It was the early 21st century and I was itchin’ to get back on air. Can’t say why exactly; maybe I was just trying to prove I could still pull it off. Whatever the reason, I let it be known to the higher-ups my furry mug was no available to the viewing public. I can’t remember their exact reply but it something along the lines of “Heh…”. Still, I wasn’t discouraged. Neither was I particularly choosy. When the opportunity arose to sub for a morning reporter on vacation, I rose early and drug an iron over some logowear. The resulting television wasn’t memorable to most, but I can’t seem to erase it from my brain, no matter how much therapy I pay for.
There was that frosty morning in front of the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Having read dozens of books on that ugly time, I felt pretty good about my knowledge base - in case I had to riff on the Tet Offensive or something. Of course any and all credibility I may have fostered was downright fragged when the director punched me up before I was ready. All I’ll say is this: It’s tough to be taken seriously on the Fall of Saigon when the audience just listened to you bag on Clay Aiken like a jealous school girl. As far as I know, I’m not allowed back at that park.
Even worse than dishing on a limp-wrested crooner in front of combat veterans is wrapping sixteen minutes of television around the four basic food groups. Still, that was my assignment one morning as I interviewed the world’s most catatonic nutritionist. Shoved up against the white wall of an undersized office, I attempted banter with a young woman who’s only cite proper portion sizes one syllable at a time on. You can imagine my flop sweat as a region of loyal viewers wondered what happened to the regular morning reporter - that cute, willowy chick who made it look so easy. At least I figured out to slow time.
Two years in a row, I drew the dubious honor of fronting our Corporate Challenge live shots. ‘What’s that?’, you didn’t ask. I’ll tell you: it’s a contest between local companies to see which firm can collect the most canned food items for our Holiday Concerts. It sounds simple enough, but each live hit required extensive mention of each and every corporation that took part and now expected their full amount of brand name mollification. Not that it really even mattered what I said, since the corporate partner I was attempting to chortle with all morning was damn near seven feet tall. All anyone ever remembers is that I spent three hours one morning interviewing a belt-buckle.
Bad as that was, it paled in comparison to the way I felt the morning after Hurricane Ophelia brushed the Carolina coast. By then I’d been living out a satellite truck and a musty hotel room for days. I’d forged my way through washed-out sand dunes, dodged flying sheet metal, dined on rock-hard granola bars and generally cursed a lot. By the time the overrated storm finally blew past our encampment, I thought the hard work was done. Then I got a call from my assistant news director, who wanted me to front the next day’s morning live shots. I did and it went okay, but I cannot express what a horrible feeling it is to wake up in a pitch black hotel room with no electricity and know you gotta be on TV in an hour. Kinda like a midnight bowel movement, but with an audience.
I could go on and on, but I’m not sure my self esteem can take it. Instead let me close with one of my favorite live shot memories: It was only a day or two after an ice storm has wiped out power across the Piedmont. Of course my station was in full-on continuous team smotherage mode and staffing was stretched thin. That’s how I found myself parking a live truck on the side of a highway one morning, setting up the camera and stepping in front of it, sans photog. Weirdly enough, I did some of my best live shots that day , probably because I was stoked to pull it all off solo. Sure, no one’s demanded a repeat performance - but I tell you this:
Should either a UFO or Osama Bin Laden crash into Lake Minnetonka in the middle of the night and I'm on call, there will be no waiting for Chet McDimpleChin to arrive. Just sayin'...