I missed Guy Sharpe this week.
If you aren’t from around here, Guy Sharpe was an Atlanta “weatherman” back in the day. He was not a meteorologist, in any way, shape or form. He was just a TV weatherman, back when they stood in front of a national map covered with markings for various fronts and low-pressure systems. He even marked a few temperatures on maps with a grease pencil in his time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love David Chandley and the crew at WSB, and don’t have anything against Ken Cook or any of the other prognosticators on the other Atlanta stations — but Guy Sharpe was just a special personality to those of us who were born and raised in this area.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, would get as excited about the prospect of a snow flake falling on the north Georgia Piedmont as Guy would. If he expected an inch or two of white stuff he would beg and plead with Atlantans to stay at home, as if their very lives depended on it. And, of course, sometimes their very lives did.
But he was so much more than just the guy — no pun intended — who told us what he thought the weather might do. He was a beloved television personality and local celebrity, back in the day when our city didn’t have as many celebrities as we do now.
A lay minister in the Methodist Church, Guy was always willing to make a public appearance any time, any place. He was as warm and friendly in person as he was on the screen. With Guy Sharpe, what you saw was what you got. He could sing, too, and I had the pleasure of hearing him sing some of his favorite gospel songs on many occasions.
Guy’s greatest legacy might have been as the local host of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, which used to be a staple on Labor Day weekend. He and his partner, Matthew Brown, who was a victim of MD, would stay up all night, tugging on the area’s heartstrings and pleading for just a few more dollars. The tears Guy Sharpe shed for Jerry’s Kids were very real.
Sometimes Guy’s passion would get him in trouble, though. Shortly after the Atlanta Falcons arrived in the city, three of their players came down to the WAGA studio to make a pledge to the telethon in person, and to challenge every other pro athlete in the city to match their pledges.
Guy was ecstatic. He put the three players on the stage and stuck a microphone in front of the one chosen to be the spokesman. I actually remember his name, but will keep it to myself. No need to embarrass the player all over again. He proudly pledged to give $10 to the cause and asked every Falcon and every Brave— I think the Hawks were still in St. Louis — to do the same.
Guy, at first, was incredulous. He simply stared at the players, trying to grasp the significance of what he had just heard. Then he went off on them. He completely lost it.
“Gee,” he started off. “Are you sure you can afford it, fellows?”
It got worse — something along the lines of — 10 whole dollars? Come on guys. Are you sure you will be able to feed your families if you give that much? After all, you have to play 12 or 14 games a year to make the hundreds of thousands of dollars that you take in. I’m not sure we can accept 10 dollars from you. I would feel guilty the rest of the year if I created a hardship.”
He didn’t stop with the players, either.
He looked right into the camera and challenged the entire city. “They call this a big league city,” he said. “Well where are the people with all the money? Where is Delta Airlines? Where is C&S Bank? Where is Cox? Where is Coca-Cola?”
As soon as he mentioned Coca-Cola they cut to a commercial. Guy had his Labor Days free from that point on, I believe.
He also created a bit of a controversy when he took aim at Proctor and Gamble — urging a boycott of all their products because he had bought into the urban legend that the moon and stars on the Proctor and Gamble trademark were Satanic images.
Instead of alienating the public, these controversies made him appear more human and made him more popular. One of my greatest thrills, as a writer, came when I started receiving “fan mail” from Guy, himself. Having admired him from a distance all my life, we became good friends toward the end of his.
So, yes — I hunkered down with David — whom I am also honored to call a friend—and Glenn and Karen and Brad and the whole bunch during our recent ice event, which didn’t turn out to be quite as catastrophic or historical as advertised, thank goodness. I felt comforted by these folks and was well informed, but still — I couldn’t help but wonder what Guy Sharpe might have been telling us in advance of this storm.