Silver Circle

emmypodiumIt’s a thrill for me to join friends like Charley Johnson and Bill and Marietta Ekberg and others like Pat Miles and Don Shelby in the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Association of Television Art and Science’s Silver Circle. The award is given for 25 years or more of service to the television industry. Congratulations to fellow inductees Tim Seaman of KCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa, and Brendan Henehan of Twin Cities PBS.

Below is the little acceptance speech I gave this weekend in Minneapolis at the Emmy gala.

“First, I would like to say a word of thanks,especially to those of you who were here last year. Last year, our little newsroom, WDAZ  in Grand Forks won an Emmy for Team Coverage. It was the first Emmy the station had ever been nominated for, or won, it in its almost 50-year history. And all of you were so nice to us. You bought us drinks. And you talked to us. And you made us feel so much a part of this Emmy community. It meant a great deal to our mostly young staff. It meant a great deal to me as well. So, thank you.

“This award is… ridiculous.  Ridiculous in the very best way. My first thought when J.J. called to tell me I would be getting it was that the judges must have been drunk out of their minds at the time!

“Be that as it may, I’m not giving it back. But I do want to share it with a couple of people who happen to be sitting at my table this evening.

“First, Julie Moravchik, the last news director I worked with in a fairly long television career. Julie taught me a great deal. Not so much about news, I suppose, difficult as it is to teach an old dog new tricks.

“But Julie taught me a great deal about friendship. She taught me that you can be as tenacious a news director as ever walked into a newsroom, that you can care most about getting the story fast and first, but at the same time, you can care an equal amount about each member of your staff as individuals… as people.

“I also want to share this with another woman sitting at my table. (You should know, I like women.) She is my roommate, my best friend and my current wife, not necessarily in that order, Ginny Dullum. Ginny spent way too many nights home alone over the years, way too many holidays, too many weekends home alone, while I was out somewhere doing the work that I loved. Ginny, I share this with you.

“And finally, to another woman who is not at our table tonight, my 94-year-old mother who passed away a couple of weeks ago. My mother never understood the news business, I don’t think. And I don’t think she ever understood the people in the news business, including her own son. But she was always greatly amused by all of it. So mom, this is for you too.

“Thank you all very much for this.  I accept this honor with a great deal of humility and much gratitude.”


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On Eagles’ Wings

Someone asked me this week if I ever covered a Papal visit. Not one in the U.S., but on September 16, 1984, I covered Pope John Paul II’s visit to Winnipeg for WDAY and WDAZ. It was part of a very long Canadian visit for John Paul, and a fairly historic one, marking the first time a Pope had ever set foot on Canadian soil.

What I remember most is the size of the crowd waiting to be a part of John Paul’s Sunday Mass. I don’t recall the numbers, but the audience was so large it was to me, at different times, awesome and a little scary. Positioned, as we were, on top of a scaffold several stories high on a fairly breezy day didn’t make it any less scary.

popejohnpaulA Papal visit is a series of “moments,” for the crowd and for the cameras. To me, the most memorable Winnipeg moment was the Pope’s “entrance” to the Birds Hill Park grounds in the Pope mobile.

The song sung by a huge, mass choir just as the Pope arrived at the site was “On Eagles’ Wings.” It was relatively new at the time, written about 1975. I had never heard it before. It’s a beautiful song and powerful. It was a powerful moment too, at least for me.

Since then, “On Eagles’ Wings” has become a favorite of mine. Every time I hear it now I think of John Paul and Winnipeg.  It was played the other day at my mom’s funeral. Now, I’m sure, I’ll think of that day too when I hear it.

It has become hugely popular among nearly all denominations and recorded by Josh Grobin, among others. I love the music and I love the lyrics.

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand…

I wish I’d written that.

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Bears on Patrol

patrolbearAt first when they arrived at the North Dakota Highway Patrol office in Grand Fork, some of the bears seemed a little apprehensive.  But then when they found out how nice everybody is they relaxed a little bit.

whitebearsA few words of explanation. My mother used to collect Teddy Bears, especially white ones. When she died last month we decided that the bears should come out of retirement and go to work for the Highway Patrol. We bought a few new ones to round out their numbers. They will ride along with patrol officers until some little guy or girl needs a bear hug. We think it will be a win-win situation.

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peteSaddened to learn of the passing of long-time WDAY promotions director Roy “Pete” Peterson.

I didn’t know Roy personally. I wish I had. I did know his work. He played a huge role in shaping WDAY’s identity as a station in its early days, as well as how we think of NDSU and the city of Fargo today.

Working behind the cameras, with more than a little P.T. Barnum in him, Roy made sure that names like Bill, Dewey, Verna, Boyd and Marv stayed in front of the public for decades.

In one memorable filmed promotion for WDAY, he directed a local “actor” as he took (to my recollection) a forward summersault down the open stairway of the Townhouse Motel in Fargo to promote the station’s new “fall” television season. Mercifully, he got what he wanted in one “take.” Today the lawyers would put a stop to such a stunt before it even reached the talking stage.

But when I think of Roy I will always picture him on top of a cherry picker on a chilly May day lining up a hundred or more local high school marching bands on one of WDAY’s Band Festival days in the mid 1960’s. Megaphone in hand, it was, “Hillsboro, you’re up next. Davenport, stand-up.”

Somehow he got thousands of high school musicians on live television and later fed (probably a hot dog and chips) at the Fargo Civic Auditorium and entertained by Dick Dunkirk’s Strangers.

I defy anyone to pull off something like that today.

Rest in peace, Roy. As the children say, you were awesome.

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A Moving Story

Yesterday, a couple of very big, very strong guys (relatives, actually) helped us move my mother’s possessions out of the Hillsboro home where she lived for almost 60 years.

It reminded me of the time in Bismarck when we hired two movers to help us with some of the furniture in Ginny’s mother’s home after Hazel died.

The movers were a married couple who traveled the country in their own rig. Interesting job, really.

They had just come from moving Johnny Carson’s mother in law across the country to California.

I asked them if they got to meet Mr. Carson. Yes, they did.

I asked them if he tipped them. Yes, he did. A thousand dollars.

I’m afraid the two very big, very strong guys didn’t get that much of a tip from me yesterday.

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In one of my mother’s closets, our family found some items she wanted in her funeral. We found them the day AFTER her funeral, of course. They included the Bible passage and poem below. We can’t turn back time and use them in her service, but we can place them here.


Psalm 121

     Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep.

I lift up my eyes to the hills;

     from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord,

     the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved

     and he who watches over you will not sleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

     shall neither slumber not sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you;

     the Lord is your shade at your right hand,

so that the sun shall not strike you by day,

     nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;

     it is he who shall keep you safe.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

     from this forth forevermore.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber not sleep.



Don’t grieve for me… for now I’m Free.

I’m following the path God laid for me.

I took His hand when I heard Him call

I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day

to laugh, to love, to work or play.

Tasks undone must stay that way.

For I found peace at close of day.

If my parting has left a void

then fill it with remembered joy.

A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss

Yes, there are the things I too will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow.

I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.

My life’s been full, I savored much

Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.

Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.

Lift up your hear and share with me

God wanted me now

He set me free.

momsingleHilda Bagstad


Late Night Lists

It’s been quite the (traumatic) year for those of us who enjoy the late night talk shows, what with the recent departures of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show and David Letterman from The Late Show.  Earlier, Craig Ferguson from The Late Late Show. And earlier still, Jay Leno from The Tonight Show.

It seemed like a good time to pick up a copy of Jon Macks’ new book Monologue. Besides, it’s summer and who can focus on anything? Macks survived all twenty-two years of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show reign as one of the comedian’s top writers.

monologueHe quotes the Center for Media and Public Affairs’ list of Leno’s top political topics during his twenty-two Tonight Show years. Here are the top five followed by the number of jokes done of the show on each subject.

  1. Bill Clinton:  4,607
  2. George W. Bush:  3,239
  3. Al Gore:  1,026
  4. Barack Obama: 1,011
  5. Hillary Clinton:  939

Also the center’s list of Mr. Leno’s top pop culture figures. (This is what they do at the center, I guess.)

  1. O.J. Simpson:  795
  2. Michael Jackson: 505
  3. Martha Stewart: 208
  4. Paris Hilton: 153
  5. Lindsay Lohan: 153

What can we learn from this? I’ll get back to you.

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Lynn Anderson

lynn andersonCountry music star Lynn Anderson left us this week, much too soon. She died at the age of 67.

“(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden” became a gigantic cross-over hit in the early 1970’s. In her career, she had a dozen number one hits. She won a Grammy and seven Grammy nominations. Twice she was named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year and Billboard’s Female Artist of the Decade (1970 – 1980). Not bad.

Her songwriting parents, Casey and Liz Anderson, were Nashville royalty themselves. Although her own life wasn’t always a rose garden, there’s no doubt that Lynn Anderson’s success helped create a first wave of popularity for country music’s “Nashville sound.”

Once I spent part of an evening talking with the Grand Forks native in the green room of the Chester Fritz Auditorium. She told me wonderful show business stories (some in confidence). One about fellow North Dakotan Lawrence Welk inviting her “to come and sing on “da show.” At one time those weekly appearances were the only country music heard regularly on network television.

There is a beautiful rose garden on the grounds of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Guess who paid for it. RIP, Lynn.

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Peg Lynch


I thought I knew everything. But until I read Mike Sacks’ terrific new book about comedy writing called Poking a Dead Frog, I had never heard the name Peg Lynch.  Even though in her day she was a huge star.

She was a comedy performer on radio and later television in the 1940’s and 1950’s. But her even larger talent was as a writer. She claimed to have singled-handed written more than twenty thousand scripts for her enormously popular series Ethel and Albert. That’s not a typo. Twenty thousand.

At one point she was writing two 15-minute shows everyday. (I got anxious just writing that last sentence.) Apparently her bosses didn’t know the meaning of the word re-run.

A Minnesota native, Peg Lynch died Friday. She was still writing comedy at the age of 98.

Lynch graduated from the University of Minnesota, then worked for a local radio station in Rochester where she interviewing celebrities like Knute Rockne and Ernest Hemingway who came through the Mayo Clinic where her mother worked as a head nurse. Peg wrote commercial copy and farm news and eventually entertainment programs.

In 1937, long before Seinfeld, she too began writing a “show about nothing,” Ethel and Albert. Long on conversation between a married couple, but with less in the way of “action,” over the years it would be heard on ABC, CBS and NBC radio and, for a time, seen on television.

Unheard of today, of course, she wrote every word of every script herself. Peg Lynch was one of the first women to write, star in and own her own comedy series. It goes without saying, I guess, but she was something.

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Kim Holmes

Grand Forks does things a little differently sometimes. For example, instead of buildings, it names “lift stations” after people like Marilyn Hagerty and Dave Barry.

A new tradition now, perhaps. Last night the alley that runs behind Sanders 1907 restaurant was renamed “Kim Holmes Alley of Love.”

To me it seems like just yesterday that Kim rolled into town on his chopper and established Sanders. In fact, it was 1985.

It quickly became the place to go for special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays. But Kim once told me he also wanted it to be a comfortable spot where people could go to relax and have fun.

Kim, who favored Zubaz at work, retired from the nightly grind a few months ago, kept it lively. I always called him He Who Wears Crazy Pants (behind his back, of course.)

Over the years Kim has always been my “go to” guy when I wanted to illustrate just about anything food-related on television.  National Pizza Day? Call Kim.  They’re going to be serving chocolate-covered bacon on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair this year? Call Kim.  To date, that last one, a chocolate-covered Dullum File segment has gotten 25,769 hits on YouTube.

Sanders restaurant, in three–soon to be four Grand Forks different locations–has been enormously successful. What fewer people know is how generous Kim has been in donating his services to charities and causes around town.

One little example. A few years back I emceed an Oscar viewing party at the Empire Arts Center. The event’s organizing committee decided it needed some appetizers. Call Kim. I thought some cocktail weenies in a nice sauce, perhaps. Kim showed up (on his Sunday night off) with a table of food that I’m sure would rivaled Wolfgang Puck’s that year at the Oscars. No kidding.

Kim has become a booster for all things Grand Forks, and a good one. He richly deserves the alley that now bears his name. Thanks for everything, pal.


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