I (heart) CHUCK 

Plus: Echols’ book to tour.

BULLISH: On Dovish.
  • BULLISH: On Dovish.

I must confess: I love Chuck Dovish. As a kid, I used to anxiously await each new installment of his “Travelin’ Arkansas” on KTHV, Ch. 11, like Christmas. Dovish seemed — to a lad with a penchant for pocket knives and barefootedness — to possess the world’s greatest job: travelin’ around, free as a bird, exploring caves, going kayaking and watching old geezers whittle out walking canes, bows and arrows and the occasional dowsing rod.

Grown to a man’s mind and a fairly comfortable heterosexuality, I can now say it: If loving someone with such a prominent mustache is a crime, then let me be guilty!

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive KTHV for booting ol’ Chuck off the air a couple of years back. However, the best part of this job is that every once in awhile, you get a little face time with the great, long-canceled celebrities of youth and yore. Two years ago I got to have a fine Dixie Cafe lunch with Gary “Bozo the Clown” Weir, and was so starstruck that I almost did the whole “I’m not worthy” face-plant supplication. One of these days, I’m hoping Tom “Luke Duke” Wopat will make a swing through town. If so, I’ll be there, dude — pen in hand, smile on face, and wearing one of those mega-sized adult nappies under my pants just in case I can’t take the strain.

Recently, I chatted with Dovish about his new gig at AETN. (I talked to him a few years back, but that time I think my entire contribution to the conversation was: “Um, Mr. Dovish, do you, like, remember that time that, like, you did that stuff with the old violin-making guy and stuff? That was cool.”) Though he had been freelancing his show “Exploring Arkansas” for AETN, he signed on full time with the station in January. As a full-timer, he’ll continue shooting “Exploring Arkansas” (Mondays at 6:30 p.m.) and will be also be doing segments for “Arkansas Outdoors” (Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.) and AETN’s profile-o-rama “Men and Women of Distinction.”

“Ever since I was at [Ch.] 11, I eventually wanted to come over here,” Dovish said of AETN. “The whole thing is their emphasis on quality. They’re not all about commercial television. That’s why I always had a problem with commercial TV. They always said, ‘We like the quality, but we’re after quantity.’ ”

Dovish said the plan is for his 5- to 7-minute “Arkansas Outdoors” segments to broaden the show’s appeal (it’s primarily a hunting and fishing showcase). As for “Exploring Arkansas,” Dovish said it will continue in the adventure theme, featuring Dovish trying out such activities as rock climbing and paragliding.

We’ve all gotten older, however. At 51, Dovish said, he tries to stay “relatively fit” so he can keep at it. So far, he said, he’s managed to do everything over the years except hang-gliding, which required certification. “Age is a mindset,” Dovish said. “It’s just a number. I actually feel like I’m 31.”

Chuck (sniffle), you’re still the man.

Sales of Damien Echols’ memoir “Almost Home: My Life Story, Vol. 1” surely will get a boost in coming months, with Michale Graves, former frontman of the punk band The Misfits, headlining “Almost Home 2006,” a 55-city nationwide tour in support of the book. The tour will continue through March 31, which has been designated as “West Memphis Three World Awareness Day” by the website wm3.org and Echols’ supporters.

Echols, as you’ll remember, is the central figure of the West Memphis Three, a trio of Arkansas teen-agers convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys in 1993, in what prosecutors claimed was a case of satanic sacrifice. A documentary about the case — “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” — questioned whether Echols and his co-defendants were guilty, turning the WM3 into a cause celebre.

IUniverse Inc., which published the book in June 2005, bills “Almost Home” as a chronicle of Echols’ life in prison, one which “clearly illuminates him, not as a monster, but as a human being.”

According to a list of tour dates on Graves’ website (michalegraves.net), an April 22 stop in Arkansas is planned. For more information, visit wm3.org.





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