Christopher Hitchens on the Set of Crossfire

A wartime lexicon.
Dec. 16 2011 4:45 PM

Christopher Hitchens: Always on the Mark

Behind the scenes on the set of Crossfire.

Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens died Thursday at age 62

See Slate’s full tribute to the life of Christopher Hitchens. Read Slate’s complete collection of Christopher Hitchens' columns.

Working with Christopher Hitchens in the early '90s was an experience I remember regularly, or at least when entering a good dive bar. Christopher did enjoy his libations, but it’s the dartboard that prompts my recollections.

While I was at CNN helping produce Crossfire, Hitchens was the occasional guest host. He substituted as co-host for Michael Kinsley, who on at least one occasion was busy seeking funding from Microsoft’s Bill Gates to create this very publication.

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As I was preparing for the live show to go on-air one evening,Christopher was nowhere to be found. As time grew shorter, so did my patience. Surely the already seated host Robert Novak wouldn’t fill the void and play the role of liberal and conservative, although that would have made for good television.

I scoured the floor below the studio where the staff’s offices were located. I checked the bathrooms on both floors. I asked the make-up artist. No Christopher. Then it hit me; he was probably outside smoking a cigarette. The quickest outdoor access from CNN’s Washington, D.C., bureau was via the other studio, which had an outdoor patio. As I pulled back the curtain, there he was. Not smoking, not drinking, but half-naked playing darts with the camera crew.

I explained that we needed to rush and inquired about the whereabouts of his shirt. He pointed to the wall, where he had hung his perfectly pressed shirt over the door so as not to wrinkle it for his appearance.  As ever, he had his priorities in the right place.

I’m sure I annoyed Christopher by disruputing his game. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought he was praying for a bull’s-eye.

See Slate’s full tribute to the life of Christopher Hitchens. Read Slate’s complete collection of Christopher Hitchens' columns.

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