Tolly Carr just doesn’t get it
As a broadcast journalist and Emmy judge, I admit- tedly watch a fair amount of television. But the TV is always turned off while I’m working on my column. Such was the case on the weekend of Oct. 5 when I was penning a commentary on the need for stricter DWI sentencing in North Carolina. Had I been channel surfing instead of writing, however, I would have seen the Triad’s most notorious drunk driver appearing in a tasteless, insensitive car commercial a tasteless, insensitive car commercial titled,“Driving Dead.” Yes, Tolly Carr, the former real-life TV anchorman who drove drunk and killed a pedestrian, was popping up all over Time Warner cable as a fake TV anchorman in a spot about dead people and used cars. More about the commercial debacle in a moment, but first the back story.
In the wee hours of a March morning six years ago, 26-year-old Casey Bokhoven was walking home from work in downtown Winston-Salem. Not far away, Tolly Carr was completing a tour of three local bars, and was three sheets to the wind. Carr refused to take a cab home, instead opting to drive himself and a female companion. None of his drinking buddies stopped Carr from getting behind the wheel drunk. Moments later, Carr’s vehicle jumped a curb, struck young Bokhoven, and dragged the victim down the street. Tolly had been drunk for hours. Casey was dead in an instant.
Carr, his attorneys, the judge and the media all referred to what happened as an “accident.” But if ever there was a misuse of terminology this was it. Bokhoven’s death was no accident. Had Carr been sober and temporarily lost control of his car, then what happened would have been an accident.
But this wasn’t Tolley’s first rodeo. He didn’t suddenly decide to start drinking that fateful night. Carr planned to drink and get drunk. He made a conscious decision not to take a taxi home. He deliberately got behind the wheel of a lethal weapon and drove it knowing he was intoxicated. These are the actions of a man who thought himself above the law… an arrogant, inconsiderate man with no regard for the safety of others.
Immediately following the incident, Carr did and said all of the right things. He spoke to church and school groups, and anyone else who would listen to his apology, and he led them to believe that his drunken state was a first-time occurrence. Most people bought his act without knowing what really happened or why. Meanwhile, Bokhoven’s family sought a wrongful death jury trial so that the public would know the gruesome details of Casey’s death, and get a true picture of Carr’s real personality. But in November 2008, the Bokhovens settled with Tolly, who agreed to make a “confession of judgment” and to make restitution to the victim’s family beginning one year after his release from prison. That release came in 2009, and over the past few years, Carr has been working for a local video-production company.
After receiving e-mails from Casey’s friends and family, I was convinced that their wounds would never heal if Tolly sought an on-air job in this market. And so, in my Dec. 5, 2008 column I urged Carr to stay out of the limelight, or else move to another state if he felt compelled to return to TV anchor work. But arrogant, insensitive people rarely change their stripes, and earlier this month, Carr thought it would be okay to appear on camera in a commercial for Frank Myers Auto Maxx, in which he pretended to be an anchorman in a spoof of the “The Walking Dead.”
Myers often produces commercials with holiday themes, and this one was made for the Halloween season. According to a report on journalnow. com, the TV spot attempted to compare old cars with zombies, and it aired throughout the weekend before Myers pulled it on Monday, after having received complaints from viewers who understood what Myers and Carr didn’t: It was in VERY bad taste.
When asked for a statement by the Winston-Salem Journal’s “Ask Sam” column, owner Tracy Myers said, “I obviously didn’t use good judgment when I asked Mr. Carr to be featured in the TV commercial…. I understand how Mr. Carr’s appearance in the commercial could be considered offensive and in bad taste”..Tracy’s nonapology missed the mark. He merely admitted that the spot “could be considered” offensive, which is code for “I don’t think it was offensive.” Still, Myers isn’t the villain in this drama. Carr should have known better, but again, an arrogant, insensitive person never knows better.
There are those who say Carr should be left alone by media jerks like me. After all, he served his time (albeit not nearly enough). And, as Tracy Myers said, “everyone deserves a second chance.” Well, Tolly DID get his second chance. It’s called being free to walk around and enjoy living. Casey Bokhoven didn’t get that second chance, and the man responsible has no business being in the public eye.
JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).