People aren't professional enough.
Once, during the taping of a prime-time Today special in Rockefeller Center's Channel Gardens, NBC late-night talk-show host David Letterman leaned out the seventh-story window and yelled through a bullhorn, "I am Larry Grossman, president of NBC News. And I'm not wearing pants!" While the Today show continued uninterrupted (Letterman was too far away for the microphones to pick up his voice), Gumbel was so angry that he has since refused to appear on Letterman's show—this despite the fact that Today show producer Friedman and Letterman's producer had discussed staging some kind of stunt. Doesn't matter. A professional wouldn't have done it, says Gumbel. Letterman says he doesn't want to talk about it. Gumbel says he doesn't want Letterman to grovel. "I just want him to pick up the phone," he says.
What? And ruin a good shtick? The Gumbel feud is an eephus pitch right in Letterman's wheelhouse. One night on his show, Letterman said Gumbel was the kind of guy who would spend a weekend "alphabetizing his colognes." Then there was the night a huge marquee appeared behind Letterman's desk with the billing BRYANT! THE MUSICAL.
Gumbel, who refers to Letterman as "the——," isn't laughing. "It's this hip-sick-I'm-cool-you're-not kind of humor, a kind of mocking humor that I don't think is particularly funny," he says of Letterman's show. "He's insecure and it shows. But since he's competing against test patterns, he looks terrific." So forget the nightly coast-to-coast bashing Gumbel is taking from Letterman; he'll hold out. "Bryant can hold a grudge for a long time," says Brubaker. "He doesn't worry about p.r."
People aren't true enough.
Gumbel is godfather to Steve Garvey's daughter Whitney, as Garvey is to Bradley Gumbel, yet now the relationship has chilled. Gumbel won't say what happened, only that "You're seeing the new Steve Garvey now...the one who had too much pressure to become STEVE in capital letters."
People don't try enough.
If there's one thing Gumbel can't stand it's somebody "mailing it in," giving a half-hearted effort. This includes everybody from interviewees ("If somebody wants to sit there and look like an ——, I'll let him look like an ——," Gumbel says) to interviewers ("Nancy Reagan is a wonderful interview as long as you stick to wonderful subjects," he says. "But get to something else and she's monosyllabic. So when I interview her, I come out looking like an ——. But when David Hartman interviewed her, writers said he was 'warm and endearing.' Give me a break.").
Sometimes, women aren't good enough.
Gumbel has a grudge against New York Daily News TV critic Kay Gardella. He once promised that if they ever showed up at the same press conference, he would walk out. Nor is he fond of former Today contributor Ellerbee, who claims he refused to introduce her TGIF pieces on the show. "He's never liked me," says Ellerbee. "He has a locker-room mentality when it comes to women.... I think I was too strong a woman for him."