Archive for August, 2007

Dennis Marks 15 Years
August 27, 2007

Dennis House reporting on Feb. 27, 1993, at the World Trade Center in New York City

Dennis House reporting on Feb. 27, 1993, at the World Trade Center in New York City

This Friday I mark a professional milestone: 15 years at WFSB!

It was August 31, 1992, when I first “punched the clock” so to speak, at Channel 3.

Much has changed here. While there are several engineers and photographers who have more years under their belt than me, the only on-air people on our staff today who were here for my first day are Denise D’Ascenzo, Dan Kain, and Bruce DePrest. Al Terzi was on Channel 8. An intern from the summer of 1994, Dana Luby, is now my boss. One of our new sales recruits hired around the same time as me, Klarn DePalma, is now the general manager of WFSB.

I had just driven in from Michigan, my Pontiac packed with boxes. I was thrilled to be closer to my family in my native Massachusetts and my favorite summer place, Newport, R.I. I was part of a new group of young reporters at WFSB that included David Ushery, Mika Brzezinski, Eric McClendon, and Virginia Cha. We learned from veterans Jim Vicevich, Jeff Cole and Brian Garnett. Our anchors were Don Lark, Denise, Gayle King, Janet Peckinpaugh, and Gerry Brooks. Hilton Kaderli — complete with his “gullywomper” — was our weatherman.

Those first days, weeks and months were a blast. It seemed everybody owned a Whalers cap, shirt or jacket. I would run into players in restaurants and pubs. We would walk to lunch at the historic Marble Pillar restaurant in the shadow of the Travelers Tower, shop at the Gap on Pratt Street, I even bought a piece of furniture at G. Fox. I went to a Celtics game at the Civic Center.

Since 1992, I’ve been able to have a front row seat to history. I interviewed Al Gore inside Modern Pastry in the South End. Covered Presidents Clinton and Bush at Yale University on different occasions. Chatted with Oprah in her studio about her new movie. I sat in the courtroom in L.A. and actually saw the faces of the jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial that were concealed from television viewers. I’ve interviewed governors, senators, actors and actresses, doctors, lawyers, authors, athletes, victims, and killers.

I have also seen joy and sorrow up close. I will never forget the raw emotion of sheer joy in the fall of 1992 in New Haven. A Newhallville girl named Jasmine had been kidnapped. I was there when her family came out of the house shrieking with euphoria that police had just called to say Jasmine had been found alive in the Bronx. I will also never forget the agony a woman shared with me in Lower Manhattan the evening of 9/11, as she asked me to put her husband’s picture on television. He worked at the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center. I also was on hand for the massive funeral of Pope John Paul II.

Looking back, I have to say, staying at WFSB for 15 years was not my original plan, but I got promoted a few times over the years, fell in love, got married and became a dad. Kara and I fell in love with Connecticut’s capital city, which is now our home. We relish taking our daughter all over the city and all across the state.

It sound kinds of corny, but I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, the viewers. I enjoy meeting you everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I’ve actually met Channel 3 viewers as far away as Rome, Mexico, Chicago, and Florida.

Over the past 15 years, your mail, comments, gifts, and e-mail have been greatly appreciated. Here’s to another 15!

Hartford’s Race For Mayor
August 24, 2007

The hottest race in Campaign ’07 is the race for mayor of Hartford.

Mayor Eddie Perez is running for a third term and is being challenged by several of his fellow Democrats and one Republican. At least five of the Democrats running in the primary on Sept. 10 are vowing to run as independents if they lose the primary.

Back in 1993, Mike Peters lost the primary to Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry, but he beat her in the election and became mayor.

The Republican this year, J. Stan McCauley, is running unopposed in his party, so he is already campaigning for the general election. He faces an historic uphill battle: Democrats have controlled City Hall since 1971. The last Republican elected mayor was Ann Uccello, who was elected in 1967 and re-elected in ’69.

This has been the most interesting race in the Capital City in years. Among the candidates include two state representatives, a broadcaster, a former mayor, and a former deputy mayor.

Plenty of mudslinging and name calling has gone around. Campaign signs dot front lawns from the mansions on Prospect Avenue to the brownstones in SoDo to the triple deckers in the South End. Almost every night, candidates are going door to door, stoop to stoop, meeting voters.

But this campaign is also taking place in the suburbs and beyond where the impact of this election will also be felt. Hartford is, of course, the Capital City and taxpayers all over the state are helping with the renaissance. Thousands of people from all corners of Connecticut work in the city every day, some at the corporations in the skyscrapers, others come to the hospitals, schools, cultural attractions and so on. Developers from New Haven, New London, Old Lyme and Greenwich are among the people investing big bucks in new housing and other projects in Hartford. That’s why so many people care about this year’s election. Not to mention, there are plenty of donors from outside the city limits helping fund the candidates.

I’d like to hear what you think.

Challengers Declare Candidacies

  • Dec. 15, 2006: Frank Barrows (D)
  • Jan. 10, 2007: I. Charles Mathews (D)
  • Jan. 17, 2007: Art Feltman (D)
  • Feb. 23, 2007: Thirman Milner (I)
  • Feb. 26, 2007: J. Stan McCauley (R)
  • March 14, 2007: Raul de Jesus (D)
  • March 15, 2007: Minnie Gonzalez (D)
  • April 9, 2007: Eddie Perez (D)
  • April 10, 2007: The Rev. Patrice Smith (D)
  • Face The State (12/05/2006): Analysts Ponder Potentials

    Summer Time Is Car Show Time
    August 22, 2007

    Summer is a great time to celebrate America’s love affair with the automobile. The warm weather brings some spectacular cars out of hiding. There are thousands of stunning sets of wheels sitting behind many a garage door in Connecticut, just waiting for summer to hit the streets — you know, the ones with the fins, rumble seats, and suicide doors.

    This weekend, I’ll be heading to one of the best cars shows around, taking place in Plainville. The Yankee Chapter of the Buick Club of America features cars from just about every decade of the 20th century. Rivieras, Roadmasters and Reattas are among some of the Buicks on display, lovingly cared for by their owners. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention Kara and I drive Buicks, including a 1965 Electra Kara affectionately named “Beulah.”

    I have been a car buff ever since I was a boy. It must have been because of the first car I saw: My mode of transportation coming back from the hospital after I was born. My parents had a 1960 Ford Sunliner convertible, complete with a bright red interior, gobs of chrome and fins. My parents turned to more child friendly type of cars after that, although they had a very cool lime green (officially called “metallic lime”) Mustang in the 70s. I went to the prom in a powder blue Buick LeSabre, and if I was lucky, I got to drive my mom’s Buick Regal coupe, hich was extremely fast.

    “Through The Years …”

    Cars have certainly changed over the years, but I don’t think all the changes have been good. The advances in safety and technology have been phenomenal of course, but what has happened to style? Years ago, the color selections were much more expansive — even the interiors, which were striped and colorful. There is much too much gray and beige nowadays, and too many models look alike. Many folks who came of age in the 50s, 60s, 70s, even the 80s often say, “My folks had a beautiful Cadillac or Chevy.” Or, “I remember my grandfather’s blue Dodge.” These are parade-worthy cars. Will teens nowadays someday say, “My grandmother had the most awesome beige Camry”? Or, “My parents’ tan minvan rocked.”

    Comeback Kid?

    In the past few years, with Japanese automakers eating into the market share of American automakers, Detroit style seems to be making a comeback. The big three are realizing that, in addition to making better cars, they need to recapture the love Americans once felt for their cars. Quality levels are way up. In fact, for the first time in 12 years, an American brand has been named most dependable according to JD Power and Associates. According to their research, Buick and Lexus are now the most dependable makes out there. As for style, the Chevrolet Camaro is being resurrected, complete with racing stripes, and Ford has had tremendous success with its retro styled Mustang. Dodge is coming out with a new Challenger. These are cars that will likely be classics of the current generation.

    In the meantime, check out the classics of past generations. I hope to see you on Saturday:

    Yankee Chapter of the Buick Club of America Show

    Saturday, August 25: Parsons Buick in Plainville, CT

    Yankee Chapter of the Buick Club of America Show

    Yankee Chapter of the Buick Club of America Show

  • Also:
  • The Day The King Died
    August 16, 2007

    Elvis Presley

    Thirty years ago today, I was a junior high school student enjoying the final weeks of the summer of ’77. I was playing golf at the Lost Brook Golf Course in Norwood, Massachusetts with my brother, Chris, and our neighborhood friends, Ronny and Matt Adams. As we played, the skies started to grow dark and ominous, so we headed home.

    Why do I remember August 16, 1977, so clearly? It’s because of what I saw when I arrived at home. My mother, Marilyn, was crying, not sobbing like a member of the family had died, but I knew something was wrong — and these tears weren’t over a broken vase.

    “Elvis died,” my mother blurted out. I remember watching coverage on the news that night.

    Now, my mother isn’t one of those Elvis faithful who wore a glittered sweatshirt with the Presley profile emblazoned across the chest. Hardly. She’s never been to Graceland and she doesn’t bow her head when one of his songs comes on the radio. There is no velvet portrait of the King in her house (You know, the kind that shows up best in a black light).

    No, my mother is simply part of the core of the Elvis fan base. He was “it” for her generation. She graduated high school in 1959 and grew up when Elvis was King. My father is only slightly older than my mother, but seemed to have no real affinity for “Jailhouse Rock” or “Blue Suede Shoes.” My mother did own a couple of Elvis albums and I can still see her playing these records on this giant stereo that was actually a piece of furniture. Also in the collection: Peter Paul & Mary, the Association, and one I could never figure out, Led Zeppelin.

    Today, my mom’s collection includes an Elvis Christmas CD, but those albums were sold at a yard sale more than a decade ago.

    Since then, I’ve learned to appreciate Elvis more and more, and I have a few of his CDs. My favorite song is the “Wonder of You,” and I have serenaded my wife with this song at a Karaoeke event that thankfully has not shown up YouTube.

    When I worked as a reporter in Michigan, one of my first assignments of 1991 was a story on Elvis. Seriously. One of the tabloid rags was running a headline that said “Elvis to perform at Super Bowl; now working at a Burger King in Kalamazoo, Michigan.” Off I was to the BK to do this tongue-in-cheek story, that we had a whole lot of fun with.

    Incidentally, Elvis was supposed to perform at the Hartford Civic Center on August 21, 1977. Posters for the concert that never was are regularly sold on eBay.

    Do you remember where you where when Elvis died?


    August 16, 2007

    I’m in the word business. Every day, thousands of words come out of my mouth, and the mouths of other anchors here at Channel 3, and heard by you the viewer. Most are chosen carefully by producers, writers, reporters and anchors, and others are sort of automatic. (“Coming up on Eyewitness News” is something I could say in my sleep.)

    I view the job of a news anchor as something of an educator. I like to use different words in news copy, rather than the same old thing all the time. Denise, Al, and Kara share my view on this, and we relish being wordsmiths. In fact, one year, for Denise’s birthday, I got her a great book by Hartford Courant columnist Rob Kyff, one of the state’s premier wordsmiths.

    Denise still carries a dictionary to the news set every day, while I rely on when I’m in front of the camera. We often look up words to see if they are appropriate for the story. We like to educate the viewer by using synonyms to break up the monotony.

    Speaking of monotony, Denise and I were growing tired of the term “wicked weather,” overused by television stations from Hartford to Honolulu. Whenever the weather was bad, Denise and I would say “wicked weather.” We hated it when a producer first required us to say the phrase back in 1997, and 10 years later, we were really sick of it.

    The thesaurus on offers plenty of words for the bad meaning of “wicked”: abandoned, abominable, amoral, arch, atrocious, bad news*, base, contemptible, corrupt, debased, degenerate, depraved, devilish, dissolute, egregious, evil, fiendish, flagitious, foul, gross, guilty, heartless, heinous, immoral, impious, impish, incorrigible, indecent, iniquitous, irreligious, low-down, mean, mischievous, nasty, naughty, nefarious, profane, reprobate, rotten, scandalous, shameful, shameless, sinful, unethical, unprincipled, unrighteous, vicious, vile, villainous, wayward, worthless

    We would never say a “fiendish front” is moving in, or a “heinous hurricane.” How about a “sinful storm?” We would sound foolish.

    Wicked can also mean “destructive,” and the thesaurus offers alternative words for that: acute, agonizing, awful, barbarous, bothersome, chancy, crashing, dangerous, difficult, distressing, dreadful, fearful, fierce, galling, hairy, harmful, hazardous, injurious, intense, mean, mighty, offensive, outrageous, painful, perilous, pesky, risky, severe, terrible, treacherous, troublesome, troublous, trying, ugly, uncivilized, unconscionable, ungodly, unhealthy, unholy, unpleasant, unsound, vexatious

    Picture, for a moment, if you will, Denise and I saying, “Good Evening, we have a ‘barbarous blizzard’ to tell you about.”

    We are big fans of alliteration, but sometimes it can be too much. So, Denise and I asked our news director if we could retire “wicked weather.” She said she couldn’t agree more.


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