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Posted on Wed, Dec. 18, 2002

Gail Shister | 'CAU rejects tape of reporter getting a taste of 'Fear'




Inquirer Columnist

Vai Sikahema can swallow almost anything, but apparently WCAU viewers can't.

That's why 'CAU news boss Chris Blackman has decided not to air a tape of Sikahema bravely nibbling horse rectum (we're not making this up) as a promotional stunt for NBC's loathsome Fear Factor.

Sikahema, along with reporters from NBC stations in St. Louis; Seattle; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Oklahoma City, Okla., sampled it while visiting the Fear set in L.A. in October.

The idea was for the out-of-towners to run their tapes as local teasers for the Jan. 6 episode of Fear, to feature contestants eating the equine organ. For money. (We feel so much better.)

"We watched the tape and decided to go with our gut," says Blackman, a regular laugh riot. "It wasn't particularly appetizing."

Sports anchor-reporter Sikahema, a native of the South Pacific island Tonga, had no idea what was up when he walked onto the Fear set as part of an NBC junket.

"They wouldn't tell us anything," says the former Eagles kick returner. "They pulled out this pot of what looked like animal intestines - big, long, thick and stretching forever. I stood there, wondering what it was."

He didn't wonder long. Sikahema stepped up and proceeded to chew the then-revealed item. His heritage helped.

As a youngster in Tonga, "I grew up eating horse meat, raw fish, and everything on a pig from the hooves to the brain," says Sikahema, 40, a 'CAU staffer since 1994. (His family moved to Hawaii when he was 7.)

Stop me if you've heard this one: What do you call a Tongan on a horse? A vegetarian.

As for digging into the "dish," "I wasn't at all intimidated," says Sikahema. "Ask the people I work with. I'm game. If people are eating it, I'll try it."

That doesn't mean he'll like it. The organ "was awful. Fatty. Chewy. Tasteless. I almost gagged, but I managed to get it down. Had the camera not been rolling, I might have thrown up."

Moral of the story: "People will literally do anything to get on TV and make money. Frankly, I'm afraid where this kind of thing is heading. It's not for family viewing, on any level."

Though he plans to make a copy of the tape for his personal archives, Sikahema is glad that viewers won't see it.

"It wouldn't be palatable for a family sitting down to dinner... . It's too gross. Besides, it would have been too hard to promote it."

Second time around? Who was that mystery man at WTXF last week?

Jeff Barnd, who went by Jeff Barnes as a WPVI reporter from 1985 to '88, stopped by Fox's Channel 29 to audition for the open coanchor spot on Good Day Philadelphia, news boss Scott Matthews confirms.

Barnd is 10 p.m. coanchor at Boston's WLVI, a WB affiliate. His resume includes stints in Baltimore; Portland, Maine; and Scranton.

He is one of several candidates in the hunt, Matthews says, but there's no front-runner. The Good Day slot has been vacant since Mike Jerrick left for Fox's New York station in October. Kerri-Lee Halkett coanchors.

During his time here, Barnd was best known for his high-profile romance with then-KYW anchor Terri Merryman.

When Barnd quit 'PVI in April 1988, he said one reason was that he had been ordered to remove a photo of Merryman - then his wife - from his office in Atlantic City.

"I must look out for my best interests," Barnd said at the time. "I signed a three-year deal with Channel 6. I signed a lifetime deal with Terri."

Four months later, Barnd and Merryman called it quits after seven months. He was her fourth husband.

Malina's move. Joshua Malina, an alum of Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night, has joined Sorkin's The West Wing as a series regular.

Malina will continue in the recurring role of Will Bailey, a campaign manager recruited to the White House as a speechwriter.


Contact Gail Shister at 215-854-2224 or gshister@phillynews.com.

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