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Hughes Rudd; Outspoken Newscaster
Hughes Rudd, the puckish, curmudgeonly newscaster who once incurred the wrath of thousands of Midwesterners by describing Detroit as "Cleveland without the glitter," died Tuesday in a French hospital.
Officials at CBS, where Rudd worked for 20 years before moving to ABC in 1979, said the 71-year-old Rudd died in Toulouse of complications following an aneurysm of the aorta.
Over the years he had lived in a small village outside Toulouse in southern France and since his retirement in 1986 spent most of his time there.
The acerbic Rudd had a reputation for outspokenness whether he was covering a national political convention or discussing his own profession, which he once called a "comic strip medium."
"Any complicated or serious subject can't be explained on TV," he said in his raspy twang at a 1980 meeting of Texas broadcasters.
ABC colleague Ted Koppel once described the sardonic two-minute news commentaries that Rudd used to conclude his daily newscasts as "evenhanded malice."
In New York in 1980 for the Democratic National Convention, Rudd, on ABC's "World News Tonight," picked out a few of the various cities that had played host to the presidential nominating process. After dismissing Detroit and Cleveland in a single sentence, he showed a typically Ruddian film clip. It was of Manhattan--its strip joints, sleeping bums and filthy streets.
"You can find anything you want here," allowed Rudd--who prided himself on being an exception to the fashionably coiffed anchormen who were beginning to dominate the industry. "Just pray that it doesn't find you first."
The clip ended with a dog paying homage to a lamppost.
Rudd, who quit the University of Missouri after three years to become an artillery spotter flying Piper Cubs in World War II, began his journalism career with stints at several newspapers, including the Kansas City Star, the Minneapolis Tribune and the Rock Springs Daily Rocket and Sunday Miner in Wyoming.
In a 1975 interview with the Associated Press, Rudd said he always knew he wanted to be a journalist. His first job was as a copy boy at a newspaper in his hometown of Wichita, Kan.
He began his broadcasting career with CBS as a news writer in 1959. He held a number of foreign assignments during his CBS years, including stops in Moscow, Africa, the Middle East and Vietnam, and anchored the "CBS Morning News" from 1973 to 1977.
He lost his morning anchor job, he told an interviewer, because "they wanted a younger man."
He was a contributing correspondent at ABC. His reports appeared on "World News Tonight," "20/20" and other ABC news programs.
Rudd devoted nearly as much time to writing as to broadcasting.
He had received a fellowship to study creative writing at Stanford University in the 1950s and subsequently wrote stories for Harper's, Esquire, American Magazine, Paris Review, the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. In 1965 he wrote a book, "My Escape From the CIA and Other Improbable Events." It was a collection of essays that had at best a tangential relationship to its title.
For four months in 1973, Rudd and Sally Quinn, a Washington Post columnist who was making her television news debut, co-anchored the "CBS Morning News."
But the chemistry between the hard-edged reporter and the former social columnist did not work, and Quinn was gone after four months.
But they remained friends, and in 1979, writing again for the Post, Quinn interviewed her TV mentor. Rudd had just joined ABC and was reminiscing about his career--still dreaming, he said, of writing once more for a newspaper.
"If I didn't," he said, "I'd kill myself."