CBS news crew revisits story by Charles Kuralt
Local ‘hot dog man’ re-interviewed, filmed
Local attorney P. Stephen Potter, formerly known as the “hot dog man” at Husker football games, remembers well when famed CBS newsman and storyteller Charles Kuralt came to town.
In 1986, Kuralt traveled to Gothenburg to interview the man who once dressed in a shabby corduroy suit, on football Saturdays, to sling dogs to fans.
“Kuralt had eaten chicken fried steak in a restaurant on his way here and pulled his coat jacket over his tie to hide the gravy stain,” Potter said.
The piece aired on Kuralt’s “On the Road” show the eve before the Huskers took on rival Oklahoma.
On March 27, CBS news correspondent Steve Hartman, associate producer Miles Doran and cameraman Bob Caccamise visited Potter in Gothenburg to catch up on what’s happened to the hot dog man since he hung up his apron.
The story is tentatively scheduled to air on Friday, April 20, during the “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” that begins at 5:30 p.m.
CBS has brought back the weekly feature “On the Road,” sending 48-year-old Hartman and a crew around the country to visit unique places and special people.
Doran said they watched about 100 of Kuralt’s stories and selected those that seemed to have depth.
“Then we called to see if they were still alive and had something interesting to day,” said the 24-year-old who has worked for CBS for two years and for only a few months with Hartman.
With a laugh, Hartman said they called Potter “because he was still alive.”
The news crew flew to North Platte from Amarillo, TX, where they revisited Cadillac Ranch, a sculpture of painted cadillacs half-buried in the ground.
After talking to Potter and his family, they drove to Alliance to update a story about Carhenge.
Hartman said it’s an honor to follow in Kuralt’s footsteps, noting that he watched Kuralt and Andy Rooney as a child, while growing up in Toledo, OH.
“I remember my parents watching them and feeling something,” he said. “It’s nice to have a job where I can do that and hope my parents notice me the way they noticed those guys.”
Before “On the Road,” Hartman did a feature series, “Everybody Has a Story.”
Tossing a dart at a map of the United States (later expanding to include the globe), the correspondent would then randomly pick an interview subject from the local phone book.
“I met remarkable people that way,” Hartman said.
One of his favorites, in the series, was a woman in Camden, SC, that liked to cook for and feed people.
Lots of them.
“Her house was like a free restaurant where she took care of people,” Hartman said. “She was emblematic of the people I met through the series.”
Hartman and his crew also traveled to Lewellen where they interviewed a man who had moved there to meet a small-town girl.
“But he didn’t do his research to find out there weren’t any girls available,” Hartman explained. “So he was making birdhouses and selling them.”
Perhaps his most challenging story involved a dog whose owner claimed the canine ate grapefruit.
“The man hounded me to do a story.”
At the time, Hartman was a television journalist in Los Angeles, CA, and was required to crank out a story daily.
“I had run out of ideas for a story one day and decided to see the dog who ate grapefruit,” Hartman said.
But the dog didn’t eat grapefruit after Hartman arrived.
“So I did a story about the dog who didn’t eat grapefruit,” he said.
For the most part, Hartman said television is not representative of the country.
“People are fundamentally good but we’re becoming more polarized through religion and politics by people who have something to gain,” he said.
After the newsmen left, Potter recalled that Kuralt had a way of involving his subjects in conversation.
“So did Steve (Hartman),” he said. “I wasn’t aware there were cameras there and focused on the interview.”
Was there an outcry when Potter quit selling hot dogs in 2001?
“I thought I’d become a fixture of Nebraska football and was irreplaceable,” Potter said he told Hartman. “But I learned that when you start taking yourself too seriously, you forget to step back and lose the ability to laugh at yourself.”