Lorraine Hillman Knows NEWS

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November 2018
Photo by Marie Thomas and makeup by Bridget Crider

Lorraine (Post) Hillman was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1934. Her dad was a carpenter. Her mom was a homemaker until the couple separated when Lorraine was seven years old, at which point mom went to work at the defense plant nearby. An only child, Lorraine was always intrigued by news and celebrities, and her favorite pastime was collecting autographs.

“We’d stand outside radio shows and the clubs on Sunset Strip and wait for celebrities to come out and sign our books,” she says. “I joined several fan clubs and, back then, they’d often invite members of the clubs to come to show appearances and tapings – and get autographs afterward. I have Ava Gardner, Ronald Reagan, Howard Duff, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland – just dozens and dozens of names. And I still have the book!”

Lorraine attended a year at LA’s Manual Arts High but decided to stay on at her cafeteria job after the following summer. Shortly afterward, at just 17, she met and married her husband, whom she met at work. Almost immediately, he became abusive. Two years later, while pregnant with her son Rob, she divorced.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call The Hotline at (800) 799-7233.

“I was sure that I would never carry the baby to term if I stayed with him,” she recalls. “And that was the thing that finally made me leave. It wasn’t easy. At the time, there were no resources as there are now. There were no shelters, no restraining orders. It’s still not easy to leave an abusive situation, but people today do have options and, if you’re in such a situation, I urge you to call the domestic abuse hotline. Do not stay. You can get out.”

Lorraine and son Rob

Lorraine and son Rob

Lorraine moved in with her mother and grandmother, had her baby, and went to work part-time as an operator for the telephone company. For a long time, she rode the bus to work, but she eventually saved up and bought a car. She took a stenography course at a local community college, and was able to land a position as part-time secretary for the golf pro at a wholesale sporting goods company. Eventually, she became assistant to the manager.

In 1957, the sporting goods company moved and a friend, who was a secretary at CBS, recommended Lorraine apply for a position there.

“The questions they asked!” Lorraine recalls. “They wanted to know if I planned to get married again, if I planned to have more children. They asked about my route to work each day. And they’d ask the same things over and over, trying to see if I’d answer differently. You can’t ask those things now, but it was completely different back then.”

“Get an education. Go back if you have to. Also, vote. And go for it. Don’t wait for things to get better. Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy right now, otherwise you’ll run out of time.”

A few days after the interview, when she hadn’t heard back, Lorraine called to follow up. Personnel told her they’d been waiting to see if she’d call to inquire as they believed that would tell them whether she was serious about the job.

“Perseverance pays off,” she says. “Stick with your goals to achieve your dreams personally and professionally.”

Lorraine with Tom Selleck in 1993

Lorraine with Tom Selleck in 1993 on the set of Emmy award nominated Newsmakers.

For the next six years, Lorraine was a secretary at CBS’s famous Television City, working on live TV shows such as Playhouse 90 and meeting stars like Judy Garland and Danny Kaye.

“I really wanted to be in the newsroom,” she says, “but there were no spots for women. I was friends with CBS News Correspondent Charles Kuralt, and he recommended I check with the local station, KNXT CBS-Channel 2. So I did and they had a spot and I got to move.”

Not only did Lorraine find herself working – finally – in a newsroom, she was working on the first hour-long news program in the nation, The Big News. She responded to viewer mail (on a typewriter, mind you), typed into the teleprompter, and answered viewer phone calls.

“At the time, Walter Cronkite led off on the east coast and we got a lot of calls about him,” she says. “And the time an anchor and an entertainment reporter got into it because the entertainment man said terrible things about Alfred Hitchcock! We got so much mail and so many calls!”

One of Lorraine’s most vivid memories is of a moment one month to the day after she moved to news. John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, and everyone was in shock.

“No one went home,” she says. “Of course, in news, you don’t when something major happens. You have cots brought into the newsroom and you stay until the story is finished. But this was different. It was incredibly emotional for me because I’d worked on his campaign.  And then there were the others; Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy. We were live on the air when word came through that Robert Kennedy had been shot. That was a terrible day, too. I was there for the Watts riots. We were the first back on the air after the Northridge earthquake. I was trapped in my bedroom and had to wait for neighbors to free me so I could go into work.”

Things were very different in those days, in many ways. The newsroom was always full of cigarette smoke. News was sent via wire. Lorraine worked for years before the station hired a woman reporter. When a second one applied, the news director told her, “Honey, I love your work, but we already have our girl.”

“#metoo is real,” Lorraine says soberly. “There was a cameraman who used to flip my skirt as I walked by him in the newsroom. Years later, once I’d gotten into management and had interns of my own, there was a sportscaster who was a serious problem. By then, CBS had a policy in place, but for decades, there was nothing. I’ve heard from so many women newswriters, reporters, and crew in the last couple of years. It’s amazing how many people were affected.”

Photo courtesy of Mathew Photographic services

Lorraine in 1993 with her Emmy.
Photo courtesy of Mathew Photographic services

Over the course of her career, Lorraine won 10 Golden Mike awards and two Emmys, one for her work on the 1992 LA riots and another for her research on stunt deaths. She worked on major crime stories including Manson, the Menendez brothers, and the Hillside Strangler. Two years before her son Rob graduated high school, Lorraine went back and earned her GED. In 1982, after 19 years as a secretary at the station, Lorraine was promoted to director of news research and produced a local program called Newsmakers. Each episode featured an expert panel; the one that included Tom Selleck and Harvey Levin was nominated for an Emmy. Thirteen years later, in 1995, she retired, shortly after the OJ Simpson criminal trial, on which she worked extensively, ended.

“I loved my job, but I was ready to relax,” she says.

Just two months later, however, Lorraine was diagnosed with uterine cancer at a routine checkup. She was supposed to spend Christmas in Atlanta. Instead, she went straight into the hospital for surgery. Thankfully, after surgery, she got the all-clear. And then she got a call.

“The Simpson civil trial was just starting and, since I’d worked extensively on the criminal trial, ABC News asked me to come out of retirement to work for them until the civil was finished,” she says. “I couldn’t resist that, so I went back for two years. They only pulled me off OJ twice, once when Ennis Cosby was shot and once when they thought Frank Sinatra was dying. I’d been a lifelong fan of Mr. Sinatra, saw him on many occasions over the years, and couldn’t believe I was now working on his obituary.”

Lorraine’s friends in the business weren’t surprised when she was called out of retirement.

Lorraine book signing

Lorraine at a book signing at the PTC library

“I’ve known Lorraine since I was a 26-year-old kid bringing in my tape,” says award-winning CBS journalist Dave Lopez. “She’s a top-notch journalist and a font of information. She knows how to get the story and how to put it together.”

In 1997, Lorraine retired for good. Sort of. While she did take time to travel to Greece, Italy, Russia, Hawaii, and other places she’d long had on her list, she began judging for the Emmy Awards – and writing. Her book, Lifetime of News, was released in 2017, and is available in print and digital format on Amazon. Connie Chung blurbed it. And it’s an absolutely fascinating read.

“I loved my career,” she says, “and I do think it was pretty interesting. But I’m most proud of my son Rob and what a good man he’s turned out to be. I was able to raise him by myself, while going back to school and having a career.”

Lorraine family

Lorraine with her family at her book signing.

In 2012, Lorraine moved to Peachtree City to be closer to her granddaughter, Kim Antell, who nominated her.

“She has a passion for news and entertainment that doesn’t quit! Just yesterday we went on one of our famous Fox Theatre adventures, with a stop at Trader Joe’s afterward, of course,” says Kim. “I am constantly impressed by how in-the-know my grandma is, whether it’s the latest political reports, celebrity news, or women’s rights issues. She’s always up to date on the latest! And she has always been one of my biggest champions, through it all.”

“She’s really just an incredibly nice person,” says friend and Peachtree City neighbor Shirley Sanders. “She’s so interested in current events and still involved politically. She’s amazing and I just can’t say enough good things about her.”

Lorraine’s oldest friend, Marie Gaines, agrees.

Lorraine Sharon and Marie

Lorraine with cousin Sharon Ronnie and best friend Marie Gaines

“We’ve been friends since junior high,” Marie says, “and she has always been there for me. She’s brilliant, you know, and her career took her in a very different direction than I went, but we can still laugh and talk the way we always did. She’s a genuinely good friend.”

Lorraine continues to judge the Emmy Awards, and she’s still writing.  

“I wrote a recent piece on actress Betty White for the CBS Alumni magazine,” she says. “I’m currently writing a story about L. Ewing Scott who, at the time he was convicted, was the only person in United States history convicted of murder when no body was found.  His murder trial was widely covered and when I joined the television newsroom I proposed we send a reporter and crew to San Quentin Prison to interview him. We did. Scott never confessed.”

Lorraine, now 84, is happy that so many things have changed since “her day.”

“I’m glad to see that women have a voice now,” she says. “There are women photographers and techs – there were no such things when I was working. We have a way to go, yes, but parity wasn’t even a consideration back then. And it’s not just women. People of color have options now that were never available then. Newsrooms and television are so much more inclusive and that’s a good thing.”

Lorraine’s outlook on life is sunny. She’s incredibly proud of her son, her two grandkids, and her three great-grands. She’s staying active. And she’s excited about the future.

“My mother is a rock. You can depend on her and, when she makes a commitment, she sticks to it. She was also a good mom. She was  young and single, but she persevered and took good care of me. And we went on vacation together every single summer.” – – Rob Hillman, son

“When I was writing the book and I called the woman reporter who’d been told the station already had ‘its girl,’ she said, ‘Honey, we all have second acts,’” Lorraine recalls. “She’s right. I’ve had mine. And now I’m looking forward to my act three!”

Lorraine and Kim

Lorraine with her editor and granddaughter Kim Antell at a book signing

Maggie Worth

Maggie Worth is a freelance writer and consultant with a PoliSci degree and 15 years in project management and marketing. An avid mystery reader, co-founder of the Southside Scribes writer's group and member of BWFC, Maggie lives in Fayetteville with her husband, Shane, and their "kid," Rowdy.

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