SMITH COLUMN: Fall weekends are for entertaining

Published 9:30 am Thursday, September 15, 2022

Fall weekends are for entertaining.   House guests are a fixture of the weekend with most families who live in a college town. In Athens, the welcome mat is out for the many guests who make their way to the Classic City for Bulldog home games.

We enjoy entertaining family and friends. It becomes a time for reminiscing, recalling campus days and introducing new friends to the beauty of the Georgia campus and the best of Athens.Grilling out on Friday night is a festive staple of weekend activity. Mid-afternoon kickoffs allow for  an inviting brunch of inspiring libations and tailgate fare that would bring about high marks from Martha Stewart. You also get that when there are night games — all day partying before kickoff — if you can take it.

On a recent weekend, we welcomed longtime friends Julie and Rob Moran who live in Atlanta after 20 or so years of residency in Santa Monica, California, where work anchored them there.   

Julie was raised in Thomasville, the granddaughter of Vince Dooley’s first recruiting coordinator, Sterling Dupree. Her mother, Barbara Dupree, was an accomplished athlete, especially in tennis — a woman before her time.  She originated the family tradition of sports, brains, and beauty. 

Barbara was a summa cum laude graduate who was named homecoming queen in 1960. Julie’s father, Paul Bryan, played first base for the Bulldog baseball team, a heavy hitting slugger of note.

In high school, Julie excelled in sports, earning All-State honors in basketball at Brookwood Academy. She still holds the school’s rebound record.   With her smashing good looks, talent and enterprise, she was destined for greater glory. She became America’s Junior Miss in 1980, after which her career took off with alacrity.

She began at home, working with WCTV-TV, the Thomasville-Tallahassee CBS affiliate. After graduation from UGA — following in the footsteps of her mother, she was a magna cum laude graduate of the Henry Grady College of Journalism — Julie was soon anchored in Los Angeles where she became a reporter for ESPN’s “Sports Focus.”

Before you could say quail hunting capital of the world, as Thomasville is known, she was in New York where she was co-host of NBC’s popular show, “NBA Inside Stuff,” with Ahmad Rashad. Right away, she became ABC’s sideline reporter for college football, working with Brent Musburger and Dick Vermeil. She would become the first woman to host ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

In 1994, she was back on the West Coast, working with Entertainment Tonight where she was anchored for nine years, interviewing Hollywood’s elite such as Julia Roberts and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.

However, she gave up her Hollywood career to raise her daughters Maiya Dupree and Makayla-Amet, eventually settling in Atlanta. She stays busy with special assignments and returns to Thomasville quite often with her husband Rob Moran, a successful actor (Dumb and Dumber, among other successful movie productions), who is now into movie production.  

A weekend in Athens for a Bulldog football game is a must for Julie and Rob. When they showed up recently, they were overjoyed that her mother and her brother, Duke, could join them. Rob, a native of Rhode Island, and a passionate fan of Ted Williams and the Red Sox and is a handy man around the house. We didn’t have a “to-do” list for him, but he immediately fixed a malfunctioning coffee maker.  Then he had a dysfunctional light in the bar, functioning properly.

He, Julie, Duke and Barbara took over the kitchen to manage Sunday breakfast. Duke had brought along some of Stripling’s highly regarded sausage. The view here is that on Sunday morning following a Bulldogs’ romp between the hedges, Stripling’s sausage is better than caviar.   

I am happy to say that there is nothing like college football in Athens, but the tailgating, and reminiscing with old friends with good food and drink is a tonic that endures. Thankfully.