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Royal Vows, Then Maternity Leave : Pauley Thrives With Job And Family

July 22, 1986|FRED ROTHENBERG | Associated Press Television Writer

NEW YORK — This week, she'll cover the royal wedding for the "Today" show. Next week, she'll cavort with her 2 1/2-year-old twins and prepare for the late-August arrival of her third child. Jane Pauley, seemingly at peace with herself, says she thrives on career and family, not one or the other.

After the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in London on Wednesday, Pauley will begin an 11-week maternity leave. When she returns to the flowery "Today" set in early October, she'll celebrate her 10th anniversary on NBC's top-rated, wake-up program.

"It's a miracle I was given 10 years on this job," said Pauley, 35, who has a new contract that runs into 1991.

These morning jobs can be killers. If crazy hours don't do it, fickle ratings will. Just look at the musical chairs on the "CBS Morning News" for 30 years. But Pauley has been beating the sun up for a decade because she has the right emotional make-up.

"One of my strong points is that I appear to be pretty together," Pauley said, swaying contentedly in her rocking chair during a recent interview. "I don't wear my neuroses on my sleeve. I'm a pretty straightforward person who doesn't mind taking a few shots at herself. I don't mind admitting that I'm perfectly normal and completely insecure from time to time."

In previous years, she'd wake up some mornings and fret--" 'Jane Pauley on the 'Today' show--who are you kidding?'--but it's been several years since I've had that kind of flutter of panic," she said. Confidence in herself, co-anchor Bryant Gumbel, the "Today" staff and the broadcast changed that.

"You know if you blow an interview there's always another, and there's always tomorrow," she said.

Pauley and Gumbel were named 1985's co-broadcasters of the year by the International Radio and Television Society, something unimaginable 10 years ago when one critic said the new "Today" woman had the intelligence of a cantaloupe; another called her a "hood ornament."

"It really is quite profound validation, not vindication. I didn't long to get back at anybody," Pauley said. "But I did crave validation and acceptance by my peers. The award said that I had it and, by implication, that I've had it for some time."

NBC executives believe that Pauley returned from her last maternity leave in 1984 a more relaxed, more assured broadcaster, "one who was willing to risk the 3s for the 10s and not willing to settle for just 5s," said "Today" executive producer Steve Friedman.

Friedman contends that Pauley's family life with the twins and her husband, "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau, gave her a release from the job and, at the same time, confirmed that she wasn't cut out for full-time motherhood.

"I'm just not that good at staying home," she said. "I admire some friends who have made that choice and do it really well. I wouldn't be bad. I'd be mediocre at best."

But Pauley maintains that her on-air improvement pre-dates her maternity leave. The publicity surrounding her twins and comeback merely spurred another look from viewers and colleagues.

"Those same people may not have noticed Jane Pauley since she was 25," she said.

In 1972, Pauley, an Indiana native, started as a reporter at an Indianapolis TV station. Three years later, she became anchor at NBC's Chicago station, before winning the "Today" job in 1976, replacing Barbara Walters. Despite Pauley's youth, she had more on-air studio experience than most of the other candidates.

"That wouldn't be true anymore. Women have had chances to anchor," Pauley said. "There's now a great reservoir of mature women, talented women. To hire a 25-year-old now would be laughable."

Times have changed. In 1960, when Florence Henderson was on "Today," NBC hid her pregnancy behind clotheslines and parasols and wouldn't let her mention it on the air. Pauley's pregnancy has come up casually on the show, and she hasn't missed any work because of it.

"When I had the so-called morning sickness, it didn't bother me much in the morning," said Pauley. "I literally felt best when I was on the air. The real difficulty is at home keeping up with twin 2-year-olds."

Pauley, now in her eighth month, got her doctor's OK to fly to London.

"But I know who to call in London, if it comes to that," she said. "And I've already designated (NBC correspondent) Bob Jamieson as substitute labor coach."

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