Sunday, April 03, 2011

3 APR 11: April Love

After a tumultuous week on Wynnton Road, the WTVM staff probably needed some good news. It came Saturday, with not one but two familiar names getting married. But alas, I was not invited to either event - so I couldn't act like TMZ and yell, "What about Kurt Schmitz?" from afar.

The local wedding of the weekend involved WTVM anchor Cheryl Renee. She became married to a man who's not a public figure, in a ceremony with only relatives and close friends -- so close that apparently some co-workers were not invited. Now that's the way to prevent leaks of vital information....

But some well-known WTVM personalities were on Cheryl Renee's invitation list. Greg Funderburg (who provides this photo) came back from Greenville, South Carolina. He works at the Fox station there, and has lost 66 pounds since leaving Columbus more than a year ago. Funderburg gave us "Get Moving Mondays" -- but maybe he really needed to move out of town.

Greg Funderburg invited me to join several current and former WTVM employees for a reunion dinner Friday night at the Cross Country Plaza El Vaquero. These days, the parking lot there offers a scenic view of the bulldozed former Service Merchandise store.

But much to my surprise, two WTVM reunion dinners were underway in the same restaurant at the same time. The other one had several current and former employees welcoming back former reporter Gretchen Bartelt. But while she brought a boyfriend, she was NOT the second person getting married. Bartelt was heading to that other wedding -- which makes all this about as complicated as an ABC soap opera.

"I'm working for the man," Gretchen Bartelt (shown with Jason Dennis) told me about her current "corporate communications" job in Milwaukee. But she got there by an unusual route - after working in Beijing, helping the country launch its first English-language newscast. So some might say Bartelt indirectly worked for "the man" years before. A man named Mao Zedong....

(I've heard one local pastor ask during a service why no one calls the country "Red China" anymore. Perhaps it's because no one calls the state "Red Georgia" for turning so Republican.)

But walking into this reunion put me in an awkward spot. A couple of current WTVM anchors greeted me - and I realized I might as well have dragged an invisible gorilla in the door. "Maybe I need a demilitarized zone," I said of the dining room tables.

But the current employees were friendly, and I said nothing more about the Kurt Schmitz departure to that group. The surprise guest star at that reunion was Richard Hyatt, who made an April Fool's joke at my expense. But if I'm posting the details first, maybe I have the last laugh.

After a short appearance, I eventually joined the other reunion party inside El Vaquero. We were joined by another former WTVM reporter, Chauncy Glover (together here with Curtis McCloud). Glover now is in Jacksonville, and gave me credit for breaking the Kurt Schmitz story here. For some reason, no one from the Ledger-Enquirer has done that yet....

Sports Director Dave Platta made a short drop-in at our group. He rolled his eyes when I used the moment to declare him "the winner of Survivor: WTVM."

So what about Saturday's second wedding? That was in Birmingham, and the blonde blushing bride was former WTVM reporter Ashley Nix (photo courtesy Facebook). As far as I know, there was NO satellite feed set up to coordinate this as a doubleheader.

Ashley Nix has been a TV reporter in Birmingham for several years. She's an Alabama grad, while new husband Keith Daniels is an Auburn man. Wherever they live, he'd better hide the pesticide.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: Now for the latest about the biggest controversy in Columbus - directly from one of the parties involved....


Just for the record, I was eventually granted permission to take away my personal things from my office at WTVM, with employee "escort" who actually wound up helping me a lot. I completed this task yesterday (Thursday).

Kurt Schmitz

This could have ended much worse, you know. His belongings could have been offered in a yard sale outside the St. Jude Dream Home.

Meanwhile, your blog also has learned Kurt Schmitz has hired Columbus attorney Mark Casto as his legal counsel. His background includes all kinds of complaints which might be filed against WTVM - from age discrimination to "wrongful termination." But critics might say the station can hire its own "professional malpractice" attorney, since Schmitz didn't always get the forecast right.

Let's head back to Auburn Avenue, for something I did NOT see Friday night....

As I was leaving Deorios and a fine spaghetti dinner at Cross Country, I was approached by an older well-dressed woman who asked if she could "express my (her) constitutionally protected right to free speech." How could I say "No" to that?!

Sure enough, she went on a stemwinder that Senator Blutarsky hisself could have given. I knew full well the point of all this was that she wanted cash. To her credit, she managed to complete the circuitous linguistic route she was taking and asked for $50. My first thought was that many degreed folks who get paid five or six times that per hour would do well to observe and learn from her.

I told her I wouldn't help her today and she thanked me for my kind attention and then moved along down the hill.

This woman would fit in quite well down on Broadway with all the CSU folks. She'd also make any councilor who dared disagree with her at a meeting soon regret doing so.

Hmmmm -- a well-dressed woman in MidTown asking for 50 dollars. But I wouldn't consider Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson "older" at all....

I've met a few beggars who seem to use a "pay me to shut up" approach. One man near the Civic Center wanted money for something to eat - and when I offered him a brownie from my bag, he started talking about serving in Vietnam and having an attorney handle his finances. If he thought he could negotiate his way up to fried chicken, it didn't work.

But yeow - a woman asking a stranger for 50 dollars?! Either beggars are believing those warnings about approaching hyperinflation - or this is a prostitution who lost her way, after being chased off Victory Drive.

And it wouldn't be a Sunday these days without a message from this man....

"Sir" Richard:

No matter - what you call it! "Soapbox Sunday, or "Hurt'sboro Sunday! If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck or quacks like a duck - IT'S A DUCK!

Let me apologize for my past indiscretions, in sublety as far as any hurtful things I may have posted in regard to you. But I will remind you (of course it was in jest) that you haven't always been too kind to me either.

Many things have occured since I last posted - things that will have to be handled in the Russell County Circuit Court before I can divulge further information. Suffice it to say - "It aint over, 'til the fat lady sings.

One thing is certain though - "Hurt'sboro's garbage truck (as of this writing) sits disabled, with a full load of rotting garbage aboard, on Main Street in our fair town. Russell County agreed to furnish a truck and driver to pick up last week's garbage for $1,500.00, and it disappeared as if by magic.

Only time will tell what next week will bring!

As if the town didn't have enough problems with its finances and garbage - the Police Chief served notice that he's leaving at the end of March.

That's it for now, my dear sir. I certainly hope that you will get over your ruffled feelings, I enjoy jousting with you.

R.J. Schweiger

"This writing" actually was almost a week ago. For all I know, the Hurtsboro police chief's new job may involve fixing the garbage truck.

But to be fair, it's probably difficult for any small town to keep a police chief for long. It's a bit like the world of television news - with the temptation of larger salaries in larger cities. Columbus lost plenty of police officers to metro Atlanta in recent years for that reason. Sadly, they're more likely to be lost these days to charges filed by the District Attorney.

The only news mainstream journalists found in metro Hurtsboro this past week was nickel-sized hail from a storm. How many residents wished the hail really came in the form of nickels?

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