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Waxhaw artist competes on car design show

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.
JoAnn Bortles, owner of Crazy Horse Custom Paint in Waxhaw, is one of 10 contestants on “Motor City Masters,” debuting Tuesday on truTV,

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  • Teen attacks

    WBTV photographer

    A veteran photographer for WBTV (Channel 3) was punched from behind while covering the search for a missing teacher on Druid Circle.

    Devin Futrelle, who joined Channel 3 in 2003, was working with reporter Pamela Escobar on a report Monday about Bianca Tanner, who moved to Druid Circle three weeks ago from Greensboro and was trying to find a job in Charlotte when she vanished.

    Futrelle was raising the transmission mast on a WBTV van and talking on his phone to the station when a group of about a half-dozen teenagers came up from behind. One punched him in the neck.

    “It was just, pow, and I thought, what was that?” said Futrelle, 32, who turned to see the teenagers running away. Paramedics took him to Mercy Hospital, where he was treated for a possible concussion. Futrelle said he had blurry vision for a time and his neck was still sore days later.

    It was the first time he’d ever been attacked on assignment, Futrelle said.

    “It was probably a couple kids playing the knockout game,” in which strangers are randomly attacked, said Dennis Milligan, WBTV’s news director. “It’s a little disheartening when these things happen because it’s stupid, and someone could have gotten hurt.”

    Mark Washburn

When she was a little girl, JoAnn Bortles didn’t waste her time on Barbies – she was playing with Matchbox cars instead.

“I was the little kid in kindergarten drawing pictures of hot rods,” says Bortles, now 54 and owner of Crazy Horse Custom Paint in Waxhaw and author of six books about custom painting techniques.

She is also one of 10 contestants on “Motor City Masters,” debuting 10 p.m. Tuesday on truTV, a car-design show hosted by Brooke Burns. Whoever wins gets a 2014 Camaro Z28 and $100,000.

Nominated by friends for the show, Bortles says she was pretty cocky when she went out to California for the taping. She had always been good at what she did and expected to excel in the competition.

“They didn’t give us very much information about what the show would be,” says Bortles, a certified welder and fabricator.

“I was surprised by the caliber of the competitors – they were all like me, very competitive, very successful. You go out there thinking I’m going to steam-roll right over them. It was like being dropped into a meat grinder. Doing ‘Motor City Masters’ was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m glad I stayed in such good shape.”

In one of the competitions, Bortles had to come up with a concept for a Transformer character, then make a car fit the character. “It was mentally, physically demanding work, cutting the car apart, putting it back together in an insanely short amount of time,” she says.

Bortles grew up in Connecticut and learned to weld at 15. She rebuilt early Mustangs in her hobby shop at one point. She was also good at art, and painted cars and motorcycles on the side.

She moved to the Charlotte area in 1996 from Florida and discovered Waxhaw. She fell in love with the town and moved in, opening a custom painting shop there in 1997. It took a while to catch on.

Her first year, she painted only six bikes. With her life savings gone and bills beginning to mount, she persuaded her six customers to enter their bikes in the 1998 Easyriders Bike Show in Charlotte. All six bikes took top prizes. She attracted industry notice and was soon in demand.

“One thing I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur, you have to be a go-getter,” says Bortles. “I made sure those bikes were in that show.”

Media Movers

Stacey Simms joins Time Warner Cable News (Channel 14) as health reporter. Simms, who was a health reporter for WBTV (Channel 3) before she joined WBT-AM as morning co-anchor and went on to other jobs, will be doing two health segments a week for the statewide 24-hour cable news channel. … Richard Green of TWC News will co-host the Miss North Carolina pageant with 2004 winner Kirsten Elrod at 8 p.m. Saturday on Time Warner’s Cable Channel 323. …

Joe Bruno, an Elon College graduate, joins WJZY (Channel 46) as morning reporter. … Also joining Fox46 is Page Crawford as morning co-anchor. She comes from the NBC affiliate in Raleigh. … Blake Hanson joins WSOC (Channel 9) as a reporter from the NBC affiliate in New Orleans. …

In sports radio, Chris Kroeger took over the afternoon drive show “Prime Time” on WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610) this week. Kroeger grew up in Charlotte and studied broadcasting at Appalachian State University in Boone. In mornings, WFNZ has also added a call-in show, “The Call Up With Colin and Nate,” 10 a.m.-noon, with Colin Hoggard, producer for the WFNZ “Mac Attack Morning Show,” and Nate Conley, executive producer of the midday show “Bustin’ Loose” with Frank Garcia and Mark Yarbro. … Recently retired Panther Jordan Gross joins the team’s radio broadcast team as sideline reporter. This season the rest of the broadcast team will remain with Mick Mixon on play-by-play, Jim Szoke and Eugene Robinson on analysis, and Sharon Thorsland doing pregame reports at home games. … Former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney debuted Monday on WZGV-AM (ESPN 730). His first big interview was with coach Ron Rivera, who said of his old boss and his new job: “Best part is now he can just show everybody he has all the answers.” …

From local producers Beverly Penninger and Alyson Young, “The Newport Effect” – a documentary tribute to the Newport Folk Festival – has been picked up for its world premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August where it will compete as best documentary feature. …

Anitra Cook of Coulwood Middle School and Audrey Pomeroy at Davidson Day School, both social studies teachers, have been selected as two of the 32 educators from across the nation to attend C-SPAN Classroom’s 2014 Educators’ Conference to be held in Washington in July. … Fiona Ritchie, who launched the national Celtic music show “Thistle & Shamrock” from WFAE-FM (NPR, 90.7) when she worked there in the 1980s, has been appointed a member of the order of the British Empire for services to broadcasting and traditional Scottish music.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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