John S. Pemberton and Asa Candler discuss a deal for the Coca-Cola formula Photo by HISTORY/Lucky 8

Briefs: Coke origins on History special, what Larry Wachs is doing, former Q100 OM Rob Roberts’ new home

Originally posted Friday, August 9, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Hershey. Heinz. Birdseye. Mars. Kellogg. Post. McDonald. Sanders. And Coca Cola.

These are the iconic brands featured on a fascinating three-part, six-hour History miniseries called “The Food That Built America” debuting Sunday August 11 and airing over three nights.

Sure, Atlanta-based Coke technically wasn’t “food” like the others, but let’s not quibble. It became one of the world’s most iconic brands, with its products still consumed by millions to this day. 

Coke’s inception is part of a largely chronological series that focuses on American industrialization after the Civil War through the post-World War II boom of the 1950s. It features re-enactments of the founders of these now famous companies with expert narration from culinary historians and celebrities such as “Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons, “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro and Emory grad and former “Man vs. Food” host Adam Richman

The Coke story is featured part one on Sunday night at 9 p.m.

John Pemberton, a morphine addicted Civil War veteran and pharmacist, spent the 1870s and 1880s trying to  invent a “miracle health tonic,” a trend sweeping the nation at the time. The special features an actor playing Pemberton. 

He experiments with a drink combining a plant extract from the coca leaf (which also creates cocaine) and the bitter cola nut from Senegal. With enough sugar to counter-act the cola, he discovers a tasty “tonic” so in 1886, he called it Coca Cola, a combo of those two key ingredients.

“What’s fascinating to me is it wasn’t intended to just be a sugary soft drink at first,” said executive producer Isaac Holub from production company Lucky 8. “Pemberton was suffering from war wounds and was trying to cure his own pain. He surely didn’t imagine it would become an incredibly commercially viable worldwide drink.” 

Indeed, Pemberton died of stomach cancer long before that happened. Ambitious hustler Asa Candler purchased the remaining rights from Pemberton’s widow at her husband’s funeral and  founded the Coca-Cola company in 1892. Three years later, he distributed the supposed medically helpful drink nationwide. (Candler by the way, quietly took out the cocaine part of Coke by 1903.)

Today, Coca Cola employs 62,000 employees in more than 200 countries and remains one of Atlanta’s largest and most famous companies. 

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What is Larry Wachs, co-creator of the Regular Guys, up to? He’s doing a lot of extras work in film and TV but has also collected some of the best clips from the Regular Guys and posted it for free for anybody to see at www.regularguys.com.

Among the clips so far: the infamous “Southside Steve” Rickman interview with John Travolta, a prank where a fake Arnold Schwarzeneggar pranks Fox News and the dawn of Wachs’ phrase “peteetong.”

The Regular Guys started in 1995 at Los Angeles’ KLSX-FM with Wachs and Eric Von Haessler. They came to Atlanta on 96rock in 1998 and became a hugely popular team until they were fired once over a bit gone awry. They later returned for a brief foray in WGST, then back at 96rock until they were canned again over another bit that resulted in a lawsuit.

They were hired by Rock 100.5 in 2007 and lasted until 2014. Von Haessler was let go in 2013, followed by Wachs in 2014. Rickman has since thrived at Rock 100.5 with Jason Bailey. 

Von Haessler - with later Regular Guy Tim Andrews - now hosts a successful mid-morning show on 95.5 WSB News and Talk. 

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Rob Roberts, Q100 operations manager from 2006 to 2016 who left to take over Cumulus’ D.C. station Mix 107.3, lost his gig earlier this year when Atlanta-based Cumulus sold that station in the same deal that killed off Talk 106.7.

Though Roberts considered joining Q100 rival and Entercom-owned Star 94.1, he instead chose to take over two stations in San Antonio, part of Cox Media Group. He is officially head of branding and programming for Classic Hits KONO 101.1 and Hot AC KSMG (Magic 105.3). 

“I'm excited for the opportunity to become part of the Cox Media Group team in a city I love – it’s the job I’ve always wanted," Roberts said in a press release. 

On Facebook, he noted: “Hey! I'm no longer a drag on the society! Back among the gainfully employed. Back in Texas and loving it! Thanks for all the well wishes! Great company (Cox) and great radio stations with teams to match! REMEMBER THE ALAMO!”

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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