Do You Know the Connection Between Western Kentucky, Two Classic Sitcoms, and One Big Hit Sitcom?
I was on board with "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" the second I heard about it way back in the day and started thinking about how many degrees I am away from, well, just about any celebrity or even politician.
You can do that with just about anything, and that's what we're doing today. Only I won't need six degrees to make a connection between western Kentucky and three sitcoms--two that I consider classic and one that's a big hit right now.
WESTERN KENTUCKY, DESIGNING WOMEN, AND YOUNG SHELDON
On this website, I have expressed my preference for Designing Women over The Golden Girls, two sitcoms that ran concurrently in the 1980s. The Golden Girls was the MUCH bigger hit and, to this day, has as high a profile as it ever did. In GG, you had four incredible talents who were good at delivering jokes and nailing punchlines. It doesn't get much better than Bea Arthur and Betty White in that department. But with Designing Women, creator and writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason infused her pet project with authentic southern ambiance. There were hardly any punchlines to be nailed, just dialogue that was incredibly representative of living in the south. Pork rinds, Sunday school, Bobbie Gentry songs, singing "How Great Thou Art" at church. And there were more, and likely they were topics to which a good deal of the show's fans couldn't relate. But Bloodworth-Thomason was a southern girl and it really came through in her writing. One of that show's stars, Annie Potts, who is also currently a regular cast member on Young Sheldon, a hit CBS prequel to that network's blockbuster The Big Bang Theory, was actually raised in Franklin, Kentucky, just about a 90-minute drive from Owensboro. It's also a town for which I am very thankful since it offers a huge selection of roadside service areas and restaurants on Interstate 65 between Bowling Green and Nashville. When you drive by, wave at Annie. (No, she's not there, but she WAS.)
WESTERN KENTUCKY AND WKRP IN CINCINNATI, PART I
You could say my career in radio can be partially attributed to WKRP in Cincinnati, a comedy that aired on CBS from 1978 to 1982. While it was never a very big hit, it was one of the most authentically-written series of its time. Even today, I marvel at how much attention was paid to the details and minutiae of the radio business. Terminology that a lot of people wouldn't know was employed and perhaps that's why audiences drifted away from it over time. And even if it WASN'T a huge hit, it will always be a part of our Thanksgiving celebrations.
Regardless, it's amazing and because of my love for the show, I went all "fanboy" on a couple of occasions when two stars of that critically-acclaimed series made appearances in Owensboro and for very different reasons.
The late Gordon Jump, who played station manager Arthur Carlson on the show, spent a good deal of the last stages of his career as the iconic Maytag repairman in a number of commercials. In 1999, he made an appearance at Green River Appliance when its main showroom was on the corner of 14th and Daviess Streets. And I have his autographed picture hanging on my office wall. (Copyright issues prohibit me from embedding it here.) I also sat next to him later that afternoon at a luncheon hosted by the Owensboro Country Club and I couldn't eat for bending his ear about the show. I was probably annoying.
WESTERN KENTUCKY AND WKRP IN CINCINNATI, PART II
A few years later, RiverPark Center in downtown Owensboro played host to the Mystery Writers' Fest, during which actor Gary Sandy, who played the program director Andy Travis on WKRP, participated in a screenplay reading of Ed McBain's The Final Curtain. I was sitting in the third row and couldn't believe I was in the same room as yet ANOTHER cast member from WKRP in Cincinnati.
It rarely happens that I get starstruck, but it did on those two occasions. That's how much the show meant to me.
And how cool is it that Annie Potts spent so much of her youth just a few miles down the road?
If I can find western Kentucky connections to stuff, I will usually be all over it. It's like an adventure.