I was propositioned by Keith Richards. I have flown in countless helicopters. I have seen things in the Eskimo’s locker room that still make me blush today.
This week marks 15 years for me at CKEM-TV. We have changed names twice and changed owners 4 times over my tenure. I’ve been here so long I made up my own name: Day One’r. I walked into this building days before A-Channel launched. And today when my shift ends I will walk out of the same building…now with a City TV sign. I’ve covered a lot of stories. Met a lot of people, including my husband. Worked with a lot of talent. Laughed a lot. Cried a lot. If you will indulge me, here’s a few of the highlights and low-lights.
1. In 1997 at 2:30am, I sat waiting, along with other media, at a private landing strip for the Rolling Stones to touch down. Mick Jagger refused to stop for an interview. He went into a waiting car. Keith Richards did come over when we called him. In a scrum…I asked Richards what he planned to do while he was here. In a playful tone, which I’m sure has worked on hundreds of women…he sexily sneered “Why don’t you come over and find out.” The next day, I took him up on his offer. A cameraman and I staked out the Hotel MacDonald the whole day…but he stood me up. Once again…I’m sure I’m not the first one.
2. I have covered many trials and crime stories over the last 15 years…but the one that stands out is the case of Liana White, a pregnant mom murdered by her husband, Michael. It seemed like I lived in front of that Castle Downs house that week. Before his arrest, I was there when Michael held a press conference outside his home. But, it was his trial that sticks with me. It was photos of Liana shown in court. A pale body partially hidden by the long emerald green grass. Dumped in a ditch. Her pregnant belly forever protruding my mind. I can still see it as plain as day if I close my eyes.
3. The story that still haunts me with olfactory hallucinations is the Park Allen cat house. It was an unassuming home, in a nice area, owned by two women. Their elderly mother lived there. There were hundreds of diseased and dead cats there. They were wild and really sick. Many carcasses were stuffed in garbage bags all over the property. There were no kittens…officials say they were likely eaten by the bigger cats. There was at least 2 feet of feces on the floor and the smell of ammonia could knock you out. In terms of stink, there is no comparison. ITV reporter Sandra Blaikie went in and did what we call in the biz…a ’stand-up’. Basically, it’s when you see the reporter on camera. I am a competitive woman and I knew I couldn’t go back to the station if I didn’t walk through that door. An ITV camera man, Hank generously lent me his rubber boots. Thank goodness because a little blue mini dress isn’t really appropriate attire for cat hell. I was in the home for 8 minutes…and I gagged from the stench for 7 and a half of that. Thanks to Rod (my camera man who is also celebrating 15 yrs) for trying to help me get through it. If you can stomach it..here’s the raw footage.
There are countless other stories that stick out. My trip to the Philippines. Visiting the Oiler’s and Eskimo’s locker rooms where I saw way more than just the play books (blush). Breaking down in tears doing the story of a couple married for 60 years who died within 24 hours of each other. (for which I received an AMPIA award)
As many characters as I have interviewed…I have worked with just as many. Sadly, I must admit this TV station has been a revolving door of talent. There are only a handful of original employees.
Drew (now a Mountie) used to sing the A-Team theme song when passing cars on the highway.
Brian (CTV Edmonton) was outside taping a live hit when he clotheslined a thug being chased by police outside the station.
Frank (Franh-k), a German camera man was sent to get shots of Peter Pocklington at the court house during his legal problems a few years back. Frank didn’t know who Peter Pocklington was, but he saw a photo before he left. He went up to a grey haired man, and in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger he said ”Are you Peter Pocklington?” The man said no. But the 5 seconds of video Frank took…said yes. It was indeed the wily Peter Pocklington.
Rob (CTV Vancouver) was reporting on a minimum wage increase. In an attempt at humour Rob said at the end of his taped stand-up, “minimum wage is going up and A-Channel employees couldn’t be happier.” It was not for public consumption. Mistakes were made. It made it to air. Bosses were not happy. However, it still makes me laugh.
We also lost a few people over the last 15 years. Erika Linder was a young, beautiful traffic reporter on Big Breakfast. In 1999, she was killed by a drunk driver while on vacation with her husband. Who knows where her talent would have taken her. And there’s Rick Taylor, a short camera man with the biggest heart. He always had a smile and routinely came in with sundaes for the weekend crew. He passed away from a heart attack while on a shoot west of Edmonton.
There was the bomb sent to the station in 1999 that went off right next to me. You can read more about that here. Also there was a six month strike in 2003. I was out on the picket line with most of my co-workers. But many of my friends stayed inside and continued to work. That was one of the toughest times for this station…and led to huge changes that eventually gutted our news programming.
We have had our challenges. Like many media outlets, we have gone through many layoffs. But I must say, I have loved working here over the last 15 years. I guess that’s why I am still here. You just hope, like with any job, you made someone’s…anyone’s life better. I know my life has been shaped by the people I interviewed, the stories I covered and the people I worked with. To all…thanks for 15 years of memories.
Finally, I want to leave you with a laugh. This building has heard my annoying, loud cackle more than a few times over the past 15 years. Here’s a few bloopers of my CKEM experience. I start with my first stand-up at NAIT, go through a couple of hair styles and shoulder pads and end with my stint as host of Breakfast Television six years ago with Bill Welychka. Just a warning, while none of the salty language made it to air…I can sometimes curse like a sailor.