Yes. WQED has decided I will try my hand at producing a weekly program. I’m calling it IT’S PITTSBURGH & A LOT OF OTHER STUFF, and I’m still trying to figure out what it is and how we’ll get it done.
My friend and in-house designer Paula Zetter created the logo and an animated title for us to play with. Having a logo makes it feel like a real project. The Post-Gazette has mentioned the show already, and the always perceptive Rob Owen wrote about it in his blog, and he and I have similar hopes and worries about my new programs.
It’ll be on Wednesday nights at 7:30 with various repeats after that. It premieres November 3. We’re planning for 13 half-hours in the first “season.” A lot of work. It will be a sort of magazine format (which basically means we can include unrelated stories in each program) and I’ve already started gathering material for new stories.
First I took cameraman Frank Caloiero with me to the Cheeseburger In Paradise competition over at the Waterfront in Homestead. It’s an annual event put together by my buddies Theresa Colaizzi and Jim Merkel over at radio station WWSW (they act modern and say “3WS”) and they have graciously invited me to be one of the judges for many years (I’m not sure how many: 7? 8? Could we be doing this for 10 years?) and I can’t say no when they ask.
The competition is open to all listeners, and it’s simple to enter: you sign up, you come and make some of your best cheeseburgers, a panel of excellent judges (including our beloved WQED COOKS’ cook Chris Fennimore, as well as KDKA-TV2’s Jim Lokay and Clear Channel’s Greg McAtee and myself) determines which burger is Best (based on various criteria) and the best burger-maker wins tickets to the upcoming Jimmy Buffet concert as well as assorted other goodies.
Judging a hamburger competition is harder than one might expect. (I don’t want anyone trying to take my job.) And we want to really pick the best while having a really good time too.
So I did what I usually do, schmoozed and walked around, talked to the contestants, then sat down with my fellow judges, and we tasted the burgers. Some were amazing. All four judges picked the same winner. A unanimous decision.
Then, several days later and still thinking about the new show, I got a call from a young woman (Michelle) who’s re-doing an old bar down on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, and she and her husband (Kevin) wanted me to see this big old “beer cooler” that came with the place. It’s a big old refrigerator in the shape of an old beer bottle. And they thought I might be interested.
I had to go and check it out. I loved it. I arranged to go back and took Frank the cameraman with me. We did some interviews. We took pictures of the beautiful old thing. It’s called a Bevador.
People love it. Made in Buffalo in the 1950s, maybe earlier. A refrigerator’s refrigerator! Worth going down to check out. The bar used to be Bill’s Tavern, now it’s called Eclipse (but the Bill’s sign may still be up outside!) 3705 Butler Steet.
Again I was a judge, and we looked over design drawings and proposals from various groups and individuals around the world. We had vodka martinis too.
And all along the way, as we were shooting all these other stories, cameraman Frank Caloiero and I decided to make something out of our ongoing personal battle of one-upsmanship in a good natured battle to determine which is better: North Park or South Park. Frank lives in McCandless and loves the northern option. I grew up about a half mile from the main entrance to South Park and I think it’s pretty great. North Park does have a cool old Observation Tower that’s closed to the public now, but South Park still has buffalo. ‘Nuff said?
And I’ve also shot a story with Bob Lubomski about the terra cotta statues that are in the Pittsburgh Parking Authority Garage Building on the Boulevard of the Allies downtown across from Point Park University. I saw them in a Post-Gazette story back in July, and I really liked them. They were made and installed in 1985 by Pittsburgh sculptor Jerry Caplan (1922-2004) who called them “Pittsburgh People.”
They are treasures in a passageway between the Boulevard and First Avenue. And they will be a story too in the new show.
And we’re looking for underwriting to cover the costs of all this. If you have any ideas for stories or potential underwriters, that’s what the Comments b0x below is for. This could be fun.