"Good afternoon, it's 13 degrees past four…"
These words launched Lynne Russell's career. The former CNN Headline News anchor resigned last year after 18 years with the network. Fans adored her engaging personality and for "talking to the people."
Russell spoke to an audience of 200 on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at UNC Pembroke's Givens Performing Arts Center.
Known for her fiery red lips, she did not disappoint the UNCP crowd when she walked onstage with red hair, red nails and signature lipstick.
Russell was the first solo woman anchor during a daily primetime newscast. Fans loved her changing hairstyles, good looks, authoritative demeanor and sincerity. Her risqué side emerged with photos in Playboy and playful suggestions to former president Bill Clinton in the White House Rose Garden.
Russell left CNN last year to pursue other interests and write a second book. Her first book, "How to Win Friends, Kick Ass & Influence People," came out in 1999.
Russell encouraged people in the audience to "color outside the lines" and to have many hobbies and interests in case their careers do not work out. She said that it takes nerves and support to get away from the norm, and "when you rock the boat, you are going to get a lot of happy days…and sleepless nights."
The former news anchor lives by her message of keeping doors open and exploring new roads in life. She is a deputy sheriff in Fulton County, Georgia, a private investigator, personal bodyguard, licensed scuba diver and holds two black belts in the martial art Choi Kwang Do.
The New York Times described her as a "news anchor with the personality of a professional wrestler." She told embarrassing and funny tales of life behind the scenes at CNN, and showed a video of bloopers of herself and other anchors during newscasts.
"The best way to get over making a mistake is to watch someone else screw up," she said.
At one point, Russell donned latex gloves to handle samples of mail from her "Nut File." Stalkers have sent foreign coins, Hitler stamps, a handful of human hair, crude drawings of her or themselves and letters describing delusional romances between them.
"You don't understand, these people are serious," she said
Russell said the biggest risk in life is not taking one and that experience is the best learning tool. Lastly, if things are just not going well, she said, "there's nothing that 20 minutes in Victoria Secrets won't fix."
"Live life to the fullest, don't stop questioning and stay interested in your world," she said to conclude her speech.
Russell was the first speaker of the school's 2002-03 Distinguished Speaker Series. Actor and director Henry Winkler will appear Nov. 12, activist Jane Elliot on Oct. 9, and legendary actor James Earl Jones will speak Feb. 18, 2003. The series wraps up with actress Rita Moreno on March 11 and UNCP's own Kelvin Sampson April 28.