Archive for October, 2006

Just Another Morning in the Action Newsroom
October 31, 2006

Wonder what Kelly Frey and I do during the breaks between updates during “Good Morning America”? Let me take you behind the scenes of our secret world.

The time is 8:40am. Our floor director, Matt, is sitting by my desk showing me the latest YouTube video when Kelly Frey leaned over trying to turn the station on the TV between our desks. Don’t ask me why, but Kelly has a picture frame on her desk with real live fish hook on the frame. Well, she somehow got her jacket caught in the fish hook which did it’s job. Before she knew it, she was stuck and could not get her jacket sleeve free.

She asked me to help. So I pulled out a pair of cuticle scissors ( don’t ask me why I have a pair of those ) and tried to cut the jacket loose. I couldn’t do that and hold the frame in place, so Matt assisted us and Kelly took her jacket off while we tried to remove the fish hook.

Now try and imagine what this scene looked like at 8:50am – six minutes before I’m supposed to go on the air and do my “Good Morning America” cut-in. Then again, you can see how it looked:

Yes, we did finally get the fish hook surgically removed from the jacket and saved the jacket. Just thought you would enjoy a little slice of life in the newsroom.

October 27, 2006

From the day I moved here, the one thing that excited me was the possibilities that Pittsburgh presented its citizens. The layout, the scene and the atmosphere. It was all set to become a city with a nightlife. However, in 1995, nightlife was limited to the strip and the southside — and the occasional fund-raising event.

But no more.

Because of downtown development, an infusion of citizens and capital from outside the region and more young people staying in town, Pittsburgh seems to be on the social upswing. To paraphrase the New York Times, Pittsburgh is a city on the verge of being trendy. The myriad of restaurants, the new entertainment options and the increase in the number of shows coming to town. But is it all worth checking out?

That’s the question I hope to answer in a new weekly segment on Action News. It’s called “Check It Out” and it runs every Thursday night at 11pm. I’m hosting the segment and the idea is to present to you the different options you have for entertainment options each week in the city.

Working together with the Trib’s popular “Ticket” insert and managing features editor Sally Quinn, we bring viewers three different options in a fast-paced and interesting manner, designed to whet your appetite. For example, this past Thursday we profiled an up-and-coming comedian performing at the Improve, the circus coming to town and sampled the restaurant “Six Penn” in the cultural district.

What we hope to do through this segment is show you all the choices you have for entertainment and fun in the city — as well as open your eyes to some of the newest spots and happenings. Of course, we are always welcome suggestions, comments and your ideas for places and things worth “Checking Out” in Pittsburgh. Hope you tune in Thursday nights and realize that Pittsburgh is a diverse and exciting place and worthy of “Checking Out”

The Games I Play
October 24, 2006

It drew laughs and a look of shock from Melanie Taylor. She was truly stunned when I told her about my favorite hobby ( other than golf ). Since you were not part of our private conversation, I will share. Next to golf, my passion in life is “gaming”. Yes, I’m a “gamer”.

Unless you are part of generation Y, you probably have not heard the term “gamer” is used to describe some who plays video games. Usually that means your teenage son or daughter, but I have been playing games for years and now – at age 38 – I have no intention of slowing down. I first got into video games in high school, playing systems like Atari and Intellivision ( remember those ? ). As I entered the work force — and started to make some money — I started to spend some money on the newer systems and I’m definitely a PS2 guy.

PS2 is the PlayStation 2 system and that might make me a dinosaur among the kids who love the Xbox system, but I’m old fashioned in that regard and I’m waiting for the new state-of-the-art PS3 to hit store shelves next month.

Enough tech talk! Why is the world is a 38-year-old man spending his free time playing video games — and what games is he playing? I play to escape. I not only play games — I do the play-by-play while I’m playing. Acting as my own announcer even though today’s games have an entire TV presentation – including announcers. Right now, I’m playing the “MLB o6” game and I’m the Tigers as I face the Cardinals in the best-of-seven World Series ( right now, I’m down three games to none ). When you don’t have kids, you do have some time to actually be a kid and that’s why I love video games.

I’m only into the sports games though. Now “Grand Theft Auto” or any of the violent titles. It’s not fun gunning down people — real or virtual — for fun. Check out the pictures below and see my most recent acquisitions.

Does this make me just a big child? Maybe, but there is nothing more fun than escaping reality for a few minutes with a trip into a virtual playland. Given today’s technology, that virtual playland has become more real than ever. Still, I have to be careful. I sometimes end up playing so long I forget the time. I almost arrived late for work one morning after getting the new “Tiger Woods 2007”.

Getting Involved
October 20, 2006

My wife, Sharon, and I had an argument the other day. That’s nothing new for us. She is white and I’m black which also describes the sides we often take in arguments. I have one view and she has the exact opposite view of the issue. The topic at issue today? Getting involved with charities.
I spend much of my free time as a spokesperson for various charitable groups, organizations and charities — essentially the front person for those groups. Groups I believe in. Sharon contends that being involved means more than just standing up the day of the event and saying “hi” to all the guests. In many ways, she is right. There is much fundraising and groundwork that needs to be done and those who do it are often in the background and never get the credit they deserve. I know this for a fact because I have served as a chair for events such “Hot Pink Pittsburgh” and “United Cerebral Palsy”. It’s difficult work — and often time-consuming. I told Sharon that if I try to get deeply involved in every charitable endeavor, then I have to do less events.

As you can see, TV personalities like Kelly and myself can do more by being a face for organizations. By making people feel special and feel that what they are doing is positive. Kelly Frey and I were hosts at this Party of the plaza at USX Tower last month — and it’s a role that allows us to be at more places — and thus, help more organizations raise funds for worthwhile causes.

As for those who do the groundwork and rarely get the spotlight, let me tell you the story of one such woman. Her name is Lisa Gillespie and for the past ten years, she has been a force by “Hoops for a Cure”. It’s a charitable basketball event at Chartiers Valley High and raises money for Arenson Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. Her hard work on behalf of the Arenson family has raised awareness and dollars for pancreatic cancer research. I had the honor of working with her as event emcee that last decade. It’s with great sadness that you will never meet this woman. She died of cancer last week. I will miss her. It’s people like Lisa that are the true heroes.

October 17, 2006

As promised, the story of my weekend trip back to Simsbury, Connecticut form 20th high school reunion. When I wrote of the subject a few months ago, I told you how nervous I was about going back. Listen to me: A guy who gets up in the middle of the night and co-anchors a morning newscast and doesn’t think twice about the thousands watching and yet I’m getting all jumpy about seeing a couple of hundred people who I haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan was in office.

But from the moment I entered the room, it was as if I was immersed in a vat of warm pudding. It was both comforting and relaxing as time stood still and yet fast forwarded to the present day. The memories of a time long since past began to flow like the 3 rivers and my desire to want to hug these people I had not seen in two decades was reciprocated.

Some observations from that night of reminiscing and remembering: Father time had been kinder to the women than the men. While almost all the women looked as good, if not better, the men had fallen victim to less hair and more heft – myself included. It seemed everyone had three kids (except my dear friend, Karen, who had four including 2 twins. While some of the guys still had the same faces from 20 years ago, others had matured into men I scarcely recognized. Of course, there is a Pittsburgh connection to every story. My great friend, Lynn, married a man from Upper Saint Clair and one of the most beautiful women in my class, Stephanie, is a die-hard Black and Gold lover living in Massachusetts. She wanted to leave the reunion with the Steeler jacket I wore than night.

Hanging out 20 years later with Lynn,. Carolyn and Sue.

I also discovered one former classmate – Sue – “Googled” me and discovered the now-infamous You Tube video of my flight with the Blue Angels. The internet is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? I also discovered 20 years later, my former football teammates were still peeved about losing the game in the snowstorm that cost us a playoff spot – and so was I. Thanks to the reunion committee which did such a wonderful job (Aimee, Marcy, Maresa, Leslie, Kim, Julie, and Andrea).

Finally, let me leave you with this. The 20th reunion was not a time to brag about your accomplishments. If anything, it was quite the opposite. I discovered my peers were quite content where life had taken them. Many had left Simsbury only to move back and raise their kids in the place where they grew up. They discovered something that I am still learning: Success is not measured by dollars or deeds, but rather through your own eyes and by your own standards. While my career maybe noteworthy, my life has quite a way to go before I find the contentment my former classmates have achieved.

Random Thoughts at 3:30am
October 11, 2006

That’s the time I usually arrive at my office — and hit the keyboard of my computer. To review scripts, read my favorite papers or start composing my blog.

First up, the Sienna Miller watch. Sienna – as you have heard – was kicked out of a South Side bar for not carrying her ID. On the way out the door, the would-be star through a superstar-caliber tantrum. She yelled “I am Sienna Miller. I am a famous actress”. Sienna: You are full of it. From your transparent apology to your child-like antics on the South Side, you have had your 15 minutes of fame – and frankly I wish you would go throw a tantrum in a city that you actually like.
For those of you who might not be aware, October is breast cancer awareness month. It’s a national effort to get the word out that breast cancer is a deadly disease and it’s important for women to have mamagrams done to discover if they have this insidious disease. It’s become more than just a charity for me, it’s become a passion and a cause in which I truly believe.

I got involved in the fight more than a decade ago, when I was asked join Michelle Wright as the co-voice of the Race for the Cure. The Mother’s Day event in Schenley park celebrates survival and remembers those who have lost their fight. More recently, I worked with Adagio – an organization dedicated the women’s health issues — and their biggest event in Hot Pink Pittsburgh. Every October at the Byham, Hot Pink brings together cutting edge performance and music for a show that raises thousands for breast cancer research and screening for uninsured women. Sally Wiggin and myself have served as emcees and I have served as past co-chair — along with my wife, Sharon. Sharon and I have been touched by breast cancer through our friends. Three of our close friends are survivors — and all were stricken with the disease at very young ages.

This year’s event once again was put together by a dedicated group of volunteers — including our neighbor and breast cancer survivor Kris Duda. But this year’s event may have been the biggest success ever for Hot Pink for two reasons. A Steeler — and a generous giver.

Steeler lineman Max Starks and his mother Ellanor, a 14-year breast cancer survivor, served as honorary co-hosts. Their presence and their enthusiasm brought a whole new passion to this year’s event. But while Max was the star, it was another gentlemen who stole the spotlight. Tim Wiebe has already given to the cause of breast cancer, when he decided to take our live auction to a new level. At auction was a catered evening in a 10,000 square foot house on Mount Washington. An expensive item — but Tim’s generosity became a $10,000 bid. It was extraordinary and exceptional — and it made this year’s Hot Pink event the most successful

Here’s a picture of our friends Kevin and Kris Duda, along with Max and Elleanor and Sharon and myself.


Hey, it’s class reunion weekend for me. I’m heading to Simsbury Connecticut for my 20th high school reunion. As promised, when I return I will have stories and photos from my trip back in time. Stay tuned!

Not Miller’s Time
October 6, 2006

Prior to Friday morning, I had no clue who Siena Miller was. From her photo on the left, you can tell she is an attractive 24-year-old woman who seems to have the looks to become a Hollywood star.

Then .. she opened her mouth.

Miller, in town shooting the film “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”, was asked by Rolling Stone Magazine to offer her opinion of her stay in Pittsburgh. Her answer? Let’s just say she coined a word starting with the letters “Sh” and rhyming with “Pittsburgh”. ( Do I have to spell out for you? ).

Miller’s assessment of our fair city has not gone over well. Just this morning, we have received phone calls from outraged Pittsburghers People who wouldn’t know Siena Miller from Josh Miller are angry that such a newbie could take such a swipe at our fair city.

Personally, I have had my issues with the city over the years, but I have never ripped it in such a manner and believe the city — the way it is now — is far from Miller’s crass description. Obviously, she has never looked at Pittsburgh from Mount Washington. She has never taken a ride on the incline. She has never gone jogging along the North Shore or visited one of the city’s dozens of neighborhoods. I only wish Mayor O’ Connor was with us. He would take Miller, probably kicking and screaming, to the various venues around our city.

Miller shows no class and no clue and — even worse — may have sunk the local audience for the film before it’s even released. Now before you go out with torches and burn down the Omni William Penn hotel, where Miller is reportedly staying, remember this:

Pittsburgh has been the butt of jokes, ridicule and criticism for years. This is not the first time and likely won’t be the last time Pittsburgh gets this type of treatment. The best thing you can do is be proud of your city and enjoy what it has to offer. We know how great our city is — and will be. Let it be our joy — and Siena’s loss.

Maybe Jude Law – who earlier cheated on Miller and was universally vilified — was a lot smarter than we gave him credit for.