On the afternoon of June 17, 1994, Zoey Tur received reports that O.J. Simpson was in the vicinity of the grave of his ex-wife whom Los Angeles prosecutors had accused him of stabbing to death five days earlier.
Tur — a groundbreaking Los Angeles helicopter pilot who was known as Chopper Bob at the time — told the Washington Blade during an interview last week that she and her crew “spotted” Simpson about “a mile away” from the El Toro “Y,” a freeway interchange in Orange County, Calif. Tur proceeded to exclusively broadcast the first 22 minutes of a slow-speed police pursuit of Simpson’s white Ford Bronco that television stations across the country carried live.
“It was a crazy day,” Tur told the Blade. “Everybody in the world was looking for O.J.”
Tur spoke with the Blade a few days after she joined Inside Edition as a special correspondent.
The television program in a press release that announced Tur’s hiring described her as “America’s first transgender television reporter,” even though media observers have disputed that claim.
Eden Lane has hosted a program on Colorado Public Television since 2007. Padmini Prakash last September became India’s first trans news anchor.
Tur noted to the Blade that trans author Janet Mock now has a program on MSNBC.com.
“I’m very sensitive to it because I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes,” Tur said in response to the Blade’s question about those who have questioned Inside Edition’s claim that she is the country’s first trans television reporter. “I always thought talk shows outranked me. It doesn’t really even matter. What matters is that our stories get told.”
Tur pioneered use of helicopters to cover news
Tur’s journalism career began in 1976 when she was a high school student.
She received exclusive video and photos of Madonna’s wedding to Sean Penn that took place on a beach in Malibu, Calif., in 1985. Tur told the Blade that she also took the last pictures of Rock Hudson alive as he was carried off an Air France Boeing 747 that he had chartered to take him from Paris to Los Angeles International Airport.
“We got the last shots of him alive, which was controversial because people thought it might have been an invasion of privacy,” said Tur. “Our argument was he was a public figure. That’s one thing, but the other thing was that it really highlighted the need for AIDS research and put a face to AIDS.”
Tur was the first helicopter reporter to cover the immediate aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated the San Francisco Bay Area in October 1989. She had exclusive coverage of the collision of a US Airways flight and a turboprop on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 1, 1991, that killed 35 people.
Tur also broadcast live video of the beating of truck driver Reginald Denny at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, a few hours after an all-white jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers who beat Rodney King during a traffic stop. The incident took place on the first day of the Los Angeles riots.
“I was really good at breaking news,” said Tur.
Tur’s children ‘shocked’ by transition
Tur and Marika Gerrard were married for 23 years until they divorced in 2003. The couple has two children, including NBC News reporter Katy Tur who is currently based in London.
Tur told the Blade she “knew something was different about me” when she was 6 years old.
“I really didn’t understand it,” she said. “I couldn’t put a name to it.”
Tur told the Blade she tried to research “it” through high school, but there was “nothing.” She said she kept the issue of Playboy in which Caroline Cossey, a trans model, appeared in 1981 for more than a decade.
“She was somebody that I related to,” said Tur. “That was pretty much it and then I buried it for a long time.”
Tur said her gender dysphoria “really got worse” after she and her wife divorced, noting she was considering suicide in early 2013.
“I was more and more depressed,” said Tur. “It was just such a dark period in my life.”
She told the Blade in May 2013 she had “had enough” and decided to begin hormone replacement treatment — she noted the exact moment, which was 9 a.m. on May 6, 2013.
“Within hours after the first Estradiol treatment I felt normal,” said Tur. “The gender dysphoria for the first time in my life was gone. The depression lifted by the next day and I have not had a depressed day since May 6. We’re talking almost 21 months.”
Tur underwent sex-reassignment surgery in June 2014.
She told the Blade her children reacted to her transition with “shock.”
Tur said her son James, who is studying medicine in New Jersey was “good from the get-go,” but her daughter’s shock turned to anger. Tur said she “warmed up” when Inside Edition hired her, noting she congratulated her on the new job and said she was proud of her and that she looked “beautiful.”
Tur told the Blade she admires Carmen Carrera, a trans model and actress who appeared on the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” because “she’s happy.”
“She’s just this happy person,” said Tur. “I’m this happy person. And I don’t feel angry and I don’t feel like I need to rip people apart and attack people.”
Tur described former CNN host Piers Morgan’s controversial 2014 interview with trans author Janet Mock as a “teaching moment that turned into the man being ripped apart for making mistakes that I even make” as a trans person. She also questioned why actress Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” would publicly link the spate of violence against trans women of color to the legacy of white slave owners cutting the genitals of the black men they owned.
“I always thought that transphobia had more to do with education,” said Tur. “So you have that and then just the anger. We have a lot of angry transgender people. We want acceptance. We want jobs. We want to be treated equally under the law.”
She added she feels “our community’s greatest strides” have come because of what she described as “mainstream television” programs that include “Will and Grace” and “Transparent.”
“Me being on the air changes people’s perceptions, not yelling at people, not demanding that they accept you, not demanding that you use the proper pronouns,” said Tur. “Give people a break.”
Bruce Jenner ‘a national joke’
Tur also urged former Olympian and reality show star Bruce Jenner to come out as trans amid rampant speculation that he is transitioning from a man into a woman.
“Tell your narrative,” said Tur, who used female pronouns to describe Jenner. “Don’t let the tabloids tell your narrative. She’s become a national joke because she’s not stood up and told her narrative. We need her on the team.”
Tur highlighted that more than 40 percent of trans people have attempted to take their lives to further prove her point.
“Our suicide rate is many times the national average,” she said. “We have a real public health epidemic and we need Jenner on the team. So grow up, cut this crap out and come out.”