People often ask me, “What’s the craziest story you ever covered?” I don’t even need a second to think about it.

It was the time a couple got married on a billboard in Mobile.

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, sounds a little odd, but what makes it so crazy?”

Well, as we often say in television news, you can’t make this stuff up.

It all started with a good relationship that my station, WALA-TV, had with radio station WABB in the 1980s. Back then that radio station was a powerhouse, and some people actually did work for both radio and TV. I was friends with the afternoon drive team, Leslie and the Hound Dog, who often invited me to drop by during their show on Fridays.

Someone came up with an idea for a wild promotion that would have everyone talking. A lucky couple would win a wedding gown, a tuxedo, and a honeymoon in Las Vegas. Even better, the radio station had managed to get singer Al Green (“Let’s Stay Together”) to come to Mobile and perform the ceremony since he was actually an ordained minister. The only catch was that the couple would agree to get married atop the WABB billboard on Airport Boulevard during morning drive. Couples would enter an essay contest in order to win.

So both stations promoted the contest and, after receiving a bunch of essays, people from radio & TV gathered around a conference room table to read them and agree on a winner. Many of the entries were pretty predictable.

“We’re hopelessly in love and can’t afford a honeymoon.”

But one entry stood out with everyone. Plus, the guy had the truly bizarre last name of “Tombstone,” which would be memorable. The entrants seemed like a fun couple and we all agreed that this would be the best choice.

And that’s when this promotion entered an alternate universe.

After contacting the winning couple, the bride and groom were sent over to the department store that was to provide the gown and tux. No problem for the guy, but the bride didn’t want anything traditional.

She wanted to wear black.

Personally, it seems like a couple is asking for trouble if the bride wears a black wedding gown, but that’s what she wanted and both stations had agreed to provide one. So we had to hire a seamstress to make a black wedding dress (which may still be on a rack at Goodwill).

My News Director asked me if I was okay to go up to a billboard via a bucket truck and to me, it sounded like fun. So, everything was set up and the ceremony would be live on the morning show newscast.

We got lucky with the weather as it was a beautiful day. Our television live truck was set up, WABB was live with a remote, and singer Al Green had arrived. I hopped into the bucket and slowly made the ascent to the billboard.

Since I’m sure the average person has never been up on a billboard, you should know there’s a narrow catwalk that runs along the bottom, which, I assume, is for the people who change the signage on the thing. The bucket reaches the billboard and I step out into the catwalk.

It’s made of wood. It creaks.

I decide to move as little as possible.

The bucket goes down, then comes up with our photographer, who is carrying about 80 pounds of gear. He steps on the catwalk.

It really creaks.

The bucket goes down, then starts coming up with the bride.

The photog takes a few shots of her, then says, “When she gets on, we’re getting off.”

So, when the bucket arrives at the billboard, we swap places. We head down, and then the groom, who showed up with royal blue hair, goes up.

Singer Al Green, obviously having noted the catwalk issue, decides to perform the ceremony from the safety of the bucket while the bride and groom exchange vows on the billboard.

Meanwhile, with a television live truck, a bucket truck carrying a famous singer, and a bride in black with a Smurf groom perched on a billboard, the morning commute on Airport Boulevard was even worse as people slowed down to watch. The crowd that had gathered in the parking lot below the billboard gives them a big cheer as they say “I do.” The bucket brings everyone down. Green sings his signature hit song and everyone joins in.

But of course, we couldn’t give away a wedding and honeymoon without a reception. So it was held at the restaurant directly under the billboard.


Since it was early morning, we grabbed a hot biscuit and got some shots of the happy couple toasting with, of all things, Mountain Dew. Then they were whisked off to the airport. I put together a story for the six o’clock news, hoping the couple would come back from Vegas with photos. But I never heard from them.

I’d forgotten about this until I ran into a friend from WABB a few months later. Turned out this honeymoon in Vegas was as strange as the Nicholas Cage movie. (“We’re the flyin’ Elvises! Utah chapter!”) I was told the couple wasn’t really a couple, just two friends that wanted a free trip, who then had the marriage annulled in the land of quickie divorces.

Not exactly a “happily ever after” romance. Then again, that black wedding dress should have been a dead giveaway.

Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.