CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Back when he was one of West Virginia's most familiar faces on statewide TV news, Bob Brunner had to let his reporting and news desk anchoring do his talking.
Now that's he is retired -- with an occasional freelance sortie to cover the Legislature -- Brunner is willing to let fly without mincing words about people he covered, such as Arch Moore, Gaston Caperton and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, former West Virginia governors all.
Sample comments from an interview about his new book, "Bob Brunner's Reporter's Recollections":
On Rockefeller: "He probably regards me with a bit of disdain and suspicion -- and I probably regard him as not one of the more intelligent people I've ever known."
On Arch Moore: "He was kind of a visionary bulldog -- and he just happened to be corrupt."
Brunner's unvarnished views on these and other politicos, as well as highlights from a career of stories -- from disasters like Buffalo Creek to reputed monsters like the Point Pleasant Mothman -- are gathered together in a recently released self-published book.
While the front bears photos from a lifetime of interviews and stories, the back depicts Brunner in full-bore Elvis gear, with text noting that his many public Elvis imitations were an "open secret" from his "other life."
Among other places, the book is available through the West Virginia Book Co. at wvbookco.com and at an upcoming June 17 book signing at Tamarack. It will be of special interest to longtime followers of West Virginia politics and news.
The book tracks Brunner's career as a TV newsman and anchor at WSAZ from 1968 to 1990, through his exit from TV news into the Statehouse to work for the Caperton administration, then back into TV news in Beckley and outside West Virginia.
"The first 60 percent is my travels through the world of politics and people I covered the last 40 years," said Brunner. "The last 40 percent are the most fascinating stories -- UFOs to Mothmen to sex trials. All those things that made my socks go up and down as a reporter."
There is an extended section on Rockefeller, who first came to West Virginia in 1965 as part of a federal program to provide community support to underserved rural areas. Brunner describes a story he reported that explored Rockefeller's military draft status and deferments that kept him out of the Selective Service System, in which most eligible males were classified 1-A unless granted an exemption. He writes in the book:
"Then, on the verge of facing that One-A status, Rockefeller was granted a new deferment of the rarest kind. He had decided to go to Japan, accompanied by a bodyguard and companion John Altano, to immerse himself in an in-depth study of the Japanese language. The deferment was for 'studying a language critical to the defense needs of the United States.' Wow.
"When the deferment expired, Rockefeller returned to the Washington, D.C., to make some career plans. That's when he was advised of the Justice Department Community Enhancement program, which brought him to West Virginia. Yes, it provided an additional year's deferment."
Brunner's story was picked up by The Associated Press, he writes, at a time when Rockefeller was facing off with Arch Moore for the governor's office:
"Rockefeller's media relations machine went into high gear. He was 'outraged' by the suggestion that he avoided military service. His staffers ripped into me for reporting the story. I was accused of being a 'shill' for the Moore campaign. The story was called a 'cheap campaign smear.' But you know, Rockefeller never denied it."
Brunner goes on to note in the book that Rockefeller's senatorial service has been marked by concern for veterans and that "he is considered by veterans' rights advocates to be a leading ally in Congress."