Archive for February, 2011

Bill O’Reilly at WFSB: The Hartford Years
February 28, 2011

It was actually less than a year, but Bill O’Reilly’s tenure at WFSB spanned two years, 1979 and 1980.    After a thorough search of our archives I found several examples of O’Reilly’s work at the old Broadcast House in downtown Hartford, ancient footage that had eluded us until recently.     Of all the alumni who list WFSB on their resume, O’Reilly has arguably gone on to the greatest success.   His “O’Reilly Factor” on the Fox News Channel is one of the highest rated political shows on cable television.

I have had several inquiries over the years about O’Reilly’s time as a member of the Channel 3 Eyewitness News team.   A few astute viewers wanted to know why there were no clips of him in our 50th anniversary special, and the simple answer was we just couldn’t find them.    Our computerized archives date back only to 1994.  Anything before that must be find the old fashioned way.  Also video tape from the 70s is on an old format and can only be played on a rickety old 3/4″ machine.  We have one left and it only works after hours of careful tinkering by our engineers.

O’Reilly didn’t work at WFSB for that long, and in one of his books he cites a difficult relationship with a co-anchor as a factor in his departure to move on.   One thing is pretty clear, at least from the reports I found in the archives, is that O’Reilly was a very good reporter, be it covering Ronald Reagan campaigning here in 1980, or teen idol Rex Smith signing autographs at the Hartford Civic Center.

Here are the clips we aired on “Face the State with Dennis House.”

Here is my story on O’Reilly from last week which was my most read blog entry ever.

Since the airing of “Face the State” I have had requests for more clips.  I’ll see what I can find.

DeLauro Calls for Repeal of NAFTA
February 27, 2011

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is calling for repeal of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is approaching its 20th year in effect.

DeLauro calls the agreement a “job killer,” that has adversely impacted our economy.  She believes repeal of NAFTA would help Connecticut.

Tune in this morning at 11 to watch DeLauro’s interview on Face the State.

Subject of Draft Movement Won’t Rule Out Senate Run
February 25, 2011


When people talk about the Senate race and potential Republican candidates you hear the names Linda McMahon, Rob Simmons and Michael Fedele.  Add a new name to the mix:  State Senator Scott Frantz. 

Frantz is the subject of a draft movement, urging him to run for the seat now held by Senator Joe Lieberman.     There is even a website

Frantz represents Greenwich, Stamford and New Canaan, but is fairly well known in political circles around the state.  He served as Chairman of the board of Bradley International Airport, and played a major role in recruiting airlines to start up service to Europe.    In fact, his last appearance on Face the State was in 2007 to talk about that very subject.    Some Republicans argue Frantz would also be a formidable candidate because of his ability to raise money and self fund.

During our taping, Frantz told me he had “no plans” to run for the senate, but said he wouldn’t rule it out.    He also provided some interesting analysis of why McMahon lost last year, and why she could win if she runs in 2012.

You can watch the entire interview this Sunday morning at 11.    Read more about Senator Frantz from Neil Vigdor at the Greenwich Time.

Bill O’Reilly: the Lost WFSB Tapes from His Time in Hartford
February 24, 2011

This Sunday on “Face the State with Dennis House,”  we broadcast some ancient videotape of a famous Channel 3 alumnus, Bill O’Reilly, now of the Fox Channel Channel.   The link to the video is at the end of this post.

O’Reilly worked in Hartford 31 years ago, anchoring our evening news and reporting on some of the top stories of the day.    The fall of 1979 saw the infamous Windsor Locks tornado, the visit of Pope John Paul II to New York,  and the Iran Hostage Crisis.    O’Reilly covered all those stories along with trailing  the candidates flocking to Connecticut for the 1980 presidential primary, including George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Ted Kennedy.    His plum assignment that fall:  being sent to Dallas for an investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy.    I also found videotape of O’Reilly in a sea of screaming girls waiting to meet the big teen idol of ’79, Rex Smith!  

                         A Bill O’Reilly story logged in our archives.  “Linda/Chapin” was a report on O’Reilly’s interview with Harry Chapin, in concert at the Hartford Civic Center.   O’Reilly painted a contrast between Linda Ronstadt and her refusal to do media interviews, and Chapin, who sat down with O’Reilly for a one-on-one.   Chapin died in a car crash the following year.

As I went digging through hundreds of archaic videotapes in our archives, I came across a decent amount of O’Reilly’s reports.   Some are so old they no longer play in our lone antique 3/4″ machine, but I dusted off several of them and thanks to our engineers they were brought back alive for the digital age.

O’Reilly wrote about his time in Hartford in one of his books, and it sounds as if his tenure wasn’t all that enjoyable.    Even so, from what I found in the archives his displeasure certainly didn’t show in his work.   O’Reilly, then 30, was a good solid reporter and an interesting story teller.  

Take a look and let me know what you think:

Here are the clips:

The Search for my Italian Ancestors
February 22, 2011

                My great aunt Giuseppina Chiulli Odoardi, sister of my great grandfather Paolo Chiulli

Until recently I didn’t know too much about my Italian roots.     My grandfather, Crescenzo Chiulli was killed in a freak attack of yellow jackets when my mother was only 12.    His father, Paolo Chiulli died before that.  Paolo was the only one of his family to emigrate from Italy to America, and apparently never shared in-depth stories of his time in the old country.      My only experience with my Italian heritage has been my mother’s phenomenal Italian cooking and the annual Fourth of July cookouts that my uncle Patsy (Pasquale) used to host until he died when I was about 10.   There was bocce and grilled sausages and I remember him sitting in a chair in his garden, in a scene right out of “the Godfather.”

As a young man in the first decade of the 2oth century,  Paolo Chiulli came to the United States and went to the North End of Boston.    For some unknown reason, I can’t find any record of him entering the country, despite an exhaustive search of the records at Ellis Island and of Boston immigration records.   It is possible his name was misspelled on the manifest of the ship in which he crossed the Atlantic, or he was never processed.  Who knows?

What we do know is that he changed his name from Paolo Chiulli to Paul Chully as an attempt  to assimilate with American society, although by the time he volunteered to serve in World War II in 1942, he was using Chiulli again.   The military didn’t take him because he was 62 years old then, but you gotta love his patriotic spirit!

All we ever knew was that he was from Abruzzo, a region of Italy north of Rome on the coast of the Adriatic Sea.    No one in the family knew which town he came from or any details about his family back home.

When I first went to Italy in the 1990s, I looked in a phone book in the hopes of seeing a Chiulli listed.   There were dozens.    This was not going to be easy.    

My research was infrequent and sporadic since then.  I got some pointers from Dr. Riccardo Ambrogio, the former consulate to Italy based in Hartford.    He advised me on what to do and who to contact.     I checked some websites and swapped e-mails with some people looking for Chiulli ancestors, but found no relations, no connections. 

Two years ago,  in anticipation of the birth of my son,  I stepped up the search.    If we had a boy, Kara and I decided he would have Crescenzo as a middle name, and I wanted to learn more about the family tree.    Through a genealogical website, I found John Nelson of Utah, another guy like me with a waspy name who was also researching the name Chiulli in his family tree.    John was the genealogical jackpot.  He had all the information that had eluded our family for more than a century.     

                                                         Alanno, Italy

From John,  I learned my great-grandfather was born in the town of Alanno, Italy, also referred to as the commune of Alanno.    In one e-mail I learned that my great-great grandfather, Paolo’s father,  was also named Crescenzo, and that his father was Antonio Chiulli.    I also learned the names of sisters, brothers, grandmothers,  even the addresses of birthplaces.     Maiden names in the tree included Ciarrocca and Angelini.     John’s work in Chiulli research was invaluable.  Oddly, as it turns out, the Chiullis in John’s family tree don’t seem connected to mine.   

This past December, my great aunt Angie (Angelina) died just shy of her 98th birthday.  She was the last surviving sibling of my grandfather.    After her death, I decided to look up some people in Alanno with the last name Chiulli and that’s when I got some more tremendous luck in my quest for family history.

I couldn’t find an e-mail address for the one person named Chiulli in Alanno, so I thought I might try a local reporter in Abruzzo in the hopes a journalist with a lay of the land and its people  could help me contact this particular Chiulli.    This reporter turned out to be a publisher of a magazine called PrimaDaNoi.   Alessandro Biancardi then asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for PrimaDaNoi, and he felt  that would help find some relatives.     Reporter Marirosa Barbieri then contacted me and wrote up this great article.

Since then, I have been contacted by several people, including some Channel 3 viewers here, who heard about the article from their relatives in Abruzzo.   No surprise about the folks here…after all, the new 2010 census shows Connecticut is the most Italian state in the U.S.    I’ve swapped e-mails and Facebook messages with some newly discovered relatives, who shared with me information I never would have discovered without PrimaDaNoi.    In a lengthy e-mail written in Italian from one of the cousins,   I learned according to family legend, my great grandfather left Italy after some sort of brawl in which the police were involved.  I’m just hoping I didn’t translate that part properly!    

I’ve even been contacted by someone in Italy interested in having me on their television program.   

The experience has been awesome.     Kara and I are definitely planning a family trip to Abruzzo one of these days to check out the ancestral homeland and meet some cousins!   One newly discovered cousin is a pastry chef, and the pictures of her creations are pretty amazing.

the view of Alanno from the site of the farm where my great-grandfather was born

My cousin Paola Odoardi, next to a pile of stones and debris:  all that is left of  the birthplace of my great grandfather and her grandmother Guiseppina Chiulli Odoardi


UPDATE: Read about my trip to Abruzzo right here:

Reason # 733 to Own a Buick Roadmaster
February 22, 2011

Seriously?     Yes, I saw this on I-84 today and if this were video you would see the hazard lights flashing.      Hazardous it was indeed.  A person carrying cargo way too large for his vehicle, traveling about 20 MPH as tractor trailers were whizzing by.  

I actually saw this car at the side of the highway with its driver struggling to get the mattress back on the much smaller roof.   The mattress must have blown off or something.   Fifteen minutes later when I was returning on the other side of ’84 I captured the above scene.

None of this would have happened in a Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, as Channel 3′s Scot Haney recently learned.   Recognizing the inadequacy of his diminutive and weak vehicle, he borrowed our Roadmaster to transport a bedroom’s worth of furniture.   After loading up the Master of the Road, Scot still had room to, as they say, “feel free to move about the cabin.”

Check out my other Roadmaster posts:

New Addition to the Hartfordite Reading List
February 21, 2011

“How to Handle Nasty Christmas Drunks.”   ” Vasectomies, Man-Boobs, and Much Much More.”    “Teaching your Daughter to Strip.”    Those are just a few of the attention grabbing headlines that have appeared in an advice column written by a friend of mine, Delphina Boncompagni Ludovisi for Taki’s Magazine.  

“Dear Abby” she is not, and that’s a good thing.  Delphi’s columns offer the reader some hilarious advice that is often spot on.   Sadly, I have a hunch I know some of the people who are seeking her satirically wise counsel!  Totally worth checking out.     I’m thinking Kara should  invite Delphina to make an appearance on “Better Connecticut.”

Let me know what you think:   ”

NHL Suits, Celebs Impressed by Whale Bowl
February 21, 2011

Howard Baldwin accomplished what he set out to do with the Whale Bowl:  break the AHL record for ticket sales for a game between the Connecticut Whale and the Providence Whale.    28,000 tickets were sold for  Saturday’s historic outdoor hockey game at Rentschler Field, although the actual attendance was just over 15,000.   The bitter cold was clearly the factor in the lower count at the gates:  the wind chill was hovering around zero as the Brass Bonanza blared over the home of the UConn Huskies.    As we prepared to leave our house, Kara suggested we stay home because it was so cold.    My response?  “Good try, but we are sitting in an indoor box.” 

When we arrived there were tailgaters braving the tundra like winds that whipped across the ‘Rent.    It was too cold for families who planned to bring their children to this historic making event, the latest in a long series of steps in an attempt to restore major league sports to Connecticut’s capital city.

Sitting in the front row of one of the boxes taking in the action were two executives from the NHL.  Baldwin told me they liked what they saw.   They were impressed by the turnout, the excitement of the fans, the venue, and the fireworks and other theatrics before the game.     He said  Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted to be there, but had an event in Canada he had to attend.    Just to be clear, getting a team back in Hartford is still a long way off, but the Whale Bowl and Baldwin have given the NHL folks something to think about.

Celebrities were also on hand including retired greats from the Hartford Whalers and Boston Bruins.    Kara and I chatted with actor Neal McDonough for a while.  He’s a big hockey fan, loves the Whalers logo and knows Baldwin from his days in Hollywood.

Mr. & Mrs. House, Olessa Stepanova, and Mark Dixon.  Strangely, this was Kara’s first hockey game even though she grew up outside Detroit, also called Hockeytown because of Michiganders’ love of the Red Wings

Kara with actor Neal McDonough, known to many viewers as last year’s villain on Desperate Housewives

Former Boston Bruins great Derek Sanderson, whose endorsed autograph appeared on skates I had as a child


Governor Malloy Talks Budget on Face the State
February 19, 2011

How would like to be Governor of a state of a state with a population that isn’t exactly growing, saddled with a $3.5 billion deficit, and a reputation as being unfriendly to business?  Most people would run the other way, but Governor Malloy is relishing these tough times.

His budget address this week has been the talk of the state and beyond all week.    Tax hikes, and job cuts have the Governor on the hotseat, being criticized by citizens, Republicans, his own party, and organizations that usually walk hand in hand with the Democratic party.      

During  a taping of Face the State,  I  talked with the Governor about the budget, but didn’t crunch numbers with him.  We and other journalism organizations have done that all week.   The Governor talked about why he proposed what he did, and what might be next.  I asked him how he was coping with all the criticism, and whether he has received any threats.

I asked that because  Governor Malloy came to our studios with an unprecedented security entourage, not necessarily unprecedented for a state chief executive, but rather something we’ve never seen before here at Channel 3.    

We discussed the impact the Governor’s budget proposal might have on his party’s chances next week in the special elections.

You can watch the entire interview this Sunday morning at 11 on Face the State.

Final Countdown to WFSB Going HD
February 18, 2011

 You may have noticed some subtle changes as you watch Eyewitness News.  We are in the process of going to high definition, hi-def, or commonly called HD.

I won’t bore you with all the engineering and science behind it, but basically your picture will be getting clearer.  HD makes watching football a whole new experience, and you can actually see a blade of grass.

Grass is fine but what about people?    Legend has it that HD will reveal every wrinkle, pimple or bloodshot eye.    Our technical guys here say that is not necessarily true.

Denise was worried if she would go from looking like this,


to this:

or even this:


Our thanks to the Evil Queen from Snow White and Mama from the Addams Family for the use of their wrinkled visages.

The ageless Al had his concerns, too. 

Would viewers notice if he did a poor job shaving?

Rest assured, we are told our new HD cameras are the best around, and your Eyewitness News programs and the people who bring them to you will look pretty much  the same.     Overall, going HD will greatly enhance your experience watching the news.    The breaking news, sports highlights, and investigative reports will all be much clearer.

Look for us to be fully HD by late spring, early summer.    We have lighting to change, sets to rework and plastic surgery and skin peels to undergo. 

Just kidding.   Besides, we’ll always look better than some of the other folks who show up on Eyewitness News.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if they could come up with technology to make us look younger?



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