World’s Biggest Snake

Awkward family pet photos, I was surprised to find a photo of myself on this website. But I must admit the picture was strange enough to qualify even if the snake wasn’t my pet. I tell the story of me & the world’s largest snake, and how “Fluffy” came to be slithering across my body this week on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.” The story & the snake are in this video.

Dorothy Donegan Milt Hinton Jam

Throwback Thursday. Old clip of great jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan & famous slap bass musician Milton Hinton jamming at out house in N.J. in ’93.  Didn’t have mics set up or my good cameras, but you can still get a sense of what an exceptional performer she was, who deserved even greater recognition outside jazz circles.  She did perform at the White House that same year & wearing the same sequined Chanel cap she had on in this video.

World’s Best Polar Bear viewing

Polar bear tours in Churchill, Canada, a fall alternative to the usual trips of going someplace to watch the leaves change colors. On National Geographic Weekend I tell the story of my Halloween with polar bears & the story of the world’s foremost expert in polar bear posteriors.

Polar Bear Wrestlemania

Erica Matson is in Churchill, Canada this month working on a show about polar bears. That’s where I filmed one of my 1st stories for National Geographic.  The circle of life keeps on spinning. Here’s a video from my last trip to Churchill with lots of bears wrestling showing why Churchill is the best place for viewing polar bears.

Every fall polar bears gather near Churchill Manitoba, Canada waiting for the waters of Hudson Bay to freeze. The males spend part of that down time wrestling, sparing with each other.  This video shows some of the action with the bears standing on their hind legs, pushing, and shoving and fighting like big furry versions of Hulk Hogan and the Rock facing off in a cage match.

Elvis is Everywhere

Elvis died on the toilet Aug. 16th, 1977. Every year on the anniversary fans come to Memphis & Graceland to mark the occasion.  A surprising number of his fans feel the best way to pay their respects is to come dressed as Elvis and sing some of his songs in their best Karaoke voice while trying to duplicate one of the King’s signature moves.  A particular favorite is to lay down on the stage and roll around while singing, something that Elvis once did in a concert, a move he would most assuredly regret if he could see the spectacle he has spawned.

I went several times to cover the festivities as NBC’s Elvis correspondent and also did a report a day for the entire Elvis week for USA Today on TV.  This story from back in the day was one about the Elvis impersonators who give their own kind of tribute that usually involves several cheeseburgers, a bucket of sequins & black hair dye.

Graveyard Bingo

Shakespeare wrote, “I’ve come to bury Cesear not to praise him”, but there are tens of thousands of people every year who do just the opposite.  Long after the body has been buried, they show up at the graves of various celebrities to pay tribute and by their presence, in effect, praise the life of the departed.

Most of these pilgrimages to the grave sites of famous people are conducted by folks who’ve never bothered to visit the graves of their own relatives after the funeral.  And yet if they are in, say, Seattle then Jimi Hendrix fans will make an effort to locate the cemetery where he’s buried and drop by to see grave, and maybe leave some flowers or take a picture.

I was reminded of this second career as a tourist attraction that death provides for some celebrities when I recently visited the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where numerous famous people are buried, such as Oscar Wilde, Marcel Marceau, & Chopin.  In fact there are so many well known persons buried there, that you need a map to help you find them all.  Those maps are for sale, so  we bought one and played a kind of celebrity bingo trying to find all the celebrity tombstones.

It got me wondering which celebrity graves worldwide are the most visited, and also left me with questions about why we have such a strange fascination with going to the grave sites of people we’ve never met, and often people we never even saw in person, and sometimes people who were dead before we were even born.

Tony Bennett Still Crooning

Tony Bennett who turns 87 next week is still singing, and recording.  When I did this story with him for the Today Show in the early 80’s nobody wanted to record him anymore, but he kept performing, and the great quality of his voice could not be denied.  Eventually a new generation rediscovered Bennett and there were records and a revitalized career that continues to this day.  A tribute to one of the great crooners.

El Vez Has Not Left the Building

Elvis is alive & wearing a Mariachi outfit.  Make that El Vez, the Mexican Elvis.  I first did a story with El Vez more than 20 yrs. ago. He’s still performing and hasn’t left the building, unlike his more famous namesake. Here’s the story of the legend of El Vez which I retell this week on NGW

Elephant Bath

How do you start your workday? Cup of Coffee, check your e-mail.  Well for Marie Galloway it begins by giving the elephants a bath.  On N. G. Weekend we go to the National Zoo to check out the elephant baths.  It does involve a big hose and a push broom as you can see in this video.

Harry Connick Jr. Music Lesson

Harry Connick Jr. got a lot of attention this week for his honesty as a mentor on American Idol. His honesty & humor were on full display in 1989 when I interview him about playing jazz & the sound track for “When Harry Met Sally.”  He also showed off some serious piano chops and gave a funny critique of rock & roll, & new age music.