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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Catman, Hugh McManaway, And Hoping For A Weirder Charlotte

Tommy Tomlinson

We lost one of Charlotte’s true characters the other day. His name was Greg Good but you probably knew him as the Catman. The cameras would find him at every Panthers game, cheering his lungs out in his jersey and his bright blue wig, looking like a cross between a linebacker and a Smurf.

His death is first a loss to his family and friends. But it’s also a loss for Charlotte as a whole. Because Catman was a character, and our city has always run short on characters.

We have leaned too much on poor old Hugh McManaway. Now, Hugh was a great character. If you haven’t been here long, maybe you don’t know the story – how Hugh used to stand in the intersection of Providence and Providence and Queens and Queens and direct traffic, regardless of what the traffic light showed.

Also, if you haven’t been here long, maybe you don’t know why we refer to it as Providence and Providence and Queens and Queens. Just try to drive through there sometime. You’ll get it.

Anyway, McManaway waved cars through the intersection, and spoke in rhyme, and was basically a world-class eccentric. He died in 1989, and in 2000, a statue in his likeness was erected at the intersection. Since then it’s been knocked down at least three times by wayward drivers – obviously because Hugh himself is not there to guide cars through safely. But most of the time the statue is decorated with a wedding dress or graduation gown or whatever else somebody might be celebrating at the time.

For years he’s been the main piece of evidence that we’re not just a bland New South city, that Charlotte really does have a little speck of weirdness in its soul.

So it was good to have Catman on the scene for a while, the same way it used to be fun to have that guy at the Hornets games who would run out onto the court during a timeout and cut flips. Of course, being Charlotte, he usually wore a dress shirt and slacks.

There’s plenty of eccentricity in this town, but it’s hard to be weird here. The moment you find your tribe and start to do underground theater in a warehouse, some developer buys the place and turns it into condos.

But a true city has some edges to it, little rough spots that give a place its texture. Catman was one of those people who made our little piece of the world special. We should cultivate our characters, embrace them, celebrate them. I’m not saying they should build a Catman statue at the Panthers’ stadium. But I am wondering how the statues they have would look with bright blue wigs. 

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.