From the owner's suite: 20 years of C-VILLE

From the owner's suite: 20 years of C-VILLE

I have had two business partners: a tall one, Hawes, and a shorter one, Rob. Each had their strengths. Hawes was a lively editor who dutifully ran the paper when I moved to New York for several years, but left the company seven years ago; much later I stuck around when Rob, known around here for guiding us through some big growth years, left for Tennessee. Now it’s just me. (Luckily a bunch of other people do most of the work. See staff box, page 6, in this issue’s print version.)

May 12, 1998

We’ve had eight offices so we’ve moved about every three years. Our first office in an apartment at 33 University Circle featured “Anastasia’s” widower Jack Manahan living in the basement with a herd of cats. Our landlord, the attorney Althea Hurt, lived next door and used to cut her grass in a bikini.

In the old days, we had a small sideline business designing concert flyers for local rock promoters. When Coran Capshaw came in for flyers one time he turned up the radio weather report because he had small sideline business cutting firewood (experts agree he’s gone a lot further than I have!)

The nudist camp “White Tail Resort” in nearby Ivor, Virginia, invited our freelance reporter to their media open house. We ran a story that included a picture of a 12-year-old girl who was a member there. Only her face was visible but schoolmates teased her and her parents filed an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit and injunction; Judge Jay Swett denied the injunction to destroy the press run but the privacy suit dragged on. Jim Hingeley agreed to represent us on short notice, and Warrenton resident Harold Spencer paid our legal bill. In return, we promised him a “lifetime subscription” but he passed away a few years ago after a tragic fall. The suit was eventually dropped.

A reporter from Time or Newsweek came to town and took me to lunch to see what I knew about Patricia Kluge: Where does she live, where does she eat out, etc. I told her the little I knew and before heading back to Washington she admitted she was really working for the National Enquirer.

Speaking of Kluge, Patricia’s husband Bill Moses had his lawyer send me a letter threatening legal action if we continued to mention his wife’s ribald past. About two years later they invited me to their box suite at Scott Stadium to celebrate/market the launch of Kluge Estate Vineyards.

September 21, 1994

Our first-ever weekly issue (we had published biweekly for five years) featured newly-hired UVA President John Casteen on the cover. Looks like we may outlast him.

In 1995 I began dating the daughter of Tom Worrell, the owner of the Daily Progress. There wasn’t room in this town for the both of us: He sold his company to Media General the following year.

Nudity reared its head again in the late 1990s when we ran a blurry black-and-white picture of a female streaker on UVA’s “Lawn’ (it’s an annual tradition). Kroger removed our racks from their store and the DP ran a front-page story about the “Kroger ban.” I remember being nervous as I had a sales call that day with Tom Baker, president of Guaranty Bank. But all he wanted was to see the picture.

We published a cover story about the pending startup of radio station WNRN in which local industry players predicted it would never last; the next day I got a call saying our papers had been removed en masse from Kroger and dumped in the middle of nearby Copeley Road during a rainstorm. WNRN honcho Mike Friend laughed when I told him this and would not deny that it could have been the work of his “volunteers.”

Our friend Garland Pollard IV was struggling with his free weekly paper, The Richmond State. We took a look at the books and thought we’d take a stab at it and bought it for what I remember to be $3,000. After running it for six months or so, we got tired of driving I-64 and shut it down for good.

As a side project, we started the monthly Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine. Around the time we sold it to Blake DeMaso years later, Blake’s dad John gave us a tour of the company he runs, Sperry Marine. We felt silly wearing protective glasses during the tour, but we passed several closed areas where “classified” government work is done and we stood in front of a big fake ship’s “bridge” where they test out radar and stuff!

We started a free UVA game-day program called “HooYa!” and stood in the snow to distribute it outside a night-time basketball game against Syracuse. When we showed up with issue #2 at a subsequent game, UVA sports officials tried to stop us and went as far as asking the police to make us leave. (We didn’t.)

Our reporter Coy Barefoot reported heavily on the discovery that UVA Hospital had sent the wrong babies home with two new mothers, and asked pointedly whether the personal relationship between the hospital’s marketing staff and the Editor of The Daily Progress had led to soft coverage at the daily. It was three years later that UVA resumed advertising in our paper.

In 1998 we got a call from an informant alleging that a local martial arts instructor James Ennis had a one-way mirror through which he watched students changing in the dressing room. We looked into it and called him for a comment before the story ran; Ennis then drove to Darden Towe Park and killed himself with a Samurai sword.

I went to dinner at Reid and Jessica Nagle’s house, where I met David Kalergis. He shook my hand and said “nice to meet you: I was good friends with James Ennis!” (see previous entry). Reid and I fell out later when three employees of his company SNL Financial, including Cathy Harding, moved over to C-VILLE in a short time frame. He e-mailed me that I’d “screwed him up the sphincter.”

I got a call from an attorney representing developer-investor Colin Rolph, and he wanted to talk with me about the relationship between me, Lee Danielson, my mother-in-law and her husband. Apparently Danielson had put the three of us on a list of his enemies and the list became part of his legal wrangle with Rolph.

In 2008 local prisoner James Breckenridge filed a rambling hand-written lawsuit against C-VILLE and a former reporter alleging we had misreported some details about his involvement in a string local robberies. I googled him and read that he’d slit the throat of a UVA student in 1981 when she’d caught him breaking inter her car. Nonetheless, our attorney Dennis Rooker said we should take the suit seriously. He also got us out of it.

Overall it’s been rewarding to be part of it. What weird stuff will the next 20 years hold? Meet back here in 2029 and we’ll talk about it.

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Patrick Pierce
Patrick Pierce

Having just seen this after all these years, the “nudist colony” I reported on back in 1990 was not the well-known White Tail Resort, in Ivor, Virginia – hardly “nearby” – but one up the road in Madison County that no longer exists. And, in fact, it was the parents who sponsored the invitation and sought the publicity, but failed to consider that they had not told their parents of their lifestyle choice who became apoplectic when they saw the story and their granddaughter.