Only once in my long and illustrated career have I ever belched in a TV news package. It was a defining moment. Herein lie the details:
“You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing over there.”
The speaker was Rebecca Paul, the first president of the Georgia Lottery Corp. The year was 1996. Her office window overlooked a spot of land south of the under-c0nstruction Centennial Olympic Park.
“Coca Cola is building a theme park that’s entirely a tribute to its own product!” OK, the quotes are based solely on my memory 14 years removed — close enough, and good enough for historians, but as verbatim quotes go, they’re suspect.
I was in Paul’s office on a story I can no longer remember (unlike the quotes!). The Olympics were just days away from starting in Atlanta. Somehow, WAGA was allowing me to continue a self-assigned feature segment called Closer Look. Paul’s idea sank in and triggered a dim light bulb somewhere within the “story idea” quadrant near my brainpan.
Photog Rodney Hall and I arranged to spend all day at the place called Coca Cola Olympic City. It had entertainment and such. But mostly, it had Coca Cola — sold in machines for two bucks a pop. At that time, the price was appalling to me. As was the entire joint.
I never said that, of course, in the body of the piece — which to this day, remains one of my all-time career faves (thanks in no small part to Hall’s video and the editing genius of Andi Larner).
Allow me to point out some moments, which will not include the hairstyles or absurdly youthful appearance of the talent:
;53 The reporter casually attempts to buy a Coke from a machine, and discovers they cost two bucks
1:20 “the garbage can is sending out subliminal messages.”
1:40 The Coke machine spits out the reporter’s dollar bill.
1:42 “You would not call this crassly commercial?” “Oh, no. Not at all.”
1:52 “But if you were thirsty, you’d know what to do.”
2:40 “$165 in memorabilia. We just came out for a hamburger.”
3:00 The belch.
You have to listen closely for the belch, which Larner was understandably disinclined to use. The belch was naturally delivered after consuming a bottle of the prevalent product. I made sure the Beta SP tape was rolling in Hall’s camera when it erupted.
The belch comes at the conclusion of a song sung by an insufferably cute group of youths, with the lyrics “we’re the Coca-Cola family.” There are four beats punctuating the song following the line. The belch is deftly but unmistakably mixed into the last of the four beats. Go ahead and listen. It’s a beautiful sound, as belches go. More than anything else, it provided a sound that definitively symbolized the excess of the facility and its namesake product.
But except for Larner, Hall and a few people to whom I pointed it out, not a single person ever noticed. Though I expected the question, nobody asked: Did you belch loudly in that story, just before the outcue?
Why, yes. Yes I did.
Well, that’s just gross.
H/T to Mitch Leff of Mitch’s Media Match for recently fishing this from a tape he’d kept in a drawer somewhere for lo these many years. Thanks, Mitch.