We’ve been shooting stories in and around Pittsburgh since 2000 and we now have over 175 shoots in the books.  We’ve turned those shoots into 32 half hour shows and 4 one-hour specials plus other misc. things.  Now that we’ve been at this a while, we get this question quite a bit; What is the coolest thing that you’ve gotten to do?  So I’ve actually been thinking about this and came up with my top 10 list of favorite shoots.  I’m sure Dave H and Frank would have their own list and maybe we’ll see theirs soon, but here’s mine.

#10  Julie B’s house  3/11/03

As many of you know, Julie Bologna is a meterologist at Channel 11.  What many of you may not know and what we’ve been lucky to find out is, Julie B is one of the coolest, funniest, nicest – and plenty other good adjectives – people around.  We went to do a “cribs” episode with her and toured her old house and had a great couple hours going through her closets.   She is the best!

#9  Hot Air Ballooning  8/21/02

 This is one of the best shot stories we’ve ever done, too bad we weren’t in Hi-Def back then.  If you haven’t had a chance to go up in a hot air balloon, do it.  It’s kinda pricey but was really, really cool.  I’m not a huge fan of heights, but this felt totally safe and was not scary at all.

 #8  Day Spa with Eva Szabo   3/31/00

This was actually the 2nd story we ever did and this one is kind of a no-brainer when you have foreign women touching you all day long.  The marked the first (and last) time I’ve had a pedicure, the first (and last) time I’ve had a mud wrap, the first (and last) time I’ve had a facial, the first (and last) time I’ve had a manicure, and the first (and last) time I had a hand wrap.  But I was stunned how great I looked after this shoot!  If you see this show, it really is noticable.

 #7  Backyard Castle  6/26/08

This was part of our show Strange PA and this guy we met named Ron Hall took 30 years to dry-lay this huge castle in his backyard.  Not only was the castle cool, the yard was equally great with landscaping to complement the castle.  I would kill to have his backyard and we were all inspired by him to start constructing our own stone things.  Of course nothing we build will ever match this.  If you are ever in the northeast part of the state, find this place and check it out!

#6  The River Tunnel  5/16/08

We’re guys so any large machines that can dig a tunnel under a river is pretty cool to see.  So last spring we got a chance to literally walk underneath the Allegheny River to see the boring machine at work.  Now for the chance to say “I’ve walked under the Allegheny River” is enough, but seeing how this whole thing works was damn impressive.   Dave H put it best when he said to the guy in charge, “I can’t keep water out of my basement, yet you’re building a tunnel under a river!”

#5  Pierogi racing at PNC Park  9/16/05

Ok, let’s be honest.  The only reason to go to PNC Park right now is for the food, fireworks, bobblehead dolls and the pierogie race.  We were lucky enough to get invited to become a pierogie for one night and race.  Ok, I finished last and I had to be the girl pierogie, but it was a blast.  Of course, it was super hot and kinda clausterphobic inside those things too.

 #4  Penn State Tailgating  9/3/05

We shot this for our first state special Eat Pennsylvania.  I should say that Dave and I grew up Pitt fans which means Penn St. was the enemy.  No longer. We both fell in love with State College, the people in the parking lots were awesome and the numbers where overwhelming.  Inside the stadium, the atmosphere was electric unlike any other football game I’ve been at.  I’m now a Penn State fan, although they never play Pitt anymore so it’s kinda easy now.  We are….

#3  Driving Hummers at Nemacolin  2/5/03

Let’s face it, I work for a PBS station so I’m never going to own a H2 Hummer.  But I got to drive one through the woods as part of a program at the swanky Nemacolin resort.  And they put us up for a night.  And we didn’t just drive it through the woods, they had a course set up where we got to drive over trees, through creeks, up and down hills, awesome! 

#2  Inside Quantico & the FBI Academy Spring 2001

We got to spend a couple days at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia courtesy of special agent Bill Crowley.  Going behind the scenes here and to see what these recruits do is amazing.  We also ran their famous obstacle course “yellow brick road,” drove skid cars while getting yelled at by a real DEA agent, checked out Hogan’s Alley, the firing range, and found out they had a Starbucks on the premises.  Now that is government efficiency!

#1  Super Bowl XL in Detroit  2/5/06

This one is not even close.  The coolest thing we have ever done and probably will ever do is going to the Super Bowl.  That alone is great.  But to spend a few days there prior to the game, get in the locker room after the Steelers victory, and get on the field after the game was about as good as it gets for huge Steeler fans that we are.  I called my Dad from the locker room after the game, then called just about everyone in my phone from the field after the game.  We got to talk to about 10 players, eat free food during the game, get cool swag like pins, seat cushions, etc.  My press pass for that game is still one of my most prized possessions from anything I’ve ever done.

The only complaint that I had was the weather was really crappy since they had the game in Detroit, and we couldn’t get into the Playboy or Maxim parties held the night before the game.  But to be a part of Steeler history like that is without a doubt my favorite thing that I’ve ever been a part of here at WQED.

Honorable Mention

There have been so many cool people and places during our time, I would like to throw a shout-out to a couple other places:  Nancy B’s cookies in Homestead.  She sends cookies over a couple times a year for us and she and her son really are the best.  It helps the cookies are about the size of a hubcap.  D’z Six Packs and Dogz in Regent Square.  When we were there back in January of 2002, it was just this little hole in the wall place with great hot dogs and fries plus root beer on tap to die for.  Now they’ve expanded and are so crowded, we have a hard time getting a table.   Rock & Bowl at the world famous Arsenal Lanes was a lot of fun and it was so nice to see so many young people (no they didn’t all leave Pittsburgh) enjoying themselves while drinking, bowling, and rocking.  Bingo at the Lithuanian Club on the South Side to this day remains our signature segment.  I got slapped by an old woman, we shaved 2 years off our lives because of the thick layer of cigarette smoke, and we learned what a dauber is.  That bingo segment was the funniest segment we ever shot.  And one last shout-out to North County Brewing in Slippery Rock.  This is one of those great places that everyone here needs to visit.  You know we’re never sure what a place is going to be like the first time we visit, but this place was light years better than anything we could have expected.  Plus the owners were tremendous.

Here’s to the next 175 stories!  –  Dave R