Still in the swim of things
In the small town of Sidney Ohio, just 40 miles north of Dayton, Jenny Crimm was born "enough years ago to qualify me as a senior." Pressed further about her date of birth she smiles and says she's "as old as any other blonde on television will admit to being."
She graduated from Michigan State University intending to following in her surgeon father's footsteps. At that time women were not readily accepted as Doctor's and her father was afraid she would not be treated well. So he talked her out of pursuing the profession.
She considered Medical Social Work and then saw classes on Broadcasting and Communication and she knew she found her major. "I decided to report on the world's ills instead of curing them."
She never wanted to be in front of the camera. She was very shy and introverted and much more interested in producing. Whenever possible she took classes concerning the history of broadcasting or the like instead of speech or anything involved with having the spotlight pointed at her.
Right after college she went to Cincinnati and then to Channel 8 in Cleveland. In both cases she was the first female in the newsroom.
The very first job offer she received was to go on the air, and she trained herself to worry about the interview, not herself. Her first major interview was with Helen Hayes. She remembers Ms. Hayes telling her how nervous she was. "I had always admired Helen Hayes and here she was telling me she was nervous to talk to me!"
From Channel 8 she went to Chicago to do the news and then hosted a morning show in Chicago. "I liked that much better than the news. It gives you an opportunity to express yourself and your personality."
From Chicago she went to San Francisco to do consumer reporting and anchor the 6 and 11:00 news.
Finally she received an offer from Channel 5. She was offered a job with ABC in Chicago at the same time. She came to Cleveland for the interview and to see her family and stayed for 22 years before leaving the "Media Merry-Go-Round!"
Jenny had "so many tremendous experiences and worked with such wonderful people." Since Wapakoneta, Ohio was near her hometown of Sidney, she was a natural to cover Neil Armstrong when he landed after his trip to the moon.
She's been to Europe twice, doing interviews on movie sets with such people as Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. She interviewed Ben Gazzara and George Siegel in Czechoslovakia.
She remembers that it was not all glitz and glamour on these trips. "I ate bad pork in Munich and was terribly sick in Czechoslovakia."
Two weeks after she left Czechoslovakia the Russians moved in and all of the movie set and equipment had to be removed since some of the props included tanks and guns.
Jenny has interviewed her share of politicians too, including Ted Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller and Hubert Humphrey.
In 1975 President Gerald Ford was in San Diego when Manson family cult member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme tried to shoot him. Soon after Ford was in San Francisco.
Jenny Crimm with President Gerald Ford
Jenny interviewed him and asked "Did the assassination attempt change your views on gun control?" Ford replied "No, I still believe we should control the criminals not the guns."
Right after the interview ended Ford left the building and Jenny heard a tremendous commotion. Sara Jean Moore had tried to assassinate the President, just 17 days after the attempt by Squeaky Fromme. That night Walter Cronkite used Jenny's question and answer in his nightly news.
Jenny Crimm with Walter Cronkite
She worked with some of the local greats too, like Dorothy Fuldheim, Fred Griffith, Joel Rose and Ted Henry.
Joel Rose, Jenny Crimm,
Jan Jones and Dorothy Fuldheim
She and Dorothy were personal friends as well as mutually respected co-workers.
Dorothy would often kid Jenny. "Jenny" she would say "I want some of your height". Jenny would always respond "I'll trade you for your jewels!"
She co-hosted the Morning Exchange with Fred Griffith and describes him as a down-to-earth, honest man. "What you see with Fred is exactly what he is."
She was also impressed by the qualities of Ted Henry. "Ted is truly a survivor. He is a very honest and forthcoming guy. I really enjoyed working with Ted."
She remembers seeing the tape of Morning Exchange when the job was first offered to her and thinking "What am I getting into" when she watched Joel Rose interact with the others, especially the women.
Jenny Crimm with the Morning Exchange's Joel Rose, Fred Griffith, Lee Jordan and Dan Maly in 1988
Jenny dished out as much as he did and they played off each other naturally and brilliantly. "I took everything he said with a huge grain of salt. What we had was chemistry not scripting."
She also remembers working with Dick Goddard, Joel Daly and Howard Hoffman and cherishes those memories, even though she says now "It doesn't seem like it was really my life. It's more like it was someone else and I watched it all happen."
When she was on the air she always answered every letter someone sent her.
She also got to do what she originally set out to do, that is, to produce and do behind the camera work. She produced a number of Cable Network News shows and a series of half hour specials.
She was to become well known for her "Jenny's One of a Kind" Feature where she covered unique and different stories that had not been seen on every other news show. Her stories were unusual and often had a positive twist to them, although they were certainly not "fluff pieces."
Then one day she decided it was time to do something different. She bought a condo in Florida where she lives part of the year. She has always loved the water and swimming, although she never swam competitively. "There's already too much competition in life. This is something I just love doing and I never wanted to taint it with competition."
She went to the Red Cross and took an Aquatics Instructors Course. She has taken a number of Arthritis Foundation Courses including one called All Around Fitness in Brooklyn that had water exercises choreographed. The choreographers were Kathy Plescia and Mary Anne Brogan.
In 1999 the Westlake Recreation Center opened and she approached the head of Pools and Aquatics, Ron Cisar, and asked him if she could have her own classes. He said yes and she has been there ever since. Her classes are not choreographed but they are set to music and all Arthritis Association approved.
Jenny swims a minimum of 3 miles a week. She likes to call what she does "Theraquatics" and her motto is "No pain - that's the gain."
Her goals are simple: to increase range of motion; flexibility; mobility; stamina and strength and she stresses PBS (Posture, Breathing and Smiling). She finds her classes and water exercise in general will benefit a person physically, emotionally and socially all at the same time.
She also teaches in Florida and may start a class in the pool at her condo there. She's certified to teach swimming but is happier teaching her ladies how to relieve pain and avoid surgery through exercise. She is happiest just being able to share her love of the water with everyone.
Jenny makes the classes very fun for her ladies.
She can be spotted from anywhere at the Rec Center - she is the beautiful tall woman in a bathing suit and a hat! She has a hat to match every bathing suit and she wears them through the entire class.
Her new life also gives her the chance she wanted to spend time with her mother, who is 91 years old.
And of course there is her pampered poodle, who accompanies Jenny almost everywhere.
Jenny Crimm was fortunate to interview Anthony Quinn who gave her the advice she still lives her life by. He told her she should always be a little nervous, it gives her an edge.
Jenny Crimm with Anthony Quinn
on location in Italy
He told her "[life is] like a bullfight. You get in the ring and the day I can spit is the day I'm in trouble." (alluding to the dry mouth of a nervous person.) He went on to tell her "You are only as good as you dare to be bad."
Jenny took this to heart and it has given her courage throughout her life. It gave her courage in the interviews, on television, leaving television and launching a new career and starting a new life.
Jenny Crimm is a strong woman with a smile that goes on forever and a heart that is full of love for everyone she meets.
She has met the famous and the infamous; the rich and the poor and so many in between. To Jenny they are all the same - people with whom she has made a friend.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
Click for more photos of Jenny Crimm - yesterday and today
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