can’t do love just yet because of…what? Family? Friends? The opinions of others? The fear that maybe all you’re really feeling is animal attraction? What is love anyway?
I did love Claire Crosby. Aunt Loretta was right about that. But she was wrong about our having an affair.
Like Robach and Holmes, we were often thrown together by work. And we also had great chemistry on the air. When I flew to Los Angeles to cover the crime of the century that year, I stayed with her family in Hollywood.
We played tennis and swam at her home.
We dined in restaurants alongside movie stars. Her father, a famous director, introduced me to Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn. Claire took hold of my arm and we walked together through Beverly Hills past the homes of the rich and famous.
And she told me things about herself she had never told anyone else. Not even her husband. Behind the glamorous facade of Tinsel Town and her father’s coveted gold statuette was girl who’d grown up feeling she was not good enough. That nothing she ever achieved could compete with what happened on the silver screen. For Claire to open up about her insecurities—that was trust. And out of that trust came love.
I stopped seeing a rich white woman with blonde hair and great teeth. And I started to see Claire. Not just the image we’d both become adept at projecting on air. But Claire.
She was married.
I was married. And whatever we shared together in that emotional intimacy must have shown up when the tally light turned red and the camera thrust its unblinking eye on our “chemistry.”
I looked at the lengthy queue of voters and wondered if any of them would have seen that for what it was?
What would their imaginations make of love that did not express itself sexually? Not much more, I suspected, of what their minds had made of the choices available to them in this runoff election.
Loretta emerged from the polling booth looking like she’d just drunk from the Fountain of Youth. She had a spring in her step. And for a moment I saw her the way she’d looked years ago.
Despite the absence of shared DNA,
I was proud to call this gray-haired lady in the tweed suit my aunt. It had been as important to her to say her piece about the Good Morning America co-anchors as it had been for her to vote. And I was glad she’d chosen me to be her one-man coffee klatch.
“There. Now that’s done,” she said, as I helped her back into the Prius. “Maybe my vote will help the football player score a touchdown. We sure do need him in Washington!”
Too stunned to speak, I turned to her with my mouth open as I fastened my seatbelt.
“Gotcha, didn’t I?” she said, her face an ageless impish grin.
“Auntie Lo, do you think Amy Robach and T. J. Holmes will make it?”
“I don’t know,” she answered. “It all depends on whether they have enough courage. I like knowing that I was right about them. But the only thing that matters to me is you, Thad. Do you have the courage to love?”
I turned into the traffic and stole a look at her through the corner of my eye. If only the answer to her question were as easy as casting a ballot, I thought. Instead of crossing the Rubicon.
©2022 Andrew ‘Jazprose’ Hill
Thanks for reading.
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I do enjoyed this podcast and have subscribed. I look forward to more! It was nice to hear you narrate that.
You are always a voice of reason, Namesake.