Editors Note:

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Varner Takes Manhattan

Classic VarnerThis may surprise you, but I don't normally make a habit of watching Regis and Kelly. That said, I'll damn sure be tuning in this Friday morning when my old pal Jeff Varner fills in for the Reege. You remember Varner - former Survivor contestant turned local newscaster. When he first came to El Ocho, I was among many skeptical staffers who wondered what kind of vibe this showbiz joker would bring with him. What I didn't know then is that Jeff held a journalism degree from UNC and what he lacked in local TV chops he more than made up for with charisma, piss and energy. Not that he was EVER easy. Varner's brash, unapologetic and temperamentally incapable of backing down from a fight. These traits - along with his popularity among viewers - didn't always endear him to colleagues and competitors - but I found myself liking him immensely. Together we stormed more than a few food courts, wandered up a widow's porch or two and crashed a Sex Offender's cell block that resulted in one my favorite pieces of the past five years.

These days, Jeff is main anchoring in of all places, Kalamazoo. With his indefatigable laugh, Southern drawl and pesky habit of saying EXACTLY what's on his mind, I can only imagine the impression he's left with Michigan viewers. Apparently they think enough of him to vote him a top spot on Regis and Kelly's From Local to Live Co-Host for a Day Search"Contest. Thus, Jeff will soon 'assume the stool' on Friday, interviewing Susan Lucci, American Idol David Cook and some dude touting the virtues of Texas barbecue. I, however, will tune in for the crosstalk, for the Varner I know doesn't believe in biting his tongue. When I spoke with him last night, Jeff was excited, grateful and not the least bit intimated about filling Regis' tasseled loafers. I believe it, for despite his trademark histrionics, dude ain't skeered to mix it up. Remember, he engineered Australia Outback's infamous chicken argument (that's him at 0:41, slinking away from the fray he helped spark). Chances are, there won't be any fowl to slaughter on the Regis and Kelly set, but with Varner in full flower, there's no guarantee a feather or two won't fly. I just hope he'll follow the three words of advice I gave him...

"Don't go viral."

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