Archive for February, 2007

February 27, 2007

The Oscars. I am probably the only one in the world who didn’t find the telecast tediously boring. Okay, so, it was a little, maybe even moderately, boring. But I even enjoyed the montage tribute to foreign films. You are talking about one of the only people in Pittsburgh who ordered the Olympic triplecast a decade or so ago. Just so I could watch the equestrian events. Took a lot of newsroom ribbing for that.

And now we have been chewing over the Oscar results in the newsroom. Thanks to a wicked bout of either norovirus, or food poisoning, I spent most of a vacation recuperating–but you are never too sick to bundle yourself up and sit in a dark theatre—oh, that didn’t sound right, did it? Anyway, suffice it to say, I saw almost every film that garnered any kind of nomination..Still have to see Happy Feet ( I sooo love penguins–I even held one of the zoo’s babies!), Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Half-Nelson, and Flags of Our Fathers. I have the Netflix for the last two at home now. Can’t see Pan’s in a theatre..I HATE torture scenes, and I have to be at home to hide behind a door, or fast forward. Wouldn’t you love to fast forward through the figuratively torturous scenes of your life? Yes, they have already made a movie about that–Click. Thank goodness, it was a comedy.

I kept trying to get everyone at work to see Letters From Iwo Jima. It won the Best Picture award from the National Board of Review, and it was my favorite. USA Today’s critic thought it should win, but picked Little Miss Sunshine as the probable winner. I loved that mix of macabre and mirth, but I loved Letters because it celebrates the human will to live, in the face of overwhelming cultural pressures (Japanese) to sacrifice for country. It was a largely unprecedented look at the “other side” and I am sure, justifiably uncomfortable, even painful, for many Americans.Perhaps that, plus the subtitles, kept it from grabbing the statue. But Clint Eastwood is remarkable for making it, and for, I think only 20 million. I may be wrong on that.

Actually, a friend of mine pointed out that many of the nominated films were disturbing. How can you say you “loved” films like “The Departed,” “Last King of Scotland,” and “Babel” when they are so upsetting to watch. Babel does center on the children in our lives, and I loved that about it. I also loved “The Queen.” But the film I saw the most wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture—“Blood Diamond.” I won’t tell you how many times I saw it. It was on a number of Top Ten lists, and I am so impressed with Djimon Hounsou as an actor. I have never been a big fan of DiCaprio’s, but I am now. He nailed that part. The accent was amazing. But, even though I have no children of my own, I sympathize with how difficult the film is to watch for parents, because of the terrifying depiction of child soldiers. It is a film that breaks your heart. Which is not a bad thing , sometimes. Spurs us onto action.

Speaking of children in Africa, I hope people took time to watch Oprah’s special about her academy. It was a treat to interview her about it, even though it was only by satellite. I have interviewed her, in person, several times over the years, and have found her to be funny, accessible, and bright. I agree with her that Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Idi Amin was riveting, and chilling–makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

And standing with these characters did the same—just kidding. They were so entertaining. These people were part of the Pittsburgh Film Office’s Oscar Gala Sunday night, which Michelle Wright and I have emceed for a number of years now. Great crowd, and the guy who played Borat sounded just like the real Sacha Baron Cohen . It truly gets you in the mood for movies, and the Film Office is generating some impressive projects now.

Wow, long blog! sorry.. just two asides..I miss my obsessive movie going partner- Susan Koeppen.. With a toddler and new baby , and her job on The Early Show, I am sure there is little time for films. But she is the person who got me into this Oscar obsession mode several years ago.

And a “thank you” to the Cowhers for so graciously consenting to our one-on one.
I was talking to a Fox Chapel parent I know, whose daughter was in class with Lauren Cowher. She thinks both Bill and Kaye have done an admirable job in raising their kids, and keeping them as normal as possible in what was an impossibly abnormal situation–living life in a fishbowl. Here’s wishing them the best.


February 19, 2007

20 years of Winterfest. This is a picture of the original Queen of Winterfest, Susan Davies. She worked for us from 1987-1995, doing weather, and reporting. She is still one of my closet friends, and was there for the very beginning of one of our favorite events. Susan is an expert, sometimes extreme, skier, who did one of her live shots with a wireless mike, skiing down the slopes. She also reminded me that she used to spend the entire two weeks up there, doing a story everyday. We laughed about the night we almost got kicked out of the Oak Room. We had a huge table, that included the always irrepressible WTAE photographer, Art Carr. Art regaled us with the story of his encounter with Samson the Bear. Samson was a trained bear that he wrestled at the Westmoreland Mall, when he was a young, and obviously, foolish, man. We were laughing so loudly–especially when he talked about trying to crawl out of the ring, and the bear kept jumping on him and dragging him back in, and he was screaming, “Help me, help me!” The staff had to ask us to be quiet, or leave. And, yes, I was more worried about how the bear was being treated.

Susan left us in 1995 for Cleveland and WEWS. She now lives in Colorado Springs, with her husband, Bill, and daughter, Betsy–one of my favorite little girls. Predictably, she is becoming quite an accomplished skier, just like Mom.

Didn’t make the ski race this year—had a wedding to attend. But reviewing last Winterfest week-end–it was right up there. A couple of memorable moments–or moments I can still remember. During the Celebrity Olympics, there was an obstacle course, in which one person was blindfolded, and had to pull another person in an innertube around slalom poles. The person in the innertube screamed out the directions. We thought it would be funny to let Louie Lipps pull the considerably bigger, and younger, Chris Hoke( Steelers nose tackle). What we didn’t anticipate, was Steelers linebacker, James Harrision, hanging onto the back of the tube, adding considerable drag—all unbeknownst to poor Louie. We were rolling on the snow, laughing. Louie never had a clue, until he lifted the blindfold.

Another highlight–actually, this Treo camera photo looks like it has no light. It is Abby Abbondanza , of the PovertyNeck HIllbillies, Ben Roethlisberger, and Brett Kiesel, during the Winterfest concert. Abby had walked up into the balcony and was singing from there during one of the numbers. I was standing right behind them, and was just blown away with how good the band is. Tremendous energy. I had never seen them live, and Chris Higbee is a fine, fine fiddler (Did you know symphony musicians also call their violins, fiddles, sometimes? ). Ben has been enormously supportive of the band, and they are now the official band of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here’s wishing them even greater success.

Talk about success. How ’bout them Pens?! I heard one sports talk show host compare them to the Edmonton Oilers in the 80’s –Gretsky, Messier, Coffey. BTW, when Gretsky started in the WHA at 17, I served him a gingerale in my then-husband’s sports bar. It was in Birmingham, when the Birmingham Bulls played there. My ex was also a partner with the former Montreal Canadien, Phil Roberto, and some other hockey players, in a disco. (yes, I took disco lessons, but I was abominanble) .

But I digress. The furor over the Pens was certainly evident at the Penguins “At Your Service,” benefitting Cystic Fibrosis. I have never seen the place so packed, and poor Evgeni Malkin signed more than served. I was fortunate enough to be paired with him, and his translator, George, could not have been more patient and witty…Evgeni never stopped smiling. Here he is with Wendy’s son, Jack, who bravely, but very politely, made his way around the room for signatures. Can you imagine being surrounded by all that talk, and understanding only a smattering of it? I give him all the credit in the world. Some say immersion is the way to learn a language, but it must be taxing . I bet he has a huge headache at the end of the day.

February 12, 2007

Since playing polar bear keeper for a day, I have to confess that I am now totally obsessed with the creatures. Mark McDonough, the primary keeper, was incredibly helpful. So I stopped by several days later to thank him again—-and get another chance to throw fish at them( we didn’t have time to show you that in the piece. Suffice it to say, I kept tossing the fish at the wrong places).

Nuka and Koda are brothers, and I asked Mark how long they could stay together, since adult males battle for territory and females in the wild. He said male polar bears don’t reach sexual maturity until six.And with no females around, these guys should get along for a while.

But I got a taste of what a polar bear fight might be like. Mark and I were throwing the fish into the exhibit in front of an audience of only a few hardy souls.It was, after all,insanely cold. Did they get a show! Nuka is the dominant brother–and he gets fed first. Sometimes he also hoards food in the exibit. But this time, Koda let him have it! I have never heard anything like it. Mark had thrown a fish for Nuka. Koda already had one nearby. Koda must have felt Nuka was getting to close to his fish, and, suddenly, these thunderous roars erupted, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck..The photo here doesn’t show it, but “the boys” were almost connecting, jaws wide open. Mark says it happens sometimes–but they settle it quickly, and without any real injury. Frankly, I was so proud of Koda for sticking up for himself.

Looks like this is going to be an animal blog, because I also want to express my admiration for Dr. Kenton Rexford and all the vet techs, and other vets, who work at his emergency vet clinic in Shaler. He is so right. You can’t excel in those jobs, unless you enjoy helping people. The staff members probalby spend as much time caring for and comforting the humans as their four-legged patients. The animals brought in so often break your hearts, but so does the emotional upset of their owners.

Speaking of broken hearts–and six degrees of separation. Barbaro was euthanized just over a week after we shot the e-vet story. And two days before the horse’s death, Dr. Rexford and another local specialist, Dr. John Payne, were at the University of Pennsylvania , where they stopped in to see Barbaro. Dr Rexford had studied under Dr. Dean Richardson, the brilliant surgeon who cared for the racehorse.

Both Rexford and Payne said the horse did not look good. When the news broke, a friend of mine called to tell me that a local radio talk show host had been chiding people who called in expressing grief. “It’s just a horse!”, he said. So I phoned Dr. Rexford, and asked him why he thought many of us, even people who are not equine lovers, were so moved. First, he said it was the incredible beauty and athleticism of the animal. Then, there are the mythical qualities humans attach to horses. But, he added, Barbaro’s indomitable spirit, his unquenchable will to live, also made what was a good story– a great one. I told him about the talk show host, and he observed that people love, and grieve, the loss of all sorts of things. Car lovers may cry if they wreck their prize vehicle. Some Steeler fans may weep when the team loses a big game. I’d never thought about it that way. As long as what you love is not destructive, or evil, why should anyone criticize you for it? Just because someone grieves for an animal, doesn’t mean he or she will not also grieve equally–or even more– over other kinds of loss. As ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp so eloquently put it, “Barbaro affirmed our humanity.” Sometimes it takes one of God’s “other” living creations to do that.

Myron Cope, Joan Lunden, Daffodil Days
February 9, 2007

Again, I start with the same ole lament about procrastination. This blogging is like a term paper. Five minutes before the class begins, and I’m still typing. In grad school,I was wicked. One semester, I took three incompletes because I was having too much fun. Our wonderful managing editor of is more than patient — especially, considering he gave me Fantasy Football tips.

Some random thoughts, since I have been remiss with this. Football. If we couldn’t have been in Miami, wasn’t it Super that a former Steeler, and such a good man as Tony Dungy, won. And talk about inclement weather! Everyone was complaining about Detroit and the snow and cold. How ’bout a monsoon!? What a mess!!!! Without the rain, Peyton would have probably annihilated Chicago. I do feel so sorry for Rex Grossman.

From Super Bowls to Penguins — and Myron Cope’s editorial. I had talked to him several times in the last few months, and I knew he had some more bouts with bad health. But he looked great. He kept apologizing about his voice, and had to eat some hot soup before the interview started, but it was mainly because he had gone out the day before in this insanely cold weather, and it took a toll on those famous vocal cords. He is sharp as a tack, and you could see in the op-ed piece in the PG that he can still write. It really is his first love. He was emphatic that I make sure the interview included his affection for Mario, and his sentiment that his good opinion of Lemieux would not change, not matter what decision was made about the team. I can not believe Myron is 78 years old. Walking into his study is always a treat—it is like a museum. Pictures of him with Franco, Lambert, Terry, articles he wrote for Sport Illustrated about Pitt and Tony Dorsett. What a life—if you are a sports fan—even if you are not.

BTW, here is a video link to watch the entire interview with Myron on thepittsburghchannel.

From Myron to Joan Lunden. She was in town Thursday to help open the new Center for Cardiovascular Medicine at Excela Health in Greensburg. The American Heart Association had brought her in, and the event was packed. Over 700 people . The Center is going to be a great asset to the region, and she was a delight. Her late father, who was a surgeon, would be so proud of her. And she told us that she always had thought she would be a doctor. He was flying his private plane to a conference when Joan was 13, when his plane crashed. Even now, when she talked about that day, the last time she saw him, her voice cracked—and I started to cry. When I interviewed her earlier in the day, we talked about how both of our fathers had died suddenly when we were about the same age.

She is still beautiful … and living a remarkable life. Much of her time is dedicated to her seven children … three daughters from her first marriage, and four children — two sets of twins under the age of four (by a surrogate), with her husband now — who happens to be ten years younger. She has always been willing to take risks — rappelling in Alaska, bungee-jumping in New Zealand, landing on a carrier in an FA-18 Hornet — now that is dangerous … and she was an accomplished equestrian. Competed at a very high level. She told me she no longer jumps (at one time, she owned 10 horses — for her own competition and her daughters), because it is too dangerous when you have so many small children.

And talk about six degrees of separation. Her husband owns several summer camps in Maine—-about 15 miles from my sister’s bison ranch. It was a delight meeting her..And she is truly committed to helping improve the health of our children in this country.

Finally, a “thank you” to the American Cancer Society, Fed Ex Ground (which is headquartered here), and the two survivors, Lori and Debbie, who spoke so eloquently at our Daffodil Days event the end of January. If you get a chance, buy some. All the money raised stays right here in Western Pa, and, not surprisingly, Allegheny County has been the biggest fundraiser during the campaign in the nation–four years straight. Pittsburgh people are the greatest!!!!!!