Rob Weske 1997-1999

A New York Yankee in Waay TV's Court

The station on the mountain provided me with a unique experience in my career in television. I've worked in markets ranging from a tiny CBS affiliate in Binghamton NY to KNBC in Los Angeles, California. So I've been able to work from sea to shining sea, and my time in northern Alabama was chock full of southern hospitality. As I am a former resident of New York City, I thought I was prepared for life in Dixie. The proactive word here is "thought".

-- My first week at WAAY, as I was converting my New York State liscense and plates to Alabama's, a thick accented woman at the DMV told me, when finding out that I worked at WAAY, I needed to get "Ruy-sin In The Sun". I had trouble understanding what that meant: is that a local beverage? Suntan oil? "No, the feeelm! You need to show the feelm!" she replied. The classic movie--"Raisin In The Sun"...she wanted WAAY to air the movie again. "Hadn't seen it in years! Ya'll got to air it again." she assured me. I nodded as I grabbed my Alabama liscense.

-- Weeks later Yodi Lockhart alerted everyone near my desk that Bill Barry was "handling snakes" outside Lew Koch's window. True enough, as we stood in Lew's office and watched with awe, outside the window, on the side lawn, was Bill Barry carrying one of the biggest freaking snakes I've ever seen. Welcome to Alabama. I was assured it was only a "rat snake", and they are good for gardens. Yeah, right. So are lions. And I quickly heard that there's some of those up on the mountain, too. Nice.

-- I was indoctrinated to the fine cuisine at the Double Springs Cafe-- ( The "double" means "double wide"-- it's a trailer that doubles as a diner. ) Anyway, Tracy Slayton and Rob Boenau brought the "new Yankee" into the Double Spring Cafe for lunch. I was prompted on what to order...the burgers. Burgers, I was told by the waitress, are served in 2 ways-- with "grease" and "double grease". Well, my two southern hosts could only wince with embarrassment as I questioned the waitress about what "grease" and "double grease" really meant. I committed further stupid blasphemy when I dared ask if they had anything other than "RC Cola".

-- Shawn Jarrett, the Prankmaster General, welcomed me early as we drove off to a promo shoot. He made sure I was seated into the "Chair Of Pain"--a precision instrument of shock and awe, used at WAAY before the military picked up on that term. Shawn is a top calibre prankster. I've seen him cover an unaware coworker from head to toe with a sticker-tape parade of paper. I've seen Shawn customize liscense plates....stash plates of Gibson's BBQ in nooks and crannies of offices that you'd never think were there...I've seen him even doctor a co worker's personalized Star Trek episode in ways that would make Industrial Light & Magic proud. The master prankster is so skilled at concieving and sniffing out a prank-- my one foray into pulling off a classic prank on him had mixed results due to his instinctive powers; don't ask how, but a live sheep was obtained and transported to the station in the early morning hours. We placed the sheep in Shawn's office, and right across the hall, several of us were out of sight, waiting his arrival with a rolling camera, ready to ambush. As Shawn approached his office, he was incredibly wary--he always had a sixth sense if a prank was bearing down on him--he'd feel the joke before it reached out and bit him. As he put his key into his door, the sheep made a rustling sound, and Shawn cooly stopped what he was doing, and continued down the hall, away from the office, like nothing was out of the ordinary. There would be no camera ready "ambush" would STILL have to be on his terms. At least the master, when introduced to his sheep, appreciated the imaginative effort.

-- Chasing storms: that's something you don't do in the course of the day in other markets-- but at Waay, it's part of the job description for reporters, photogs, and promotion people. Some incredibly powerful storms tear through that part of the country, and our shooters would think of nothing to put themselves in harm's way. The photogs at Waay had more guts than photogs I've worked with in any other market, even market number 2.

-- Ben Boles' Pepito's pilgrimages. That guy was never shortchanged at that place.

-- The little Red Devil herself, Toni Harper. The Sunflower queen always brought mischievous sunshine into our days, especially during football season. Everyone needs a Harper in their workplace.

-- Promotion Department co workers Bob and Inga... we had a lot of laughs. I couldn't have imagined my time there without them.

-- Eric Eisgrau-- known as "Mr. Sunshine" -- and also known as "Mr. Dependable" when it came to video for our deadlines. He always made a Yankee feel at home..even though he'd use the word "Damn" in front of it when addressing me.

-- And many more who left an impression on me up on the mountain. There aren't too many TV stations in the country that had the local flavor and warmth of WAAY TV. It's all about the people you're with. They make it WAAY worthwhile.

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