Debi Benson Bradford

A WAAY-TV Christmas Parade Memory & Updated Programming stories.
What a memory… (editor - you can't make up stuff like this)

The WAAY-TV Christmas Parade was a signature event for the station. Everyone got involved, and tens of thousands of people participated each year. (I guess it still is and I guess they still do, but I digress) About 10 horse groups usually participate. We placed horse groups at the back of the parade for obvious reasons. This particular year was going fairly well until we saw an uninvited "gentleman" riding a longhorn steer somewhere around the front half of the parade. Obviously drunk, the man was weaving and waving his cowboy hat to the astonished crowds while riding bareback on this giant steer. Throwing his head from side to side, the huge animal was snorting and looking like I would imagine any disgruntled steer would look. (Did I mention it was a longhorn?)

Mothers were yanking children off the curbs, and everyone along the route was warily watching, not sure if this was planned or not. Our inebriated urban cowboy was "guiding" this HUGE animal (a longhorn…oh, did I say that already?) by a single rope attached to a ring in the poor steer's nose. He'd yank the animal's head and blood would spray. We were horrified! My trusty horse committee and our HPD policemen friends tracked him down and removed him from the parade after a couple of blocks.

The rest of the parade went by smooth as silk, and I thought the whole thing went well except for the longhorn incident. However, Monday morning I received an onslaught of calls from irate parade attendees about yet another incident involving a very large animal.

Toward the end of the parade route, at the spot where the horse groups disbanded (and parade goers parked their cars) people had watched in horror as several drunken horsemen threw a horse down on the ground and castrated him! Again, blood was flying with the animal, and children who were watching, screaming. One family volunteered to come to the station, watched the raw tape, and identified the offender. Turns out he was a fire fighter from across the street! Turns out, the longhorn rider and horse castrator were buddies from the same (drunken) horse group. The group was banned for a year and the entire incident was certainly a "memory maker."


Programming memories:

My first job at WAAY-TV was Assistant Program Director to Bettie Higgins. My desk was in the back of the front lobby, and behind me was a large display of large, matted TV Guide covers. TV Guide sent these prints to the affiliates whose networks programs were highlighted on the cover. At that time, “Greatest American Hero” starring William Katt was one of the number one programs on network television and the TV Guide cover with Mr. Katt in his hero costume was prominently displayed behind me. During the summer months, neighborhood kids would drop in to buy a soda from the machines or get water. My first summer, three little boys propped their bicycles outside and came in for their usual rounds. One of them, the obvious leader, was showing the other two boys around the lobby before taking them down the hall. They took stock of the TV Guide prints and talked about their favorite shows – especially “Greatest American Hero.” The leader of the pack puffed out his chest and gestured with his thumb toward the studio door. “Yep,” he announced with authority, “They film “Greatest American Hero” right in that room!” His friends, incredibly impressed, were then led down the hall by our little expert to get their soda.

People were rabid about ABC Nightline with Ted Koppel. We aired Nightline at 11:00pm, sometimes 11:30pm, depending upon programming. One day I received a call from an irate lady. Nightline’s program the night before had some sort of sexual content or nudity buried within its content. This lady ranted and raved about “how dare you” and “who do you think you are” and “you’re contaminating the minds of young children,” etc., etc., etc. She went on and on and I could barely get a word in. Finally, I told her that the program began at (at this time) 11:30pm, and that particular section of the show hit around midnight. Surely, I said, children aren’t up at that time of night and if they are then there are more important issues at hand – like why they’re up so late. Well…she didn’t like that, and said she was SO angry because HER son was up watching and HE was very upset which upset HER! Hmmmm… So I asked, gently, why she allowed her son to stay up so late to watch television, and she yelled back at me “He’s 21 years old and can stay up that late if he wants to!!!” She finally hung up on me when I couldn’t stop laughing.

Once I found a card that said “Television is like your great uncle Bill. Nobody likes him, but everyone watches when he drops his pants and dances.” I bought that card and kept it on my desk. That card helped me tremendously when rude and obnoxious callers began getting to me. Especially with the people who would tell me every little detail about a program that they didn’t see fit for air, but they had obviously been watching for a long time. I quoted that card to a particularly obnoxious person once, thinking a little levity would calm him. He hung up on me, too.

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