By Larry Bonko
Hello, 2015. I begin a new year of covering television with a question.
Is Norfolk really “a blue-collar town constantly fighting for respect among more elite coastal communities.”?
Lucia Metzbauer of the Nautical Channel thinks so. Those are her words.
While visiting Norfolk last May to produce and host an hour-long special for the channel, which is available to more than 20 million viewers in 44 countries by way off the Dish Network’s International World Pack, Metzbauer tagged the city as blue-collar and quasi-elite.
In a bewitching Austrian accent – if Austrian accents can be bewitching – she tells viewers, “With the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay and countless rivers in its backyard, you can’t get away from the water in Norfolk. It is one of the top nautical destinations in the United States.”
She gushed about our harbor – “One of the East Coast’s most active” – and darn near stood at attention while hailing Norfolk’s strategic military presence with the world’s largest naval station, the NATO Strategic Command and all.
It was hugs and kisses until…
She slipped in the zinger.
“Norfolk is a blue collar town that is constantly fighting for respect among more elite coastal communities.”
Is Norfolk the Rodney Dangerfield of coastal cities? Less elite than Wilmington, N.C.? Myrtle Beach, S.C.? Savannah, Ga.? You tell me.
I forgive Metzbauer for giving the city the needle because otherwise she did a really nice job in producing and presenting “Endless Summer in Norfolk.” It flatters the city. Norfolk never looked better to the camera’s eye. The hour is more than a picture postcard of lifeguards with sand in their toes and anglers with lines dangling in the water at the Ocean View Fishing Pier.
It has a serious Save-the-Bay, save-the-oysters moment.
Metzbauer points out how Jackie Shannon and others of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are working to enhance the habitat for oysters, which are crucial to the area’s economy and ecology.
And they’re good eating.
Cut to Metzbauer and David Watts feasting on oysters at Captain Groovy’s Grill and Raw Bar.
She learns how Watts, a chef and one of the owners, prepares East Beach Oysters. He adds a garnish of parmesan cheese, spinach, onion, bacon and anisette. Then he sticks it all under a broiler.
Voila! You have East Beach Oysters.
On your next Norfolk visit, Lucia, may I suggest the fresh calamari or seared duck.
Elsewhere in Metzbauer’s nautical tour of Norfolk, she gives us a glimpse of the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club’s parade of sail and then joins Coach Mitch Brindley and the Old Dominion U. sailing team for an afternoon on the water. Of the student sailors, the man who guided ODU to several intercollegiate championships said, “We work them very hard. But we keep it fun.”
Metzbauer dropped in on Daniel Jones as he was teaching water-rescue skills to a new group of lifeguards on the Ocean View community beach.
Jones describes the lifeguards who work in the summer at the city’s three outdoor pools and three public beaches as well-conditioned men and women who are strong swimmers willing to work long days in the sun with no qualms about walking or running on hot sand.
One of Jones’ recruits, who looks like he would have been right at home on “Baywatch,” tells Metzbauer, “I was born for this.”
Metzbauer gamely tries to pronounce “Norfolk” like the natives. It’s “NOF-uuk,” Lucia.
The Nautical Channel’s “endless summer” theme for the Norfolk special was inspired by the 50th anniversary screening of “The Endless Summer” in the Nauticus Theater. It’s the saga of Robert August and Mike Hynson in search of the perfect wave on beaches from South Africa to California – the original surfer dudes.
While visiting the East Coast Surf Film Music Festival, Metzbauer found pro surfer Brett Barley on the deck of the battleship Wisconsin – downtown Norfolk’s No. 1 touristy attraction – who confessed that seeing Bruce Brown’s movie “fueled the fire in me to get out and surf, to find the waves.”
Metzbauer and her crew rounded out their Norfolk tour with a visit to the tall ship American Rover – a highly photogenic three-masted, top-sail schooner on the Elizabeth River. The Nautical Channel brought Virginia Beach into the picture with a trip to where Randy Gore launches his kayak nature tours. His clients paddle out into the Atlantic for a close-up look at dolphins.
“They tend to be curious about us,” said Gore of the dolphins.
The ODU sailing team also communes with dolphins. Dolphin watching is popular hereabouts.
So, why didn’t Metzbaurer’s crew show the sculptures of dolphins in Virginia Beach? And speaking of seagoing images, why are Norfolk’s mermaid sculptures not in the Nautical Channel show?
Perhaps the channel will get a second chance to photograph Norfolk’s mermaids. The channel in a press release reported that plans are in the works to cover some events in Norfolk in the future.
“Anything water related,” chimed in Mayor Paul Fraim in that release. Dish Network CEO Gary McCullum met with Fraim.
Hopper talked of opening a Nautical Channel in Norfolk. Might there be a return visit from Lucia Metzbauer?
“We would like to promote the Norfolk/Newport News/Virginia Beach area worldwide through the Nautical Channel,” said the Norfolk mayor. The Nautical Channel is not available on cable in this market. Fraim would like to see that change.
“Cox Cable doesn’t offer any sports channel that even comes close to covering local and international sports and lifestyle,” he said. The Nautical Channel does that.
It was launched in 2011 to serve surfers, swimmers and sailors. In a pitch for viewers, the channel’s website promises “to bring the sea into your living room. The only thing missing is the salt spray in your face.”
Its programming features exotic lifestyles. There’s snorkeling with manta rays in Hawaii, wind surfing in the waters of Thailand and a visit to the Paris International Boat Show. There’s also programming from Russia and India.
Our girl Lucia is seen on an island in the North Sea covering the world cup wind surfing competition.
Then she’s off to report on stand-up paddle boarding.
Who knew there was a world of stand-up paddle surfing out there?
Metzbauer found people who are good at it on the German Baltic coast. “A hidden gem when it comes to perfect conditions for surfing, sailing and SUP,” she says of the Baltic coastline with the same enthusiasm she showed while dining on Captain Groovy’s oysters in Norfolk.
Go to NauticalChannel.com to learn the dates and times when the Norfolk special can be seen.
Have a question about local TV or radio? Contact Larry at email@example.com.
By Larry Bonko