Bettie Higgins' Stories -#1 Cactus and #2, '84 Winter Olympics

Perhaps others might enjoy this story . . .

During the days when so much commercial production was done at 31, we had clients who came to the station to view their spots. The nice conference room had been built, but the monitor in there left a lot to be desired. So, I told Cactus we really needed a spiffy new monitor for presentations of spots to clients.

A few days later he appeared in my office: "Miss Bettie," he said, "Got you a great monitor in the Conference Room. It's an itchy-bitchy!" I just stared at him and said, "What?"

He said, "That's the brand - itchy-bitchy - it's a great one."

I said, "Cactus, are you trying to say Hitachi?" "Naw," he said, "Of course I can say Hitachi - this one's an itchy-bitchy."

He followed me out of my office and to the Conference Room where I saw a big, beautiful MITSUBISHI. But, of course, the monitor was forever and always "The Itchy-Bitchy!"

Here's the Bob Sullivan story . . .The Wizardry of Bob Sulllivan

In 1984, when the Winter Olympics were held in then-beautiful Sarajevo, Czechoslovakia, ABC was really hyping it, and I was trying hard to help our Sales Department in selling various components such as the Luge Competition. Johnny Evans strolled into my office one day and said, "How can I sell the 'Luge Competition,' Bettie, when I don't even know what the hell a Luge is!"

All in all, it was tough sledding (pun intended) selling the Olympics of 1984 - far away; re-broadcast, often late at night . . .
so, when I got a call from ABC one afternoon asking if we would like a one-on-one interview with our Sports Anchor, (Bob Labbe) and Jim McKay from Sarajevo, I said, "absolutely!" "Fine," Tom said. "I'll call you back with date and time for taping."

I immediately went to Engineering and sat down in front of Bob Sullivan. With great enthusiasm I explained to him about the interview with McKay and Labbe . . .he listened, the ivory cigarette holder, jutting upward from a corner of his mouth and the burning Pall Mall emitting clouds of smoke. Finally when I stopped for breath, he removed the holder and said words I had never heard, and never expected to hear from Bob Sullivan. He said, "I'm not sure we can do that." Bob never said we couldn't do something . . .he always did whatever was necessary . . .he made miracles happen, and now I really needed one!

I didn't say anything and for a long minute he just puffed the Pall Mall and looked thoughtful. Finally he said, "Well, let me work on it - I do have a new pair of alligator clips." And he smiled. My world started spinning again!

All was well until the next day when Tom at ABC called me back. He began on an ominous note, "Um, um, I think we have a problem." "No we don't," I said . . ."We can handle this." He said, "Well, my ruler was on the wrong line on my computer print-out, and I thought you were in Indianapolis. We can't offer the feed to a market as small as Huntsville."

I don't remember exactly what I said, but in my best "peel the wallpaper off the wall voice," I pointed out that a deal was a deal and there was no way ABC was going to renege on this deal - no way, Buddy!!! I think I recall asking for Roone Arledge's phone number!

All went well; Bob worked a miracle, Labbe talked to Jim McKay, and I found a picture of a Luge sled for Johnny Evans!

Bettie Higgins

© 2003 Smith Broadcasting, Inc. [update 6-26-2003]