Beanery Online Literary Magazine

November 14, 2010

Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Part 1—The Real Thing



Kathleen Clark

     Not fifteen minutes, but fifteen seconds of celebrity!

     It had been dry and hot for at least a fortnight in my Southwestern Pennsylvania neighborhood. No rain fell until the fishtail of Hurricanes Gustav and Hannah rumbled through on an early morning in September.

     Lightening slashed across the sky while the reluctant heavens finally showered a sprinkling of rain.Some wind swiped the trees, but nothing drastic. Waking up around 9:00 a.m., I reached to flip on the bathroom light – nothing! The power was out. I’d no idea when it happened.

     I dressed, gathered the garbage and headed to the dumpster. Allegheny Power trucks were in the parking lot and a couple guys out back were attempting to find the cause of the power outage, The generator lid popped open.

     Walking across the lot, I spotted a WTAE-Pittsburgh Channel 4 media van pulling in. I cautiously approached the lady getting out, a cameraman tailing behind her.

     “What brings a news van here ?” I asked, curiosity consuming me.

     “There’s a rather widespread power outage and we’re reporting on the areas affected,” the woman informed me.

     “Hmmm! I woke up to no power – so when did it go out and what areas are affected? And you are?”

     “Jennifer Miele, WTAE news,” she said extending her hand.

     Other than knowing it was some news person, I couldn’t have guessed she was a professional media person. Dark sun glasses hid her face. She swept her hand across highlighted blond hair, inquiring if I lived here.

     “Yes, for many years,” I replied.

     “Would you mind if we interviewed you?” Jen asked.

     Startled, but a tad starved for attention, I’d consented before I realized I was wearing a really faded, ratty looking tee top.

     “Umm, sure, I’d be delighted, but . . .could I PLEASE run upstairs and change this top? I never expected to run into the news media when I came down to empty the garbage!”

     “Sure, we’ll be here for while, so go ahead,” Jen said. Whew!

     Dashing up three flights of steps, I quick-changed into an outfit I had already laid out, since I was meeting a friend for lunch shortly after noon. When I returned I told her I really didn’t know a whole lot—like when the electric actually went out, nor whether more than our immediate apartment complex in New Stanton was affected by the outage.

     Jennifer informed me Greensburg, Youngwood, Mt. Pleasant and Hunker were out. Later, I learned only two of the three apartment buildings in my complex were in blackout—the others were wired into a separate electric line.

     I’d never spoken in front of a news camera before, but felt only slightly uneasy. Jen raised the mike and before turning it on (the cameraman focusing to my right) she said, “Just look at me. Talk to me and don’t turn or worry about the camera. You‘ll do fine.”

     Jennifer asked the questions, I answered as the camera whirred. Standing on the front lawn, speaking normally, hands clasped in front of me, I answered her questions. While I gave her at least five minutes of interview, the clip aired on the WTAE 5:00 p.m. broadcast only lasted fifteen to twenty seconds. That’s why they’re called clips

     But there I was—actually on TV!  I sounded funny to myself—like my voice sounded on one of those old push-button tape recorders. Secretly, I was glad I’d just cut and colored my hair! 

     Thus, on an unexpected September morning, I became a “fifteen second celebrity.” I called what friends I could to notify them I was appearing on the evening news. My clip ONLY appeared on the 5:00 p. m. news. The 6:00 p.m. broadcast featured another neighbor with two children. By 11:00 p.m. no mention was made of the power outage. Other news stories took over.


Return to the Beanery Writers Online Literary Magazine to read FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME: Part 2—WANNA BE FAME   What I’d like to be known for. . . written by Kathleen Clark.

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