You’ve probably been scouring the internet for Georgia oddities from the 1990s, as chronicled by a fuzzy headed local news reporter.
Work with me here.
You’ve been wondering about the guy who made jewelry out of prescription medicine.
You long to hear the voice, again, of the elderly gent who made a roadside garden out of discarded toilets.
You’re having a nostalgic twinge for the occulist who creates artistic pieces that substitute for what are commonly known as glass eyes.
Plus that guy who built drum kits into the dashboards of his automobiles.
Look no further. Yours truly has been spending way too much free time dumping those stories, and more onto a Youtube channel. So far the channel has 96 videos. There are hundreds more, painstakingly dubbed from Beta cassette to digital over the last — what, nine years? Yes.
It lives again, in all its dated four-by-three glory.
The source is a franchise I fronted from 1996-2000 which produced feature stories that nearly always aired in the :45 slot of WAGA’s hour-long 10pm newscast, three to four days a week. The franchise was a high point of what passes for my illustrious career, providing glorious freedom to write my own schedule and assignments — something every reporter craves but rarely gets in local news.
It also marked a high point in my changeable relationship with my boss, Budd McEntee, who endorsed the effort and the content for most of that time. “You’re kind of an urbane Leroy Powell,” he once said, which is one of the highest compliments I’ve ever gotten. Every week I kind of pinched myself, disbelieving the project was allowed to continue. When Budd abruptly pulled the plug in 2000, I was heartbroken but not at all surprised.
One could also argue that the project was an opportunity squandered. I had enormous freedom, yet I rarely used the time to afflict the comfortable or comfort the afflicted. The newsroom had another team of folks who filled that role quite capably.
I’m dumping these stories to YouTube for several reasons.
A) I can;
B) I want my kids to be able to watch them, should they choose to do so, at their leisure without having to search through Dad’s hard drives;
C) The folks featured in these stories *might* enjoy internet immortality;
D) I feel obliged to document certain bits of unimportant history, such as the 4am Olympic torch run through Little 5 Points; the now-closed decrepit old bar called the Austin Avenue Buffet in now-trendy Inman Park, the shuttered 85 North Drive-In theater in Chamblee, the hair salon at now-mothballed Engel Stadium in Chattanooga.
The archive reveals I had a fixation with roadside curiosities. Aside from the guy who used toilets as planters, I’m especially fond of the story about the guy in Chatsworth whose lovely sense of symmetry made his junkyard of lawn mowers and hubcaps worth a couple minutes of TV time.
Science provided an abundance of raw material. This included the researcher who studied the aggressive tendencies of crawfish; the Georgia agricultural researchers who used waterbeds to make dairy cows more comfortable and more productive; and the kids who tracked nesting loggerhead turtles.
I’ve forced myself to watch every piece I’ve uploaded. I recommend small doses. The writing is decent enough, but I see that I leaned on certain stylistic crutches which, viewed with two decades of hindsight, can appear a bit tiresome.
On the other hand, I frequently waxed semi-poetic about utter bullshit. In my line of work, that’s a useful skill.
If I were to overanalyze it, I would say that the body of work represents one team’s fascination with humanity’s quirks (seemingly cementing the adjective “quirky” to any subsequent description of yours truly). It took almost no time for Andi Larner to figure out that I was a feature reporter who had little patience for soaring emotion or feel-good quaintness. I wanted weird, and together we gleefully scoured Georgia (and occasionally, North America) to find it. With scant exception, she edited every piece. She still toils in WAGA’s newsroom, one-woman-banding the occasional curious feature, a self-taught photographer who shot her first stories on an Ipad. She is a treasure. She undoubtedly deserves a raise.
The talented Rodney Hall bailed out of local news in 1999 or so to thrive in the freelance world. I last saw him with a camera at a Donald Trump rally this summer.
If nothing else, the collection catalogues the horrors of my wardrobe and haircuts during the late 90s. I’d abandoned my reliable yet expensive barber for cheaper talent that produced some abominable haircuts. (I also did an overwrought story on that abandonment, suggested by a supervisor who had probably noticed the difference but didn’t have the heart to straight-up tell me my hair was faltering.)
I seemed to have a couple of go-to orange sweaters that are quite overused. My wardrobe advice for any man in similar straits now would be: Wear a sportcoat or suit, always.