DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER RICK SEBAK RECOGNIZED AS CHAMPION OF PITTSBURGH
Andrew Lazarchik, the owner of Wildcat Championship Belts, is a fan of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania history. That means he’s also a fan of Rick Sebak, almost by default. Sebak is legendary in the Pittsburgh region for producing scrapbook-style documentaries about the history, nostalgia, and folklore of Western Pennsylvania. From his deep dives into the history of Kennywood amusement park to his famed Things That Aren’t There Anymore series, Sebak’s work – especially his voice – is synonymous with Pittsburgh. Lazarchik is such a fan of Sebak that he crowned the lovable Pittsburgh personality as “Pittsburgh’s Champion” and awarded him a custom-designed title belt.
How did that come to be? It started during Lazarchik’s days studying at La Roche College. He took a “History of Western Pennsylvania” course and encountered Sebak’s work for the first time.
“The course covered all the way back to Pre-Revolutionary times, but once we got to modern times, our professor brought in The Mon, The Al, and The O, a Rick Sebak documentary about Pittsburgh’s three rivers,” he recalled.
Lazarchik loved it and sought out more of Sebak’s work. His fandom continued to grow, then reached new heights after becoming a father in 2008. “After my son was born, I was in charge of the evening and overnight feedings,” Lazarchik recalled.
During those late-night bottle sessions, Lazarchik often would tune into the WQED Neighborhood Channel, which frequently aired Rick Seback documentaries, sometimes consecutively for hours at a time. That’s when he got hooked.
“I would watch them over and over and over,” Lazarchik recalled. “He has such a calming voice, and he shares some very interesting info. You can learn something new every time you watch one of his documentaries, even if you’ve seen it 100 times before.”
So that’s how the fandom evolved, but how did the Sebak-themed championship belt come to be?
In 2016, Lazarchik learned that Pittsburgh media personality John McIntyre was hosting live stage shows featuring interviews with various Pittsburgh-area celebrities. One such show would feature Sebak, and Lazarchik knew he had to be there.
“He’s very iconic, and I love and appreciate his work,” explained Lazarchik. “I believe in paying it forward, so I thought I’d make him a belt to thank him for everything he’s done for Pittsburgh through his documentaries. He legitimately IS a champion of Pittsburgh, and I wanted to recognize him for that.”
Lazarchik custom-crafted a belt for Sebak, one that featured an image of the smiling Pittsburgh icon engraved right on the main title plate. Much to Sebak’s surprise, Lazarchik awarded him with the belt during the live performance. The two hit it off and remain friends today.
Not only was Sebak the inspiration behind that particular belt; in some ways, he’s an inspiration for many Wildcat Belts. As Lazarchik toils away in his workshop, fabricating belts for entities from Food Network’s Tournament of Champions to the WWE, there’s usually a TV on in the background, and it’s often Rick Sebak’s calming, iconic voice providing the soundtrack.