Regardless of which Beltway insider comes out on top in this year’s election, it’s unlikely he or she has seen as much of Washington’s power corridors as David Fox. In his 25 years with ABC News, the stage manager has worked live broadcasts from both houses of Congress, the White House, and even Camp David (complete with gun-toting, uniformed Navy security right outside the door). You think your job has stress? Try being the guy who has to count down the president of the United States when he’s about to tell the nation we’re going to war.
“The stage manager sits in the president’s chair and tells everyone what’s going to happen once he arrives,” Fox explains from his D.C. base. “If the president hasn’t arrived one minute after the broadcast starts, or if you count him down too early and have to make him start again, it’s on the stage manager. It can get a little nerve-wracking.”
Fox recalls one pool feed when President Clinton had not yet arrived. “Everyone was screaming into my headset wanting to know where he was,” he recalls. “The elevator door finally opens and Clinton looks at me, because I’ve got the headset on. I just pointed and he walked in and began his press conference. No counting down, no prep. Just go!”
Being calm under fire has been Fox’s biggest strength. When ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings came down from his office without his blazer moments before going on the air, the stage manager whipped out a coat he used to check lighting and, despite it being too small, Jennings began the segment.
Fox admits the rush of live news fits him like a glove. For his current gig, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he must shuttle two guests off and four guests on during the frantic 90-second commercial breaks (just like an act change in theater). He’s never missed a turnaround yet. “I tried being an AD for commercials and features and the pace was just so slow,” Fox laughs. “I’ve even been inside the control room as an AD, but on the studio floor, we’re the eyes and the ears of the director and an integral part of history as it’s being made. The feeling in the room the night George W. Bush announced we were going into Iraq was indescribable. Your focus on doing your job to perfection is 110 percent because there is no second chance.”