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American Stories: Mother/Daughter Team Fights Prostitution; Baseball Is a Way of Life in Cuba; Dramatic Ending of a High-Speed Chase

Aired February 22, 2002 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: They're cops undercover. A mother-daughter team, partners in fighting prostitution on some pretty mean streets.

Here the government owns everything, but baseball belongs to the people. In Castro's Cuba, America's favorite pastime is a way of life.

And the dramatic ending to a high speed chase on the streets of L.A. Buckle up and get ready to cross American.


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our first broadcast of AMERICAN STORIES. I'm Leon Harris.

You know, everyday across America, people's lives and fascinating events as well, all unfold before the watchful cameras of local television news, and rarely are these stories ever seen by a national audience.

But they will now. On this show and nowhere else, will you see a collection of the most compelling stories and images. We're talking here about a trip across America, seen through the eyes of local journalists, a virtual army of field reporters, photographers, and editors out there working.

And let's begin now with a story that gets the juices flowing like no other, talking breaking news.


HARRIS (voice over): Horror in the heartland, as a hostage drama unfolds at high speed along Interstate 70 in St. Louis, Missouri. Inside this white Sunbird, a woman is held at gunpoint, the victim of a carjacking.

Her alleged abductor, wanted for bank robbery. The chase is carried live on several of our CNN affiliates. A 90-minute adrenalin rush through two states that ultimately spins out of control as the driver crashes down an embankment.

But the suspect isn't ready to give up just yet. He exits the car, continuing to hold a gun to the head of his terrified hostage. Luckily, his resolve wanes as police move in and he's convinced to let the woman go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She fainted and she fell to the ground. We were able to help her up and all she wanted was a big hug and to know she was safe. We assured her that she was safe, and everything was over.

HARRIS: A short time later, the suspect surrenders. High anxiety on the streets of Los Angeles, police in pursuit of a suspect accused of trying to run down people in a nearby neighborhood. A paraplegic driver leads police on a 25-minute car chase in a van equipped with hand controls.

Watch and listen how the chase concludes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, he's got to pause at the intersection, pause at the intersection. He's PA'd into the bus, PA'd into the bus, into the bus. Look out, there's people on it. Look at that. Look at that. He crashed into that bus. That bus went into other vehicles. There are people running for their lives right on the sidewalk there.

HARRIS: Let's watch it again, and slow it down for you. The van runs straight through the intersection, slams the bus broadside. The bus hits two other vehicles. Fortunately there are only minor injuries there. The van out of control shears off a fire hydrant, creating a water geyser some 20 to 30 feet in the air. Hollywood could not have choreographed this one any better.

In Reno, Nevada, a morning one dog lover will never forget. Cinnabar (ph) has fallen through the ice of a frozen pond. She's freezing, fighting for her life. Cinnabar slows down. A Reno firefighter makes a breakthrough. Her owner recounts the moments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he reached her and she moved away from him, I knew that she didn't have her senses about her anymore.

HARRIS: Cinnabar's hero, a humble firefighter says that he was just doing his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was easy. This is something that we train for all the time in the winter is ice rescues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have my heart forever. If I could take everyone of them and wrap them up in a bubble for the rest of their lives so that no harm ever came to them (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


HARRIS: From rescuing dogs to fighting crime. Denver, Colorado, like most big cities has a problem with prostitution, but the Mile High City has a secret weapon. Our standout story comes from our CNN affiliate, KUSA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ERICA WILNER, KUSA REPORTER: They call themselves the Original East Colfax Heartbreakers. This is Yolanda and Kristen Cunningham (ph), a mother-daughter tag team. But don't worry, they're allowed to be here.

Police set up inside a motel room. Some men don't even make it that far. If you're looking for sympathy, this is not the place to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what they call it, it's not a victimless crime.

WILNER: People here believe this kind of police work is important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many women go out and they get beat and they get killed. Whatever we can do to kind of prevent that a little bit helps.

WILNER: After the decoy is taken down, the police take their cars. The city's Nuisance Abatement Ordinance allows police to impound cars used in certain crimes. It could take the men six months and thousands of dollars to get them back. It's a tough lesson, but police say it works.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We never have got a repeat customer as a John out here.

WILNER: Denver police do these things as often as they can. They say it's a chance to clean up the streets. And for at least one mom, it's a chance to teach her daughter the tricks of the trade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like I said, the original heartbreaker is here.

WILNER: Erica Wilner, 9 News.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up next, a piece of legislation that's sure to win unanimous approval. And later, a man's life, a family's love, and a race against time, the distance between Tennessee and Florida never seemed so far. You're watching AMERICAN STORIES.


HARRIS: Welcome back to AMERICAN STORIES. Georgia lawmakers are busy dealing with a lot of important issues this legislative session, and one of the measure is a bill honoring Georgia's Breakfast of Champions. We begin our journey across America right here in Atlanta.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to show you how I make grit (UNINTELLIGIBLE). HARRIS (voice over): What would Georgia be without its grits. That's right, they're an essential part of a true Southern breakfast, and at this restaurant, they serve 10 to 15 pounds each day.

Yes, Georgians love their grits, so much so that over at the State Capitol, they're drawing up a bill to make grits the state's official prepared food.

MARK TAYLOR, GOERGIA LT. GOVERNOR: As a grits lover, I'm not going to be opposed to the bill.

HARRIS: Of course, you all know that grist have to have a nickname.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Georgia ice cream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stands for Girls Raised in the South.

HARRIS: And for those lawmakers who vote against the bill.


HARRIS: Our next stop, Chico, California where if you're looking for something original to help wash those grits down, we've got the job for you. You know, most employers would fire you for drinking beer on the job.

But not so at the Sierra-Nevada Brewing Company, where for the last three years, Happy Haddock (ph) has held the title Sensory Analyst, an interesting position with some strange restrictions.

CATHY: No smoking, no bubble gum chewing, no coffee, no perfumes or stinky deodorants.

HARRIS: Sitting around tables and sipping beer may look simple, but Cathy says describing what they're tasting is a challenge.

CATHY: Oh, I don't think you have to be smart to be a beer taster.

HARRIS: Our final stop, Dallas, Texas. No one can ever say the controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks Basketball Team doesn't live up to a challenge. It all began when Mark Cuban criticized an NBA official by declaring, he wouldn't hire that ref to manage a Dairy Queen.

Well, the league (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with a huge fine and a local Dairy Queen also took offense, inviting him to come and run the foot counter for a day. He took the orders and there were lots of them.

People peered through the window to see the billionaire shake maker put his money where his mouth is. And check this out, the line stretched around the building, across the parking lot, and down the street.

Back inside, Cuban learned how to whip up a Blizzard and make an ice cream cone, well, sort of.

MARK CUBAN: It wasn't pretty but it worked.


HARRIS: Now get this, the NBA fined Cuban half a million dollars, right. Well for another $150,000 he could have bought his own DQ franchise. It's not exactly a smart business move, but hey, I'm not the one who's a billionaire. There you go.

Now to Mark Cuban, basketball is more than just a game, and the same can be said for baseball in Cuba. You know there, America's pastime is a way of life. Just ask a group of Boston little leaguers who traveled to the communist country for some friendly competition, but what they learned down there is a lesson that will have a lasting impact. Their story now from our affiliate WFST, the subject of our American Profile.


ERIC KELLY: I'm in Havana, Cuba right now.

DAVID WATIE, NEXT TELEVISION (voice-over): It's a seven-day journey, the fear of landing on Cuban soil quickly assuaged by a few thumbs up from the tarmac.

KELLY: Hopefully, we'll win a few but, you know, that's not what it's about. We're down here for the experience.

WATIE: The experience begins the very first morning. Teenagers from the All Dorchester (ph) Sports League practicing.

KELLY: We're in the middle of nowhere.

WATIE: There are holes in the walls. The gates are rusted, but the field is immaculate, and word is spreading that the Americans have arrived.

Barefoot adults line up on a wall beyond the left field fence.

KELLY: They want balls. They want souvenirs.

WATIE: This guy wants a poloda (ph), a baseball. Eric Kelly obliges. A kiss is blown Eric's way. A boy in the stands gets a ball and he smells it. A new ball is as foreign as the visitors on the field.

KELLY: I think we just take everything we have for granted. This doesn't compare to the U.S.

WATIE: Of course, it was not always like this. Before Fidel's revolution, before the embargo, American influence was obvious in Cuba. A 1955 Ford Fairlane, in America, this is a classic.

WATIE (on camera): But here in Havana, this is just another unwelcomed reminder of how in many ways life has stood still for more than 40 years.

WATIE (voice over): Now the old cars are all that's left. Our government doesn't allow trade or travel in this communist country. But a local company called Transport has got a special license to bring young athletes to Cuba.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about bringing the people together, and we'll do it through the kids. These are our future leaders getting together on a field of competition now, and friendly competition.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I was expecting about 20 people to come. There must be about 1,000. So it's incredible.

WATIE: They cheer for their boys, who happen to play like men.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I came in maybe expecting to get a win, but in the first game, I know there was no way we were going to win.

WATIE: Our girl's softball team actually won a couple of games, dominating the Cubans. The Dorchester team won a game and then something funny happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put all our players in the bench. The more players on the bench that in the crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what happens when you win in Cuba the first game. They fire their coaches and they bring in 30 professionals.

WATIE: The teenage Strike One team played well, but were overmatched. The folks in right field see this every day. Cubans are good, but why? This is why. At every Cuban sandlot, you'll find sand and kids playing baseball.

WATIE (on camera): It's 11:30 on a Tuesday and these kids have been playing baseball for several hours. They don't have the day off from school. They're going in an hour.

WATIE (voice over): A stack of school books right next to the bat with no handle. Adrienne (ph) uses the table leg to crack seven homeruns. The equipment is a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY (through translator): They wish to have it better, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so they use it anyway.

WATIE: Enter in, C.J. Perham (ph) of Beverly.

C.J. PERHAM: It was hard for me to see that they had nothing.

WATIE: C.J. and his dad are giving away $8,000 worth of bats, balls, helmets, and gloves. They brought it all to Cuba as a show of good will.

PERHAM: It was just so great how they reacted. I mean, it made me smile a lot. WATIE: In the end, C.J.'s teammates gave the shirts off their backs. They handed out autographs and baseball cards. But most importantly, two teams became one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a true joy. This is a thrill. It's something they'll never forget and neither will I.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's definitely a stereotype. People around here are so friendly. They love people. They love talking. It's great.

WATIE: Know this about Cuba, yes there are a lot of dirty, dilapidated buildings. Yes, there's a billboard depicting Uncle Sam as a monster. But the people are hoping for a change, for life to be just like baseball.


ANNOUNCER: A race against time, a man's chance for a new life on the line, a roller coaster of emotions, coming up next on AMERICAN STORIES.


HARRIS: Now imagine that you're told by your doctors to not leave the state or risk missing a chance to save a life, your own life, but your mother is involved in a serious accident hundreds of miles away. What would you do?

Well that is the very dilemma a Florida man faced. Jennifer Krauss (ph) and Charlie Woodward of WPVF in Nashville, followed his emotional story in this in-depth report.


JENNIFER KRAUSS, WPVF REPORTER (voice-over): Time is running out. Francis LaSalle (ph) is desperate. She's trying to save her brother's life by getting him to Florida. Now there's word he might get a seat on a flight, leaving in 20 minutes.

Richard Dawkins (ph) is waiting for a kidney for three years. Late yesterday, he got the call that a kidney was available, but he had to be at the hospital in Tampa by this afternoon for surgery. His family had been up all night trying to find a flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now he's missing dialysis. I mean as long as he can get away from here.

KRAUSS: Everyone they called said no. Now they had hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, are you excited?


KRAUSS: They were just about to leave when they got word Southwest Airlines had made room for Dawkins. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad he's getting down there, I mean, because it's a life or death situation.

KRAUSS: They raced to the airport. Without this operation, his doctors didn't give him long to live. The plane was supposed to leave at 10:20, and actually Dawkins wasn't even supposed to be in Nashville.

His doctors told him not to leave Florida. Then his mother was in a serious car wreck on I-65 last week. The family was told she wouldn't survive. Dawkins felt he had to be here.

Now he had to get back. He had to have the operation. But as they dashed through the airport, they were told the surgery had been cancelled, and their plane was already taking off.

Their disappointment was obvious, until they learned that the plane, in fact, hadn't left yet. They hurried to the gate, and just as Dawkins was about to board, they were told the surgery was back on.

Dawkins' new kidney was waiting for him.

FRANCIS LASALLE: He has to be there about three o'clock because the surgery's scheduled for five.

KRAUSS: Dawkins was finally on his way to Florida, and his family relieved.

But just as they were about to leave the airport, they got more bad news. The surgery was off again, this time for good. Dawkins wouldn't get the kidney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They already gave the kidneys to somebody else now.

LASALLE: But they had already given the one away, because they thought he wasn't going to make this flight.

KRAUSS: But Dawkins' family isn't giving up hope.

LASALLE: And everybody here has just been wonderful, but I know he'll get one. Somebody, somebody out there will give him a kidney.


HARRIS: That is a powerful story. But Richard Dawkins quest for a new kidney didn't end there. AMERICAN STORIES contacted Jennifer Krauss and she gave us the story behind the story in this update.


KRAUSS: As it turns out, he did not get the kidney that day, and in fact he did not get a kidney for another year. He was put basically back down further on the list, the waiting list, and he remained on kidney dialysis for a year. His sister told me that he had some very rough days and there were times when it was kind of touch and go for him.

But he finally did get a kidney. It was about a year after we did this story, and last I talked with his sister, Richard was doing fine, so there is a happy ending to this story, that he got the kidney finally and that he is doing much better.


HARRIS: Thanks, Jennifer. I'm Leon Harris and you're watching AMERICAN STORIES. Our closing clip is coming up next.


HARRIS: If you have any questions or comments about AMERICAN STORIES, we want to hear from you. You can e-mail us at: Once again,

Coming up next week on AMERICAN STORIES, it's one of Missouri's smallest towns, a place where wild horses still run free in the untamed wilderness. But in this friendly little town where there are no strangers, someone committed a horrifying crime.

And now, our closing clip, the story of two sports enthusiasts that had one of those days that they will never forget.


HARRIS: In Salt Lake City, Utah high wind sent a para-glider into the 138,000 volt power lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was para-gliding until he came over and hit the wires, spun around the wires. I called 9-1-1 and then it exploded and we've been watching him ever since.

HARRIS: The shocking ordeal is captured by our CNN affiliate 2 News. Dangling 100 feet in the air, the para-glider's conscious by severely burned. Onlookers try to call him, but things look grim as the man realized the ropes that hold him are beginning to break.

Just in the nick of time, fire crews are able to get a ladder to the tangled para-glider. He's cut loose and brought down to safety. And though he suffered burns over 30 percent of his body he's in stable condition.

Check these pictures out. A snowboarder in Washington State somehow slips out of the chair lift at the Crystal Mountain ski area. He's dangling some 27 feet in the air. Watch closely, as rescue teams quickly run up with a special rescue (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Volunteers grab hold as the young snowboarder can no longer hang on.


HARRIS: The snowboarder walked away with just a few bumps and bruises. And you know, we're not sure if he ever did make it to the top of the slopes. Thank you for joining us. We'll see you next time with more AMERICAN STORIES. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT



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