Whirlybird: Live Above LA
- Brian Donaldson
- 15 February 2021
Another compelling Storyville about a couple who changed the way news was reported in the 1990s
'Today has been OK: we had a plane crash out in Fontana'. Perhaps only a news journalist could come close to being able to justify making such a statement. Even then, there's almost a callous disregard for human life implicit in those words, as spoken by Zoey Tur, a reporter who made a name for herself as part of a married duo who were first on the spot for two of the most infamous news stories in 1990s LA. Back then, Zoey was a very angry man called Bob, and this transitioning (and an exploration of the reasons behind it) plays a large part in another excellent Storyville strand.
As news junkies, Tur and wife Marika Gerrard soon spotted a gap in the market and became the 'eyes in the sky' up in a helicopter, initially reporting local-interest crimes and then capturing dramatic footage that went worldwide. Firstly, they filmed the 1992 LA riots (in particular, the awful scenes of truck driver Reginald Denny being dragged from his vehicle and beaten almost to death), and later they tracked OJ Simpson's Ford Bronco as the ex-American footballing legend fled custody with a bank of police cars on his tail.
That attack on Denny left a deep impact on Tur who had been the victim of savage parental violence from the age of five: there's one deeply uncomfortable home-footage scene of Tur joking with a plastic-surgeon friend about doing some work on the nose that her father broke during one rage-filled assault. Tur inherited that anger and there are equally difficult scenes here of her belittling and threatening Gerrard while on the job even as the pair put up a united front for the chat-show hosts who were smitten by their journalistic derring do.
Now on her own, Tur seems to be at some peace, but, as Matt Yoka's film shows in a poignant ending, is guilt-ridden for past behaviour and the pain caused to family members (the pair had two children, one of whom followed their parents into the news business). This Storyville film is both a sensitively told portrayal of people in pain, and of an industry which was transformed by a couple's determination and bravery in getting to the heart of major stories.
BBC Four, Monday 15 February, 9pm.