Thanks, Madeline

Madeline Kahn, the actress, died last week. She was just 57 and it was cancer. [Click here for he full story.]

I knew her only by her work but I'll miss her because she was so funny and in a funny way as artists sometimes do, she became a part of my life.

It began way back when Jimmy Carter was President and I was sent out to watch him vacation on the Salmon River in Idaho. Going on vacation is fun but watching someone vacation is pretty boring.

So with nothing else to do all of us reporters assigned to watch the Carters watched movies at night -- no mean feat in the middle of nowhere and even harder since we had no projector and only one movie -- Blazing Saddles, starring Madeline Kahn, among others.

This was long before you could rent movies at the video store, but our editor Phil Gillespie found a way. He somehow transferred the film to video tape so we could watch the movie on the editing equipment we used to make our TV reports. And we watched it every night.

Finally we edited the entire movie down to a 12-minute version that contained only the movie's punch lines.

I've forgotten all the jokes but I'll never forget the punch lines, especially when Madeline Kahn in her Elmer Fudd accent exclaimed, "It's twue, it's twue, it's weally twue."

It became our watch word that summer, our secret code. We said it over and over and outsiders were puzzled when we broke into gales of laughter.

So thank you, Madeline Kahn for the laughs and even more for the memories.

Every time I saw you on TV it reminded me of that summer and how much fun it is to be a reporter, even on a dull assignment.

By CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer
©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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