Today we remember and celebrate the life of Louis Rukeyser, host of the original iconic Wall $treet Week, who passed away 10 years ago this week. For more than three decades on PBS, Rukeyser found smart, clever ways to explain in jargon-free -- and pun-filled -- language what happened each week in the financial markets and the economy. Most importantly, he demanded guests provide analysis not "solely about investments, but anything that affected people and their money."
If Rukeyser didn't invent financial television, he perfected it. And I'm not referring to the type of hysterical, short-term-oriented programming passing for financial TV nowadays. He never focused on the ticker, instead examining every piece of news through the lens of long-term wealth creation. For his work, Rukeyser garnered numerous awards, including the distinction from People magazine of being the only sex symbol in the "dismal science" of economics.
"He brings to the tube a blend of warmth, wit, irreverence, thrusting intellect and large doses of charm, plus the credibility of a Walter Cronkite," said a Money magazine cover story.
The most important thing Rukeyser did -- and one of our goals in re-launching Wall Street Week last year -- was to, as he put it, "make previously baffling economic information understandable and interesting to people in general." Rukeyser brought on titans of finance and economics to help viewers identify opportunities and stay the course during periods of volatility.
Two of his most memorable shows aired on the Fridays before and after the October 19, 1987 Black Monday crash. Guests predicted and analyzed the aftermath of the infamous 22.6% sell-off, while Rukeyser provided his customary perspective. On October 23, in a typically witty and light-hearted opening monologue, he said:
Okay, let's start with what's really important tonight. It's just your money, not your life. Everybody who really loved you a week ago, still loves you tonight. And that's a heck of a lot more important than the numbers on a brokerage statement. The robins will sing. The crocuses will bloom. Babies will gurgle and puppies will curl up in your lap and drift off happily to sleep, even when the stock market goes temporarily insane.
And now that that's all fully in perspective, let me say: ouch! And eek! And medic! Tonight we're going to try to make sense out of mass hysteria. To look behind the crash of '87 and most perilous, but most important, of all, to look ahead... Our regularly scheduled program on food stocks has been postponed until December. Instead, tonight we'll try to give you food for thought about Wall Street's record case of indigestion.
Louis Rukeyser could never be replaced, but we are honored to have the chance to carry on his legacy.