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My Two Cents: Demetria Kalodimos celebrating thirty years in Nashville

My Two-Cents with Hank BonecutterClarksville, TN  When Demetria Kalodimos arrived in Nashville in 1984, little did she know that she had just landed her dream job.

This bright-eyed 23 year old, with a proud Greek heritage, from the suburbs of Chicago, was about to join one of the most storied news organizations in the business, in Nashville, Tennessee,  WSMV, Channel 4.

Now, after thirty years as one of Nashville’s most decorated journalists, she has no intention of slowing down.

Demetria Kalodimos
Demetria Kalodimos

Demetria Kalodimos began her TV career at WICD in Champaign Illinois, after she was awarded a Master of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

She had majored in music at Illinois Wesleyan University, graduating Cum Laude in 1981 with a Bachelors in Music Education, and while she has a passion for music, she describes herself as naturally “nosey,” so embarking on a career in journalism was the path she chose, and she’s never looked back.

She’s received 15 Emmys, two National Headliner Awards, two Investigative Reporters and Editors National Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative reporting, and two national citations from American Women in Radio and Television. In 1996, Kalodimos was chosen Tennessee Associated Press Broadcaster of the Year.

This month will mark 30 years at WSMV, and I caught up with her to talk about it.

Did you know you had just landed your “dream job” when you were hired at WSMV?

“I was a bit naive about the significance of the station at the time.  I was reminded by an engineer at my old station about how fortunate I was.  I really didn’t think about it.  Every 23 year old thinks they’re too big for that and they’re looking to move up.  I never dreamed I would be here for thirty years.”

How long did it take you to get comfortable with your new environment?

“To be honest, two or three years.  The Channel 4 I came to was one with a storied reputation, winning the top awards in journalism.  Everybody in the newsroom had a rolodex filled with contacts and a lot of knowledge of the community.  Now, here I was, new to the business, new to the city and even though I had the “book” knowledge, I really didn’t know what I was doing.”

What’s the best thing about what you do?

“There are so many good things, but I’ve always been one of those people who wanted to know things before everybody else.  I love discovering things.  I love being that person that is able to tell someone something they didn’t know, and that’s what we’re doing in this business.”

So you’re nosey?

“Oh yes. I’m nosey as hell.  In the business we like to call it curious, but I want to know and I want to know the truth.  I will strain to hear someone’s conversation, it’s just my nature.”

How hard is it to have a normal personal life when you’re such a public figure?

“What’s normal?  Everybody has their own definition of what that is.  My life is people knowing who I am, speaking to me by name, which is kind of crazy, and being recognized most everywhere I go. I’ve been on a beach in Mexico, or a ski lift in Colorado and someone will ask me, ‘Aren’t you Demetria?’ so it’s kind of weird.”

But it’s the life you chose.

“Well, to some degree that’s true.  You can’t ‘un-ring’ that bell.  You have to realize that people notice you, and they’re watching.”

And we read the bad news too.

“It was a very tough lesson for me when I went through my divorce and it was made so public.  Now, in our editorial meetings when somebody’s marital problems are discussed, I really question whether or not it’s news.  Unless you’ve walked in another man’s shoes, you really don’t know how they feel.  I think the media has gone crazy lately reporting on rumor and innuendo.”

Is there still more pressure on women in your business?

“Oh yeah, without a doubt.  I would be lying if I said I haven’t had criticism about my appearance over the years and it didn’t affect me.  I’ve looked in the mirror many times and thought, ‘Well, maybe I ought to do this or do that,’ but I wouldn’t feel right doing that.  I’m just not one of those people.  It’s just not who I am.”

Good genes, or good docs?

“Good genes, definitely. My parents lived a good long healthy life, so I’ve been blessed in that regard.  I take care of myself, get lots of exercise, and stay active. You’ll notice I don’t color my hair, it is what it is.”

What’s your favorite ‘guilty’ pleasure?

“Being on a beach somewhere, with a good book.  In my case, it’s our little country house in Williamson County.  We’ve got our own little ‘hillbilly chic’ spot where we like to spend time together.”

How did you meet your husband, Verlon Thompson?

“I had always been a fan of Guy Clark, and Verlon was his ‘sideman.’  After seeing them perform one night, I contacted a friend and said I wanted to meet him.  It was a very bold move for me, and a bit out of character, but in retrospect, it was a good thing, because he was pretty shy.”

Thompson would explain it this way:

“Well, I was shocked when I heard Demetria Kalodimos wanted to meet me. I’ve always been a big fan of hers, and I just thought she was looking for information about a documentary she was working on.  I never dreamed she was interested in me personally” he said.  “One night after a show, Guy (Clark) came up to me and said, ‘Look, Demetria Kalodimos is out there, and she likes you and wants to meet you.  ‘Now get out there and go see her,'” he remembers.

The two would date for ten years before getting married, and Verlon says that their crazy schedules make the time they spend together, very special.

“She works nights, and I’m on the road a lot, so when we get to be together, we make the most of it,” said Thompson. “And the one thing that most people don’t know about Demetria, is how giving she is. How open with her time, her talent and her money.  She does things all over the country that changes peoples lives.  She’s got the biggest heart I’ve ever seen.”

One of the biggest changes during your career, Demetria, has been the internet.  What do you think about that?

“Well, it is amazing.  I remember in the old days when we had to get in a car and drive downtown to get a document, and now we can pull it up online, or have someone e-mail it to us.

The internet is good in breaking news situations, and in a lot of ways, it’s really great, but we have to use more caution about the information we get to make sure it’s accurate and that can be a challenge.  I mean, can you remember seeing so many ‘on-air’ apologies we’ve seen the last couple of years?  I hate that the most, because at Channel 4, if we make a mistake, then I’m the face of the apology.”

When you came to Nashville, you were anchoring on the weekends with Teddy Bart, and over the course of your career, you’ve worked with some amazing people.

“The guy (Bart) can do everything.  He’s an incredibly talented broadcaster.  He’s written novels, he’s a top notch musician who, by the way, came to Nashville to play a piano bar in Printer’s Alley.  He’s an actor, and public speaker.  I mean, here’s the guy I shared an office and anchor desk with and I learned so much from him.”

But you will always be remembered for your time with Dan Miller. How special was that?

“It was great. Dan was our leader.  I had no problem being in the shadow of Dan Miller.  That’s a great place to be.  He was so generous.  He would stick up for me like a big brother.  We were always a united front and we never had words, or any pettiness.  I learned so much from Dan Miller.  Anytime I got an ‘attaboy’ from Dan, I knew I had done something special. Apart from all of that though, we had a great relationship. It was an amazing time.”

Demetria Kalodimos directs another documentary for her production company, Genuine Human Productions.
Demetria Kalodimos directs another documentary for her production company, Genuine Human Productions.

How did you hear the news of his death?

“I was asleep and the phone rang in the middle of the night. I thought I was dreaming.  Then it rang again and I realized it was real and I needed to answer it. When I picked up the phone, it was Dan’s wife Karen and she said, ‘Dan collapsed and he’s gone’.”

I said, “collapsed? gone? What are you talking about?”  And she said,  “He was at the Masters and he collapsed and now he’s gone.”

What were you thinking when it hit you that Dan was gone?

“Hank, I can’t even tell you what I was feeling or thinking.  “You know that feeling you get when you just think this can’t be happening?”

“So I called my husband, who was on the road, then I called my mother and my brother.  Then, in my pajamas, I got in my car and drove to Dan’s house.  It was so surreal.”

What did you do when you got there?

“Well, there were a lot of tears for sure, and as we were sitting in the middle of the floor together, I realized that I needed to call the station and tell them.  They hadn’t heard the news, even though Rudy (Kalis) and Terry (Bulger) were with him when it happened.  They had only called Karen. They were in shock too.”

Longtime WSMV sports anchor, Rudy Kalis, remembers “Dan and Demetria:”

“I love Demetria.  She’s smart, she’s sassy, she has a great heart and she’s very professional,” said Kalis. “Dan Miller was the least judgmental person I have ever known.  He was a comforting voice for Demetria.  She is such a perfectionist, at times he would hold her back.  But, they were united in what they were doing.  Dan cared for all of us.  “I lost my dearest friend when he died and it was especially hard on Demetria” said Kalis.

Demetria’s husband, Verlon, remembers all too well the effect Miller’s death had on his wife.

“It was devastating.  Heart wrenching.  I couldn’t hardly watch her on TV, because I knew how she was feeling inside,” Thompson said.  “But she still had to go on the air.  Dan was more than just her work partner, they were friends,” Thompson would say.   “Dan would walk her to her car every night after the ten o’clock news to make sure she was safe. He was always there for her.”

And Demetria made it clear what the station should do to remember Dan.

” I begged the staff and management to let me make all the decisions about what we did on the air about Dan,” she said.   And thank God I knew him  so well.  “I knew his tastes, what he liked, what he didn’t like.  We had talked about everything under the sun.  I knew his pet peeves, so I was clearly the one who knew best how to tell his story.  I think we did it right.”

Demetria continues in the job she loves, and while she says she might eventually scale back her on-air duties, she has no intentions of slowing down.

“I just want people to remember me as being consistent.  Nothing more, nothing less,” she says.

So as we take time to celebrate her accomplishments, and appreciate having her in our homes every night for the past thirty years, we can only hope for one thing.

Thirty more.

Hank Bonecutter
Hank Bonecutterhttp://www.clarksvillesmotorcycle.com/
Hank Bonecutter is a retired broadcaster and media consultant based in Clarksville, Tennessee. His career includes stints at WKDA/WKDF and WKQB Rock 106FM, WLAC-AM in Nashville. He concluded his career as owner/talk show host at WJZM-AM in Clarksville. Currently the President of Bonehead Promotions, he's an advertising consultant and media strategist. An avid motorcyclist, Hank blogs about his travels exclusively at www.clarksvillemotorcycle.com and www.clarksvilleonline.com You can follow Hank on on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dodgintheroadkill/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/?lang=en, and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dodgetheroadkill/?hl=en  

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