Sunday, December 13, 2009

13 DEC 09: Turn the Funderburg Loose

If you were searching for celebrities in Columbus Saturday night, the hot spot was NOT the Cottonmouths game. It was NOT the RiverCenter. It wasn't even Green Island Country Club -- well, unless your idea of a "celebrity" is a retired business executive.

Plenty of local celebrities gathered at La Margarita in The Landings shopping center. The main event was a farewell dinner for two WTVM employees, including morning reporter Greg Funderburg. I'd say Funderburg is "slipping away" to a new job -- but he's gained fame in recent weeks for slipping and falling live on the air.

Greg Funderburg is heading to the Fox station in Greenville, South Carolina -- the same station which picked up Jade Hindmon from WTVM [7 Jan 07]. He'll leave the morning news at the end of this week. You'll notice Funderburg scheduled his departure one week after Diane Sawyer left "Good Morning America," to avoid upstaging her.

You may not know Greg Funderburg has had a "second job" in Columbus. He worked part-time at the Mildred Terry Library. Yet for some reason, he's never done book reviews on television. They really don't need to have a fireplace lit behind his chair....

The farewell dinner for Greg Funderburg came at the end of a long busy Saturday. It started with the Davis Broadcasting toy giveaway at the Columbus Civic Center. Then he drove to Childersburg, Alabama to give a speech to young people, before driving back to Columbus. Trips like this explain why Funderburg is NOT in the running for Russell County School Superintendent.

This in part explains why the farewell dinner for Greg Funderburg attracted several familiar names. Several fellow reporters and anchors at WTVM were there. Davis Broadcasting personalities such as Vicky James were there. Even Chauncy Glover showed up, in the middle of his move to Jacksonville - but if he did a dramatic reading for the occasion, I missed it.

But another local celebrity made a surprise appearance, which Greg Funderburg probably was not expecting. I admittedly didn't recognize when I saw her. But you HAVE to be a celebrity if you walk into a restaurant wearing a tiara on your head.

Someone at our table identified the tiara-wearing woman as Melissa Blue, a Columbus woman who appeared on the cable TV series "Bridezillas" several months ago. She did NOT show up with an entourage of photographers, so I assume the Blues have not replaced Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson on "Newlyweds."

I didn't stop to ask Melissa Blue any questions, so I have no idea why she was wearing a tiara. Her first wedding anniversary isn't until mid-January - so for all I know, Blue may have been the grand marshal of the Bi-City Christmas Parade.

There were a couple of other surprises at Saturday night's dinner. Did you know WTVM anchor Zaneta Lowe is seven months' pregnant? TV anchor desks are just the right height to hide such things....

The other surprise deals with La Margarita itself. The management apparently heard from enough upset customers that it's brought back much of the menu from the old Mediterranean Café. The Mediterranean items are on one side of the menu, while the "Latin dishes" are on the other side - and that refers to burritos and fajitas, not Penelope Cruz and Shakira.

"I'll be honest with you," the server at La Margarita told our group Saturday night. "We have only one Mexican employee on staff." Hmmmm - does this explain the return of old menu items? Or were several others offered big raises to move to El Vaquero?

Since we've been talking television, several TV questions have come our way in recent days. Maybe you can help answer them....

+ Where has Julie Bercik gone? Actually, we found that answer late Saturday night. She's moved from WLTZ to WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bercik is working again with former WLTZ anchor Libby Allison - except this time, Allison won't be four states away in Iowa.

+ Which station has posted an online "help wanted" ad for a Sports Anchor? Has WRBL's Shawn Skillman become too skillful?

+ What's this I'm hearing about WLTZ claiming to be equal in the 6:00 p.m. news ratings with WRBL? I don't have access to the numbers to know if that's accurate. But if it's true, it shows how far WRBL has fallen - yet to its credit, Teresa Whitaker isn't noticeably showing any more skin behind the anchor desk.

-> Our Thursday night poker tournament had not one "lightning strike," but two. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: MyChurch Pastor Jeff Murphy officially came down from the boom truck Saturday. He beat the "Bikes or Bust" goal, by raising enough donations for 210 children's bicycles. But Murphy's Twitter feed indicates he actually was lowered Friday at midday, for a "hot shower." I don't recall reading anything in the Bible about Moses taking a break like that.

Let's see what else grabbed our attention on a chilly weekend....

+ The ONLY Saturday 6:00 p.m. newscast reported it took 45 minutes at times during the afternoon, to drive from Bradley Park Drive stores to Columbus Park Crossing. Before you start humming that December song about "busy sidewalks," remember something - there's no sidewalk along Whittlesey Road to connect those shopping areas.

+ Columbus State University hosted a regional "Lego League" robotics competition for children. There's a big difference between Lego League and Little League. For one thing, you don't need a glove to catch Lego blocks thrown at you.

+ The Georgia House Republican caucus met behind closed doors, to discuss how to respond to the stunning resignation of Speaker Glenn Richardson. GPB Radio reported some lawmakers tried in vain to open the meeting to reporters. But that's OK - they could make extra money selling scoops about Richardson to the National Enquirer.

+ Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy as college football's outstanding player. Somewhere in Auburn, defensive linemen discussed how they could file an appeal and present overlooked evidence.

+ Atlanta Falcons defensive star Jonathan Babineaux was arrested on several charges, including marijuana possession. Babineaux denies any wrongdoing - but I wouldn't be surprised if it's true. The Falcons' entire season has gone to pot in recent weeks.

+ Instant Message to whomever started the rumor about Wal-Mart building a SuperCenter on the old Plaza Sol site at Victory Drive and North Lumpkin Road: Chamber of Commerce people told me they know nothing about that. So how do YOU know that? Did a customer down the street at Café La Vaca have too many Coronas?

SCHEDULED MONDAY: Columbus sets a record, and you may have seen it happen....

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