October 6, 2008
Tidbits From the Vast Wasteland
By Bob Kelly
ONE of Anne Barths congressional campaign commercials features a picture of President Bush smooching incumbent Shelley Moore Capito on the cheek. In another Barth commercial, a man sets a spell in a rocker beside a young whippersnapper who disparages Capitos ties to Bush. The man holds up a newspaper to conceal his face. It is a scene reminiscent of Tim Taylors neighbor on Tool Time. Then the paper is lowered to reveal none other than Big Daddy, replete in straw hat and suspenders. All along, Capito has run ads stressing her defiance of Bushs wishes on several occasions. Another shows Capito, against a backdrop of OPEC potentates, talking forthrightly of her desire to lift limits on oil drilling. And now, Capitos people have swung back at Barth. A new spot features a most unflattering headshot of the challenger wearing a sour expression. The photo pops up and fades away and appears again in a Rubiks Cube- like visual as the announcer solemnly charges Barth with having ties to anti-coal lunatics like Al Gore. The ad slugfest is just starting. Round One goes to Capito.
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As impossible as it seems today, game shows once had witty panelists and hosts. The original To Tell the Truth was such a show during TVs golden age. Actresses Polly Bergen and Hildy Parks, Camel News Caravan anchor John Cameron Swayze, and Dick Van Dyke formed the panel on the debut episode Dec. 18, 1956. On that Tuesday night in Manhattan, three men in dark suits confidently strolled onto the CBS studio stage to field questions. One was astronomer James Pickering. Another was insurance man George Simpson. The third was a 36-year-old with movie star good looks. Which of the three had just been elected governor of West Virginia? It was up to the panel to ask questions and find out. Only the genuine article had to tell the truth. The imposters had license to lie. According to the next days Daily Mail, someone asked, How many rooms are in the governors mansion? Cecil Underwood said he had no idea. Simpson said his wife would have to answer because she handled those matters. Pickering said, How would I know? The Republicans havent been in office in West Virginia for 24 years. In the end, only one panelist guessed correctly, enabling Underwood and his fellow challengers to walk away with $1,500. Versions of To Tell the Truth have come and gone for 50 years. Cecil is still around, too, but has battled health problems lately. Id never known about the game show episode. The Sistersville paper had a brief item about it recently. I did know that Cecil had an admirable reputation for telling the truth throughout a political career that started way back in 1944.
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Strangers whove driven through Sistersville universally describe it as a picturesque place with an abundance of handsome Victorian architecture. Imagine my surprise, then, to see my little hometown along the Ohio River mentioned in an ABC-TV report titled M.D. Recruits Face Culture Shock in Appalachia. The story laughably mentioned poor Sistersville as part of a culture of clannishness (that) encourages Appalachians to avoid mental health professionals and solve crises within the family. Alas, only one member of the Kelly clan remains on Country Club Heights, where she has lived for 49 years. I must say that Mom was always pretty good at solving family crises.
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WOWK-TV will handle daily numbers drawing chores for the West Virginia Lottery for the last time tonight at 6:59 sharp. People from now on must tune to WSAZ-TV to hear perky announcers crisply enunciate numerals as the winning white orbs float up into view. Reading a story about the switch reminded me of the Great Pennsylvania Lottery Caper. At the center was Nick Perry, a Pittsburgh-born broadcaster who started his career at a Charleston radio station after serving in World War II. Perry soon moved back to the Smoky City and became a popular TV personality, doing the weather and hosting Bowling for Dollars on ABC affiliate WTAE. He also did the Pennsylvania Lotterys nightly numbers show. Perry went to his grave in 2003 at the age of 86 denying that he rigged the drawing on April 24, 1980. A jury thought otherwise, and Perry spent two years in the pen. Some pals helped carry out the scheme, which involved injecting white paint into ping pong balls numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 to weigh them down. Balls numbered 4 and 6 were left alone, allowing them to ride a current of air into the winning slots. Heavy betting action on the eight three-number combinations containing only 4 and 6 raised suspicions, and a tip enabled authorities to nab the plotters. The winning number? 666. God punishes.
Kelly is managing editor of the Daily Mail. He may be reached at 348-1703 or bobkelly@daily
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