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Me (and Eskola, Carr and Dane Smith) half a lifetime ago

Tom Oszman has become the analog-to-digital news archivist of the Twin Cities, but his TCMediaNow site usually picks on professionals: puffy-haired ’80s anchorvixens, their checked-suited male counterparts, and an endless parade of overearnest reporters.

But now, Tom is going after video amateurs. Somehow, he has unearthed the archives of St. Paul’s public access cable network and the catalog of “The Facts … as we know them,” which remains the best title of any show I’ve appeared on.

This early 1984 “Facts” episode was vehicle for a bunch of guys on the make: WCCO-AM’s Eric Eskola, still two years away from hosting “Almanac” and less cool and composed than he would become; the Twin Cities Reader’s David Carr, even then the personality tornado who would capture Internet fans two decades later as the New York Times’ “Carpetbagger”; and the Pioneer Press’ Dane Smith, about to be reassigned from St. Paul City Hall to the Washington bureau. (Yes, the PiPress once had a Washington bureau.)

The slouchy, seat-shifting, high-collared guy with the hockey stick nose is a 24-year-old me; I was a Channel 11 assignment editor back then.

While I don’t expect anyone but the principals and my mom to watch the full 30-minute clip, it’s a historical hoot. We chew over Walter Mondale’s impending presidential meltdown — to Gary Hart, not Ronald Reagan. (Mondale had just lost the New Hampshire primary.) Following Eskola’s Hunter S. Thompson tale, Carr discusses the crushing boredom of covering then-U.S. Senate candidate Joan Growe, and Smith opines about fighting between St. Paul Mayor George Latimer and City Council member Vic Tedesco.

My contribution was scene-setting the impending demolition of the Norwest Bank Building for “another office complex … bigger than the World Trade Center in St. Paul. Rumor has it it’s going to be prettier than City Center, and bigger than the IDS.”

Carr’s a bit skeptical that the architect, a guy named Pelli, can capture a Prairie sensibility, but we all know how the Wells Fargo Tower worked out.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Richard Parker on 04/21/2010 - 04:13 pm.

    I thought the show had Gene Shalit as a celebrity host — until he started talking.

  2. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 04/21/2010 - 05:33 pm.

    I never knew Eric Eskola was so cool! Too bad I was -2 at the time.

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/21/2010 - 06:46 pm.

    That was one neat time warp here…media ‘youngsters’ once, but wise beyond their years, indeed…still, got one question…whose mom in what car pool drove you all home?

  4. Submitted by Chris Johnson on 04/22/2010 - 11:39 am.

    Eric Eskola — cool? He’s stuck in 1977, but it’s 1984.

    And swivel chairs on a set filled with nervous people on TV: bad idea.

  5. Submitted by Andy Driscoll on 05/06/2010 - 07:04 pm.

    Now, David, this late to the party, but that’s a great tape. You actually look a bit brooding. Was that the case. Or was Carr beginning to get to you?

    Smith never changes.

    Fun stuff. Thanks. Been to the Archives site now and find great numbers of old video I can recall viewing in real time back when. Problem is – very little by way of radio archives. Have to help Tom work on that.


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