Oct. 1 will be my 35th year in television. Actually, I started on Sept. 1, 1980. During my first four weeks in Columbus, Ohio, most people were saying, “I don’t believe they put that guy on TV,” so I’m not counting that month.
During approximately 7,000 live remote shoots and talk show segments, I experienced many moments that were poignant, some that were funny and others that were embarrassing, or even downright humiliating.
A local fast-food franchisee asked if I would come to the opening of their new restaurant and greet parents and their kids for a family breakfast. The owner asked me to bring Barney, my beagle who had only recently started accompanying me each morning on my TV segments. We arrived at about 5 a.m., greeted by a giant billboard proclaiming: MEET DICK AND BARNEY. Thousands of kids and their parents had lined the streets to see us. Everyone seemed so happy. Except the boss, who came up to my car window visibly shaken. “What are you upset about?” I asked. “Look at all the kids who showed up to see Barney and me.”
“No, Dick. Every one of those kids is here to see a purple dinosaur.”
Cleverest line by a guest
I called it the Barney Look-alike Contest, a chance for all beagle lovers to parade their hounds on TV to see who looked the most like my celebrated canine partner. We did the show at a local pet store, where the owner offered a nice first prize, but also treated all the contestants to a grab-bag of treats, coupons and chew toys for their pets. The beagles filed in one by one and that’s when I saw I heavy-set gentleman walking in the door with his bulldog. “Wait a second,” I said. “That’s not a beagle.”
“I know,” came the quick retort as the man snatched his prize bag. “So, I’ll lose.”
Most risqué thing I ever said …without knowing it
I made a particularly off-color comment that was totally innocent. It involved a regional slang term that, as a native New Yorker, I was unfamiliar with. I was at Hardee’s one morning promoting their new kids’ meal that contained tiny figures of characters from the hit animated movie “Toy Story.” When the segment opened, I had my arm around a lovely young lady who worked behind the counter. Holding one of the characters behind my back, I said: “When we come back in the next segment, I’ll show you the little Woody I just got.” Yes, I really said that. And I’m still working at Channel 8.
The worst thing that almost happened
The fire chief at Station 9 downtown requested I do a segment about how rapidly his team responded to fire alarms – how fast the firefighters could get out of bed, slide down the pole and get into the fire engines. That morning the chief asked me a couple of times when the segment was going to be on TV, despite my repeated efforts to explain to him that we were doing it LIVE! Minutes prior to airing, my message finally got through to him, at which point he screamed to all his firefighters to “abandon the original plan.” That was a good idea. I found out later, as a joke on me, he had told his men to get out of bed totally naked … and slide down the pole.