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Hornets' Last Hurrah 

It dawned on us that, as the Charlotte Hornets start their playoff run, their move to the Big Easy will impact the broadcasters who make a living, or at least a chunk of it, from Hornets TV, radio, and print media.

Talented types like Steve Martin, Gil McGregor, Mike Gminksi, Bob Licht, and Gerry Vaillancourt have no guarantees that they're going anywhere near Bourbon Street as we write this. Local freelancers, from camera people and grips to stats people, are already wondering how to plug that money hole next season. And companies like Jefferson-Pilot Sports won't be renting their production trucks at the soon-to-be-former Hive next year.

Flagship stations take a hit as well. WBT-AM and WAXN-TV will be looking at their upcoming budget and programming changes as the landscape changes for them, too.

I went to what was probably my last Hornets game a few days ago, and the changes, from the empty seats to the lukewarm enthusiasm, is sad to see. This is despite my loathing, shared by many of you, for those lying sacks of "Shinn-Ridge," and a city leadership that fumbled with each other and got nowhere like two geeks on prom night.

The rhetoric in public and in our local media also got us absolutely nowhere, and there will be other holes to fill: kids looking for someone NBA-cool to admire, and the faithful folks who always checked out the game on TV or radio or read the analysis in the paper the next morning.

So may we quote Joni Mitchell: "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone."

* If you think you're the next Britney or Ricky Martin, then warm up those pipes and head to the WCCB-TV studios on Saturday, April 27 from 10am to 4pm. Fox 18 is looking for Charlotte's best vocalists to appear on the show American Idol: The Search for a Superstar.

Based on the British show Pop Idol, one solo performer will be picked from contestants all over America, and will get a recording contract after being voted on by TV viewers at home.

On April 27, WCCB will have a judging panel that will pick 10 finalists who'll advance to regional auditions in Atlanta May 4 and 5.

There are some rules for the contest, so check them out at www.fox.com.

* We raise a frosty Appletini to Sheri Lynch, perennial CL "Best of" favorite, and now a big national award winner. Lynch was in New York last week to accept the Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Radio and Television organization, hosted by Botox stockholder Joan Rivers, no less. The Gracie is named after the late Gracie Allen, who was the better half of the Burns and Allen comedy team. It honors broadcasters who "encourage positive and realistic portrayals of women in the media." The 54 national winners also included CNN's Paula Zahn, ET anchor Mary Hart, and the creators of HBO's Sex in the City.

Lynch has come a long way from her TV promo department job at WBTV, where she sported Doc Martens and a saucy attitude. WLNK-FM picked her as the pepper to Bob Lacey's salt, and the rest is "herstory."

* They all but ignored their 75th birthday in 1997, but WBT-AM did don the party hats and roll out the red carpet for stars past in honor of its 80th birthday April 10. It was a daylong mix of nostalgia and surprises, and great clips and jingles from the past. WBT was the first radio station in the Southeast, and lo these many years later, there are over 26 stations in the Charlotte market.

The high point was listening to a genuinely touched Ty Boyd when morning man Al Gardner surprised him with the dedication of WBT's main studio in Boyd's name. A plaque will hold his place in station history there, where he smoothed out the mornings for Charlotte listeners from 1961 to 1973. Other voices from the past and present made their appearances and reminisced about their days at the AM station. We heard Henry Boggan, H.A. Thompson, Mike Collins, and even Robert D. Raiford. (Also worth checking out is the station history, put together by David Eades at www.wbt.com.)

Many don't know that WRFX's Raiford worked at WBT in the 50s, and he told the tale on-air of his firing in 1956 over a dispute about how he covered a story about an assault on Nat King Cole.

AND BEFORE WE GO. . .A cool fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network by WSOC-FM this week. Chick group SheDaisy is joined by Brian McCombes for a show and barbecue supper at the Oasis Shrine Center. Proceeds are going to the Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center. . .Linda Sherman is out, and a Capitol Broadcasting veteran is in as the new general manager for WJZY-TV and WWWB-TV. Will Davis was most recently with the Sinclair Group, managing WXLV and WUPN in Winston-Salem. . .The Charlotte Business Journal is the latest local paper to redesign its look. A little more color, new font styles, and the shift of the popular "Table Talk" feature to page 2 are some of the highlights. Some tidbits from the paper's research: it says readers spend an average of 42 minutes with the weekly. . .could a redesign be far behind for this fine paper, as well?

And have you checked out the revamped superhero I have officially re-named "Spider-Ho"? The red and blue web spinner is already hawking cell phones, a Hardee's cheeseburger, and Rice Krispies. And the dang movie hasn't even opened yet. To him, life is a great big bang-up.

Stay tuned. . .*

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