Tag Archives: small market

A visual history

A couple days ago I posted how I’d found these videotapes . . . ones I’d stolen from an old TV station.  For the record again, I would and never have done anything like this again and the so-called crime was far from criminal because the station was prepping to dispose of them all.  Dispose of them meaning they were throwing them out.

Look up at those two clips . . . two flickering moments from the stacks of videotapes I found these in.  They may not seem like much, two minor Entertainment segments with seemingly no value other than their glimpse into the pop culture news of the day.  But I see major events of my life, two massive ones, that are flowing below the surface.  I’ve written about them both before…

Obviously, the anchor for these segments is my wife, Andrea.  She wasn’t my wife during these times, though.  The two segments I’ve hand picked just for today’s blog have pretty high significance for me.

The first, which you see there, is actually a segment that was edited and aired after the event.  I had arrived at work, angry at the world, pissed about life, not sure why.  Maybe the cute red-haired girl in the back of the classroom had rejected me, maybe I was mad I had to work, but I was early for work.  She was late to get to a preview screening of a movie for her segment.  I ran into her in the parking lot of Your News 17 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I said the typical ‘how’s it going’ or something and she stopped right in front of me.  I remember vivid details.  She had a black and white polka-dot blazer on.  She had a t-shirt that showed just a little cleavage.  She wore silk pants that just caught my eye.  Not sure why they did, but I had to force myself not to look at her legs or behind or I’d get caught looking at her legs and behind.

She wore this coat…

She stopped dead in front of me and said “I’m late to go review a movie.”  Then she got this look, a smile and twinkle that literally paralyzed me.  I could see the gears turning in her head and she asked “want to come along?”

She hated doing things like this alone.  I hated shirking my duties for preproduction.  I was shy, lanky, horrified, and of course I said “yes.”

The first segment . . . she was reviewing the Marrying Man .  I had to watch this segment to get an idea of what the movie was about.  I watched her the whole film, not the movie.  We got back and I don’t even remember punching the pre-production for that segment.  I was in a daze.

But I didn’t ask her out.  It was months before I did anything.

Which brings me to segment two up there.  Again, strangely I remember the outfit.  I’m not  a clothes hound nor am I fashionable.  But she had style – and it was just past the late ’80s.  I remember thinking I was clever and being the kid who makes fun of the girl he likes.  I called it her Kermit jacket because it was the kermit/Kelley green.  That segment is April 19th, 1991.  I know, because it’s the day the George Foreman/Evander Holyfield fight took place.  I remember, because it seemed she’d moved he attentions to someone else.

By the end of that night . . . and we must have done the segment semi-live because I remember the jacket . . . she walked up to another person on the crew, not me, and said they were going out for drinks later that night and if he wanted to stop by it would be grand.  Somebody else.

Have you ever had that bout of jealousy where you aren’t depressed and shy you get angry?  That was me.  I don’t remember what I said but I do remember being kind of mean to her on headsets . . . which I’m embarrassed to say wasn’t new for me anyway.  I was a nasty director.  I wasn’t mad at my friend and colleague I was mad at her.  But the response was the same . . . you see, I remember the day because that same friend and I were working late voluntarily because we got to watch the pay-per-view fight for free since we worked for a cable company.  We did ad insertion for some sporting event and watched the fight.

Foreman lost, but we got to the later rounds and the newsroom phone rang.  Normally nobody would be there, not even the community at large bothered to call after 6:30pm because even they knew the station would be a ghost town after 6:30 since we had no other newscasts.  I answered the phone and on the other end was noise . . . loud, shouting bar noise.

“It’s Andrea!” was the answer from the other end.  “Who’s this?”
“It’s Dave,” I said and asked if she wanted me to pass the phone to our friend.
“Why?  I’m talking to you!” was her answer.  “We’re at the Bluejay.  I was checking if you were coming over.”
She blew off the fact she’d asked someone else, she simply said “the more the merrier.”

I looked at him, asking if we should go, and he probably didn’t want to.  But he relented and said . . .”ok, the fight’s slowing down anyway.”

We walked into the bar, and it’s about as college a hangout as you’ll ever find.  The wood floors are worn wood with the varnish between the slats now blackened from the beer, food and whatever else spilled all over the floor.  They served beer in plastic cups not glasses and pitchers of .32 beer were plentiful.  I’ll be honest, it was April 1991, so I was 20.  Nobody even checked ID on the way in so it was no big deal – and for the record I was that stick in the mud who didn’t have a fake ID.

I remember the green jacket because it came out of the crowd and came straight toward us.  She gave our friend a hug but then hooked her arm in mine and pulled me into the fray.  I honestly don’t remember if he stayed until close like I did or if he left.  I do remember that I offered her a ride home and she said she’d come with friends and needed to get them home.  She walked up, though, and gave me a huge hug and kissed me on the cheek.  When she pulled back she took her thumb and rubbed her red lipstick off my cheek.

I gave her crap after we started dating about that night.  “You didn’t invite me to the bar that night,” I would tell her.  “You asked somebody else.”
You wouldn’t get off your ass and ask me out,” she said, “and I gave YOU a hug and kiss . . . nobody else.  You think that was an accident?”

She had that mischievous grin again.

Two events . . . one the aftermath of her coming onto my radar.  The other . . . the events leading up to the moment I couldn’t let her go.  I remember walking up not long after that night at the Bluejay and saying “I had fun…” and having her say the same.  She was getting ready to go on air and that awkward, young silence that overcomes you had me walking away from her.

I got maybe two steps when she asked “so when are we going to do it again?”

I know you think I have to have embellished these stories, and maybe I did . . . a little.  But she was a force of nature.  There wasn’t much to embellish, and when I fell…I fell hard.

So when I see those segments, now twenty-one years later, I finally can smile a little because I can see what you’re not seeing on video in my mind’s eye.



I’m a thief

Special by Garbage from Absolute Garbage

It’s true.  I am.

Now, the statute of limitations has far outstripped my crime, so technically, I’m not a thief any more.  I was young, green, and angry.  I’ve since mellowed, calmed, and gained more conscience.

But you have to understand something: I don’t regret the crime.  In fact, having learned what happened in the years after it I am actually quite happy that I took what I did.  Now, I may make this sound like I’ve committed the Brinks crime of the 20th Century but it’s really not anything that awful.  In reality I took a couple TV station master tapes.  The crime is now harmless because the remainder of those said masters no longer exist.

Let me go backwards and show you what I’m talking about.

In 1989 I began my first internship at a television station.  That station was the model and prototype for what would eventually become the local cable news outlets like the News12 system in the New York area or Bay News 9 in Tampa.  The station was created by TCI Cablevision out of Colorado and it was cable’s attempt at both gaining a favorable cable franchise agreement with cities and gaining credibility as being a local news outlet.  I joined as an intern and within a month was getting a paycheck (which had no taxes taken out.  $5 an hour minus SS and Taxes put me below the poverty level).

This is small market television at its absolute pinnacle.  I would go out on good days and shoot 1 or two stories, come back, go to the control room, create the pre-production for the show and then direct and punch the 6pm newscast – our only show.  On a bad day I’d shoot a story for a reporter, then a story for myself, come back, write and edit the piece and be done – hopefully – by 3pm in order to . . . do said preproduction and punch the newscast.  It was stressful, exhausting, and a set of battle scars and friendship that really knitted people together.  We would do election coverage up to 1AM and race across the street to the bar to drink as much as we could before closing at 2.  I wasn’t 21 and when the health reporter told one of the managers they shouldn’t be serving me a beer he asked my age – when I told him 20, he said “he’s old enough to get drafted and die for his country he can have a brew.  Drink up, Dave!”

It was into this world walked my wife.  She was blonde, boisterous, excited, and . . . well I have to say it . . . beautiful.  Yes, I noticed that.  Yes, I couldn’t help noticing that.

Andrea wanted desperately to be an anchor and reporter.  More anchor than reporter.  I’m not giving away any secrets here, she liked the attention.  But she wasn’t an attention-whore, not a person who’d have years later sold her soul for a reality show.  She liked to write and talk to people.  She liked features and Entertainment.  Eventually, she got a paycheck like I did and began doing the station’s entertainment reports.  This was, though, on top of doing regular reporting during the week.

She and I both learned innumerable balancing skills in trying to get stories each day and her segment on at the end of the week.  I’ve recounted how her work helped her get an internship on the East Coast – one that she was unable to attend – so I won’t go into that again.

Every story ended up on a master videotape, a 3/4″ strip of mylar inside a large plastic cartridge.  Most of you will never have seen a 3/4 tape.  We shot on cameras – even then – that had tubes inside them for catching images, so you were not able to shoot lights, the sun, nothing, or it would burn a massive blue dot into the tube and you’d have that dot in every interview and piece of video you shot after.

A 3/4″ Videotape

The daily stories were on a series of tapes.  One day you might be on Master 341 and the next on Master 220.  However, there were segments that ended up having their own masters.  Andrea’s Entertainment segment had one.  Reporters would horde masters to use for all their stories, both so that they were easy to find and so that they could make resume videotapes for getting a new job.  I was no exception.  Neither was Andrea.

When the time came that I left my second stint at said small market station, I took one of my masters . . . and one of Andrea’s.  I found them recently, having forgotten I’d even taken them.  I always had a pang of guilt for taking them years ago because they were masters that contained a small snapshot of Council Bluffs, Iowa’s history.  We shot stories and did news that was just that city – unless the city of Omaha was collapsing we weren’t going to cross the river to cover it.  I remember checking to see there weren’t stories they’d really, really need, but at the end of the day it wasn’t MY tape to take.  It was work product of that company’s and I’d never, ever do something like that today.  I haven’t done it since.

But I don’t feel guilty anymore.  There are two reasons:

First, the company who bought the company who bought us from TCI didn’t really want a news division.  They acted like they did, initially, but their goal was always to move the group to Omaha and begin doing community TV.  Not news.  Right as I was giving my notice to leave and work for the NBC station they tried to get me to take the job of News Director.  They told me who they’d give the job to if I said “no” and claimed that this person would not know how to handle it and it would then be my  fault that they dismantled the operation and fired everyone.  I told him, impolitely, to go fuck himself.  I had a better job and he wasn’t going to blame me for his being an ass.  They did dismantle the building, move everything, and then took more than 10 years of CB history on videotape and unceremoniously threw it in the dumpster.  Every tape.

Second, and this is most important, those tapes are gone forever.  If I’d never taken the tapes, the only visible evidence of my wife’s original career, her history would be gone forever.  I’d have lost the moving images of her – frozen the way I choose to remember her: that beautiful blonde woman with the twinkling smile that spread across her entire face.  The spark in her eyes as she was happy reaches through the TV and grabs you.

You may think this a minor crime, something not worth mentioning.  For me, it’s a crime that now ranks with the greatest of art heists because I now get a small glimpse of things once forgotten. At 30 frames a second I get to watch that girl smiling at me . . . and sometimes she was, looking past the camera or through it into the control room, smiling because I said something in her ear.  I remember and ache for those days because I can’t even re-live them with her.

Now, I just need to find a deck I can play them on.