October 8, 1999
BY ROBERT FEDER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
They have names like "Our Man Bill" and "Kurtisville," and they all exist in cyberspace as tributes by loyal fans to Chicago's preeminent broadcast journalist.
Web sites devoted to Bill Kurtis include everything from chat rooms about his latest A&E documentaries to pages of "Fun and Obscure Kurtis Fan Facts." (Sample: "Bill Kurtis was born the same year as the first dolphin in captivity in the USA.")
Want to read up on Kurtis' thoughts about global warming? There's a link to an interview with him on the subject. Looking for a list of books he's written? It's there. Care to download audio of him participating in a WGN-Channel 9 singing contest? You bet.
There's even a site just for "Canadian Fans of Bill Kurtis."
The best of the bunch (homepages.go.com/~ourmanbill/) was created by a 45-year-old biologist from Penn State University who has never communicated directly with Kurtis but admires his interest in science and education.
Preferring to remain anonymous, she refers to herself only as "The Web Lady."
"Inspiration of young minds of the world is something that gives immortality to an individual," she writes in her "Why This Tribute to Bill Kurtis?" page. "This man has done just that."
And how does the object of this much affection feel?
"Isn't it amazing?" Kurtis says with a good-natured laugh. "I almost don't know what to make of it.
"But I'm really touched that these people go to so much work. And all their comments are quite sincere. You know, anyone who takes the time to contribute that effort to you and your professional work, you've got to be flattered."
The only Webmaster fans Kurtis has met are the two young people behind "Kurtisville."
"They were two sweet kids who were just so appreciative," Kurtis recalled. "They even have me down to the gestures. I hate to read too much into my performance on television, but they can call them before I do them."
Kurtis sees the cybersites in his honor as a new twist on old-fashioned fan mail.
"It's a new phenomenon, and that's what the Internet is for--to share and communicate with others," he said. "They certainly don't intrude on my life. They're not asking anything of me. And I can read them or not read them. So I think it's great."