Bryan Hanks returns to Kinston
For many years Bryan Hanks was known to the people of Lenoir, Greene, and Jones counties as a newspaper journalist who lived, breathed, dreamed and marinated in sports. If two or more people gathered to engage in throwing, running, kicking or jumping, Hanks was there with a notepad, a pencil and a shirt loud enough to drown out a low-flying jet.
Lots of people are into sports as entertainment, but Hanks was serious about it. Like a supercomputer in cargo shorts, Bryan Hanks knew every statistic of every sports team that ever existed. Sometimes for fun, out of nowhere, I'd hurl a statistical sports question at Hanks to test him.
"WHO LED THE NFL IN RUSHING YARDS IN 1977?!"
"Walter Payton," Hanks said immediately.
"WHAT DID HE HAVE FOR BREAKFAST EVERY OTHER THURSDAY THAT YEAR?!"
"A McMuffin," Hanks said. "This was before all the testing so it was still legal."
I've been on many road trips with Bryan Hanks and our mutual business manager Jonathan Massey. When traveling, Hanks would dedicate an entire suitcase to sports-themed hats. If we headed out towards Emerald Isle but somehow ended up in Tahiti, chances are Hanks would have a Bora Bora High School football cap in his luggage.
Hanks eventually became a newspaper editor, the voice of the Down East Wood Ducks, the announcer for Kinston High School's basketball team and the media director for the John Wall Holiday Invitational. If all this activity wasn't enough to keep him busy, Hanks found time to launch www.GoldenGirlsCentral.com, the #1 source for fans of the hit NBC sitcom The Golden Girls.
"My Golden Girls collection was pretty thin at the beginning - just a few cease and desist orders from Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan," Hanks said in a 2013 interview with Creepy Collections Magazine. "By chance, I bumped into Betty White's publicist at an Associated Press event, which led to me purchasing the earrings Ms. White wore in the season 7 episode, 'Never Yell Fire In A Crowded Retirement Home'. With the advent of eBay, the collection ballooned."
Hanks was incredibly busy with journalism and the Golden Girls convention circuit, and then it all stopped.
"Hanks just disappeared," said Jonathan Massey. "We were in the middle of alphabetizing his M&Ms one Saturday afternoon when he stepped outside to get something from his car. After a few minutes I looked outside and he was gone."
Hanks' friends searched high and low for days on end, but he was nowhere to be found.
"We'd get a few tips now and then," said Massey. "The first concrete lead we received came when someone posted a video of a guy arguing with the manager of a restaurant in Greensboro. Due to dim lighting the video was low quality, but you could tell the customer was wearing a University of Virginia hat and a sweater featuring the likeness of Estelle Getty."
"He was mad because we wouldn't let him order syrup as his beverage," said waitress Helen Roper. "I gave him 11 packs of syrup and a straw but he wasn't having it."
Eventually, Hanks was found working a memorabilia booth at a flea market in Galax, Va.
"From a distance Hanks seemed happy selling his wares and chatting with customers," Massey said. "He was somehow making a living selling VHS box sets of 'Mama's Family' for $5."
Over a flea market lunch of corn dogs and Tab, Massey learned Hanks had done more than peddle mediocre sitcoms on antiquated media formats during his time away from Kinston.
"For a few months I assisted a peanut farmer in North Wilkesboro," Hanks told Massey. "I was a farm-assist; even had the long white coat but it kept getting dirty."
It's unclear as to why Hanks left Kinston in the first place. In his absence many rumors circulated (failed attempt to become a pro Putt-Putt golfer, expulsion from Rodeo clown college, overdue Blockbuster fees), but he's clearly glad to be back in Kinston.
"These last few years away from Kinston made me miss journalism terribly," Hanks said on Friday. "Although I'm glad to be back, there's no way I'd ever go back to a media job. I'd have to be pretty desperate spiritually and/or financially to get back into the rough and tumble world of modern-day news gathering. If I ever did that you'd know something was fundamentally wrong with me."
On May 22, Bryan Hanks was named Editor of Neuse News Media.