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Terry Dullum

Terry Dullum recently completed a nearly 40-year career as anchor, producer and reporter with WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks.  He was part of a newsroom that won a national Edward R. Murrow Award and an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award. He was the anchor and producer of WDAZ News @5.  More than eight hundred episodes of his popular video essay series, The Dullum File, aired on WDAZ and WDAY-TV in Fargo. A North Dakota native and a graduate of the University of North Dakota, he is also a popular speaker and emcee.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Mr. Warmth

Today is Don Rickles’ birthday. It’s also my mother’s birthday, but that’s another story and another post.

Don Rickles died a month ago. If you’re like me and you always wanted see him live but never did and you feel cheated, the next best thing may be to watch the terrific John Landis documentary “Mr. Warmth.”

Johnny Carson was the first to call him Mr. Warmth. It stuck. The Spanish matador music that signaled his entrance on “The Tonight Show” also meant we were all in for something good. Really good.

Like no one else, Don Rickles could say the most outrageous things to people in his audiences and somehow get away with it. Really, truly outrageous things about race, religion, war. And he kept saying them for almost 60 years. Few took offense. Many regarded a Don Rickles insult as a badge of honor.

He was also a pretty darn good actor, too. He did some good movies like “The Rat Race” with Tony Curtis and some bad (but popular) ones like the “Beach Party” movies.

He attracted friends of all ages, from Bob Newhart to Jimmy Kimmel.

He never stopped working, even at age 90.

It’s all in the documentary. Netflix it. Trust me on this one.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — 40 Years, Who’s Counting?

The picture above of Ginny and me was taken on a pretty cold day, as I recall, a little more than 40 years ago in downtown Grand Forks. Yes, it’s our engagement picture. Yes, we’ve been married for nearly 40 years. And yes, I know, I married “up.” Virtually every man does in my opinion.

When the topic of our anniversary came up with my rather youngish hairdresser the other day, she seemed stunned by the thought of 40 years together with someone. Getting married herself this fall, I think she was, in fact, rendered speechless for a second. To be honest, it’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around it myself.

Despite my many and varied flaws, I can honestly say Ginny and I have never had a fight serious enough for the word divorce to come up. Murder, yes. Divorce, no.

Ginny and I never go to bed mad at each other. We stay up until the problem is solved. Last year, we didn’t get any sleep until March!

Ginny and I are a team. I am not the captain.

I don’t try to run her life … and I don’t try to run my life.

And that’s enough of that.

OK, one more.

It’s not mine. It’s buddy Bob Zany’s. It continues to be a favorite. Introducing her at one of his comedy shows once, Bob asked Ginny how long the two of us had been married. Ginny answered with whatever the double-digit figure was at the time. Then, as only he could, Bob added, “God! Think of the sh*t she’s been through.”

We’ve never made a YUGE deal out of anniversaries, but we are going to be celebrating our “little” milestone (and a pretty big birthday for Ginny) with a cruise later this year.

In the meantime this weekend, we’ll have a quiet dinner together. That’s always the plan, anyway. When we set our wedding date all that time ago, we didn’t take into account our anniversary would land each year on what is for many area schools prom weekend. So, we’ve been fighting prom couples, many of them on their first dates, for restaurant reservations ever since. It’s almost become part of the fun.

We don’t usually exchange anniversary gifts with each other. We have enough stuff already. What we’d really like is another 40 years. Since that’s not likely to happen, we’ll settle for every single good day we can muster together.

To be sure, we’ve had lots of good days already, that pesky “in sickness and in health” part aside. No reason to think there won’t be tons more.

Oh, and thanks, Ginny, for going through all the sh*t with me.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — A Poignant Flood Story

This has never been a very easy story for me to tell. For that reason, I haven’t told it very often.

It had been a very long, very hard day. There had been a lot of April days like that during the 1997 Red River Valley flood. They were long days whether or not you were a television reporter.

It was about a week after the worst of the flooding had hit Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. That day we had covered President Clinton’s visit to Grand Forks Air Force Base, where hundreds and hundreds of people — with nowhere else to go — were being housed. It was late evening. I had talked with Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens, who was halfway back from Grand Forks by now, into returning to the base so she could be part of a television news “live shot.”

I was shot. I was ready to go home. In this case, home was a camper parked along with a half-dozen or so others in the farmyard of a couple of our friends near Thompson, N.D. Most of us at WDAZ still weren’t able to return to our actual homes because of the high water.

As I was getting ready to leave, a young man, probably in his mid-20s, approached me and said something like, “Will you please help me? I’m trying to find my girlfriend. It’s very important.”

He wasn’t the only one trying to find someone. Hundreds of people, probably more, had been displaced from family and friends in the confusion of evacuating Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, the largest evacuation of people we were told later since the Civil War.

With the internet and even cell phones in their infancy then, in the most primitive way imaginable, we had been reading messages on television, practically around the clock for several days, trying to help people reconnect.

I asked this man to write down his message to his girlfriend on a piece of paper, which I put in my pocket. Somewhat reluctantly on my way “home,” I made a stop at the station and handed the note to one of the anchors in the studio. I didn’t think any more about it.

A week later, I was back at the air base, where hundreds of people were still living. The same man again found me. This time he said, “I want to thank you for helping me locate my girlfriend. I was able to find her about an hour before my father’s funeral.”

He had told me it was important. He just hadn’t told me “why” it was important.

In the months and years since, I have come to believe that that simple, little act, which required no talent whatsoever on my part, may have been the single-most important thing I’ve ever done on television. And with no intention of trying to be overly dramatic, I also believe that in some way it may be one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Meet Me At The Bates Motel

“Bates Motel” has been one of my very favorite guilty television pleasures for the past couple of years. The A&E series is a prequel, of course, to arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular film, “Psycho.”

I saw “Psycho” back in the 1960s, when I was way too young. Apparently, they didn’t check IDs back then. Anyway, I was too young to have an ID.

Suffice it to say, after seeing the movie I was scared sleepless, maybe for more than one night. I wasn’t the only one, either. Grown women — and men —  stopped taking showers, presumably switching to baths, especially in motels and hotels after “Psycho” came out.

The A&E series has been a lot of fun. We learn a great deal about what brought Norman to his current state. Not without his problems, Norman has been in and out of a mental institution, for instance. And his relationship with his mother has been “complicated.”

It was a little disappointing to learn that, unlike the classic film, “Bates Motel” wasn’t shot on the Universal Studios lot in Hollywood, but rather the Bates Motel and the Psycho house were recreated outside Vancouver, B.C., where the series was shot. It’s cheaper that way, I guess.

In fact, with production of the show’s fifth and final season ended, the motel and house have already been taken down. So have another house and motel at Universal Orlando where several “Psycho sequels” were filmed years ago. The orginals remain as one of the most interesting parts of the Universal Studios Tour, however. The “Jaws” shark and the parting of “The 10 Commandments” sea are just not all that exciting from the tour’s tram.

Any who, the current series is hotting up, what with Marion Crane, no less, being introduced in the latest episode. Just in case you don’t know, Marion Crane is the Janet Leigh character who’s life is cut short, so to speak, in the original movie.

Pop star Rihanna plays Marion (beautifully), now a notary public in somewhat questionable, modern-day Seattle real estate firm.

If he weren’t dead himself, Hitch probably wouldn’t approve of the casting. He preferred to torment blondes like Janet and Tippi Hedren.

Unable to get a promotion or even a raise, Marion decides to walk away with a briefcase filled with $400,000 in cash — up from $40,000 in “Psycho” — that just happens to be floating around the office. She really needs the money, too, to pay for her very expensive business suits and the Mazda Miata convertible she drives.

We just know she’s headed for the Bates Motel. She makes it there, too. We know this because in the teaser for next week’s episode, we see her having a nice cup of tea with Norman in the motel office.

My advice, Marion, after you’ve finished your tea, go straight to bed. Skip the shower.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Prostate Cancer And Reggae Music

I look forward to it every year. What has become for me an annual visit to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. This year was my first time in the school’s beautiful, new building, which opened last summer.

Also invited was Dr. Brent Williams. He’s a Sanford Health urologist in Fargo, a UND Med School graduate and a native of Cavalier, N.D.

We were there to answer questions from second-year medical students about prostate cancer. I used to have it. Dr. Williams knows what to do about it.

Dr. Williams fielded the heavier medical/scientific questions. I mainly got to talk about myself for an hour and actually have people listen.

In their first two years of med school, students will take part in 64 doctor/patient discussions like ours in weekly wrap-up sessions. I never fail to learn something about prostate cancer and myself from them.

The questions are always interesting. What were your symptoms? Answer:  none.  What was it like in the hospital? Answer:  good. What medications were you on after surgery? Answer: Sorry. I can’t remember.

To their credit, the students didn’t so much as smirk when I told them that at my lowest point, sick and depressed after surgery, the only thing that felt remotely good to me was listening to reggae music, which I spent hour after hour doing. Later, one of the doctors-to-be asked for a playlist. True story.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Pets Unstressing Passengers

Arguably, Los Angeles International Airport is one of the most stressful places in the country. Why not? LAX is the third-busiest airport in the U.S. and seventh busiest in the world, serving almost 75 million passengers a year.

And yet LAX is trying to make itself a little less stressful for passengers. Enter Cali.

Cali is one of the airport’s PUPs, Pets Unstressing Passengers. Coming back from vacation, Ginny and I met Cali a few days ago at the Delta terminal of LAX, under extremely stressful circumstances.

A PUP dog’s job is to provide stress relief and comfort to passengers. Therapy dogs and handlers roam gate areas of each terminal, visiting passengers awaiting flights and providing comfort, as well as airport information.

According to the dogs’ website, “Passengers love seeing warm, wet noses and wagging tails that create a friendly, “PAWSitive” experience at LAX!”

Cali and the other PUPs even have their own calling cards, or trading cards, if you like. According to his official bio, Cali is a Pit Bull from Hollygien, Calif. He was born in June 2011. He likes beef jerky and his couch. He doesn’t like to bark.

All PUP volunteers and their privately owned dogs are registered with The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national organization that insures and supports members who are involved in volunteer animal-assisted activities, like visits to hospitals, special needs centers, schools, nursing homes and for the first time — airports.

Actually, Ginny got more out of our Cali encounter than I did. I’m afraid I was just too stressed to make much of an effort to greet him.

At almost the exact moment Ginny spotted Cali, we found out that our (former) travel agent had booked us on a flight from Minneapolis to Grand Forks that no longer existed! True story. We’d be spending an extra night in the Cities and booking another flight home to GFK.

I wish I had paid more attention to Cali. At that moment I could have used his services.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — ‘The Play About The Baby’

The Los Angeles Times has named a work by North Dakota native and UND graduate Sam Anderson one of the Top Ten L.A. Theatre Productions of 2016. Edward Albee’s “The Play about the Baby” was produced by the Road Theatre Company last year.

Sam is the company’s artistic director. Edward Albee died last year.

The Times says of “The Play About the Baby,” “The superlative cast is spearheaded by the magnificent Anderson, a mesmerizing villain whose creepy affability will tickle your funny bone while raising your hackles.”

Audiences know him from 35 years of performances in television roles like “Justified,” “Lost” and “E.R.” His films include “Water for Elephants,” “Forrest Gump” and “La Bamba.” Credits and awards go on and on.

Those of us who have known Sam since his days at UND’s Burtness Theatre could not be more proud.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Cards Of Wonder

Friends of ours, Mark and Kitty Westin, came up with a lovely Christmas card tradition for themselves a couple of years ago. Each year, they discover and repurpose a classic Christmas card from another era, sending them “back out into the world!”

As they visit antique stores throughout the year, they find interesting, vintage Christmas cards that they repurpose, usually by copying the front and inside of the cards, making them their own. The effect is wonderful. The back of their cards are usually reserved for a family picture or two. This year, their new puppy, Polly, is featured.

Mark and Kitty leave the original card-givers names intact, followed by their own. This year, the card reads, “Merry Christmas Happy New Year, Verne and Fannie Waddington & Kitty and Mark Westin.”

But here’s the good part. For their own Christmas letter, Mark and Kitty research and then image what their counterpart couple’s lives would have been like in the communities and the times in which they lived.

Here’s a portion of this year’s letter:

“Verne and Fannie were from Wichita, Kansas, the Air Capital of the World. In 1940, some 76 years ago, Verne was 52 and his lovely and youngish wife, Fannie, was 43. Verne was an electrical engineer and may have worked at Boeing Airplane Plant No. 1, Wichita’s largest employer. He and 40,000 fellow employees built nearly 4,000 B-29 Superfortress bombers during and following World War II. Fannie very likely enjoyed a successful career as an elementary schoolteacher at Adams Elementary over on Oliver Ave. They had a lovely home in a happy and peaceful Wichita neighborhood. In their spare time, Verne and Fannie shopped for camping equipment at the new Coleman retail store. They were undoubtedly excited, like we certainly would have been, when a local fellow came up wih a brand-new concept in dining and named it Pizza Hut. The very first shop opening in 1958 just down the street from their home. Verne and Fannie enjoyed living in this innovative and thriving city along the beautiful Arkansas River. Life was very good for the Waddington’s!”

For us, the Westins’ cards add just a little bit more wonder to an already wonderful season.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — You Want Sugar With That (Lefse)?

Lefse season is well under way. Lefse-making season and, for me, lefse-eating season.

For those unaware of the potato-based Norwegian delicacy, I would just say I feel very badly for you. But if you are very, very good, when you die and go to heaven, I believe, waiting for you there just inside the Pearly Gates will be a nice warm, freshly made batch.

But with lefse season comes the age-old question, is it proper to eat lefse with sugar? Butter, yes. But sugar?

We did what we always do when facing this kind of moral dilemma. We put the question to our Facebook friends. They seemed hungry (pun intended) to respond. So far, we’ve gotten almost 500 FB comments, more even than my recent posts making fun of Sarah Palin.

Jay Thomas even did a segment of his Fargo radio show on the question Thursday. At least he told me he was going to. I didn’t actually hear the program yesterday. Sorry, Jay, but it was nap time.

Here is a sampling of the sugar/no sugar comments we got.

  • Sandra Lee Buttweiler: Sugar.
  • Ruth Omdahl Callahan: Sugar and butter … duh!
  • Vernon Keel: Butter AND sugar, for sure (My grandpa told me so).
  • Kenneth Cotton: I like a little lefse with my sugar!
  • Ryan Lance: Sugar!
  • Tucker Hummel: Brown sugar!
  • Becky Jones Mahlum: Butter and brown sugar.
  • Connie Santwire: Sugar for sure. Ya, you betcha.
  • Louise Stocks: No sugar.
  • John McDonald: Just sugar.
  • Carolyn Nelson: Butter, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Kristie Preston-Sauvageau: Butter and sugar for breakfast, butter only when eaten for lunch and dinner.
  • Connie Halgren: It’s against Norwegian law to not have sugar “sugar.”
  • Dan Lee: As my wife would say, “Lefse is just a delivery vehicle for butter and sugar.”
  • John Reitmieir: Not only is it BUTTER and SUGAR but it has to be Land O Lakes Butter and Crystal Sugar, or you’re not getting the full effect!
  • Leonora Gershman Pitts: What kind of monster doesn’t put sugar and butter on their lefse?
  • Marcus Woodard: I take my lefse neat.

I have to say I was surprised by the outcome of our unscientific poll. Without actually tallying the responses, which seems like it would be a lot of work, people who prefer both butter and sugar hold a slight majority.

Beyond the sugar question, some suggest some more adventurous choices.

  • Marilyn Lauer: No sugar but like it with egg salad.
  • Robert Fladeland: Peanut butter and sugar.
  • Laura Peterson: Sugar or lingonberry jam.
  • Jon Petersen: Lutefisk.
  • Nicole Quam: Deer jerky and mustard.
  • Jeff Shirley: Yesterday I heard they use sour cream and jam in Norway … Hmmmm!
  • Terry Hjelmstad: I wonder how salmon, cream cheese and capers would be? Would somebody try and let me know?

Back to the sugar debate for a moment. I have to say I was quite taken by the “you can’t do this wrong” kind of attitude expressed. I haven’t seen so much openness and acceptance since well before the most recent election cycle. Perhaps there is hope for our country yet.

But there are always exceptions. We end with one of them.

  • Zak Skaro:  If you put sugar on lefse, you are weak, your bloodline is weak and you will not survive the winter.

TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Thanks A Lot

When I was in television, I used to make a list about this time of year. It was a list of things for which I am especially thankful. We would run it from the bottom to the top of the screen at a very high rate of speed. Too high to read. We all enjoyed a good laugh. Most of us, anyway.

Even though no one could read it, I always enjoyed making the list. I don’t know why exactly, but it made me feel good. So, because it’s Thanksgiving and because I like the feeling it gives me, here, in no particular order, are some of the things (and people) I’m grateful for this year. Read at your own pace. Family and friends top the list. And then …

My Keurig coffee maker, popcorn, Desi, Kegs Drive-in, Firehall Theatre, the Geek Squad, Samantha Bee, Sirius XM Radio, Panera Bread, Lay-Z-Boy recliners, Hugo’s, Cross fountain pens, Tony Bennett, grilled cheese sandwiches, my VW Beetle, Caribou Coffee, Grand Forks Public Library, Jimmy Kimmel, french fries, elections that are not rigged, Frank Sinatra, 1,000 Degree Pizza, Empire Arts Center, Barnes & Noble, current gas prices, Chester Fritz Auditorium, Arbor Park, Mark Twain, Starbucks, California burgers, Richard Gergen, Charles Dickens, Frank Sinatra, Netflix, snow-removal services, Peggy Lee, Target, Choice Fitness, my Kindle, vinyl, Talent Productions, my urologist, my dermatologist, my family practice guy, my VA guy, my Valley Bone & Joint guys, my therapist, my neighbor’s French bread, Darcy’s, receptive audiences, our financial planner, Dakota TV & Appliance, Hornbacher’s, lawn services,

And, of course, Ginny. Did I mention popcorn?