Here In Los Angeles With Hines And Kym

May 2, 2011 - Leave a Response
I am writing this the day after I visited Hines and Kym at their practice studio in Los Angeles.
Exhausted, after practicing for three days on not one–but two dances for Monday night. None of us could  have known what had happened thousands of miles away, in Pakistan.  Hines would say this. It puts Dancing, football, and entertainment, in perspective. Looking back, Hines and Kym choosing “I Am Proud To Be An American” for their song was so appropriate–for today, and for his life as a great football player, and now, yes, an entertainer. He is a bi-racial American, whose mother was Korean. She came to the country to give her son the best life, and that son maximized every opportunity that has ever been given to him.
 I don’t know if something will be said on the show tonight about the brave Navy Seals who risked their lives to kill Osama Bin Laden. Perhaps it is not an appropriate venue. But when is it now appropriate to recognize the special men and women who make us safe, and make us able to enjoy the fun that Dancing With The Stars has provided. I will blog tomorrow about the show tonight, and what it was like to sit in the audience, with Hines’ manager , Andrew Ree–right up front . Can’t wait, but I won’t be able to take photos, because they take our cell phones and cameras.
By the way, the couple showed off their tango, and it was mesmerizing. Can’t wait to see the team cha-cha!!!

Hines And Kym Are All 9’s

April 19, 2011 - 5 Responses

It has been 10 days since I took this photo of Hines and Kym–at their practice in Pittsburgh–exhausted during their whirlwind tour of the city and several charity functions. 

They were practicing for the paso doble, which he and Kym nailed last Monday, in my humble and uneducated opinion.

The studio audience made it’s displeasure known when they only got one nine, but the judges made up for it this week with the “patriotic” rumba. THREE –Count them–THREE 9’s!!!!Now they are firmly ensconced atop the leader board. I also have learned that the show’s producers are quite impressed with the Steeler Nation fan base voting for Hines, so keep it up, Black and Gold!

And speaking of Black and Gold, this was Coach Tomlin, his wife, Kiya, meeting Kym Johnson at the Mel Blount Youth Home Roast of Jerome Bettis. The VIP reception was a madhouse as people scrambled to get photos of the Dancing Stars. Hines’s manager, Andy Ree, was astounded by the reaction,

and the ABC publicist assigned  to Hines, who just happend to be a crazy Hines Ward fan, was blown away and standing there wide-eyed.  This is she, Sylvia Do,  sitting with Hines and Kym as they prepare for practice when they were in the Burgh!

And going back to Kiya Tomlin–did you spot her in the front VIP section with Greta Rooney, wife of Steeler President Art Rooney? Waving their Terrible Towels before the judges went all 9 on them! 

And can you imagine the delight of this woman, Karen Lewis, of Butler, Butler County, who won Hines raffle on his Facebook Page that benefited his Helping Hand Foundation? She and her husband John, were on vacation in the Napa Valley, when she got word she won the two tickets, and a stay at the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel, to see both Monday, and Tuesday night. I talked to her before the show, and she was so excited. She and her husband, who is president of Armstrong Memorial Hospital, got to talk to Hines in his trailer before the competition, and she texted me right after the show, saying, “It was absolutely incredible!!So much fun and lifelong memories.”

And you can bet Hines is remembering this performance. He was nervous about one move, but Kym put him through his paces, and he was so subtle, that he was spectacular! And the uniform—what a fabulous choice by Kym!

But the best part–Hines’ raffle netted 25 thousand dollars for his Helping Hands Foundation, which is why Karen donated and got the raffle tickets in the first place. A foundation that helps ensure the future success of biracial kids in Korea and children in this country.

Vote Hines!!!!

The Perfect Team-Hines & Kym

April 4, 2011 - 9 Responses

It has been an obscenely long time since my last blog–two and a half months. And, coincidentally, the last one was about Hines and his evolving role on the team. The Steelers team. Now he has a new team, Hines and Kym and the whole nation is sitting up and taking notice. By the way, it was his idea to show off the Altoids in this photo, taken March 7, when Hines invited me to his house in Atlanta-not far from where they were practicing before heading back to LA.  He says you have to have fresh breath when you dance so closely to one another.

First, the house is stunning, and I can understand why Architectural Digest featured Hines on its cover last fall. Hines designed it, and oversaw every last detail. A mixture of clean lines, and lodge-like warmth, I kept gasping during the tour he gave me.  And speaking of stunning, Kym Johnson, his partner and coach, is that and more. She has competed in ballroom dancing since she was a child, and was a champion in her native Australia, before becoming a winner here in the States on DWTS. She wants to win just as badly as Hines, and he could not have been matched with a better person on the show!!!!!

And before we started the interview, Hines showed Kym a special book with all his photos from his many trips to his native Korea. It was a special moment we were privileged to witness. He told her about his work with bi-racial children like himself, and showed her the picture of his mother with Korea’s President, and in front of special monuments.

It was a tiny window into the process of building their chemistry that is so wonderfully apparent on the dance floor on television. I knew Hines has a super-bright mind, and a memory like a steel trap. But I am blown away with how dramatic the two of them are together. He is not just technically great, he is emotionally invested in the dances.

Just like he has been emotionally invested in our community. Sunday night, I attended the Project Bundle-up Auction Kick-Off Dinner at LeMont.

On hand were the W. PA Commander, Major Robert Reel and his wife, Major Lynette Reel, of the Salvation Army. Lynette told the crowd the most touching story about one of Hines’ shopping trips with two children who were in need of warm, winter outerwear. The entire room was in tears as she told of Hines’ heart and compassion, and his desire to go the extra mile for the kids.

You can see that kind of heart on the dance floor–so Steeler Nation–KEEP ON VOTING FOR HINES AND KYM!!!

Hines Evolving

January 6, 2011 - 2 Responses

He is so accessible, so cooperative–familiar to football fans around the globe. He has been here so long, and is so inextricably bound up with the Steelers, that we forget how good he really is, not just in Steeler history, but NFL history.

Never mind that he is one of the best blocking wide receivers to ever play the game. This part of my interview done Wednesday, January 5, speaks to that, and how he is teaching it to the younger receivers on the team.

But, at 34, his football intelligence is only greater. And his ability to get his quarterback first downs is so valuable…Four of them in the game against Cleveland.  He really seems okay that he did not lead the team in receptions for the first time since he tied with Troy Edwards (remember him?) back in 1999. Hines calls Mike Wallace, who did top the list this year, a Pro Bowl receiver. That is coming from a man who went to four, and was also named Super Bowl MVP in 2006.

But there are some records he is closing in on that are important to him. He is just over 300 yards from that magic number of 12 thousand yards. And he is 40-something catches away from 1000 receptions. But within closer reach is Ring Number 3.  And that is the most important, obviously. He and Ben Roethlisberger have worked their magic for well over 500 catches since 2004. And their relationship, which Hines terms as “brothers,” is stronger than ever.

He was already named by as one of the top ten Steelers. I can not imagine, that when Hines finally does retire, he will have no problem getting into the Hall of Fame. He has changed the game, and played it with that smile that has delighted Steeler Nation, and beyond.

Plus, he is always ready to flash that smile for a photo–this one for our photojournalist, T.J. Haught.

Unforgettable Winter Classic

January 3, 2011 - 2 Responses

Unforgettable. The best description I heard from a friend who sat in the rain, and cheered for Sidney, the Pens, and Pittsburgh. It was a night for all those to shine, albeit through a water-spotted lens. What surprised me was how many Caps fans traveled several hours to be part of “unforgettable.”  The estimate-30 thousand, just under half of a crowd over 68 thousand.

While it was a thrill to stand at center ice during the Media Skate on Thursday, and great to be in the press box during the game, I wished I had been sitting outside, so I could hear the cheers, feel the crowd, and see Terrible Towels waving–stamped with that Winter Classic logo.

Hockey is a great game. Was this a great game? Not for the Pens, certainly, and it was let-down for Pens fans, who don’t just root for the Pens, but almost adore them.  Mario, the organization, its coach, Dan Bylsma, team architect, GM Ray Shero, its stars–Crosby,  Malkin, and Fleury–and faces like Talbot, Orpik and Staal. But to hear all the players, including Ovechkin and Fehr ,

talk about the thrill of coming through the tunnel and onto the ice–the experience of playing in a venue crammed full with tens of thousands– mitigated the disappointment a bit.

I didn’t see the Alumni game, but John Meyer’s description of the crowds thunderous welcome to Mario, who had helped make all this happen, gave me chills. Watching him walk onto center ice, accompanied by Hall of Famer Franco Harris, and future Hall of Famer, Jerome Bettis, was a visual example of how lucky fans were to have a marriage of such storied franchises. A huge thanks to the Rooneys’, who made sure their last two season games were on the road. To Pens CEO, David Morehouse, for his vision. USAToday called him the best marketing team president in sports.

But most of all, thanks to the fans. They make this city the sports model all others envy. It may seem trite, but it is the reason I moved here. And we know have a month of Steeler playoffs to celebrate in Heinz Field. Are we lucky ,or what?

Remembering Antarctica

December 13, 2010 - 7 Responses

It is a place that will rock your world. Literally. So when our 5 pm producer, Tom West, asked me to re-work a piece about the stranded Antarctic expedition ship, and use my 2008 Antarctic video, I was only too happy to oblige.

I had done several blogs, and a news story, about the group, Oceanites, which was evaluating penguin populations to measure climate impact on the Antarctic peninsula. This woman, Elise Larsen, was a researcher on our ship in December,2008, and she has parents who live in Pittsburgh, and married a Pittsburgher.

It was one of the first voyages, if not the first, of Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, a new, state-0f-the-art expedition cruise ship. Ice-strengthened, it was designed for the rough, unpredictable weather and seas of Antarctica–particularly the Drake Passage– the body of water between the tip of South American and the Antarctic Peninsula. My friend, Jaqi Conomikes and I weathered the crossing of the Drake pretty well, and the hurricane force winds that grounded another ship, hit the Explorer in the Bransfield Strait, near the South Shetland Islands, if I remember correctly. (I probably don’t). This is a shot from our window of the seas as the wind began to pick up.

Below is a picture of one of the passengers, Wayne Summers, leaning into 40 knot winds, which is about 50 miles an hour, I think.

But the winds became much stronger, and the swells were about 30 feet, so we were told to try to remain in our cabins.

Jaqi and I, show here in much more benign weather, decided to sneak outside to shoot some video, and a stand-up.  We could barely get the door to the outside open, and we had to hang onto the railings. The winds were about 50 to 60 knots at this point. We quickly shot some stuff and struggled to get the door open to get back inside, then watched over the next several hours as the winds grew to almost 100 miles and hour and the swells were up to 40 feet.  I think all of the 110 or so passengers on board had complete trust in the ship, and its

Captain, Leif Skog. An amazing man, he had helped design the Explorer.  And our expedition leader, an expert in ecologically sensitive Antarctic travel, was Matt Drennan.

He constantly kept us updated on conditions through the public address system. I admit, I was loaded up on motion sickness pills, arm bands, a little watch that shocks you, and ginger gum. I never actually got sick, just a little queasy. But lying down made it subside. It was an exciting time, and I came to understand how people can fall in love with ships. The National Geographic Explorer lived up to expectations in such an extreme test. So I was not surprised to hear that is was the Explorer that came to the rescue of the stranded Clelia II, whose power had been knocked, and engines disabled by the massive swells in the Drake last week. Here is a link to the story:

43 Points

December 3, 2010 - Leave a Response

Whether you are a hunter, or loathe the pastime, people in Western Pennsylvania have to admit that this area is a hotbed for hunters, especially deer.

These are the antlers that belonged to the buck, shot by Steve McCartney

on the opening Monday of deer season. 43 points. Maybe. To be determined by an official scorer during the week-end from the national magazine,”Buckmaster”

But from the moment WTAE  first aired the story  Monday, and posted it on, it has created an astonishing amount of interest.

And when we did a follow-up on Steve, we discovered he was a 4th-grade teacher at Washington Elementary in Washington  Twp–not far from Vandergrift in Westmoreland County.  The 28 year old teacher from Upper Burrell had hunted since the age of 12, and the publicity drawn by Steve’s unusual trophy had caused quite the stir at the school, where a fellow teacher told me he is very  popular.

So when we arrived to talk  to Steve about the aftermath  of bagging this buck, the whole school had turned out, kids donning home-made antlers, to hear his story.

Steve and the teachers turned it into a time of instruction, rather than celebration of his lucky shot.

I had posted on WTAE’s Fan Page on Facebook that I was surprised that he as a teacher, and a lot of people chided me for that. I explained that it was not that he was a teacher, but that I had expected the person who captured such a prize to be a professional. I don’t know why. Many of us excel at our hobbies, enough to compete with the pros, I supposed.

But what blew me away was watching him hold the attention of a gym full of young school children. He truly has a gift. Did our cameras help create the moment?

To a degree, yes. But his choosing to use this moment to instruct on gun safety, the rules of hunting safety, respect for nature, and yes, the conflict he felt when he shot the deer, was all so genuine.

One student asked a question that first comes to mind for most non-hunters. “Did you feel bad?”  His answer to the student, and to me, later? “I guess you do. It was a living organism and you have a heart. But when you respect the sport of hunting, and the animal , and you are using all the resources that animals gives you, it is rewarding at the same time.”

Steve and his wife now have a freezer full of venison, to share with friends  and family. He will mount the antlers and deer’s head in his home. He will learn, “officially” whether there really were 43 points, or only 30, this week-end.  But he will always have the moment, sitting alone in his tree-stand, when he saw the buck stumble into his sight. And he will alway have that gift of teaching.

For more on Steve, follow this link on

Black and Gold Primetime–Again!

November 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

Black and Gold Primetime–two weeks in a row. Can’t remember if that has ever happened in the 17 years I have been doing them. It was so cold, had to go out and buy a warmer coat this morning. No one was at Paul Brown Stadium here in Cincinnati Sunday night, where we all appeared in the 6 and the 11 o’clock newscasts. So the guys parked our news car in the parking place for Bengals’ QB, Carson Palmer.

Earlier in the day, we all waited for the Steelers to arrive at the hotel, and it occurred to me how tough it is to play three away games in a row. I don’t care if you are on a charter or not. Not sleeping in your own bed, taking a day to travel, and flying through the middle of the night after a primetime game all have to make them tired.

This is nose tackle, Chris Hoke getting off the bus. After the MNF, he was so relieved that the Steelers pulled it out at the end, 27-21.

And as Guy and I stood there watching the team file into the locker room, you would have thought they lost. Tomlin stood at the door, practically shouting, “It is never easy, 6-2, we are at the turn.” Over and over. As Troy Polamalu walked by, looking like he had lost his best friend, Tomlin shouted, “What, What? Don’t do that.” It was impressive how he quickly wanted to remind them how tough this game is, and a win, at the end of  three road trips, is a satisfying victory. Even if it was costly in injuries. Word that starting left tackle, Max Starks may be out for the season with a neck injury is disturbing. Especially with the Patriots this week-end, and ANOTHER primetime match-up. But being at home, in front of the fans

who travel better than any others in the league, will be a welcome boost.

Behind The Scenes At Elections

November 4, 2010 - Leave a Response

It has occurred to me, that if I am going to take pictures with a smartphone, doing it with two hands, and steadying the camera would be a good idea. I think I have a stabilization program, but , in the heat of live appearances, Live Wire entries on, checking latest numbers on the website, and cruising the watch party food and sneaking crackers (the food is for the guests, not the media), I forgot.

This is Congressman Joe Sestak. Democratic Candidate for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat. The fact that I have to explain that raises serious questions about my photojournalism skills. The vantage point does show what the shot would have looked like if I had not stood on a chair for my TV appearances later in the night, like this reporter from WCAU in Philadelphia. Now, if you are interviewing someone from the campaign, it is dicey, and impolite to ask them to stand on the same chair–so, you have to find another chair, or just stand on the floor, and disregard what your background looks like. The cameras, by the way, are all in a line on the riser, as you can see from this photo.

This is Suzanne Malveaux, the White House correspondent for CNN. Her presence was an indicator of how important the national media regarded this race between Sestak, a former Navy Vice Admiral, and Republican Pat Toomey. I had posted this picture to our LiveWire blogging site, but somehow, the way in which I held the iPhone camera was misinterpreted by the Scribblelive site, and turned it sideways. I corrected it by turning the phone around, but then, in my confusion, started turning the phone upside down. I was unaware, because the photos looked fine when  I emailed them, complete with text, to the site. It was only when I checked our email from the bosses at the station, that I learned they were all upside down. So they were deleting my photos and entries. Then my phone ran out of battery, so I switched to the iPad, but can’t take pictures with that. What amazes me, is that, with all the technology, it seems even MORE  can go wrong. But, I must admit, it is kinda fun trying to keep up to technological speed with young campaign workers like these.  And in the end, that is what it is about. The people who step up, both young and old, and become part of the process. Democrat, Republican, Independent. At this watch party in the Philly suburbs, their candidate lost. But they won by getting involved, and are better for it. I wish more of us in this country would do so, because it can only enhance our cherished freedoms.

Steeler Fans Overwhelm The Big Easy

October 31, 2010 - Leave a Response

It started on the plane. A Steeler Monkey–but not one on their backs! This is Rich Lubic, who reminded me he had been at a Steelers pep rally at a Steeler bar in Jacksonville, Florida, back in 2006, when NFL films shot “Steeler Nation.” And he reminded me they all sang Happy Birthday to me.

Fast forward four years, and we are in New Orleans, at the Super Dome. John Meyer and I have never been here, but Guy Junker had. None of us had ever experienced The Crescent City during Halloween, and the trek down Bourbon Street was delightful madness, punctuated by costumed Steeler fans, like these nurses from Allegheny General Hospital,

and a host of characters like these

and these

and these (Guy and John)

Not a great  photo, but try taking a cell phone picture with throngs bumping into you.

After we did some work inside the amazing Super Dome, I headed out to a jazz spot with DVE’s Randy Baumann, Ryan Camuso, and their buddies.

We listened to the most amazing trombone band, at Tipitina’s. Several years ago, Randy arranged a benefit in Pittsburgh for the Tipitina Foundation, to raise money for the musicians devastated by Katrina. He brought in 50 thousand dollars. The foundation supports the musical culture of this gem of a city, and helps put musical instruments into the public schools here. It is hard to believe, looking at the regions’s remarkable recovery, that Katrina almost destroyed this resilient city. There are still scars, though. Still work to be done. Reminders were on display at the Katrina Exhibit that opened this week-end at the Louisiana State Museum. One can understand how the Saints’ Super Bowl win was a galvanizing lift for the city. Too bad the Steelers are not going to help in that department Sunday night!