HOTSEATED- Secrets of the 2008 HotSeat sitters


From the corridors of City Hall, to the sets of CNN, to the medal podium in Beijing, you know their names and faces. But do you know about your newly elected congressman's penchant for vampire-slaying television? Or a local barbecue giant's secret singing chops? Or your local fire chief's aspirations to become an international man of mystery? Local celebs always have surprising personal nuggets to share when they sit in our HotSeat, and here are some of the best from the past year. 

Now that he's retired from being dean of the University of Virginia Law School, John Jeffries has time to take care of household chores such as clearing out the "things that should have been thrown out weeks ago" that are always in his refrigerator.

Should the beer business ever fail, tarr Hill Brewery founder Mark Thompson might be able to start a new business in the energy industry, as he makes his own biodiesel fuel in discarded beer tanks and runs his 1983 Mercedes Benz on the homemade brew.

He runs a tight ship now, but Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail superintendent Ron Matthews wasn't always so organized. In 1969, he was so busy celebrating his 18th birthday that he forgot to register for the Armed Forces draft.

Besides ascending the academic ranks to become UVA's research coordinator on climatology, Jerry Stenger says his proudest accomplishment was when, "once, I actually backed up my files before the computer crashed."

Even after having endured tongue-lashings from UVA head football coach Al Groh, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long says the most trouble he's ever gotten in was "talking back to my mom."

He's happy with saving lives as Charlottesville's fire chief, but Charles Werner would rather be on Her Majesty's secret service "007 (with all the gadgets) protecting the world from all foreign enemies."

PHOTO BY JENNY LYNNAuthor Lee Fielding has a way with words, but if he had his druthers, he'd be making a living on the stage as a "Michael Bublé type of band singer."

Being a professional pundit has its occupational hazards, at least of the fashion sort, as Slate legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick discovered after appearing on CNN with a Cheerio in her hair.

Crime novelist Andy Straka's literary palette isn't limited to grisly murders and spell-binding mysteries. In college, he wooed his wife by placing anonymous poems in her campus mailbox.

Former governor Linwood Holton has mixed feelings about Charlottesville's most famous native son. While he says the six-volume Thomas Jefferson biography by Dumas Malone is his favorite book, Holton also says of the Third President, "we do hear an inordinate amount of propaganda about him."

He ran a campaign based largely on his desire to rid Washington of corruption, but in his spare time Rep.-elect Tom Perriello (D-Ivy) likes watching blood suckers of a different variety. Says the soon-to-be freshman congressman, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most brilliant shows ever written."

Beautiful snapshots aren't the only love of Festival of the Photograph director Jessica Nagle. She's also got a soft spot for animals, as she owns three dogs, a pig, and some "miniature cows."

As the director of neighborhood development, Jim Tolbert might have his head in Charlottesville City Hall, but his heart is so deeply in the Alabama gridiron that a perfect day is "a Saturday in the fall when Auburn wins and Alabama loses." 

Having only just retired as UVA's dean of admissions, Jack Blackburn is a fan of each and every student who populates Grounds, but he still can't help but rant when he sees one of them "driving while talking on the cell phone."

It's not a boast most people in his profession could make; but, if necessary, James "Jinx" Kern of Jinx's Pit's Top Barbecue could sing for his supper, as he is a classically-trained singer.

Contrary to outward appearances (he stands 6' 3"), new UVA radio play-by-play announcer Dave Koehn yearns for a better leap so he could "throw down monster dunks."

When his house at Montpelier reopened after a major renovation in September, President James Madison disclosed to the Hook that he doesn't care who ends up playing him in the movie of his life, "as long as Angelina Jolie plays Dolley."

Now that Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) is running for governor, he may have some explaining to do to Cavalier and Hokie fans about why he told the Hook his favorite thing on TV is Notre Dame football games.

Having traveled the world as a National Geographic photographer, Sam Abell could have been wooed by some exotic locale, but he still believes "the Moorman's River Valley, where we have lived for 30 years, has grown more, not less, beautiful."

Winning an Olympic gold medal certainly has its perks, but champion rower Lindsay Shoop says one of its drawbacks is the creep-out that comes with "getting Facebooked by people I don't even know."

Looking back on his 90 years, UVA music professor George Mead says there's nothing he'd change about himself today since, "I and time have made the changes."