Despite being a heterosexual Southern male, I don't know a lot about NASCAR. Sure, they run big time races just down the road, but until they outfit those 'stock' cars with flamethrowers, I probably won't tune in. That said, I'm a huge booster of my home state, which is why even a Luddite like me happily got up early to go hang out with certified living legend Junior Johnson. Don't know Junior? Why, he's quite simply the embodiment of NASCAR's moon-shining roots, a man who tore up the back roads with a trunk full of hooch l-o-n-g before grown men appeared in public wearing day-glo jumpsuits. If that wasn't enough, dude owns North Carolina's only legal distillery! It's a fine establishment I've profiled a time or two and the product that pours out of that Madison tap will, as my late Father would say, "knock your dick in your watch-pocket".
Crass colloquialisms aside, I was the picture of sophistication as I drove into Johnson's 150 acre estate. Of course the property itself was the reason I'd come. After all, you don't put a six million dollar spread up for action without first having a bunch of news crews over to get the word out. Of those interlopers, I was crew number two. News 14's ever dapper Ed Scannell barely cocked an eyebrow as I barged into the foyer, a reaction not nearly as exciting as that rumble scene in 'Anchorman'. Still, it was all we could do circle each other warily before returning to our individual mission. That mission: videotape everything interesting in the rambling mansion before the place filled up with reporters, cameramen and (GULP!) newspaper people. Yes, even the Print ourists showed up for a forced march through one legend's living room. There, in the pantry, isn't that the lady who hurls morning forecasts every other weekend? She's not at all taller in person!
But enough about people I make uncomfortable with my baleful stare. Let's meet our host! While strangers rifled through his dream home, Sir Junior Johnson lounged in his race shop down the driveway. That's where fellow TV News survivor David Whisenant and I cornered the former race car driver. Seated in the shadow of his prized 1941 tractor, the eighty one year old was frail but friendly. Without a doubt, Junior Johnson has peered into more television cameras than I've yet to lift, which is why I plopped mine on its tripod and took a seat. What followed was a breezy three way conversation between a man destined to be remembered and two schlubs who can't seem to remember why they got into this business to begin with. Oh wait, I know: it's because this silly gig allows to me to meet the occasional folk hero, not to mention a fellow journeyman like the good Mr. Whisenant.
You know, with all this talk of palaces toured, I'd really like to show you the result of my visit, but since my station didn't post the story, I'll have to show you David's version instead.
Probably better, anyway.