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Locals in the reality TV spotlight
by Susan Pierce
Sunday, March 31, 2013    |   
Corky Coker stands between two MG collector vehicles in his warehouse at Coker Tire. His reality show will air later this year on the Travel Channel.
Corky Coker stands between two MG collector vehicles in his warehouse at Coker Tire. His reality show will air later this year on the Travel Channel.
Photo by Tim Barber.
  • photo
    Christa Stephens, Irwin Koplan, Joan Koplan, Brian Taylor and Dennis Croft, from left, star in “Small Town Security” on AMC.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga region has had its share of reality TV recognition — most notably, Rossville’s Lauren Alaina singing her way to runner-up status on Season 10 of “American Idol.”

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “The Bachelor,” “Amazing Race” and “Ambush Makeover” have all featured area residents among their seasons’ casts.

But the loquacious personalities of two residents, in combination with their intriguing lifestyles, have made them TV’s newest reality stars.

Corky Coker has finished taping eight episodes of his yet-to-air show for the Travel Channel, which will follow him around the back roads of the South in search of vintage automobiles.

“We’re not sure yet whether it will be called ‘Barn Finds’ (the original title) or ‘Back Road Gold,’” says Coker, president of Coker Tire Co. “I’ve heard two dates to go on air, probably on a Tuesday night either late May or first of October.”

Time and title will be decided by the Travel Channel’s producers.

The show will center on Coker; daughter, Casey; and her husband, Greg Cunningham, who operates Honest Charley Garage. Coker will follow leads on forgotten vintage vehicles rusting away in garages and barns, tow them back to Honest Charley to restore for either his own collection or to sell.

In his first episode, the picker uncovers a 1949 Ford.

Because the family business is based in Chattanooga, the city and surrounding area will benefit from a good deal of free air time.

“The show’s about the places we go, the cars and the people who have stored these old cars. We went to Greenville, S.C., and bought a 1936 Pierce-Arrow 12-cylinder car that had been in a dairy barn for 45 years. We bought it from twin brothers who would finish each other’s sentences,” recalls Corker.

While “Back Road Gold” is touted as a family show by the Travel Channel, “Small-Town Security” is AMC’s late-night reality series for mature audiences.

“Small Town Security” is a behind-the-scenes look at a private security firm, JJK Security, owned by Joan Koplan in Ringgold, Ga. In September, AMC announced it was picking up the Sunday-night show for a second season this spring.

Koplan is “The Chief,” a former actress and public-access TV host. She and husband Irwin work with office personnel/cast members Brian Taylor, detective and process server; Christa Stephens, office secretary and licensed cosmetologist; and Lt. Dennis Croft, a transgender male.

Language and mature themes earned “Small-Town Security” an 11 p.m. time slot. Its open dialogue about Croft’s sexuality has resulted in a 2013 GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Reality Program.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.