A Momento in Memphis From Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega, Revisiting the Old Days Down on the River and the Straight Skinny on the AN5 Sat Truck!

When I was working as a reporter in TV news, I was occasionally asked if I had ever run  into a really interesting story or interviewed someone who was famous.  I can honestly say I covered a variety of folks who fell into both categories and some had some interesting things to share.  I was reminded of one case this past weekend.  More on that in just a moment.  The story occured around the first year I was in Memphis.  I was anchoring weekend nights at the time and U-S troops had invaded Panama and eventually took into custody Manuel Noriega, the former ruler of Panama.  On this particular Sunday night, the newest hire in the videographer ranks was a guy named Dan Bussell and he was assigned to the weekends.  Dan came to WREG from Cape Girardeau, MO.  (When I had worked there in the early 80s, Dan was an intern.  He eventually became chief photog there and a few years after working in Memphis he departed for the Big Apple, where afer a few years in the market, he was invited to shoot video for CBS 60-Minutes which he is still doing.)  Anyway on this Sunday night, Dan and I were sent to do a story with a solider just back at his home in South Memphis after being involved in the invasion of Panama.  It seems this guy was with the group that stormed Manuel Noriega’s office only to find it vacant.  But he provided some good sound on an international story with the local news peg and we were happy and his mama was happy that her son was making the news. We wrapped up our interview and we were packing up our gear when this soldier told us to hold on for a minute and he left the room.  When he came back he told us that he  and his buddies were in Noriega’s office for just a short time but it was apparently long enough for him to pick up a handful of the dictator’s business cards from his desk.  He then gave a card to Dan and a card to me.    Of course,  Dan immediately had his framed and it’s displayed in his home.  I, on the other hand immediately misplaced mine and figured it was long gone.  Until this weekend that is, when my lovely and talented bride and I were doing some house-cleaning,  moving some books to get ready for a yard sale this coming weekend.  She found the card in a book where I must have stuck it 17-years ago.  The card is going to be framed this week.

Speaking of the old days at the station Down On The River, there was something of a small reunion Saturday night.  It seems former anchor/reporter Paula Haddock and her husband Jim Adams, who now call Denver home, were in town for Paula to cover the tail end of Dead Elvis week.  A few folks were gathering at the home of Jeff Woods, which used to be Party Central just about anytime anybody left one of the stations in Memphis.  Some oldtimers will remember there used to be wall-to-wall bodies at JW’s house when it was party time.  This time, the gathering was much smaller with just a handful of folks such as Doug Johnson, Glenn Carver, Lurene Cachola Kelley and Joe Incardona to name a few.  Others were apparently invited but I guess they couldn’t run with the big dogs anymore and decided to stay on the porch at home.  Trust me, if you weren’ t there, we talked about you and if you were there, we still talked about you.  The time passed quickly and it was probably helped by JW’s seemingly endless supply of adult beverages.  It’s hard to believe it’s been so many years since we were all working together in the newsroom DOTR.  A fun time was had by all.

And from the past, I segue to the future.  There’s been some talk about Action News 5’s new sat truck and what’s going into it when it finally gets up and running.  A confidential source tells me that around mid-September, AC5 should have its new ENG/Sat truck ready to roll.  I’m told that instead of the traditional truck that the equipment will be mounted on a 2007 Dodge Sprinter which means the driver won’t have to have a Commercial Driver’s License or CDL.  And according to my source, while some production gear is being salvaged from another vehicle the Sat equipment is all new.  Hey, if it throws a signal into space and back to the station, that’s what it is all about.  And it gives the promotion department something else to brag about.

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14 Comments on “A Momento in Memphis From Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega, Revisiting the Old Days Down on the River and the Straight Skinny on the AN5 Sat Truck!”

  1. Fred Says:

    You used it, and we all use the term “Dead Elvis Week”. The term seems to be a spontanious creation from many sources.

    How did it become so popular in local circles.

    I was telling a friend from out of town that Dead Elvis Week was about to start, and it would be dificult to do anything around Memphis. He was shocked at my use and choice of term to describe the event.

  2. joelarkins Says:

    I think the term DEW is used by a variety of people for a variety of reasons. IMHO it boils down to the fact that in the news business where gallows humor reigns supreme, it pretty much describes what is going on. One would be hard pressed to find a more cynical group than those in the news business. Granted they would never use that term on the air opting instead for Elvis Tribute Week but I would bet that those who have covered DEW, especially year after year after year are indeed thinking it. I think it is also a phrase you will hear primarily from people who live in Memphis because I don’t think folks who live around here (generally speaking) appreciate the King for what he accomplished in his lifetime. He was at one point in time an embarrassment to some Memphians. I also think the fact that it’s NOT politically correct has something to do with it among those who use the term. In these days of the PC Police ready to pounce on someone who fails to be PC, a certain amount of satisfaction can be found in calling something what it is. So instead of having to say “Joe, you are mentally challenged”, doesn’t it just feel better to say “Joe, you are so stupid and full of sh*t”. I’ve heard it twice this morning and the person who said it told me she felt much better having said it.

  3. Pam Crittendon Roberson Says:

    I hate I missed Saturday’s gathering. (Prior commitment). Sounds like it was a blast, and I would have loved to reconnect with everybody. Keep me in mind for the next one!


  4. The GM Says:

    The only thing that tops the term Dead Elvis Week is when the Wake-up Crew (its full compliment of Tim, Bev and BadDog) used to give away the Elvis bathmats. Those would be a standard bath mat with the white outline of a dead body. I believe Rock 103 finally received a cease and desst on those some years ago.
    The GM

  5. joelarkins Says:

    I had heard about the bathmats but I thought it was just a joke or perhaps an urban myth. Talk about a collector’s item!

  6. Byron Day Says:

    My good friend, George Larrimore, is a former producer at 13 and 5,now living in Hollywood working for one of those entertainment shows.
    He once dubbed the annual remberance of EP’s passing(with all of the dueling impersonators,pilgrims massing at the gates,tacky trinkets,etc.) as “Death Days”.

    And speaking of gallows humor, someone in the Highland Av newsroom once commented on Death Days this way: “..What’s all the fuss about? He’s buried in the backyard like a hamster in a shoe box!”

    My best to Jeff,Glenn, and some of the rest of the folks I use to see in Mempho after work..


  7. Doug J. Says:

    The immediate response from two former 3 people when I told them about the weekend soiree was “why didn’t you call me?” I guess sometimes, an invitation just isn’t enough.

  8. joelarkins Says:

    Doug, Doug, Doug why didn’t you just tell them the truth. They weren’t really invited and that you were glad they didn’t show up which meant that there were more mojitas for those that Jeff and Paula really like. Wait a minute, did I just write that and hit send?
    By the way Byron, your name has come up a couple of times on Shoptalk http://www.tvspy.com
    as someone is trying to track you down. About once a week they run a segment called “where are they now” or something like that. The person said he was trying to get in touch with you and I did not have your email address. Just FYI.

  9. Byron Day Says:

    Thanks,Joe. Several folks called/emailed to tell me about the item.

    Re: Jeff’s house. I seem to remember a “power sharing” with his next door neighbors. I’m speaking of course about the fabulous Dierssen Sisters-Peggy and Joann. Seems Jeff would have to run a heavy duty extension chord from his house to theirs when they’d blow a fuse..usually during one of their weekend parties.

  10. Wow, my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. I would have taken the company jet down to Memphis and had a barley pop in Cooper Young!

    Gee, seems like I remember a time or two at Jeff’s house too. Or maybe I was never there, adult beverages do that to you! But I think I was there??????

    Wish I’d been able to see the old gang…hope everyone is doing okay, though I must say our 73 degree high yesterday here in the Blue Ridge Mountains beats the 104+ there!

  11. GR Says:

    has george brown landed at another station in memphis? just curious.

  12. joelarkins Says:

    Yes, George is now calling WREG home; Here is a note he sent to me:

    I’ve accepted an offer from WREG to be in charge of their website content. We’ve also talked about incorporating me on-air. This is exciting because I’m somewhat of a web novice so I have a new challenge. It will be interesting to watch how a newsroom runs from the inside. Not a bad time to be inside when it’s 100 degrees outside J I almost took jobs outside of TV but 3 made me a great offer with new opportunities.

    The folks DOTR used to love hiring folks from WMC because WMC used to hire away folks who worked at WREG. It sounds to me like George will be taking over the position once occupied by Cathy Coggin who oversaw the web content and also did some on-air stuff. Best of luck.

  13. AMNewsboy Says:

    Re: the sat truck… our sat truck is the same setup, mounted on top of a Dodge Sprinter… and something’s not right there. We barely got a dish and the sat equipment in the thing; I just can’t imagine microwave equipment going in there too. The Sprinter is, basically, an ENG van with a Euro look to it. But, hey, if they can pull it off, more power to ’em.

  14. Ready Camera One, Take Two Says:

    Re: The Sat Truck(?)…here’s where it’s headed. A Volkswagon Beetle with a state trooper style dashboard mounted camera along with a helmet type apparatus like Rick Moranis wore in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kid” with an edit system that folds out from the glove box. Your lunch/dinner can be kept cool in the Igloo cooler provided for a nominal payroll deduction.

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