Q: How did you become a weatherman?
A: I was in Buffalo and trying not to work outside. I was hosting PM Magazine, which was totally in the field.
I remember it was the day before we broke for Christmas and we were at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base. It was really cold, and really windy, and we were out on the tarmac, and my lips were no longer working. It was one of those situations where you had to cup your hands to your lips and blow, just to warm your lips to be able to speak. I was thinking, “This TV thing is good, but I’m not sure about the way I’m getting into it.”
Q: Did you go to school to learn meteorology?
A: I didn’t study it. While I was doing PM Magazine, they had a weekend person on who was just horrendous. She mispronounced the names of towns … So I asked if I could do it and they said, “Go ahead.”
Q: They just gave you the job?
A: Yep. But right away I started to study, and almost immediately I realized it was fun. It’s like a new puzzle every day. The pieces you get today help you solve the puzzle for tomorrow.
Weather reporting has really changed over the last 20 years. It used to be putting magnetic suns on magnetic boards. There was less scientific efficacy, less knowledge.
I was one of the last people to get in before things started to change.
Q: Do you enjoy it?
A: Quite frankly, being on TV is like crack cocaine for middle-aged guys like me.
I grew up wanting to be on radio and to be a celebrity. A lot of people are weather weenies—really into climatology. But I started out on radio.
When I started I was in my mid-30s and now I’m in my mid-50s. This job has afforded me the things I thought it would. It doesn’t come at once, though, which is nice. You work into it; it doesn’t happen all of a sudden.
I’m more able to understand—the nice way people treat me—now there’s an obligation to give back. People in Connecticut have afforded me a very nice life. And I do a lot of charity work.
And I also work around all of these incredibly good-looking babes. A little less so for the guys.
Oh, man, I’m really going to come off looking like a smart-ass.
Q: It’s OK, you’re making me laugh. So people treat you well?
A: At restaurants, the dry cleaners, the gas station. They are nice to me because they know who I am, and you get to start off in a good way. I try to be as gracious as humanly possible.
Q: What did you study in college?
A: Ummm … it’s a distant fog … I was on the accelerated dismissal program. But I just finished three years of schooling to get my meteorology degree. It’s different when you’re grown up—instead of being something you have to do, it’s something you do to make yourself a better person.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to go into this industry?
A: Don’t go after my job. The world doesn’t need any smarter, younger, more talented people who are willing to work for less money.
Q: Are there a lot of people with meteorology degrees trying to get jobs?
A: Unfortunately, there are many more meteorologists than good jobs. There are a limited amount of jobs on TV.
And there are less and less in the government and the private sector, like with AccuWeather or other weather vendors that I buy things from.
Also, by the way, I want to tell you something. Stop watching the Weather Channel. I believe it causes cancer. I don’t want people to get sick.
Q: You are quite the humanitarian.
A: Well, thank you. I don’t need people taking the caviar out of my daughter’s mouth, so …
Q: How do you figure out the forecast each night?
A: I talk to the Psychic Friends Network. Actually, it’s all very scientific. There are a variety of computer models. Some are run by the government, and everyone, including you, can access them for free. Then some are proprietary, like we have here at the station. Then there are universities that do research projects, like they have a great tropical forecast model at Florida State.
They all leave you with numbers. It’s my job to put it in perspective. It’s not as important to be right with all the minutiae; what’s important is for you to have a sense of what it will be like. I translate the technical jargon into something that’s meaningful. If I do it well, you’ll be nice when you see me.
If Miss Cleo had better feedback, I’d throw out the computers and move in with Miss Cleo. I don’t use science because it’s the proper thing, I use it because it works best. If woolly caterpillars worked, I’d use them.
Q: Can you tell me how the green screen works?
A: Did you see The African Queen?
Q: No, I didn’t.
A: Oh, you gotta see it. It takes place during the early Nazi era in central Africa. In one scene, Bogie and Hepburn are in the rapids. And back then, they never thought you’d have a VCR where you could stop and look at the movie, frame by frame. But if you did, and you could, you’d see that the background is all ratty. This was one of the first green screens—an optical creation of Hollywood.
We do it electronically, so I can’t wear green, thank God. Anything that’s the color of the screen disappears.
You could use any color. I know they use blue; I’m sure you could use others.
Q: So do you get to choose the maps you’re going to use each night?
A: I’m self-produced. I’m like the football kicker. I’m the short guy who they bring in to do something completely different from the rest of the team. My sole job is to kick the ball without a penalty. I don’t read from scripts …
Q: Really? You never read from a teleprompter?
A: I never have—I never did. I decide what’s important. My boss might tell me what he likes or dislikes, but I get to do my own thing.
Q: When do you go on the air?
A: We’re on at 5, 5:30, 6, 10, and 11. I come in at 3, leave at 11:35. Except on Monday nights, when I have to stay until after football.
Q: That’s a lot of hours.
A: It’s like a real full-time job!
Actually, I think my wife kind of likes the schedule. I don’t go to bed until 4, 4:30 in the morning, and I’ve developed as a bit of a snorer, so I think she’s grateful.
Q: Have you won any awards?
A: I’ve won seven Emmy Awards.
Q: What were they for?
A: Best futon. No, I don’t know, for weather, hosting, feature story. They are regional Emmys—they have a rectangular bottom instead of a circular bottom, but you can trade in six regional for one national. No, I’m just kidding.
Q: Have you had any embarrassing moments doing this job?
A: Ummm … Like 20 years ago I got an envelope in the mail. It had two tickets to a football game, and I was like, “OK, someone gave me football tickets.” Then I realized they were from the week before. Then I read the letter and it said, “You said it was going to be so awful, so we didn’t go, but I could’ve gotten tan lines it was so sunny.” They sent one letter to me and one to Al Roker, who was working on channel 4 in New York at the time.
There was another time, just about as long ago, when I was reporting on a blizzard. Every hour I would say, “It should be ending in the next hour or two,” but I did that all night, through about 10 more inches of snow. It took at least a year for them to forgive me for that.