As Mary Ellen and I prepare to move into our new home, she keeps saying we have to “downsize, downsize, downsize!” We are both very stressed from doing this, which is why my wife is down a size and I’ve gone up a few.
As I described in a previous column, I discarded more than 300 VHS tapes of my past TV segments, but there were a handful I just couldn’t part with. I wrote about a few of those. Here’s the rest of the list:
A local animal behavior specialist took my beagle, Barney (my TV co-host for 13 years), for a few days and claimed he had cured him of his destructive chewing and digging habits. In the middle of the interview with this expert on my front porch step the following week, Barney dug up the landscape bed and gnawed the microphone cable in half while the vet looked on in horror.
I’m keeping the tape of Eloise Overdorf who, at age 93, wanted to go 200 mph in a car. Bob Haverstick, founder of Never Too Late, an organization that granted final wishes to seniors, made it happen. The nonagenarian jumped into a two-seat dragster driven by Davey Hamilton and off she went. “You looked disappointed,” I said when she exited the car less than 20 seconds later. “I am,” Eloise said. “I thought I was going to drive.”
In one interview, I asked the dumbest question of my career. A pet shop owner had a 6-foot alligator named Huey in a giant tub. I was amused to see that the gator was wearing a T-shirt that said AM Indiana, the name of my show. During the interview, I asked: “Has anyone ever gotten in the tank with Huey?” “No, Dick,” the owner said, “the reptile put the T-shirt on himself.” On second thought, I may destroy that tape.
I kept my interview with the KKK. After the entire audience listened to 20 minutes of hate being spewed about the inferiority of the “negro,” the granddaughter of Sam Jones (then-president of the Indianapolis Urban League) rose to say that although she was black, she had ancestors who were white. “Maybe you and I are related,” she said to the Grand Wizard. Oh, the expression on his face!
There are stories I didn’t tape but wish I had. Like the show where we took families whose loved ones had donated their organs and introduced them for the first time to the recipients. Or the segment with admitted draft dodgers, one of whom was arrested during a commercial break. Or the segment with an autistic youngster, a musical savant who had never seen a xylophone, but he picked up the mallets and played a duet with local jazz great Billy Wooten.
I can’t find the tape of the young man with Down syndrome who became an award-winning photographer, or the interview with a man with spina bifida (given up at birth due to his severe challenges) who bowled a perfect 300 game. I also misplaced a tape I cherished of a little girl talking to her father at his grave, just moments after the fallen hero was laid to rest at Crown Hill. I’ve lost the VHS recording of my hour-long conversation with Ryan White, his last live interview before he passed away of AIDS in April of l990. I hope I can find it. And a machine to play it on.