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Next for WQED producer Rick Sebak is a walk on the South Side

Thursday, March 26, 1998

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Like a wayward Civil War soldier, Rick Sebak is switching sides, from North to South. The WQED producer who did the warmly received "North Side Story" next will tackle a scrapbook documentary on the South Side, for airing in early December.

"It's obviously going to be more of the same, with the variations that the terrain and people allow," Sebak says. "I love the picture of those houses on the South Side slopes. I love that image of Pittsburgh where it looks like a small mountainside village."

Sebak literally got his start on the South Side. He was born in South Side Hospital on the day the Squirrel Hill Tunnels opened.

Although the houses may not be as historically rich as on the North Side, Sebak figures he will touch on some homes. "I also love the whole contrast of the Goth kids and the grandmas in babushkas who still walk to the store up on Carson Street. Just in doing the little bit of research I did for the proposal, I'm excited about the places I've never been."

As "North Side Story" did, the South Side show will explore the history of the sprawling neighborhood, which Sebak is defining as "most of the flat land along the south shore of the Monongahela River from Saw Mill Run to Beck's Run, as well as the steep hillside that rises up to Mount Washington. We'll consider topics from Station Square to Page Dairy Mart and everywhere in between."

The South Side, like the North Side, once had a separate identity and name: Birmingham, after the English hometown of Dr. Nathaniel Bedford.

He was the son-in-law of Major John Ormsby, whose daughters Jane, Sarah, Mary and Sidney lent their names to some of the longest streets. The South Side and Mount Washington were both included in a 3,000-acre royal grant to Ormsby for his military services in the French and Indian War.

Sebak plans to spend five to seven days shooting on the South Side this spring and summer (especially during the South Side Street Spectacular), with another eight days in the fall. "Then we'll start to edit by Oct. 1 and have it ready for the first week in December."

This summer he also will shoot two PBS specials he's preparing on hot dogs and old-time amusement parks. Those will air nationally in the spring or summer of 1999.

The Buhl Foundation, which helped to fund "North Side Story," is providing money for production of the documentary, the latest in the Pittsburgh History Series.

WQED is still looking for money for promotion, although Sebak has found his perfect poster art: an impressionistic painting of the South Side, done in the 1920s by a Czechoslovakian immigrant. It's a shimmering pink sea - all those red-brick buildings given a lovely artistic spin.

As usual, he is looking for old home movies or photographs, business histories and interesting family stories during his research process. You can reach him by calling 412-622-1389 or writing to Sebak at WQED, 4802 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15213. His e-mail address is rsebak@wqed.org.

He promises to return pictures and other valuables.

Elsewhere in TV:

Estha Trouw has returned to WPXI after the birth of her second daughter in mid-January. As she did in the final weeks of her pregnancy, Trouw will co-anchor the weekend morning newscasts. She also will report one day a week.

News director Bob Morford says Trouw wants to spend more time with her family and requested this schedule. Caroline Avedesian and Darieth Chisolm will continue to alternate as 11 p.m. co-anchor.

It looks like other changes will be in the works before the start of the May sweeps. WPXI has hired Pittsburgh native Jodine Costanzo from WBBM, the CBS affiliate in Chicago, to report and anchor.

"As to which shows she's going to be anchoring, that hasn't been determined at this point." Morford says. "At this moment, I don't have a firm plan to move people. I expect there will be some changes as we approach the May book."

Costanzo, who started at WPXI last week, is a graduate of South Park High School and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "I'm really excited about being back home," she says, and so are the family and friends who have sent the flowers now overwhelming her desk.

Before moving to Chicago, Costanzo worked in Cleveland as a reporter and then was a popular co-anchor of a revived noon newscast there. She also had stints in Dayton and Toledo, Ohio, along with Clarksburg, W.Va., and was an intern at KDKA.

Ken Rice is missing from his usual KDKA anchor post for a good reason. He's a new father. His wife, WTAE's Lauren Dale, gave birth to an 8-pound, 6-ounce daughter named Madelyn on Monday. She is the couple's first child. Dale is executive producer of programming at Channel 4, where Rice once worked. All are doing well, with Rice expected back at work Monday.

If you struggled to work Tuesday bleary-eyed from watching the Oscars, you weren't alone.

ABC's telecast of the 70th Annual Academy Awards nationally did a 34.9 rating (percentage of TV households) and 55 share (percentage of sets in use), the highest ratings for the Oscars in 15 years. In Pittsburgh, it earned a 35.9/57.

ABC Research estimates that 87 million viewers in the United States saw some or all of the telecast.

Did you appear on episodes of "The Young and the Restless" taped here last month? If so, the Pittsburgh branch of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is looking for you.

It's planning a cast party for Monday night. If you were among the principal players or 240 extras and didn't receive an invitation, call AFTRA, 412-281-6767.

WQED had a merry March membership drive, generating $579,303 in pledges. Its "Doo-Wop Night" special will be repeated Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. and again from 7 to 10 p.m.



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