By RACHEL C. DOVE
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a series about the prime-time shows that will be featuring and spotlighting Mingo County and the Hatfield and McCoy feud.)
WILLIAMSON - A Williamson resident who is a fourth-generation descendant of the Hatfield clan involved in the historical feud with the McCoy’s was extended an invitation to be a part of the studio audience for the taping of the ABC morning talk show “Anderson,” hosted by journalist Anderson Cooper.
Linda Van Meter, and her husband Doyle, well-known business owners (Sycamore Inn) that are lifelong residents of Williamson, boarded a plane Monday morning after a hectic few days of making arrangements and preparation for a trip to New York City.
Linda was the Hatfield descendant chosen by the producers of “Anderson” to be seated in the studio audience during the taping of the talk show for which actor Kevin Costner was the guest. Costner is starring in the role of “Devil Anse” Hatfield in the History Channel mini-series “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s: An American Vendetta.”
Linda was told she would be asked a question regarding her ancestry, possibly more than one if time allowed. A McCoy descendant was also present, which was a woman who resided in Tennessee.
The whirlwind planning process for the trip all began when Linda’s name was provided upon request to the show’s producers by an individual who has been at the heart of all the media exposure Mingo County and the Hatfield and McCoy legend has recently received.
Bill Richardson, Mingo County’s West Virginia University’s Extension Professor, has been the “go-to-guy” for anything Hatfield and McCoy related for several years. Richardson is not only amazingly knowledgeable of this part of Mingo County’s past , but has dedicated the last ten years of his career to promoting area tourism and has centered that endeavor around sites, artifacts, and other history related to the feud.
“I felt that Linda would be an excellent choice to represent not only the Hatfield family history, but Mingo County and the State of West Virginia as well,” said Richardson. “Linda is a retired English teacher, is extremely articulate and presents herself as a fine lady, which she is.”
The Daily News sat down with the Van Meters inside the Sycamore Inn Thursday morning, and spoke with them about their experiences in New York City.
“I wasn’t notified until Friday, so we only had two days to prepare since our flight was scheduled for Monday morning,” Linda remarked. “We had to rush to get everything ready, but the lady who was our contact with the Anderson show crew was wonderful. She made all the arrangements for the flight, transportation from and to the airport, the hotel reservations, everything was taken care of.”
“The agenda is planned to the minute,” commented her husband, Doyle. “They really have it down to a science.”
Linda said that when they arrived in New York, a limousine and driver was awaiting them. She laughed about the driver, saying he was very entertaining and that she and Doyle enjoyed the stories of his life that he shared with them. They were taken to their hotel, located on 58th Street, approximately one block from the entrance for Central Park and was just around the corner from the Time-Warner Studio where “Anderson” is taped.
“The hotel was an older building that had been completely redone, and had a very modern décor, with several pieces of eclectic art pieces, lamps and lighting,” said Linda. “We were on the eighth floor, with large windows overlooking the city.”
The Van Meters said that the dishes available at dinner were very unique and served in small portions.
“Everything was brought to our table on tiny plates,” she said. “It was very different from most dining experiences. We sat at a table by the window so we could enjoy the view with our meal.”
Tuesday morning, a representative for the show came and escorted the couple to the studio, and placed them in one of the “green rooms” reserved for guests. Linda explained that the show was filmed in segments, with a few changes of audience members made during the breaks.
“We were fortunate to be able to watch the entire taping process of Anderson Cooper interviewing Kevin Costner,” Linda remarked. “The questions directed toward him were about his career as an actor, movies that he has starred in and roles he had played. One subject that seemed to really be of interest to the audience was when Mr. Cooper discussed the eulogy the actor spoke at the funeral of the late Whitney Houston.
“He had starred with Whitney in the movie ‘The Bodyguard,’ and they had developed a friendship,” explained Linda. “It seemed to affect him that her life took the paths that it did and resulted in her death at an early age.”
The Van Meters said that, although the moments during the interview that pertained to the Hatfield and McCoy mini-series weren’t as long as they would have liked it to be, it still went very well.
“We knew that the amount of questions asked of me and the McCoy descendant would depend on the time available, so we were only addressed one question,” she said.
“After the filming of our segment was complete, we were able to meet and speak with Anderson Cooper, and we also got to say hello and shake hands with Kevin Costner.
“It was a thrill to see Kevin Costner in person. He was taller than I expected, but he was just as handsome as I knew he would be,” she said with a smile.
A Hatfield and McCoy related gift was presented to the actor by Anderson Cooper, on behalf of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce prior to the taping coming to an end.
“It was truly a wonderful experience, one that I would never have expected to happen,” Linda remarked. “I want to thank Bill Richardson for providing me with this opportunity that I will remember always.”
This episode of “Anderson” is slated to run sometime during the week leading up to Memorial Day, and more information on the exact date will be released as soon as it becomes available. The time slot of the daytime talk show is at 9:00 a.m., on WCHS.
This series will continue in Saturday’s edition of the Daily News, and will feature a rare behind-the-scenes look at the “American Picker’s” show, courtesy of Bill Richardson.