You've Come a Long Way, Baby Face Who knew?: In 1984, in a Raleigh newsroom, no one took him seriously. He was tagged a local nut forever seeking media attention. Now, he's a national figure and everyone listens.

August 25, 1996|By Rob Hiaasen

Baby Face was such a pest.

Reporters in a Raleigh newsroom in 1984 took his clockwork calls, heard his baby voice, and fibbed about sending someone out to cover his "news" event. We made no such plans that year.

No one took him seriously. He was tagged a community nut forever trolling for media attention. Who was this guy anyway? Who is this Christian? Who goes around making a big deal about being a Christian anyway? A newsroom was certainly no place for such talk!

We religiously covered the mandatory cycle of North Carolina stories: Jesse Helms wins Senate seat again; tobacco farmers urge higher price supports; Dean Smith's Tar Heels advance to Final Four. When we were done, we covered them again. The stories never went away. Neither did the pest.

We could have stopped him (maybe) by doing a story on him. But the concept escaped our baby brains. In 1984, I did see him once. I was covering something for my radio station - either a nasty fire; the riveting spectacle that was the Raleigh City Council; the annual hollering contest at Spivey's Corner; or a Helms news conference.

I was heading out of some situation when I saw our boy pacing in front of an abortion clinic. He was conducting one of his many "funerals" - complete with a little baby casket and perhaps a fake baby corpse. It was more pathetic than dramatic. But this was his standard procedure.

If memory serves, he was walking alone. No coalition of what he'd call "people of faith" backing him, believing him. No one standing with him in his conservative blue dress shirt, creased pants and black dress shoes.

Who knew?

He was just one man, doing his thing in front of an abortion clinic with his death prop. He was so serious, and he certainly didn't seem bothered by the Great Missing Media. Maybe the Raleigh newspapers wrote about him, but the radio newsroom was much more interested in Jesse and Dean. Jesse and Dean are North Carolina institutions. The other one was just this odd blip on the state's radar screen. Case dismissed.

Now everyone writes about him. He still puts the "anti" in anti-abortion. His group passes out so-called voters guides before elections to let people know where the candidates stand on random issues such as, say, abortion.

He certainly isn't alone, anymore. This national figure has flocks of followers, including the Federal Elections Commission. Its lawsuit alleges that the Christian Coalition is really a partisan political operation and subject to applicable laws. The courts will try to straighten that out. Meanwhile, the coalition's leader rolls on.

Ralph Reed has come a long way since Raleigh.

Rob Hiaasen is a feature writer for The Sun.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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