When Funny Things Happen To Erstwhile “Brave” Reporters

Blame it on Dan Rather.   It’s all his fault.   

In early September 1961, Rather was a reporter for KHOU, the CBS affiliate here in Houston.   He reported live from the Galveston Seawall as  big, mean , menacing Hurricane Carla threatened the entire Texas coastline.

Back then, television stations weren’t very technologically advanced–no radar systems, and very little else.  It was a typewriter world. in 1961 and manual typewriters, might I add.   Hurricanes along the Texas Gulf Coast were nothing new, but Rather was a new breed of reporter.    The word ‘maverick’ comes to mind.   He decided that SE Texans needed something new and different when it came to the ways they’d learn about Hurricane Carla and how this great storm would literally chew up terrain as it made landfall. 

So, Rather took a camera crew to a National Weather Service radar station located on the top floor of the Post Office Building on 25th Street in Galveston, where a technician drew a very, rough, very crude outline of the Gulf of Mexico on a sheet of plastic.  That was then held that over the black and white radar display to give  the viewing audience an idea of the storm’s size and position of its eye. 

And Voila!!   Modern hurricane tracking was born.   Well, that’s the frequency, Kenneth!!  

But that wasn’t enough for Old ShowBoat Danny…he then supposedly tied himself to a tree..on the Seawall,  in order to report live–al fresco–just as Carla’s fierce eye wall moved ashore.   Or so goes the legend.

Funny thing though,  I can’t find any real proof that Dan actually ever did this.  A couple of articles mention it, but only in very general terms.  I can’t find any video–not even a few grainy black and white photos of him, the rope or a tree..not even sturdy street sign blowing in the gales.  So, to be honest, I really have to wonder if this ever happened.  

I’m not  getting the math of this, either.  I’ve been to Galveston’s famed Seawall many, many times.   There are no trees on it, nor were there in 1961.  It is now, as it always has been–just a reinforced cement sidewalk raised some 17 feet above sea level.

See?

   

Nevertheless, Rather gets attributed with changing the way reporters report on storms.  After his supposed Hurricane Carla “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” routine, news hounds everywhere, especially those with a camera aimed at them, decided to brave the elements and report from the perilous center of the storm and often with HIGH-larious results. 

So, because of Katrina’s five-year anniversary just passed; Rita’s will be coming up and lest we forget that Ike will soon become a gnarly and indelible memory Southeast Texans made two years ago, I decided to include these funny looks at reporters who “heroically” brave the elements for that money shot.  As in the shot that will bring them money.

Having been a reporter for years, I DO NOT for one minute fear for these people when they stand out in 100 plus MPH winds with an anemometer in hand.  They know what they’re doing.   Hell, as the legend goes, tying himself to a tree got Rather a nice, lucrative career with CBS.   You don’t think some ambitious reporter stuck in the second year of a contract written on a piece of beef jerky in godforsaken Burnt Toast, Kentucky, isn’t going to jump at the chance himself???   He’s hardly alone.  There’s  an eager reporter working in L.A. with the same network ambitions.  But instead of a hurricane, he’s planning on rappelling down to the  deepest part of the crack down La Brea Avenue once “the big one” hits.  Once there, he’ll report live from the broken  gas mains.  Then you have some idiot Weather Girl in Ohio who’s trying to figure out how to put a saddle  with a built-in camera on an F1 tornado next spring.   

She’s hoping it’ll hit in prime time.

Reporters will risk their lives for a crack at something bigger, career wise.  To them, disaster means opportunity and in TV speak, that means advancement. 

To us, it means sheer entertainment. 

I state my case.

BONUS VID…BONUD VID…BONUS VID…BONUS VID…BONUS VID…BONUS VID

This video was recorded from the 11th floor of the San Luis Hotel at the height of Hurricane Ike.   The San Luis is a large, resort hotel located across the street from the Seawall in Galveston.

The sounds a hurricane can make are scary indeed.  As Ike’s fierce eye wall winds meandered through and around the building, they sounded like a very horny, but anemic whale was mating with a wailing banshee with asthma…and an overbite.

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5 comments

  1. Ever since Dan Rather came to national attention, a number of folk that I know have said that the legend is just that, a legend.

    But, having lived through a couple of those fierce blows, I can honestly say that the weather folk in the clips are either insane, or dedicated, or perhaps a little bit of both.

  2. Wow. That last clip gave me goosebumps. That’s what it sounded like in our house in Corpus when hurricane Celia hit. It’s a sound you never, ever forget.

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