Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Escape from Chocowinity

By 1995, I was withered and torn from the mindless grind of making news five nights a week. Recalling fondly my formulative months in of production, I took my TV skills down the hall. What followed was a turbulent two year career in Promotions - that internal department vested with projecting, branding and embellishing the affiliate’s image both on-air and off. I regretted the move almost immediately. Quite frankly, cranking out tripe for the man left me hollow and spent. Eventually I staged a daring escape to a larger market, freeing myself forever the shackles of corporate camera servitude. Since then I’ve worked hard to forget that time, but a few memories of action and angst will always stick with me. Like…

Rolling a big red barrel stuffed with postcards over a warped studio floor so a catatonic weatherman could sleepwalk through one more post-forecast grand prize drawing. Huddling just off-screen with stopwatch and praying he wouldn’t mangle the winner’s name again. Cringing every time he did.

Corralling hundreds of high school seniors together in stifling heat as fellow production grunts struggle to keep antique cameras going for one last wide shot. Cajoling college dean through his six words of on-camera dialogue. Suppressing rage when ass-hat GM repeatedly apologizes to crowd for the fact that I was wearing shorts.

Working for weeks on a campaign to promote GM’s latest slapdash scheme. Nodding emphatically as Pinpoint Mobile Weather van concept was explained. Stifling concern as ballyhooed vehicle arrives at station in the form of stripped Ford Aerostar. Learning the power of hype when the silly thing becomes minor sensation.

Scrambling to produce quick-turn promos on station’s ongoing hurricane coverage. Trying to get used to spacious office as heartless boss dictated latest whim over speakerphone. Watching with envy as old news buddies broadcast live from storm-lashed coast. Realizing I’d made a horrible mistake.

Backpedaling over horseshit as jacked-up cub scout troop showers my lens in fresh taunts and frozen tootsie rolls. Trying not to get run over by Santa’s float as the director in my headset screams for a shot. Wiping out hard when hippie grip girl behind me gets distracted and wraps camera’s cord in a passing elf.

Attempting to ignore jiggling Budweiser girls as local basketball star mumbles incoherently into my lens. Sighing with relief as tuxedo-clad anchor breaks in to mention tote board for the twenty-seventh time that hour. Shifting from foot to foot in hopes of ending fiery lumbar pain. Swearing off telethons forever.

Collapsing in cushy office chair after an extended seafood buffet lunch, happy that boss and chief lackey were out of town. Pushing aside paperwork and gathering shoot tapes. Retreating to soothing confines of dimly-lit edit bay for soul-cleansing edit session. Receiving phone call from receptionist that the platoon of girl scouts I’d forgotten about scheduling had just arrived for their station tour.

Staring at GM’s massive aquarium as he droned on and on about all I didn’t know from the jaunty perch of his in-office dentists chair. Fixating on bosses beloved fish as fellow department heads chuckle and nod at station head‘s smug soliloquy. Digging my nails into my palm as floating menace stared back. Seriously contemplating Piranha-cide.

Okay, so I never did kill that damn fish. Instead I slunk away to the comparative sanctum of midnight murder scenes, county commissioner temper tantrums and flipped-over semi's on the interstate. That’s been ten years ago this September and while my return to news hasn’t been total bliss, it sure has provided better fodder than the tortured sacraments of a junior executive. May I never sell out again.


dustin. said...

I hated that damn fish....and that chair. I'd always wished it would nibble that a-hole's finger tip off. Just enough so that he could julian his damn vegetables.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stories there. I did some hard time at WITN during an earlier regime, and your horror tales sound woefully familiar. Lee Kanipe was the anchor back then, and he was as warm and friendly in person as he appeared to be on air. Despite the suits in charge, quite a few truly talented people escaped to better fates. Elwood Edwards, a great, gentle bear of a man found renown, and some bucks I'm sure, as the "You've got mail" voice for AOL. Was Kay Currie still
cluelessly stumbling around the hallways?

Unfortunately, my time there ended just before the transition from film to video began. When I tried to get back into TV a couple of years later, there was no place for a guy who processed and edited film. There was one regret I had. In 1974, several of us took astation car to Charlotte for the August Jam concert at the speedway. We shot 1000' of film, and as far as I know it was destroyed some years later. God I would love to have it.

Bill (Chathamshooter from Flickr)

Anonymous said...

You'll be happy, or saddened to know the same tired red barrel, mobile weather van, telethon and graduates are still a part of the WITN promotional arsenal! They could surely use your talent!
Miss you guys!

Matt said...

WITN mentioned on WSJ for website revenue, via Lost Remote.

Gary said...

Is Lee Kanipe still alive?