Friday, May 14, 2010

14 MAY 10: Dressed to the Nines

Thursday offered a hint that summer is coming to Columbus. It was mostly sunny. The high temperature was 88 degrees F. And the humidity made things almost as sticky as spilled soda on a kitchen floor.

It was a warm but steamy afternoon for an outdoor wedding - so a Columbus couple had one. In fact, they did it on live television where the 5:30 p.m. news normally would be. So this could go down as the city's wedding of the year -- unless Semone Doughton or Cheryl Renee decide to be just as daring.

The live televised wedding at the Eagle and Phenix condos wrapped up a "Right from the Start" campaign which began in January. The program offered a free wedding to an engaged man and woman who were NOT living together. Admittedly I was skeptical from the start - because to hear some preachers talk, I thought such couples didn't exist anymore.

But several couples qualified for the free wedding, and online voters chose Bontavia Ramsey and Farish Anderson for the televised ceremony. Then the public was allowed to vote for everything else - from Anderson's tuxedo to the wedding reception menu. In other words, this event was every Republican's worst nightmare.

If this concept sounds familiar, it should. NBC has staged "Today Throws a Wedding" events like this for years. But this was a first for Columbus - and I'm a little surprised WTVM stopped short of declaring itself Wedding Leader Nine.

(By the way, shouldn't WTVM have ended the half-hour special by declaring the Andersons "Best All-Around" newlyweds for 2010?)

The half-hour wedding ceremony had a couple of surprises. Pastor Prathan Powell wore a neck brace as he led the vows, because he had back surgery earlier this week. Another minister stood at Powell's side, in case a spectator gave him too strong a pat on the back for a job well done.

Another surprise for me was that the wedding was presented without commercial interruptions. Considering sponsorships were embedded throughout the online voting process, I kept waiting for Cheryl Renee to say: "Will the wedding rings fit? That live developing story is coming up after this."

Congratulations are in order for Bontavia and Farish Anderson - and I give them credit for being bold enough to get married on live television. One wrong word or step, and people would laugh at them on YouTube for years to come.

But I have to admit to some mixed emotions about Thursday's big event. The Christian side of me finds nothing wrong with promoting marriage, and encouraging couples to avoid "shacking up" before the big day. The Cleveland Cavaliers tried that, and Thursday night they were eliminated from.... oh wait. That's Shaq-ing up....

Yes, I hear some of you - ready to pin the "J-word" on me. You think I'm a Jay-Jay-Jayhawk jealous because this couple is married while I still am not. Perhaps I should use this moment to declare I have played softball in years past - but that did NOT turn me into a homosexual, like some people are presuming about that Supreme Court nominee.

(For single guys like me, WLTZ's 6:00 Report was the "newscast for the rest of us." It included an interview with the authors of a new book about why some men are "Undateable." I certainly would never wear a sweatshirt to the opera - assuming the Springer Opera House ever actually staged an opera.)

My mixed emotions stem from several things. I fear the purpose and point of the Right from the Start wedding became lost in a series of online votes with sponsorships attached to them. But things could have been worse - the wedding could have been moved to a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course.

Another issue for me was that the wedding was staged at the normal time of the 5:30 p.m. news. I'm hearing from some people that Columbus news media in general miss important stories - and not simply the NASCAR driver visit we mentioned Thursday. Couldn't this wedding have occurred at 7:00 p.m.? Or are those 911 calls on "Inside Edition" simply too dramatic to miss?

This wedding also reminded me of the difference in mindset between Columbus and Atlanta. I seriously doubt any Atlanta TV station could have staged Thursday's ceremony under Right from the Start rules. There would have been protests by activist groups -- not to mention offers of premarital counseling by those "Real Housewives."

If WTVM makes live weddings an annual spring event, I have some suggestions for making next year's ceremony even more newsworthy and relevant....

+ Invite the next mayor of Columbus to read a proclamation honoring the couple. A Teresa Tomlinson win will require moving the ceremony to the greenspace behind the central library.

+ Have Scott Ressmeyer ride in on a motorcycle by surprise, to give the couple free barbecue dinners for a year.

+ Cut the wedding cake with a razor blade - but please make sure Lindsey Connell cleans it first.

-> Thursday was a nice day for us, at not one poker table but two. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The plot thickened in the Phenix City government drama Thursday night, when the school board voted to amend the Superintendent's contract. WRBL reported Larry DiChiara no longer can be replaced for "personal or political reasons" before 2014. If former Superintendent Jack Russell had a clause like that, he could have visited Biloxi casinos almost every weekend.

The Phenix City School Board added this clause in the wake of last week's city council vote to replace the board's top two officers. Some people think the changes were politically motivated - but Councilor Arthur Sumbry denied that's the case. He apparently simply wants fresh-smelling hickory sticks on the Board of Education.

School board member Florence Bellamy argued the added clause in the Superintendent's contract is "personal and political" in and by itself. Besides, doesn't this language open the doors of temptation for Larry DiChiara? As long as student test scores keep going up, his personal ethics can keep going down.

If Thursday's other big news story involving Larry DiChiara came up at the school board meeting, the late news didn't mention it. The Superintendent allowed Korey Abercrombie to resume teaching at Phenix City Central High School, even though he faces a misdemeanor sexual battery charge. Maybe he's going to teach a civics class on the concept of being "innocent until proven guilty."

Let's see what else caught our attention Thursday - starting with an item which actually happened weeks ago....

+ The Columbus Museum confirmed a tip to your blog that an electrical problem forced an evacuation in late April. Director of Development Corinn Riley tells me there was smoke in the generator room, but NO flames resulting in damage to the exhibits. That's too bad -- the display on Southern culture could benefit from the scent of grill-like smoke.

+ Staff members announced the Chuck Roberts Activities Center in Phenix City will close, due to a lack of funds. The only way that could change is if a different Chuck Roberts comes to the rescue - and he's told me about visits to the Columbus area in the past....

+ Keep Columbus Beautiful held its annual awards luncheon. But c'mon - how did Columbus Water Works earn a top-level "Gold Award," after that tank rupture near River Road and a couple of sewage spills into the Chattahoochee River? Did the Water Works donate enough "gold" to get an award, anyway?

+ Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller told WTVM he wants police to crack down on speeding. He said drivers should "slow down and enjoy the beauty of what you see...." like Auburn University guys do when they drive past sorority houses.

+ Columbus State advanced to the semifinal round at the NCAA Division II men's tennis tournament. The Cougars knocked off Northwood of Michigan 5-1 - undoubtedly taking advantage of the fact that Northwood isn't used to playing tennis outdoors in warm sunshine.

+ Instant Message to BP: I thought your company had a staff full of college-educated chemical engineers. When you set up a "tip line" to take ideas from the public on stopping your big oil leak, I'm more concerned than ever.

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