'Choccolocco monster' goes national on Daily Show
By Matthew Creamer
Star Staff Writer
J.C. Lexow/The Anniston Star: Videographer Norris Lanius records The Daily Show correspondent Lauren Weedman as she interviews Neal Williamson for the show.
It took Neal Williamson more than 30 years to own up to the actions that created something of a local legend. But own up he has - and in a big way.
A crew from The Daily Show, a parody of television news on the cable channel Comedy Central, made the trek this week from New York City to Nances Creek to take the Choccolocco Monster myth national.
The shoot Thursday was the high point of several weeks of notoriety following a story in The Star that linked Williamson's name and face to the fading memory of Calhoun County's version of the Bigfoot legend.
As Williamson told The Star in a profile that ran on Halloween, the then 15-year-old put on a black overcoat, held a cow skull above his head, and made a few roadside appearances in the woods of Choccolocco. He scared the life out of a few locals, and a series of stories written at the time about sightings of a "monster" spread the word across the state, drawing people from as far as Birmingham to come and try their hands at gunning down the beast.
And so the monster became a small part of local lore.
But the recent story, in which Williamson came clean, took his tale outside Alabama. Newspapers and radio stations picked up the article, and a Daily Show researcher saw it on a Web site.
On The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart and several far-flung correspondents bring a wry and sometimes acid approach to the news of the day. Though the Choccolocco Monster isn't as rich as, say, the Gary Condit soap opera or President Bush's grammatical difficulties, it's still ripe material for the show, one of its producers said.
"The smallness of the story is what appealed to us," said Jo Honig, a field producer who came with correspondent Lauren Weedman to the shoot. "We have the opportunity to build it up into something big."
The three-minute spot featuring Williamson is scheduled to air next Thursday but could be delayed, Ms. Honig said.
Not typically a nervous man, Williamson, now 48, was a bit jittery while he was awaiting the television crew. He's still a little dumbfounded about his newfound celebrity.
"What can you say?" he said. "I've gotten calls from Georgia, Tennessee and Florida."
But not all the interest has been from people who are far away. He's also heard about it at work and at a recent White Plains High School class reunion.
"When he walked in, everyone clapped," said his wife, Glenda.