Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

Remembering The Woman That Inspired Me To Go Into Television News

While I credit my mother’s strengths, and weaknesses, to getting me to where I am today in life, she never saw me working at a commercial, network-affiliated television station.  She did see me on television as a weathercaster and music show host (“Music Visions”) on MSU TV-11, our campus television station in Murray, Kentucky, back in the 1980s.

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She was always proud of my straight As in high school, for which I thank  my favorite science teacher, Roxanne Ferguson, and my favorite math teacher, Vasteene Rives.  They inspired to me to follow my dreams of being a scientist.

As a teenager, I confirmed that I wanted to be a television meteorologist.  For that, I have current “Good Morning America” weatherman Sam Champion, who was working at WPSD in Paducah, Kentucky, back then, along with WPSD meteorologist Paul Boucherau to thank.  Also, there’s former “Good Morning America” meteorologist John Coleman, who started the “The Weather Channel”.

However, the person that inspired me the most to get into the television news “rat race” was a woman who tragically died on this day back in 1983.

While some Americans first learned of Jessica Savitch on the radio in New Jersey and New York in the 1960s as the “honeybee”, while she attended Ithaca College in New York, her first television job was at KHOU in Houston, Texas in 1971.

She worked her way up from being a reporter to becoming the first woman news anchor in the South three months after starting there.  It didn’t take long for the big markets to seek her out.  In 1972, she was hired at KYW in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth largest television market in the country, for the weekend newscasts.  She then became that station’s main anchor.

From there, NBC News came calling in 1977 and offered her a position as the Washington correspondent.  Although it was tough on her because many thought she was given the position for her beauty, she fought to prove herself and become the weekend news anchor.

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On air, Jessica was magical.  The camera loved her.  America loved her.  And, I  loved her.  As much as I wanted to be a television weatherman, I remember as a teenager sitting on my bed reading the newspaper to the wall pretending it was a camera and wanting to be just like Jessica Savitch.

It’s often said that fame and success comes with a price.  And, that’s true.  For Jessica, the price she paid for success was rumored to be drugs.   I won’t say that it’s true or it wasn’t because I wasn’t there.

Nevertheless, her private life was a mess.  It started with her abusive boyfriend back in Houston, who was a reporter at a competing station and continued with her two failed marriages in 1980 and 1981.  Her second husband, Dr. Donald Payne, committed suicide in the basement of their Washington DC townhouse  with her husky, Chewy’s, leash knowing that Jessica would find him.

It had to be rough on all women, including Jessica, working their way up in the male chauvinistic world of television in the 1970s.  For women, it meant you had to work twice as hard as men to accomplish less and it also meant that you made enemies.  Enemies that would make  recorded tantrums public.

Being a television personality, I’ll defend Jessica here.  I have been burned several times by the production crew, directors, and producers with timing issues.  You are the person on the air that is cut off, rushed, or made to look bad.  You are the face that people at home see when things go wrong.

As the rumors swirled about Jessica’s possible drug use and erratic behavior, it all reached a climax with this NBC News Digest from 1983.

Jessica blamed it on a faulty teleprompter (the magic words of the scripts on the camera that an anchor reads), yet her publicist said it was adverse reaction to prescription medication and a glass of wine at dinner.  Nevertheless, it added fuel to the fire about Jessica.

Jessica began dating Martin Fischbein, the Vice President of the “New York Post”, and seemed happy.  On the evening of October 23, 1983, they drove to New Hope, Pennsylvania, to have dinner at Odette’s Restaurant.

When Jessica and Martin left the restaurant in heavy rain, she got in the backseat with Chewy.  In the inclement weather, Martin apparently missed the posted warning signs and the car dropped fifteen feet and sank in the mud to the bottom of the old Pennsylvania Canal’s Delaware Division, which is on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.

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Jessica, Martin, and Chewy were trapped inside and they all died.

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The official cause of death was asphyxiation by drowning.  No drugs or alcohol played any part in the crash, according to the coroner’s report.

In the fall of 1983, I gave a speech about Jessica Savitch and her death in my “Introduction to Radio-Television” class at Murray State and I made a “B” for my presentation.

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Jessica, I still think of you 29 years after your death and I thank you for inspiring me and so many young women that followed in your footsteps.  You set the standard for television news that is still being mimicked today.

Anthony

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Houston, I Enjoyed Gaining The Extra Pounds!

Although I spent five days and nights in Houston, I didn’t earn the right to call myself a “Texan”.  At no point of my stay did I wear cowboy boots or a hat, I never said, “howdy”, and I didn’t eat a big hunk of cow in any shape or culinary fashion.  Okay, I’m sure there are not set in stone rules of being a Texan.

The staff of the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston were amazing, very warm, and very hospitable.  One of the perks of our hotel package was having breakfast each day and evening snacks.  I had oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins, and pecan each morning with fresh cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, strawberries (and papaya, one morning), along with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

I skipped the bagels, but toward the end of the stay, Ray and I split a slice of pumpkin bread and we did have a pastry each on the last day.

While I didn’t eat beef during my stay, I didn’t succeed at staying away from buffets.  Actually, we had planned on a buffet on the first and last night.  But, we ended up having another one because the downtown area basically closed down at 6 p.m.!

On our first night, we had dinner at the Lighthouse Buffet in Kemah, Texas, on the Boardwalk.  The salad bar and the desserts were just satisfactory, but the entrees we sampled (pineapple peppered whitefish, chicken francese, and chicken tenders) were very tasty.  Overall, for the price, ($19  each, with tip), it was not a great value.

Sunday night, for our anniversary, we had Mexican food at Pepper Jack’s in downtown Houston.  We chose Mexican because on our wedding night one year ago, Ray’s sister, Cindy, treated us to Los Agaves in Moline, Illinois.  I had a shrimp Diablo burrito and a sangria.  Ray had a margarita and chicken burrito.

Monday night, we had dinner at The Cafe in the Hilton and it was a buffet.  We had salad, baked barbecued chicken, Ray had some beef, and I ate a very small piece of fried catfish just to see what it taste like since I stopped eating catfish when I left Kentucky twenty-plus years ago!

And, when it came time for desserts, they had miniature cheesecakes or petite fours.  But, what intrigued me most were the chocolate dipped strawberries and candied orange slices that had been airbrushed gold!

On Sunday, our one year anniversary, we drove to Kroger and stocked up on soda and bought two bottles of wine and a loaf of cheddar-jalapeno bread.  We also bought some harvest-themed flowers for the room.  We ended up having one bottle of the wine Monday night on the rooftop and the bread for dinner Tuesday night followed by the second bottle of wine overlooking the city.

That last picture is Allure, a California Bubbly Pink Moscato, which was delicious, served with cheese, crackers, vegetable chips, and pomelo (dried Asian grapefruit) from my new favorite store, Phoenicia Specialty Foods!

 

I discovered this specialty store Monday and I also found out that after 6 p.m. each night, certain bakery items are marked down to $1 to move it out for fresh items the next day.  Needless to say that Ray and I bought extra pastries and baked goods Monday and Tuesday night.

Yes, we ate every bite (almond pasty, almond croissant, fruit custard bar, caramel pecan roll, cream cheese cinnamon roll, cherry scone, and baklava).  In addition to that, our hotel had delicious white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, along with chocolate, sugar, and peanut butter cookies that we also sampled.  It’s not surprising that despite walking on the treadmill several times each day and walking many miles in Houston, we both gained a few pounds.  But, it was so good!

Here are some of the other tasty tempting treats offered at Phoenicia and this was just in the bakery.  They also had a deli, a hot food section, a salad bar and much, much more!

And, every dessert that Clint suggested was delicious.  While the baklava was fantastic, Ray and I agree that the caramel pecan cinnamon roll was the best.

I hope you’re enjoying this culinary trip to Houston because now it’s time to talk about my favorite meal in “Space City”.  It was also the one that I had been waiting months to eat.  I bought a certificate from Groupon for DiMassi’s Mediterranean Buffet.  The menu sounded incredible and let me tell you, everything was authentic and not out of a can or a box!

 

We took the rail service out to the medical complexes  on Kirby Drive and walked the rest of the way to the restaurant, which is located in a shopping plaza across from Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans NFL team.  That’s football to the non-sports fan. 🙂  Upon walking in, I was given so many options of what to choose first!

Once I surveyed everything, I went the salad route for my first plate.

 

It consisted of Tabouli Salad (chicken wheat, parsley, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt), Fatoosh (Diced onions, mint, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, touch of garlic and salt), Cabbage Salad (cabbage leaves, with tomatoes, olive, lemon juice, garlic), and a spring mix salad with cucumber-yogurt dressing.  I went back and got more of the salads later in the meal!

For my first main entrée plate, I tried to be good by piling grilled zucchini and yellow squash on my plate.  I also tried the Mediterranean Rice, Chicken Kabobs (mustard marinated cubes of chicken with oregano, green pepper, tomatoes, and onion and salt), Baked Tilapia (filets, baked in lemon, pepper, sauce and veggies, moderate spices), and Falafel (Chick peas, parsley, cilantro, onions, all spices), rolled into a ball and deep-fried.

Before moving on to desserts, I had some Baba Ghanouge (roasted eggplant mixed with Thini sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil) and the pita bread was awesome.For dessert, I had three pieces of baklava, a piece of honey bread, and delicious rice pudding topped with pistachios.

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We also topped off the meal with pink rose-water, which was exactly what it sounded like.  It was interesting to drink a flower!  And, right as we were walking out, they put grape leaves on the buffet and I had to go back and sample one of them!

Although we gained a few pounds on the Houston trip, the desserts and the meal at DiMassi’s was definitely worth it.  Now, we have five days back home to eat healthy and exercise to lose that weight before Las Vegas and Madonna, which is one week from today, baby!

Anthony

Art or Vandalism?

Gretel loves going to museums, but the mere thought bores me to tears.  While talking to her on the phone a couple of nights ago, Ray mentioned that he went to a reception at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and she asked if I went and that I was probably going crazy having to be there.  He told her I didn’t go with him.  To be honest, that one would have been neat to see.

Tuesday, we walked 3.4 miles to the Houston Zoo and we passed the Holocaust Museum Houston (that is another one that I would have loved to have seen) and the Weather Museum.  While I did take a picture of the Weather Museum, I refused to go inside.  That would have been too much like work!

I’m glad that there are art museums all across the world for people to visit with that share that passion.  However, my idea of visiting an art museum is walking around admiring the work with a large glass of champagne.  Waiter, refill please!

While I skipped the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston on this visit, that’s not to say that I didn’t find real, passionate works of art along the way as I explored downtown and Midtown Houston.

I’m not sure if this is a piece of art or if it was purchased, but it was so cool (and super gay)!

As I was walking down Main Street, east of the hotel, I found this street art that I found captivating.

These works of art were all on the same street corner.  However, on the next two pictures, I was so engrossed in my photography that I didn’t realize a “walker” (“The Walking Dead” talk for a zombie) turned the corner.  Okay, he wasn’t really a zombie, but it was one of those moments when I felt a little uncomfortable since the buildings were vacant.  Luckily, he saw me and turned back around and I finished taking the last pictures and went on my merry way.

This next picture, I think was more an anti-Houston Police Department message than art.  Nevertheless, it was powerful.

I guess there’s art everywhere.  Some of it is in swanky museums and some is out on the street.  Some prompts debates and discussions, and some offers hope.

 

Anthony

It’s an Obama Nation, Not an Abomination!

Our trip to Houston is now down to the last 24 hours.

 

Both of my visits to the largest city in Texas have been in politically charged years.  When I was first here in the fall of 1992, those great Democrats wrestled the White House away from George H.W. Bush.  And, in about a month, the Republicans will try to do the same to President Barack Obama.

While the national polls (from Real Clear Politics) show the President with an increasing 3.4% lead over Republican Mitt Romney, it’s almost certain that Texas will be painted red come election night.  A new Texas Lyceum poll shows Romney with a commanding 58-39% lead over President Obama.

 

But, hey it’s only Texas.  While the state has picked seven out of the last ten presidential elections correctly, I salute the Lone Star State with helping to elect Jimmy Carter president in 1976!  Hats off!

In all fairness, I’ve looked high and low since I arrived and I haven’t seen one Romney sign or bumper sticker anywhere.  When we arrived Saturday, we rented a car to drive down to Kemah, Texas, to check out the Boardwalk and the Balloon Show at the Johnson Space Center that was cancelled due to the rain.

Before we returned the car Sunday, we drove around to check out the neighborhood and I spotted it.  No, silly, not a Romney sign.  But, it sure made my day.  So, my new goal was to set out on foot on a scavenger hunt to find the colorful wall that gave me hope.

When we got back to the hotel room, I couldn’t remember where it was located.  Thank goodness for this little thing called Google.  Not only did it supply me with an address, but a picture to verify that it was what I was looking for.

Tuesday, I walked miles from downtown Houston to the Midtown neighborhood to the intersection of Travis and Alabama Street and there it was — hope!

I found President Obama and I didn’t even have to travel to Denver, Colorado, the site of the first presidential debate tonight.

Hold up Republican friends, before you click off this blog post in disgust.  I’m sure you don’t advocate vandalism because I’d never deface a Mitt Romney sign, but someone defaced this mural with paint in early 2011.

A “Houston Press” blogger calls it the work of a “splasher” and this photo by Monica Fuentes shows that person’s handywork.

The mural was defaced several times in 2011.  But, as you can tell from my visit, it’s as good as new now.

I promise that if I find a Romney sign, I will take a picture of it to be fair and balanced and I will not deface it like some coward.  If you’re not happy with this president or any president, there’s a simple solution.  It’s called voting.

Anthony

Beautiful Architecture of Houston

I admit that since Ray’s conference started Sunday afternoon, I’ve become a streetwalker!  Okay,  I guess I should clarify that I haven’t been soliciting services on the streets, I’ve been walking the streets taking pictures of interesting buildings, structures, and things that catch my eye.

The view from our floor and the rooftop is amazing.  However, once you’re on the streets, the neighborhood changes drastically from the glitz of steel and glass to run down buildings that are eye sores that would cost millions to demolish and start over.  I’ll start there with this boarded up building that says “keep out” and then share the beauty of downtown.

One thing that I’ve noticed by walking miles at a time from the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston to the Midtown neighborhood is that it’s very similar to Chicago.  The socioeconomic make-up can change not only from block to block, but also from one side of the street to the other!

With that being said, I made it to my destinations safely and I never really was in fear.  Here are some of the more incredible buildings and sights I saw in my ventures.

As you can tell (and I’ve stated it before), I love taking pictures and sharing them.  It’s even better when they are Jesus approved.

Anthony

A Nature Retreat In Downtown Houston

There are a few things right off the bat that I’m very thankful for:  God has provided me with a job with vacation time and that Ray works hard and attends conferences so I can go along with him, that the weather has improve greatly from rainy conditions Saturday to cloudy skies Sunday to mostly sunny skies Monday that will continue through the rest of our time here, and that Paris Hilton’s namesake hotel is very nice and a pleasure to visit.

Paris, if you’re in Houston tonight or tomorrow, I’ll break bread and drink with you and talk about what you said right and what you said wrong about gays and AIDS that had you recently apologizing.

But, this is about Houston and not about me or Paris Hilton.

The architecture downtown in beautiful.  The homelessness not so much.  I know it’s a reality in cities all across the country, but it’s still heartbreaking.

While the view out my window is of the Toyota Center toward the southwest, the view on the other side of our floor is Discovery Green, an almost 12-acre public park that was opened in April 2008.

It’s estimated that almost a quarter-million people visited the park in the first three months that it was open to the public.

It features a lake, wetland and upland gardens, restaurants, stages for public performances, dog runs, a children’s area and other recreational areas.  It even has an ice skating rink when the weather is cold enough.

If you like nature shots, but you don’t have Houston on your travel itinerary anytime soon, allow me to be your tour guide.  You already know that I love to take pictures.

So, that is a view of the relaxing park next door to the Hilton Americas.  Still to come, I’ll share some of the neat architecture, some street, and maybe, some food.

Anthony

Houston, It’s Been 20 Years

Houston, we have a problem!  Actually, we have two problems.

One is being taken care of today.  I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I last visited “Space City”.  Ray is attending a conference and I get to tag along and be a tourist this time and I know that I’ll be much more subdued than I was on my last visit.

The other problem is the weather this weekend.  While you’ll have spectacular weather in the Quad Cities with highs near 80° today and in the 70s tomorrow, check out this craziness in Houston.

This afternoon, when we arrive in Houston, we plan on driving over to Galveston Bay, walk along the Kemah Boardwalk and have dinner, and then drive back to the NASA/Johnson Space Center for the Ballunar Liftoff to see the Balloon Glow against the Texas evening sky tonight.

Earlier Saturday, there was a “Flash Flood Watch” for Houston and much of southeastern Texas.  As of mid-morning, while waiting in Chicago for our flight, that “Watch” for Houston has been cancelled!  Heavy rain is still possible today and tonight and the Balloon Glow is still in jeopardy to be cancelled tonight.  However, we’re still going to do the Boardwalk.  I’ve always wanted to walk in Paris in the rain.  Southeast Texas will be my Paris tonight!

When Ray isn’t at his conference, we plan on checking out the culinary delights of Houston, walk around and admire the architecture, go to a few of the clubs, and just live it up in the big city this week.

Ray has been to Texas, but not Houston.  My only time here was for Halloween in 1992 and it was also the very first time that I had been on a plane and it was awesome.

Although I’ve lived in the Quad Cities for almost seven years, I’ve never flown out of the airport here.  So, this will be another first for me.  I’ve been on three trips that required air travel since moving here, but I’ve always flown out of Chicago so that Mr. Panda could doggie sit for Miss ABBA.

My first trip to Houston was with my best friends, Steve and Dennis, from Kentucky.

While those are rather innocent pictures, prepare yourself for some scandalous flashback pictures from the Halloween party in the Montrose District!

Here are some of the better costumes that I saw that Halloween at JR’s.

At the time of my Houston visit, I had partied in Chicago, but not at Halloween.  So, we decided to go all out since no one knew us!!!

So there, you’ve been warned and it even scared Kevin!

Dennis and Hank, a longtime friend of Dennis’ that lived in Houston, decided to go in drag.  They put a lot of effort in their costumes and Dennis didn’t like it that we thought he looked like Suzanne Sugarbaker from “Designing Women”.

As you look at the wild pictures, remember I was in my carefree 20s, pre-Facebook!  However, don’t expect any pictures like this from Houston this time.

What’s interesting is that while dressed like this, I didn’t drink much that night and maybe that’s a good thing!  And, on this trip, there will be no boob admiration going on!

However, my last night in town, we went bar-hopping without costumes!

In 1992, I was still infatuated with Edward Lewis, Richard Gere’s character in “Pretty Woman” and yes, that is what I wore out that night to JR’s, Montrose Mining Company, and the Ripcord.

Dennis was too scared to stay at the Ripcord, but I stayed and had a great time.  While I didn’t pay for many drinks that night, I paid the price the next day with a major hangover on the flight back to Kentucky.

All and all, it was a fantastic first visit to Houston and I expect this one to surpass that one.  Here’s the icing on the cake.  The day after we got home from Houston, Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States!

Have a great weekend.  I hope you weren’t too startled with the Halloween pictures!  Oh, those wild days twenty years ago!

Anthony