Ron Stutts Retrospective

Last week WCHL celebrated the 35th Anniversary of Ron Stutts’ start at the station. Surely you noticed, with all the on-the-air promos and all the guests and surprises in the studio last Friday morning.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt declared it Ron Stutts week in Chapel Hill. Former mayor of Chapel Hill Howard Lee and his wife Lillian came in to express their appreciation. Chapel Hill police chief Chris Blue and fire chief Dan Jones came in and presented Ron with a First Responders T-shirt, since ‘CHL seems to usually be first to inform the community of dangers and natural disasters, such as the devastating December 2002 ice storm that hit the area just a few weeks after the station “came back” to Chapel Hill from Durham. Former Carrboro mayor and current state senator Ellie Kinnaird came in to thank Ron for his service.

Ron with Ellie Kinnaird and Freddie Kiger (Photo Credit: Richard Taylor)

There were dozens more, including phone calls and appearances from some of Ron’s on-the-air compatriots from years past. Of course, Ron’s regular cronies Dr. Wayne Pond and Freddie Kiger were there with humor and insight as well. WCHL station manager Christy Dixon and owner Barry Leffler orchestrated all the celebrations. Numerous promos ran on-air all week.
As we ponder Mister Stutts’ contributions, we are blessed to have Ron and his comedic cast of characters to wake us up weekdays, compared to the formulaic morning zoo madness heard on most radio stations nationwide. Sure, Ron gives us the news, so aptly prepared by Aaron Keck and the award-winning ‘CHL news department. But Ron informs us and entertains us as well.
He’s a master at the control board and produces the show himself. That would take three jobs in New York or L.A.
Ron knows how to laugh at himself. When he makes a rare mistake, Ron includes us, his listeners, as he owns the joke and rolls on. Most listeners don’t realize all the preparation and behind-the-scenes work Ron performs each day to make the next day’s show sing. He schedules Commentators like me to give our best 90 seconds. He finds our daily Hometown Heroes, produces their stories and even brings in Pets of the Week. He emcees dozens of local events and charities each year and records numerous station spots and promos. Sure, Ron is the voice of WCHL, but he’s also the voice of the local community as well.
So, thanks for your longevity, Ron Stutts. You’re just as much a Hometown Hero as anyone Gerald Ramoin ever put in the spotlight. You’re the glue that holds us together, and we really appreciate it.

See you on the radio.

Ron Stutts’ 35th Anniversary July 27, 2012 (Photo Credit: Richard Taylor)

Re-Lighting the Night Sky

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote how I lauded the decision to cancel Chapel Hill’s annual fireworks display.  While the economy is only inching its way back and can not yet be called healthy and while town leaders are certainly still making tough choices, this year I write that it was wonderful to have fireworks burst again over Kenan Stadium.

Why the change of heart?  Because this year, in an acknowledgement that we’re all in this life and this town and this country together, lots of different people found a way to share the burden.  Donations at the stadium contributed about $8,000 toward the approximate $42,000.  That 8-thousand came from suggested donations of $-$5 so that means an awful lot of people dug into their pocket.
More help came from some local businesses at the prodding of a really wonderful guy (full disclosure: I married him!):  Barry Leffler, CEO of WCHL and worked with the town to raise money from the following businesses: 

Money isn’t the only way people helped bring back a terrific celebration: Police and fire departments for both Chapel Hill and Carrboro report no incidents that evening suggesting that whether people gave money and/or good behavior, they contributed to a wonderful birthday party for the nation. 
Could this idea of working together to find solutions seep out of our terrific town and creep, if not to Washington, then maybe to Raleigh?  I don’t really think so but maybe next year I’ll once again be writing to tell you that things have changed since last year!
Did you enjoy the fireworks?  Are there other opportunities for joint solutions you’d like to suggest?  Write to me at or leave a comment below.

The Rite of Spring at 100

The Carolina Performing Arts presented a sneak peek of their 2012-2013 schedule to a gathering of their most ardent supporters last Wednesday evening May 16, 2012 at Memorial Hall on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Executive Director, Emil Kang, took us all on a historical journey to 100 years ago. Here in the United States the Girl Scouts had just been founded by Juliette Gordon Low and the famous cherry trees were being planted by the hundreds in Washington, DC. Meanwhile across the Atlantic in Paris, France a shocking and revolutionary artistic performance would be about to radically change music, ballet and art forever.

Kang animatedly explained to us all about the night of May 29, 1912 at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The piece is about ancient rituals that mankind traditionally used to supplant the land and spirits to produce abundance as they emerged from winter to spring. The work displayed outrageous costumes, unusual choreography and a disconcerting story line about the pagan sacrifice of a young girl to appease the Gods. Everything about it was different– Stravinsky’s score featured a bassoon solo played in a higher range than anyone else had ever done; the ballet choreography was the reverse of the basic position with feet turned in rather than out; and it is said that the dissonant harmonies and jarring, irregular rhythms invoked an actual riot among the audience. 

Carolina Performing Arts is presenting Rite 100 in partnership with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences and Institute for the Arts and Humanities. This celebration will feature 11 new works, nine world premieres (yes, you read that right!) and two U.S. premieres by some of the most talented artists of today. The people who attended the event on May 16 are supporters of the arts who, along with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, make it possible for a quaint town like Chapel Hill to be revered arts destination. The Rite of Spring shattered everyone’s expectations as will, I believe, this year’s incredible line-up of performances at Memorial Hall.

Be sure to view the new schedule or support Carolina Performing Arts.

Raymond B. Farrow, III, the Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives with Betty Kenan.

From left to right Betsy Hayes, Cliff Butler and Mary Moore.

Chapelboro’s own Jan Bollick and Art Chansky.

From left to right Susan Slatkoff, Ron Strauss, Emil Kang and Bruce Carney.

From left to right WCHL owners Barry Leffler and Jim Heavner with Woody Coley.

Be sure to look for this amazing bus around Chapelboro!

Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented please write to me at

How to Photograph Tweens

A tween is the stage between middle childhood and adolescence, so from roughly 9 to 12 years of age.  This can be an awkward stage as tweens bodies and minds are changing rapidly in fits and starts. They are not little children and are not yet teenagers. They are busy transitioning in mental, emotional, hormonal and physical ways. My own daughter, Amira, is at this stage. Sometimes she is still my little girl and other times she epitomizes sassiness. I joke that if she continues to roll her eyes at me they might just get stuck that way!

Recently I was asked to photograph a tween named Josh Leffler, who is beginning middle school next year. His parents, Donnabeth and Barry, realized that they had many portraits taken of Josh when he was younger but had slacked off in recent years. Many families fall into this trap! They record every moment of their child’s early years and then don’t photograph them again until they are about to graduate from high school. What about all of those years in between? So, I thought I would write some helpful hints on how to photograph tweens.

Collaborate with the Tween

Before I even came to photograph Josh I asked his mom to consult him about what he wanted to do for his portrait.  I made it clear that this would be best if we all collaborated. He decided that he would like to have his everyday home life and hobbies documented. Even at his young age he realized that this would be an important document that he would look back on as an adult. Before we even began photographing, Josh led me on a tour of his domain. His mom stayed busy at the computer, leaving us alone to talk. The most important work of this portrait involved talking and getting to know Josh, rather than immediately diving into photographing him and ordering him around.  Josh came up with the idea for the photo above. Love it!

Speak to the Tween like They are an Adult

If you have ever met Josh Leffler, you might think he is an adult in a boy’s body. So intelligent and charming! Tweens respond well to adults who speak to them with respect rather than talking down to them. This was not hard to do with Josh as he is so well spoken. We talked about photography, computers and literature. He admires Steve Jobs and loves to read. He even has started an information technology from his Mac. The photos above are an homage to his idol.

Try to Avoid Posing

Even when I was going in for a more traditional portrait I lightly directed Josh to move around. He and I chose a spot with pretty scenery and nice light and I asked him to turn to the side then look at me. Once they stop moving that first frame you quickly snap is crucial! After they are posing for just a second they start to look staged and stiff. I wanted to capture him like he really is, not with a canned smile. So I had him keep moving around. I told him I was trying to figure out which was his best side.

Don’t Forget Mom and Dad

While your tween is busy changing, you are, too. When your child has grown to be an adult they will want to see their loving parents in photographs as well. Don’t worry if it is a bad hair day or if you don’t feel like it, just jump in there. Both Donnabeth and Barry were more than happy to get in a photo with Josh. No arm twisting here. This whole process took less than an hour. A tween’s attention span is longer than a toddler’s but don’t push it! Now get out there and document your lovely tween before you blink your eyes and they are off to college.

Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented please write to me at

Why I Support Butch Davis… and the Right to Other Opinions

Guest Column by Barry Leffler

Butch Davis should remain the Head Football Coach at Carolina.

Until it is proven Davis knew about John Blake and his egregious wrongdoings… the coach should stay right where he is leading the great young men who represent our hometown university.
I have known Butch Davis and reported on him since his days as an assistant coach in Miami during the 80’s and 90’s when I worked in local television there. I have seen firsthand how he cleaned up a scandal-plagued program, emotionally and physically scarred by cheaters and wrongdoing.  Davis took control and cleaned it all up.  He did it the right way… and I believe he is doing it the right way at UNC
Locally, I have also seen firsthand his commitment to our community and how he pours his heart into giving back and giving of himself to help countless charities and nonprofits many of us hold dear.  The dozens of causes Davis and his family support strengthens the fabric of the community.
I also support the University and how it has handled this awful period for the school. 
The decision by Chancellor Holden Thorp to not make any rash decisions about Davis and his status until all the facts have been determined is wise.   Duke University is paying the price (literally, in multi-millions of dollars) for jumping to the wrong conclusion about its Lacrosse coach and players.  Had Thorp been running the ship at Duke…  those accused of wrongdoing would have been saved a lot of pain and suffering.
Baddour has invested an incredible amount of time in a commitment to ensuring the investigation is handled properly and without outside influence.  His dedication to understanding what went wrong and fixing broken systems is admirable.
I have the upmost confidence that Thorp and Baddour will do the right thing in regard to Davis’ employment once the facts are determined once and for all.
So if the current “Notice of Allegations” are all true, does that add up to enough to warrant the dismissal of the coach?  My opinion is “no”.
If the final findings determine that Davis did indeed know about what John Blake was doing and covered it up, should he be fired.  My opinion is “absolutely”.
And that leads me to a question of even greater importance:  Does everyone have the right to express his or her own opinion in a public forum such as this one?  Do we want to live in a community where we can express ourselves openly and freely without retribution?  Should those with a differing opinion have the same rights to rebut and express them?
Absolutely. 100%.
As the co-owner of WCHL and, I feel it is imperative to provide platforms where members of our community can express themselves… even if those opinions are controversial.  And just as important is providing the platforms for those with a contradictory opinion to argue, discuss and debate.  My hope is that these exchanges will be civil and handled with respect.  Respect not necessarily for the author but respect for the right to offer views… even if they differ widely from our own.
Earlier this week Art Chansky published an opinion column on calling for Davis to be fired before the season.  Agree or not… Chansky was not spouting racism or anti-semitism or other hate-based speech.  He was not attacking a private person. 
I don’t agree with what Chansky wrote.  I don’t think the Ohio State case is comparable.
But he is far from the first person in our community who thinks what has gone on with the UNC football program is egregious enough that the Coach and Athletic Director should lose their jobs over it.
This topic is being discussed in every sports bar in town… make that every bar and restaurant in town.  Not to mention the groups by the pool, over the grill… and, of course, online.  How could as a community forum not be part of this conversation?  How could we here at Chapelboro and WCHL be relevant to you if we didn’t take on the tough questions?  Residents were equally passionate about whether to move the library to University Mall.  Chapelboro wasn’t online yet but I would hope that had it been, it would have offered a platform for all opinions.  
In the last 24 hours I received some questions about why WCHL and Chapelboro would allow Chansky to express himself via our platforms.
At the end of the day, whether Chansky is biased… or bitter… or a bad person… is irrelevant.
What truly matters is that we provide the opportunity for differing viewpoints to be heard… and for rebuttal to take place.
I am now offering that rebuttal.  I have told many people (including Art Chansky) how Butch Davis brought accountability and respectability to my alma mater when he coached Miami.  I believe in him.  
I believe also that this is a great place to live because people are passionate about their towns, their teams and, yes, their liberties.  
Please continue the discussion the “Comments” section below.
We welcome your opinion on this and any other topic. To write a guest commentary… or be considered for an on-going Local Buzz column, contact