Urban Myths in Local Television

A recent poster on this blog shared an interesting link that basically cranked up Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and allowed me (minus Sherman) to visit well known Memphis weatherman Dave Brown back when he was working for WHBQ-TV. I’m not sure of the year but I would place it about the early to mid 70s. The clip also featured Charlie B. Watson doing sports and a very young Jerry “The King” Lawler who was planning to wrestle a boxer. I don’t know if this was Dave Brown’s pre-wrestling show host days. The clip shows you how far we’ve come technology-wise in local TV. Pay special attention to Dave’s satellite map.
Anyway, the point of this post is that it reminded me of what almost qualifies as an urban myth in local TV. I say almost because I think there is some truth to this although I’m sure it’s nothing like what actually happened. Perhaps Dave Brown himself can clear up this bit of mystery once and for all.
I first heard this story while interviewing a farmer in East Arkansas in 1989 and have heard many different versions since from little old ladies to business owners from all three states in the viewing area.
It goes something like this: Dave Brown was doing the weather at (WHBQ/ WMC) and some farmer walked into the (TV station/Studio/Dave’s office) and (asked to speak to Dave/didn’t say anything) and then proceeded to (punch him in the nose/give him a black eye/knock him out with a fist to the face). Supposedly this came after the farmer had listened to Dave’s forecast which (called for rain and it didn’t rain/called for clear skies and it rained) which in turn cost the farmer a lot of money. One version has it that some lady was planning to throw a big party outdoors and it rained and SHE cleaned Dave’s clock.
I have heard this over and over and you would be amazed at the number of people who swear its true and supposedly knew the person who did this deed. Maybe there is some truth to this but I don’t think it says much about a farmer who plans his working day around what one weatherman says.
Anyway, the person who knows what really happened if anything at all is Dave Brown. Maybe he will settle this once and for all right here. I just hope he doesn’t punch my lights out for posting on this.

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19 Comments on “Urban Myths in Local Television”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    One that I’ve heard was that a guy called the weather office and asked if it was going to rain. He was assured that it would not. Of course it rains. The guy was in the process of completly replacing his roof, to the point that the sub roof was being replaced. House floods, lots of damage, etc.

    I can’t remember whether this story was about Dave Brown, or Bill Hall from WSMV in Nashville.

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    I think the key here is the fact that it involves a weather person who has been on the air for a long time in a particular market. Maybe this urban myth is floating around in all markets.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    The story a number of us remember is that Dave got punched out on the air! Three or four people saw it or have wild imaginations!

    Yes, we’ve come a long way. I recall the weather on channel 3 many years ago with folding doors hiding the information.

    We got a tour of the station not long after the move from the Peabody and the anchor desks were basically painted plywood cubes.

  4. Joe Larkins Says:

    Folks who visit a TV station for the first time are usually sorely disappointed when they see the news set up close and personal.
    As for the materials in a news set, I’ve seen everything from cardboard tubes from the inside of rolls of carpet to cardboard from large boxes to used carpet pieces utilized to help dress up a set. It’s amazing what some spray paint and imagination can do to create a set. On the other hand, some of these new high tech sets are pretty involved AND expensive.
    And when non-TV people sit through a newscast as they are sometimes invited to do, they tend to be amazed at what goes on. I’ve told folks before the start of a newscast that they will never watch the news again the same way. I also used to tell them the best part of a broadcast was the weather since the chroma-board was like magic.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Joe….The incident you described with Dave Brown is correct in that a male white walked into the studio by-passing the front desk and did in fact hit Dave while he was engaged in the weather segment. This was in the days when there was no security other than a nice little lady at the front desk. The guy was held for police and was charged with being a mental case.
    He just didn’t like the weather the previous week. Officers David Larkin and Ron Huffman made the call.
    As you may recall, a nut intruded in a station out west somewhere and took the anchors hostage for a few. In another instance at WHBQ a man climbed the transmission tower out back and refused to come down. He later surrendered after several hours.
    Funny how they provided armed security for the wrestlers but not for the on air talent.
    To quote you from a few years back: “It ain’t easy being me!”

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I always thought the story involved some guy who bought a brand new sports car…..Dave said it wasn’t gonna rain…..dude left his top down….it rained…..and dude was really mad.
    I’ve heard that version over and over.

  7. Joan Carr Says:

    I’ve also heard different versions of this story from different markets in Alabama. While it may be true that Dave Brown was actually punched out, the story has such resonance with people that they tell it over and over, substituting weather anchor names and other details. Then people swear their mom’s cousin’s friend is the one who did it. That’s what makes me think it’s an urban legend. The story may even predate whatever happened or didn’t happen to Dave Brown.
    Urban legends are fascinating, and they seemed to be particularly popular in the Huntsville, Alabama market when I worked there. People would call WAAY and tell me we should really do a story about the baby copperhead snakes hatching out in the playground at McDonald’s because their cousin’s mother’s friend’s child was bitten, and we should warn parents before more kids get bitten!
    Then there was the story about the man in the shopping mall who would grab a kid, cut and dye their hair in the store bathroom, then sneak out with him/her in broad daylight and the mother didn’t even recognize her own child! Several callers swore that happened to someone they knew at the local mall/Walmart, and I would call the police and there was no police report on it. Same with the copperheads. You can’t verify it, but people SWEAR it happened. That’s the very definition of an urban legend.
    And then there were all the reports of black helicopters, strange lights in the sky and animal mutilations around Huntsville….but that’s a story for another time.

  8. Byron Day Says:

    Ed Craig and Charlie B. related the story to me this way:

    Dave was upstairs in his office in the old second floor newsroom. Guy comes into the newsroom(it happened after 7p),confronts Dave about his crops dying from lack of rain, then punches him in the face.

    As the guy comes out of Dave’s office, Ed says he slammed a door into him,knocking him down, stunning him.

    Now here’s where the story gets a little “fuzzy” or “funny” depending on your point of view.
    After knocking the guy down, Ed told me he raced out the back steps of the station,but heard footsteps right behind him. Thinking it was the farmer, he ran faster, but whoever was behind picked up speed as well. Ed ran a little faster, but so did the other guy!
    Finally, according to Ed, after running for nearly half a mile,scared to death,nearly blind with exhaustion, he hears a voice holler: “..Hey Ed! Slow down!! I don’t think that guy can catch us now!”
    It was Charlie B!

    Thanks for reviving a great story from a great news era in Memphis!

    Say, whatever happened to that Brown guy, anyway?

    All the best-

  9. Joe Larkins Says:

    Thanks for jumping in on this and for adding a chuckle to my day.
    I have it on good authority that DB reads this blog on occasion and perhaps he might get a laugh out of this as well.
    Take care and again, thanks for the comment.

  10. John Says:

    Thanks Joe for making this post! When I was posting the link the other night to the video, I couldn’t help to think of this event myself! I’ve heard all the versions as well, I don’t even know which one (if any) is entirely truth. I guess that’s why we’re calling it an urban myth here πŸ™‚

    Nice to see even Byron Day getting in on the fun. I like his version! His is probably closer to truth seeing his sources for the story πŸ˜‰

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Amused, I am indeed. This story has better legs than anyone could have ever imagined. I have “set the record straight” many times on this, yet the legend lives. I doubt this post will fix it either, but here goes…

    FACT – In March 1975, a mentally disturbed man came into WHBQ. He asked for me because I was the only name he knew at the station. He came into the old second floor newsroom. Ed Craig, Charlie B. Watson, the 10pm producer and I were the only ones around. We thought he might be armed and began insisting he leave the building. He struck me on the side of my head with his forearm. I was not hurt at all.

    We got him out of the building with no harm. We notified police. Some thiry days later, he returned. After I identified him as the previous intruder, the police were called, he was arrested and at his court date it was immediately apparent to all that he was quite mentally disturbed. He was returned to a mental institution in Waukeegan IL where he had previously been treated for alcohol and drug abuse that was at least partially attributed to his serving in Vietnam.

    FACT – It had NOTHING to do with me personally.

    FACT – It had NOTHING to do with the weather.

    FACT – It had nothing to do with Wrestling. On the three occasions we saw him, he never made any coherent statements that made sense.

    FACT – He was NOT a farmer, concrete contractor, roofing contractor or irate husband/boyfriend. He was not an irate housewife or bride-to-be.

    FACT – I have heard over 100 variations on the story. NONE of them are true.

    FACT – At least 3000 people have told me they saw it happen on the air. It was not on the air. There was not even a camera on the floor where the incident occured. It was about an hour before the 10pm newscast.

    In those days, television stations doors were unlocked and a receptionist was on duty until after the late newscast. I claim that this story sold more “buzz-to-enter” door locks to television stations than any other single event in the history of the medium.

    As to Ed’s version…I assure you he was telling the story to amuse. In fact, he and Charlie were instrumental in helping to remove the guy from the building.

    Hi to the lovely Mrs. Larkins and to Byron Day and all others who commented!

    P.S. The microwave tower climber was on Union Avenue. Razor wire now covers the fence surrounding that tower.

    Dave Brown

  12. Joe Larkins Says:

    Dave Brown, YOU ARE THE MAN!
    Thank you for taking time to once again set the record straight. While it may never convince those who “saw it happen on the air”, now I’ll be able to steer the next person who tells me the “story” to this blog and your comments.
    I know those who read this appreciate you taking time to post and clear up the facts although Byron’s version makes for a funnier story. His version just left out what happened to you in all of the commotion.
    Again, thanks for taking time to check in.
    By the way, Bethany says “hey”.

  13. UPnDC Says:

    Yep…we found the tower climber one morning after the sun came up. No one was really sure when he climbed up there, but we could see him with the camera on top of the tower. He just laid around on the top platform for awhile. We called MPD and they came out and watched him from the control room on the camera while another officer managed to talk him down. The razor wire and a bigger lock on the gate were there by the afternoon.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    There was a tower climber at WHBQ as well. In 1987, same day as the Houston Oilers/NE Patriots pre-season game (the famous Jerry Glanville Elvis tickets game). A coked-up nut climbed half-way up the tower. Half the MPD surrounded 485 S.H., but it was his wife who talked him down.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    I guess now the story has been put to rest but I doubt it. People have talked about it that have not even lived in the area nearly as long as I have.

  16. autoegocrat Says:

    I first heard this story when I was about five years old. I was inconsolable, crying, “Why would anyone ever hit Dave Brown? He just does the announcing! HE’S NOT A WRESTLER!”

    Thanks for setting the record straight, Dave. Deep inside my soul, there’s a five-year-old kid who just stopped crying.

  17. John Says:

    Thanks Joe for making this post! When I was posting the link the other night to the video, I couldn’t help to think of this event myself! I’ve heard all the versions as well, I don’t even know which one (if any) is entirely truth. I guess that’s why we’re calling it an urban myth here πŸ™‚

    Nice to see even Byron Day getting in on the fun. I like his version! His is probably closer to truth seeing his sources for the story πŸ˜‰

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Wow! I moved away from Mphs in 1988, after getting married, but visit my parents still. I am amazed at how much “home” isn’t like home any longer! I remember when you did news Joe. I grew up in Whitehaven until 1981, my senior year when my parents moved to Bartlett! Any ideas of the best place online to find some nostalgic trivia spots about Memphis?


  19. Bill Anderson Says:

    Hi Joe…I remember an incident that happened in the very early 1970s when I was a young news phtographer for WHBQ-TV. We had just gotten in a brand new news cruiser, a two door Dodge sporty type car, and I was in the parking lot looking it over when Ed Craig came out and walked over to me. Ed said, “Uh, huh, yes, this is just like I ordered it…bucket seats, right color, just exactly like I ordered it”. I looked at Ed and told him he was full of s–t. I said Don Stevens ordered the car, as he told me he did. Ed was flustered, and told me not to talk to him that way, that he was assistant news director and would report this to news director Don Stevens. Ed liked to bully the younger employees, it seemed. (I was in my early 20s at the time, Ed was in his 40s). I told Ed I didn’t care who he told and to take a hike. Well, Ed stormed off, fuming and totally flustered. Well, this was right before the afternoon news cast, and afterwards, Dan Stewart, our news anchor, came out of the studio into the lobby and asked my what in the world had I said to Ed…Danny said Ed missed his cues, could not read, and was visibly upset over something the entire newscast. Danny and Charlie B. Watson were standing together while I told them what had transpired in the parking lot before the news cast. Well, Danny and Charlie B. roared with laughter so hard you could hear them all over the building, as I told them about the incident with the new news cruiser. Afterwards, Charlie B. told me, “Well, you did right, you called Ed’s bluff, and you will never have another problem with him. He always tries to buffaloe the young guys in the newsroom, but you put him in his place”. Well for the next 20 years, I never had another cross word with Ed Craig. Charlie B. was right. He and Danny retold that story many times, and it always brought a good laugh. I just thought I would share this funny moment with you. ….one other little funny incident I also remember: One day I came up the back stairs to the second floor newsroom, and when I came in the door, news director Don Stevens met me and asked, “Did you leave the news cuiser DOWNstairs?” (a four door Chevy Impala)…..I looked at Don, and said, “Yeah, it was too big to bring UPstairs”. Don just looked at me and could not say a word. I kept a straight face and walked by. He knew he had been “had” and could not think of a comeback, I guess. I thought Charlie B. was going to have a heart attack, he was laughing so hard. I hope you enjoy this bit of nostalgia. I am retired after a heart transplant in 2002 and now live in Sarasota, Florida, but I often think of the great old days at Channel 13, Eyewitness News. Take care, Bill Anderson

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