Archive for October, 2007

Halloween Hilights
October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I remember as a kid this was one of my favorite holidays – and not because of the candy. It was nice coming home with a stash of sweets that would last for a month, but the best part was dressing up. Back then ( and I’m talking about the 1970’s ) more kids were making costumes than were buying them. It was more of a creative deal on our part.

I thought I would share some Halloween photos with you.My favorite Halloween was 1975. That’s when me and my younger brother, Brian, decided to team up to go trick or treating. We made costumes depicting us as the “Dynamic Duo”!

Of course, being the oldest, I had to be Batman. Brian was Robin, the Boy Wonder, but as you can see he had some trouble finding the eye holes on his mask. While I went through many Halloweens after that, none was quite as special as the one I shared with my little brother – who now stands six foot five.

Of course, I did not need to wait for Halloween to dress up. One day, my dad came home from work and I took his hat, gloves and scarf on a cold winter night and pretended to be my hero – my dad. Here’s the snapshot my dad took back in 1972.

Now, as I get older, Halloween is not the same. While I enjoy handing out candy to the kids, I miss dressing up and imaging I’m someone else. Even adult costume parties don’t give you that feeling you had as a kid when you would dress up and then go out – by yourself or with a group of friends – and go trick or treating. Best of all, we would do it on the actual Halloween night – and not three days earlier in some scheduled community activity. Please pass this on to the little ghouls and goblins in your world: Have a happy – and safe – Halloween!

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Getting Ready for Disaster
October 30, 2007

It’s probably not at the top of your “what if” list, but what if downtown Pittsburgh was the victim of massive flooding, a severe power outage or — God forbid – a terrorist attack? It’s not something any of us want to think about – but there are a group of people who prepare for the worst-case scenario every day. Yesterday, I was given a rare glimpse inside their world.

Pitt, along with CMU and WVU, hosted a preparedness exercise on the Oakland campus Monday. The exercise is modeled after a similar drill conducted in New York City after 9/11. Monday’s exercise was focused on the business community would react in the face of terror.

Inside the control room for exercise with ( left to right ) Jim Powers, Homeland Securiy Director for PA, Linda Ambroso from Pitt Center for National Preparedness and Rick Doten, Exercise Coordinator from Verizon

We had experts in security from all fields — from utility companies to banks — playing roles in a disaster scenario that hit Allegheny county the week of Thanksgiving. The whole exercise was tied together by sophisticated computerized simulation program.

I did more than observe. I played the role of the media — going between groups, doing interviews and press conference and disseminating information which I would “broadcast” via the computer system. The entire exercise was an eye opener for me. I learned the value of effective communication between groups in a disaster – and how deadly it could be if officials hold back critical information during a crisis.

I thought that – overall – these groups did very well dealing with the media and using it for the greater good. Still, I understand how the lack of communication could prove critical in such a scenario. I also had a chance to chat with the state’s homeland security director – Jim Powers. Nice guy and we shared some common bonds – both of us once called Alabama home. When the day was said and done, I asked him the question I think we all have when we hear about possible disasters – are we completely safe?

His answer says as much about how much progress has been as it does about how far we still need to go?
His answer? No.

Look for my complete and exclusive story on the disaster exercise on Channel 4 Action News tonight at 5pm.

The End of the Summer .. of Golf
October 29, 2007

Sunday’s dip in temperature and the howling winds that sent a chill through the air was the only hint I needed that summer was over. Not that summer which ends sometime in September, but rather the summer my guy friends refer to as “the Summer of Golf”.

As you well know, golf is among my passions — for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s the game, the camaraderie or the way it creates that private time with that someone special in your life, golf is the way I choose to spend most of my free time each summer.

This summer was filled with fairways highlights. There was my best friend, Big Joe, and his buddies as we ventured to Augusta, Georgia to witness the final round of the Masters. Then, back here on local soil, Sharon and I joined some of our good friends for the final round of the US Open at Oakmont and stood right behind Tiger as he attempted to drop the putt that would force a playoff – and came up short.

Then there were the actual rounds. I played in Myrtle Beach and Maui and West Palm Beach and western Pennsylvania. I played in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Just within an hour driving distance, I teed it up at Birdsfoot in Freeport, Mystic Rock in Farmington, Beaver Lakes in Aliquippa, the Madison Club in Westmoreland county and Lone Pine in Washington county. I shot the best round of my – an 86 – on two separate occasion and if I had not had a brain freeze on a blazing September day in Maui, I might have beaten that score.

However, what I will remember most is not the scores but the moments with friends and family spent on the fairways. The moments when we chatted, when we joked, when we cheered and when we cursed. Maybe that is what has always excited me about this game. There is no other sport that I know where it’s an individual game, but it takes a group to make it fun.

So now I will likely pack away the clubs later this week. I may be able to squeeze in a round here and there on that rare 60 degree day in December or January, but I will look forward to the chance to tee it up again — with friends, family and foes. The chance to start the summer of golf all over again.

Friday Fatigue … and a New Point-of-view
October 26, 2007

Folks, I’m going to be honest. I am tired. After two straight days of getting to be after 10pm and waking up at 2am, I have absolutely no energy. Even worse, I have no creativity. Can you believe it? It took 200 posts, but I have no idea what to write about.

But fear not faithful blog readers. I have an idea. I thought I would give you a different view of our morning news .. from my point-of-view. Take a look at what I see every day from my point of view.

Here’s what’s I see when I’m standing up and doing the news from the monitor. As you can see, we are armed with coffee mugs at the desk and – being the designated coffee maker each morning – my job is to make sure it’s brewed by 5am so Kelly gets her cup of Joe.

It’s early in the morning – and when you are doing two hours of morning news, sometimes you need a power nap. Here’s how Kelly takes a break during the commercial breaks. I have tried the whole power nap thing – and I cannot do it. If I try, I will be out like a light for the rest of the morning — and that’s no good.

Ashley joins us twice a morning to get us “Plugged In” – and if it looks cold, it is cold. I think the studio is always kept in the 40’s. Makes me glad that I’m a guy and I get to wear suits and pants every morning.

Last, but certainly not least, the blurry-looking Melanie Taylor. Don’t ask what happened with the photo here. She always has a smile on her face — and Fridays she makes her high school game of the week prediction. This week, she chose Mount Lebo over Upper Saint Clair. I guess she knows here stuff, She’s 5-and-3 on the season.

Sorry I wasn’t more creative today but I need to get some sleep. Have a great weekend – and we’ll talk on Monday.

A Few Moments with John-Boy
October 24, 2007

If there was any doubt that mine is no longer the youngest generation, I had to look no further than our newsroom and my assignment for Wednesday.

As part of my weekly “Check It Out” segment, I had an interview scheduled with the lead actor in the Heinz Hall production of “Twelve Angry Men” – Richard Thomas. His claim to fame is the role of “John-Boy” in the 70’s TV hit “The Waltons“. Remember the famous line at the end of the show “Good night John-Boy”? Obviously the younger members of our newsroom did not. Melanie Taylor and Demetrius Ivory had blank stares when I mentioned the show – and the character. Not to worry. Their day will come.

I sat down with Richard at the Double Tree Hotel Wednesday. He was a very nice and engaging person – a man in his 50’s but with a face that had hardly changed since his TV stardom of the 70’s. Richard tells me he has always been a actor who lived for the stage rather than for the screen. His first acting role on stage – was at age six.

We discussed “Twelve Angry Men” – the play he’s doing based on the movie starring Henry Fonda 50 years ago. Thomas plays juror number 8 – who tries to turn 11 other jurors over to his side in a case filled emotion and prejudice. It’s a story that still has legs 50 years later – even more so because of our obsession with celebrity-court cases.

Thomas says he doesn’t mind people recognizing – and identifying him – as John-Boy when he’s doing this role. Still, he says every so often at the end of the performance, someone will invariably yell “Good night John-Boy” at the end of the performance.

He has been here before – shooting scenes a decade ago in the film “Wonder Boys”, but he says this time around he plans to real visit and take in Pittsburgh and all it has to offer in terms of art, culture and museums. It was a joy meeting one of the icons of my youth and it would be worth you time to go see “Twelve Angry Men” at Heinz Hall. Just don’t yell “Good night John-Boy” when the curtain comes down.

I Don’t Get Jealous, but ….
October 24, 2007

Really, I don’t have a jealous bone in my body. Ask Sharon. She’ll tell you that she wishes I would be jealous sometimes when others heap affection on her or tell her how pretty she looks. I wish I could, but I’m not the jealous type. Never have been.

I guess it all dates back to my first encounter with a situation that could have involved jealousy. One night at a party in high school, I walked in on my girlfriend at the time kissing another guy. I guess I should have been upset and started yelling and screaming or – at the least – crying. Instead, I looked them and said “OK” and walked out. I didn’t really have any feeling about it whatsoever other than the feeling that this relationship was over. Believe it or not, I think that cool demeanor made her reconsider and ask for my forgiveness and we dated for another two months.

Being an emotional person by nature, I have never had that particular emotion. I guess because I just consider jealousy a waste of time and energy. I figure if you want something – or someone – you should find a way to get it rather than stewing over why you don’t have it.

Now, the title of this blog is “I don’t get jealous, but …” and that’s because I think I am experiencing a feeling of jealousy for the first time in a while. Every year, “Pittsburgh Magazine” features it’s “40 under 40”. It’s a photo essay of 40 local people who are making a difference in western Pennsylvania – and they are all under the age of 40. Since they first started doing the award a few years back, I always thought it would be cool to be included in that group – because that has always been my focus since joining Channel 4.

Well, this year’s list came out ( see the edition on newsstands now ) and I once again did not make the list. Now the only reason I feel somewhat jealous is that I turn 40 next year – so I will never be one of the “40 under 40”. Even one of my good friends made the cut! Of course, to make the “40 under 40”, you need to be nominated by someone – and I guess no one did but then again I did not ask anybody to speak on my behalf. I guess I just feel weird doing that.

I have won journalism awards, but this was one honor I was hoping to capture someday – and the fact I missed my last shot at the honor has brought out a feeling that I thought I didn’t have – jealousy. I guess we all have that bone in our bodies – whether we like to admit it or not.

Maybe I got a shot at “50 under 50”.

Dog Day Saturday
October 23, 2007

I always felt that the greatest thing we can do as people – TV broadcasters or otherwise – is give back to the causes we care about. Whether we donate our time or our dollars, everything we do can make a difference. With that in mind, Sharon and I decided to spend this pas Saturday helping to “make a difference”.

The day began at 8am in Houston, Washington County where Val Porter from the WDVE Morning Show had put together a pancake breakfast and auction benefiting the Washington County Animal Shelter. Val asked myself and Sally Wigging to come and shake hands and greet people. What amazed me is how many folks showed up — well over 300! The line went out the door and they had to head back to the store for more pancake mix. In the end, $9900 was raised and two dogs found homes.

Around noontime, Sharon and I headed to Churchill for the Animal Rescue League Fashion Show. Here is Sharon and I posing with our new friend, Sami.

This event was different for me. Sharon was modeling and Sally served as emcee for the audience of some 200 women. I was happy to be a face in the crowd and play the role of “Mr. Sharon Stockey” for a change. Although, I had an embarrassing moment. Lunch was served and started with a small bowl of pasta – and then a salad with chicken. I was waiting for the main course when I was told by Sally that this was a “ladies lunch” .. and that was all that was being served. Always wonderful how women stayed so fit and trim .. and now I know why.

The fashion show was a financial success — and one of the dogs was adopted. As for Sharon, she bought the shoes she wore in the show as well as some jewelry.

We weren’t done running. We got home at 3pm and left at 4pm, bound for Sewickley. Sharon and I served as honorary co-chairs for the Sewickley Country Club Crawl benefiting the Heritage Valley Hospitals and their new C-section unit. It was a 50’s theme .. and that’s why we did the goofy pose with the sunglasses.

Photo courtesy: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The crawl took 160 guests – by trolley — to the Sewickley Heights Country Club for drinks and appetizers, then to the Allegheny Country Club for dinner and then the Edgeworth Country Club for dessert. It was a fun evening and a chance to make many new friends. I did not feel we did a whole lot as honorary co-chairs, but the folks at Heritage were happy to have our involvement at one of their fund-raisers for the second time in three years.

We spent both money and time giving back Saturday .. and we were exhausted .. but we were also filled with the good feeling that – in some small way – our participation made a small part of our world a bit better than it was before.

Behind the Scenes: The Candidates for Mayor
October 22, 2007

I wanted to tell you about my weekend. There were so many wonderful and interesting fund-raising events to tell you about, but with a very time-sensitive subject at hand I will save the weekend recap for tomorrow.
Friday, I had a rare chance to go behind the scenes with the two men running for mayor of Pittsburgh. Both Mark DeSantis and Luke Ravenstahl allowed me spend some time with them as they prepare for tonight’s debate ( 7pm on WTAE ). The premise of my story is how do the candidates prepare to step into the TV debate spotlight.
First, I was surprised that both camps were willing to let me go “inside” their pre-debate planning. After all, this is their first televised debate and a chance to make the greatest impact so far in the race for mayor.

The surprises did not stop there. My interview with Mayor Ravenstahl allowed me to enter the mayor’s office for the first time. He’s a sports fan, just like me, and has pictures hanging in his rather large office with various athletes and a signed Mario jersey. But the thing that really got my attention was the way Ravenstahl is preparing for tonight’s showdown: No mock debates. He just goes through his notes and quietly prepares. I think a lot of it comes from his days as a place kicker at Washington & Jefferson. Back then, kickers pretty much practiced by themselves.

The advantage of incumbency was obvious when you step into Mark DeSantis‘ office. Folding tables and boxes in a large rented space. There was a mural promoting DeSantis for mayor on one wall, but hardly any of the trappings of the mayor’s office. However, he did have staff members posing as reporters, moderators … and even Mayor Ravenstahl. DeSantis was quite candid about not attacking his opponent, but rather being honest and getting his point across.

From my brief time with both, I did notice one stark difference. Ravenstahl – at least outwardly – appears to be less nervous. He says he’s prepared for this debate by dealing with the media everyday of his administration ( and we can be a tough bunch ). DeSantis seemed nervous he prepared, still learning exactly where he will stand and what he will say in his first televised debate. However, he and his team did have the weekend to perfect their craft so it will be interesting to see how both fare Monday night in their first televised face-off.

Look for my report on the candidates debate preparations tonight on Channel 4 Action News starting at 5pm

Reporter Jon Greiner Is Guest Blogging Today
October 18, 2007

I’m writing on Andrew’s blog because this concerns him in a way.

I was doing a news story at a high school football game on a Friday night when one person greeted me by saying “Hi, Mr. Stockey.” It surprised me a bit because Andrew is younger, taller and better looking than me. He’s also black, and I’m white.

I corrected the man in what I hope was a gentle manner, because misidentification never bothered me in all my 28 years in TV, because I’m also better at faces than names. And when you’re on a news scene, it’s only important that you be recognized as a person to go to in order to get the news out. In that situation, it doesn’t really matter if your name is known.

For years, my friend Ralph Ianotti, a reporter for another station, has been telling the story of how he was mistaken for a colleague, Harold Hayes, who’s black. Ralph is white. So I have a similar story now for him.

But the story I like to tell instead is how I was recognized on the street after one day and one appearance on WTAE-TV. That showed me that this station has a truly loyal audience with whom I’ve loved interacting ever since.

So, never hesitate to talk to us, even if you don’t know our name (unless we’re about to go on the air live), and we’ll never hesitate to appreciate it.

Sharing the Blog
October 18, 2007

Help! My blog is being hijacked!

Just kidding.

Really, the cool thing about being able to blog every day is to share stories I hear from other people — like Channel 4 Action News reporter Jon Greiner. I’m going to let him take over my blog Friday and share his story while I start the weekend a little bit early.

Look for Jon’s guest blog to be posted mid-morning, right here in this space.

My Hawaiian Adventure … The Final Chapter
October 18, 2007

While on vacation in the South Pacific for the first time, I made several observations I would like to share with you.

As you can see, we didn’t just eat healthy food and exercise during our stay in Hawaii. We also like to indulge in the local drink menu — and perhaps the tasty thing I tried — was actually called “Blue Hawaiian“.
What do you think is the rage when it comes to food in Hawaii? Sushi? Poi? Would you believe spam? That’s right, spam is the bomb for the residents of the islands .. especially when it’s served as sushi. Take a look at the spam musabi roll I had before one round of golf in Ewa Beach.


It’s a combination of spam, seaweed and rice topped with soy sauce .. and as you can see .. it’s the breakfast of champions. It’s kind of like Hawaiian breakfast burrito. Maybe I can talk the folks at my favorite sushi spots to make a roll for me.

I was surprised to discover just how big Honolulu is. It’s like being in New York or Los Angeles given all the high-rise condos and the multitude of shopping and dining options. But along with the big city feel, there is big city traffic – perhaps the worse I have seen in my life. I promise that I will never complain about parkway traffic after sitting behind cars in midtown Honolulu.

While you see me cruising along the road in Maui, you can’t enjoy such easy driving in Honolulu. Let me given you a sense of how bad it really is. It took less time – a half hour – to fly from Maui to Oahu than it did to drive from the airport to our hotel in Honolulu.

Even as I enjoyed the beaches of Waikiki, Pittsburgh is never far from the picture. The morning after we arrived, I awoke and flipped on the TV around 7am – and the Steelers were playing the Seahawks! ( Keep in mind the six hour time difference ). Also, when we went shopping, any time you passed by a sporting goods store guess who’s jersey was in the display case? That’s right – Troy Polamalu!

When you watch the news in Hawaii, get ready for a real culture shock. The island is laid back .. and so are the broadcasters. Imagine Kelly, Melanie, Demetrius and I wearing floral print shorts and sun dresses while delivering the morning news. Well, in Hawaii, you do not have to imagine. Everybody wears the traditional Hawaiian outfit on the day they call “Aloha Friday”. I guess it’s their version of black and gold Friday.

Until tomorrow, Aloha!

My Hawaiian Adventure .. Part 2
October 16, 2007

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that one of my passions in life – is golf. So how could I go to the islands and not play at least one round of golf? Sharon and I started our tour of the Hawaiian fairways when we traveled to Maui on Tuesday. We stayed at the Kaanapali resort .. and with the course just outside our window, we hit the links.

The “Kai” course at Kaanapali is one of two at the resort. Since we chose not carry our cumbersome clubs, we rented “sticks” at the resort. For Sharon, that meant using a set of men’s clubs and, for me, it was a set of Titleist irons and woods. No matter what clubs we used, the views were spectacular. Look at the view from the tee at number 9.

With rented clubs, I wasn’t expecting much from my game .. but I suprised myself. After 16 holes, I was only 7 over par .. and on pace to shoot a career low. That’s when I made the fatal mistake of looking at my scorecard .. and finished with an 86 .. tying my career best.

Two days later, Sharon had booked us a round at the scenic Wailea gold course in the southern part of Maui. This was as luxurious a course that I had ever played with stunning vistas and a birds-eye view of the ocean on nearly every hole. Just look at what was behind us on the first tee.

We got paired up with a Eric, a former college football player turned stay-at-home dad. Judging by the way he hit the golf ball, I could tell he didn’t spend every moment with his eight-year-old daughter. His company only added to a day of golf to remember … for many reasons. I may never play a more pictureque golf course. It even made my score of 100 palatible.

We we’re set to leave late Saturday night from Honolulu, but we had to be out of room by 3pm. So how do we kill six hours? Leave it to Sharon, who has the golf bug bad, to suggest another round before we depart. We found – of all places – an Arnold Palmer designed course. The Hawaii Prince Golf Club was in this residential community call ed Ewa Beach. As you can see, Sharon used the round as an excuse to wear the newest golf outfit she had purchased on vacation.
One lesson we learned while in Hawaii? There is a big difference in conditions between the morning and afternoon. By the time we teed off, the wind was howling. It would do more than just psh your ball one direction or the other. It would literally take a ball heading left and send it right at a 90-degree angle.

Still, it was a scenic and beuatiful venue .. allowing us to see Honolulu as we teed off from various holes. Once again, the view helped me get over my score … which was once again a disappointing 100. While the golf was great, boy it was expensive .. and we didn’t play the real high end courses. If you do want to play golf in Hawaii, my advice is to not only pack your clubs but also a lot of cash.

Tomorrow: The final chapter of my Hawaiian adventure .. the humorous side.

My Hawaiian Adventure … Part I
October 15, 2007

Mahalo once again! Thanks for coming back to my blog. I know I have been gone a while, but the break was just what the doctor ordered .. and it exposed me to a brand new world: Hawaii. What I thought I would do is show you my tropical trip in three stages. Here’s part one.
Sharon and I finally arrived last Saturday night in Honolulu after traveling some 20 hours to get there. We flew from Las Vegas to Phoenix to Honolulu .. and thanks to the airlines ( I won’t mention which one ) .. what should have been a 6pm arrival time in Hawaii became a 10:30pm landing. By the way, Hawaii is about six hours ahead of us.

We finally arrived at our hotel off Waikiki Beach, just two blocks from the beach. The picture above is the view from our room on the 27th floor. To give you some idea of where we were, Honolulu is on the southeast side of Oahu and Waikiki Beach is just east of the city.

We spent three days on what could only be described as Japan meets America. The main street that runs along the beach was packed day and night with a mix of beachcombers, tourists, surfers and shoppers. While the beach culture was on one side of the street, high-end shopping and dining could be across the way. It looked like Rodeo Drive meets Muscle Beach.
We spent three days in Honolulu, before taking a jet to the island of Maui. Above is a picture of yours truly driving along the coastal highway in Maui with a three-day old beard in tow. It’s about $60 round trip to fly to Maui .. and takes about 20 minutes. From there, we drove to our resort hotel in Lahaina which is on the western shore of Maui. Here’s the view from our room … which of course overlooked the golf course. We were in Maui three days and took a drive along the snaking highway that goes along the mountains. As you can see from here, there are various places to pull over and look at the ocean. Here’s one such stop we made – and Sharon decided to take in.

Finally, it was back to Honolulu for two days to finish our vacation. We stayed at the same hotel downtown and that’s when Sharon did her shopping at some of the markets along the beach. Check out the dress she bought one day … and then decided to wear while wading in the water.

We left Saturday night but out flight did not depart until 10pm. Enough time to race to the western half of Oahu – and a place called Ewa Beach – to do something rare: Be among the last people in the United States to witness the sunset. After all, Hawaii sees the sun set after everyone else … some six hours after it leaves the skies of Western Pennsylvania.

That’s it for today’s entry. I’ll be back with more adventures from the island tomorrow. Also, I’ll be back on the air Wednesday morning as well.

For now, Aloha!

Back from the Beach!
October 15, 2007

Mahalo!

In Hawaiian, it has many different meaning but foremost it means “thank you”. Thanks for being so patient while I took some time off to rest and relax and re-energize myself for the work year ahead.

Sharon and I got back late last night and I’m still on Hawaii time – some six hours ahead – and I’m a bit jet-lagged. Still, I will be blogging and sharing some photos from my island adventure starting bright and early tomorrow morning. I will return to the morning show on Wednesday.

Once again, mahalo, and thanks for coming back to my blog. I look forward to not only sharing my stories and thoughts, but hearing yours as well.

Aloha .. until tomorrow!

And the winner is ….
October 5, 2007

You might remember a few months ago, I asked for you help. Sharon and I wanted to go on a “big” vacation. The plan was to go someplace new and different. I asked for your suggestions – and boy, did you respond. I got suggestions to go to resorts everywhere, from Idaho .. to Italy, from Orlando to the Outer Banks. I have to admit, I was overwhelmed by the 50 or so e-mails I received and I thank you for all of them.

In the end, Sharon and I decided to do something tropical, something exotic — and do it somewhere in the states. So after much careful consideration, we have decided to head for HAWAII this weekend!

We have never been there before – and we haven’t made any grand plans beyond staying at a resort in Honolulu and playing a couple of rounds of golf in Oahu. My plan is to rest and relax on the beaches as much as possible and, if I do get bored, then visit some of the tourist spots. I’m planning on packing plenty of reading materials – and may even try to get a laptop – so I can do some work while sitting on the beach.

Yes, I’m excited because this is one of those things I can cross of my master list of “things to do before I die”. The only bad part here? I have to spend 10-plus hours in a plane. I don’t like long trips and, if you read my blog earlier this week, you know my feelings on turbulence.

During my Hawaiian excursion, I have decided not to blog. I just need to take a break and relax and lose myself in another world for a few days. I hope you will all understand, but when I return in a week or so I will have pictures and stories from Hawaii. I even got my first digital camera so I can share my vacation with you.

I’ll miss you all while I’m away, but I’ll be back. Aloha!