Ask Me Anything–26 Years Ago Today!

Please get rid of Geoff Fox. In my opinion, he is boring, loud, too loquacious and gives us information, ad nauseum, that we don’t need. Let him watch Channels 3 and 30 to get an idea of good weather presentation.

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

I’ve got a comment from Tony. “It seems like I have been watching you on the weather and listening to your corny jokes forever. How long have you been at Channel 8, sorry, News 8, and how old where you when you started?”

Amazingly Tony it was 26 years ago today! I began at WTNH on May 21, 1984. I replaced (the spectacularly beautiful and wonderfully warm) Beverly Johnson who went to San Francisco and later died tragically.

I was 33 then. That means I am now… old. Luckily I’m immature for my age.

In 1984 I worked in weather with Linda Church and Bruce McFarland. Linda’s at Channel 11 in New York where they should kiss the ground she walks on. She is great on-the-air. I have no idea where Bruce went. He vanished. Nice guy.

I have been on-air at News 8 longer than anyone else there. I think I’m the all time record holder.

Tony, as nice as your email is, I also get stuff like this from time-to-time.

Please get rid of Geoff Fox. In my opinion, he is boring, loud, too loquacious and gives us information, ad nauseum, that we don’t need. Let him watch Channels 3 and 30 to get an idea of good weather presentation.

The guy sent the email directly to me! What a jerk. OK–idiot, not jerk. Whatever.

The truth is not everyone is going to like you. And if like me you’re “high concept talent” people will form an opinion.

This one’s from a longtime blog reader David. “Who among the personalities we might remember (on air) at Channel 8 did you consider to be close mentors when you first arrived?”

I’m not sure I had mentors as in someone to take me under their wing. I was already 33 and had been on-air in radio and TV for 15 years. My ‘act’ was pretty well formed.

I can tell you our short lived anchor John Lindsay was responsible for me stopping smoking!

Helaine had been bugging me to quit my pack and a half a day habit. Finally I said, “OK, I’ll try and cut back.”

Back then you could smoke in the station and many people did. We used old film cans as ashtrays!

John, Bob Picozzi and I sat on the set for a wide shot when the news began. As we waited I chatted with John and told him what I was doing about my smoking.

“That won’t work,” he said. I was puzzled. He proceeded to tell me how I’d be back to my normal consumption in a week or two.

“You’ve got to say I’ve already smoked my last cigarette.”

That made a lot of sense. When I walked into the condo that night I slammed my pack of Lucky Strike filters on the counter, turned to Helaine and said, “I quit.” She thought I was bailing from the marriage!

I have never smoked another cigarette. Helaine was incredibly supportive through the first few months. She even returned an unused carton to Stop and Shop!

They weren’t mentors, but Al Terzi and Diane Smith were probably the most career helpful to me. They understood my on-air style needed support from my co-anchors. Both of them, more than anyone else back then, listened to my every word and laughed whenever they thought I was telling a joke.

Seriously, Al and Diane’s laughter often sold a line I’d delivered. They made me funny. I never asked either to do that, but they understood viscerally.

I miss having both of them in my life on a daily basis.

I will tell you two people who tried to help my career during the 80s. One was Al Roker, then working at Channel 4. The other was Spencer Christian, then at Good Morning America. Both were gracious and selfless–truly class acts. I would crawl over broken glass for either.

My 25th Anniversary At The TV Station

Sure, there will be more talented people. There might even be people who will stay longer–though that seems doubtful. But no one will ever be seen by audiences as large as we had in the 80s and 90s.

I remember driving back to meet Helaine after seeing Mike Sechrist in the spring of 1984. “I didn’t get it,” I told her. “They want someone older.”

I’d seen Mike hoping to fill his weather opening in New Haven. It wasn’t destined to be. But, surprise, I did get it–the weather job at WTNH.

I began May 21, 1984. Thursday was my 25th anniversary.

I can’t remember what kind of day it was when I started, but I do know I sat with Al Terzi, Gerri Harris and Bob Picozzi in front of a blank blue wall. We had no real set. All the backgrounds and frames were inserted using chromakey.

I did my first tease before my first weathercast saying a few words and ending with, “Well, how am I doing so far?” It was a line I’d first used on my first day in radio–probably stolen from someone much more clever. Gerri looked at me as if I’d just parachuted in from Mars.

In my 25 years she was one of two anchors who obviously ‘didn’t get me.’ Al, on the other hand, laughed at every joke I told–funny or not. What Al did was like comedy kindling and it helped establish me.

I have survived four general managers (with a fifth soon-to-be hired), ten news directors and scores of producers. I have outlived all the other on-air people at Channel 8 that day in 1984. Considering I’d bounced around radio for 11 years before getting to Connecticut that’s quite a feat.

I don’t know how it came about… these 25 years. It’s nothing you aim for. I seem to remember thinking of WTNH as a good stepping stone, not a final resting place. And yet I stayed.

For a while I filled in for ABC on Good Morning America. Maybe I thought the network would come calling–but they didn’t. So I stayed and stayed and stayed.

I built a very good life first for Helaine and then Stefanie. My parents moved to the area and then moved away. We set down roots. I tried to give back, especially with charity work.

You don’t go to work on day one hoping to stay 25 years. I certainly didn’t. It’s all one day at-a-time and then, all of a sudden, those days begin to add up. Prospective employers look at people who change jobs a lot as having baggage. Once you’ve stayed too long you’re looked at the same way.

There will never be another Geoff Fox in Connecticut. Sure, there will be more talented people. There might even be people who will stay longer–though that seems doubtful. But no one will ever be seen by audiences as large as we had in the 80s and 90s. That tonnage is gone. It’s affect is cumulative over the years.

I have a great job. I enjoy coming to work nearly every day. Even after 25 years no one will ever accuse me of phoning it in. I am a well defined personality and though lots of people like me, there’s also a sizable contingent who don’t.

No gold watch today, I got a plaque. I’m taking off Friday but I’ll be back Monday.

I Used To Smoke Cigarettes

I smoked for 18 years and permanently quit the first time I tried. I didn’t even want to quit. I’m not trying to show off. That’s just how it happened for me.

I stopped for gas in East Haven. I was on my way to work from getting a haircut. Francine is the Queen of Hair, though if I didn’t stop her, she would play with each individual strand until it was perfect.

Anyway… I stopped for gas and there was a large sign in the parking lot. A sale on cigarettes – $5.20 a pack. Holy crap.

It’s been a long time since I smoked, but I do remember some benchmarks.

When I began to smoke, probably early 1969, a single pack in a vending machine was 40&#162. I was astounded in finding a vending machine at the WHDH-TV studios in Boston that sold them for 35&#162.

Driving to Florida in 1970, I stopped in North Carolina and bought a few cartons for under $3 a piece. Gasoline was probably 34.9&#162/gallon back then.

I smoked a pack and a half a day when I quit. Let’s see… $5 per pack is $50 per week or $2,500 a year. That’s crazy.

I have been told quitting cigarettes is incredibly difficult. I smoked for 18 years and permanently quit the first time I tried. And I didn’t even want to quit. I’m not trying to show off. That’s just how it happened for me.

It was pre-Stef, and Helaine was getting very upset, telling me how I was going to die and we’d have a child to think about. My people are good with guilt.

My first attempt at quitting was was to just cut back, which I did successfully for one day.

11:00 PM rolled around and I was sitting on the news set with our sports anchor, Bob Picozzi and our anchor, John Lindsay&#185. The news began with a single wide shot. Bob and I were ‘set parsley.’

Proudly, I told John I had cut down to only eight for the entire day. And he said, “You can’t do that. After a few days you’ll start ramping up. You’ve got to say, I quit now. I’ve already smoked my last cigarette”

As if in some Hollywood movie, the newscast’s theme music swelled, John turned to the camera and began to read. I sat and pondered.

That night, I came home to our condo in Branford. Helaine was in the kitchen. I took my pack of cigarettes, banged it on the table and said, “I quit.”

She had no clue what I was talking about. I explained.

For the next few months, there were carrots and celery and something to keep me busy. Helaine was amazingly supportive. Neighbors of ours, he a young physician at Yale/New Haven, prescribed Nicorette (back then, by prescription only).

Within a week or two, I notice my sense of smell had improved. The next cold I had made a much quicker passage through my system.

I’m sure there has been some damage done by all the smokes. I hope it’s not too much.

I’ve never missed my cigarettes. I never had a desire to return. I can’t understand why anyone starts now, if for no other reason than the expense.

$5.20 a pack. That’s a sale? They’re kidding, right?

&#185 – John Lindsay was on my mind yesterday. He had one of the briefest stays of the myriad anchors I’ve worked with. He also had a small part as a TV anchorman in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It was on TV yesterday.

Another Day With The Dumpster

When I came home from work Thursday night, I noticed Helaine had (as usual) taken the trash to the curb for pickup.

When Steffie was in school we put out three cans a week. Now, it’s usually two. This week – one!

I’m sure going to miss the dumpster when it leaves us – probably Monday morning.

Astoundingly, the dumpster has become a status symbol. Helaine tells me she’s spread the word to some friends, all of whom expressed envy and one of whom has already rented one of her own!

Only 22 feet long? Poseur!

Today, as I was carrying out another load from the attic, I noticed our next door neighbor Margie standing at the dumpster’s door. She was on her cellphone, but looking at the dumpster.

It’s OK. Earlier we told her to take advantage. We’ll never fill it alone.

I lifted the long rod connected to the safety latch and pushed the door open. She looked in and gave me an approving smile.

The unfinished portion of our basement is the most astounding part of this epic saga. It’s as if an extra 50% was added to its capacity. Walls, which had been growing in toward the center, are now back where they belong.

Every year, when our oil company sends someone to clean and adjust our furnace, I apologize for the condition of the basement. No more. We now have a model basement. He can bring a camera next time!

Next, I took another swipe at the attic. There’s stuff you just can’t throw out. It’s stuff I’ll never use and haven’t touched for years. It is, in essence, sacred to me.

When does one get the intestinal fortitude to heave it all? How long after it’s gone before it’s needed?

Even with dumper’s remorse, I made a bunch of trips to the dumpster. As layers peeled away, I unearthed some more interesting finds.

There’s a photo of Helaine and me, taken at a charity pajama party in Buffalo, circa 1983. I was sitting with a cigarette in my fingers.

Ugh! I quit smoking late in 1984 and never looked back. Best move I ever made.

Another photo, an oversize publicity photo from work here in Connecticut, shows me with our news anchors, John Lindsay and Janet Peckinpaugh and our sports director, Bob Picozzi. They’re all long gone and I’m totally out-of-touch with them, though I heard Bob calling a college basketball game last night.

Is there more to be found? Tomorrow I attack my office.

Who would have though a dumpster would fill up so much blog space?

Old Photos

9 Dec ’05, 7.14pm EST

Originally uploaded by geoff_fox.



It was good to see you last week in spite of the circumstances.

Ray was digging through some old stuff and came across the attached photo. I thought you might get a kick out of seeing it.

Be well and happy holidays.


The photo is Bob Picozzi, Jon Crane and me on an old, pretty awful looking, news set. Jon is now in PR. Bob does basketball and football play-by-play (and does it very well) and news for ESPN Radio’s morning show.

I am still where I was when the photo was taken.

Seven Thousand Three Hundred Five Days

Seven thousand three hundred five days ago, Connecticut still had toll booths on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. There was no state income tax. Our governor, William O’Neill, was a tavern owner.

Back then, WTNH was a middle aged television station, owned by Capitol Cities Communications – before it bought ABC. It was second place in what was, for all intents and purposes, a 2 station market. A station with an identity crisis, not knowing whether to be Connecticut’s station or just concentrate on New Haven. It was making money hand-over-fist, which tended to minimize their concern.

On May 21, 1984, One thousand forty three weeks and four days ago, I walked into Channel 8 as an employee. If you would have told me twenty years ago that I’d still be there today, I’d have called you a fool. In my 11 years in radio, I had worked all over the country. No job had ever run more than 3 or 4 years – and most were much shorter.

Al Terzi (WFSB), Gerri Harris (who knows) and Diane Smith (WTIC radio, CPTV), were our main anchors. Bob Picozzi (ESPN radio, UConn Women’s basketball play-byplay) was our sports director. Our news director, the guy who hired me, was Mike Sechrist (General Manager WKRN – Nashville). His assistant, Wendie Feinberg (Executive Producer Nightly Business Report – PBS). In the control room, Tom O’Brien (General Manager KXAS – Dallas) and Jeff Winn (Fox Sports “Best Damned Sports…”).

Of all the on-air and management personnel at the station that day, only I am left. I have survived 4 different owners, 4 general managers, 10 news directors and countless dozens of assistants, producers, reporters and anchors.

Still, I often ask myself, where have I gone wrong?

That’s not to say my professional life hasn’t been good. In fact, it’s been great. This is a very rewarding job and the people who watch have been generous in their support, while my bosses have been… well, they’ve been generous too. I just wonder, what if?

Have I missed the bright lights of the big city? Would I have been able to compete at that level?

Today, if I were looking for work elsewhere, would I be taken seriously? A few years longevity is a good thing, but twenty years in New Haven makes it seem like I’ve been unable to escape.

Since I have been at WTNH, only four of the on-air people hired were older than I was at the time – and three of those came within my first year. This is a business of the young… and I say that even though this station isn’t anywhere near as youth obsessed as some others.

I remember early in my radio career, seeing people who’d been in one place too long, who were now just going through the motions. I promised myself that would never be me. I’ve kept my word.

It is still important to me, after all this time, to know whether I’ve entertained or not. There are no gimmes. A bad Friday night 11:00 weathercast can ruin my weekend… ask my wife.

Even tonight, I brought home a snippet of tape because a few seconds of well timed on-air chatter with the floor director seemed memorable. Every show counts. I am never unhappy to go to work. I have never taken, or needed, a ‘mental health’ day.

I still have my fantasy jobs – things I’d like to do and sometimes even dream about. I’d like to do a game show. I’d like to do a sit down fun chat show. I’d like to fill-in again on Good Morning America. Who knows?

I worry about losing a little off the fastball – about someone up-and-coming who might want my job. I worry about a new owner or manager who might not care that I’ve put twenty years in. After all, in the 21st century, company loyalty is something employees have toward companies… not the other way around.

About 15 years ago, my agent said there would come a time when I’d want to shave ten years off my age. I think I could actually pass with that lie. Until recently, I’d regularly get viewer mail telling me to stop coloring my hair… even though it’s never been colored. But, I won’t lie about my age because I’m proud to have the experience and knowledge that only comes with being 53.

I am not sorry that I’ve made it to 20 years. I am not disappointed in what I’ve accomplished. I have a wonderful life. I only wonder where the other paths led.

The UCONN Parade

It hasn’t always been this way. College basketball hasn’t always been an obsession in Connecticut. When I arrived in 1984 UCONN was an also ran, even in regional action.

That all changed as the university hired Jim Calhoun for the men, and then later Geno Auriemma to coach the women. And, UCONN made a commitment to big time athletics.

I’m not sure, as a taxpayer and father of a soon to be college aged student, whether that would be my first priority… but I haven’t been asked. As it turns out UCONN is now a national powerhouse (even football has started to come around with a 9-2 season this past year) and I’m glad to be a fan.

In March, at the NCAA tournaments, UCONN won both the men’s and women’s national championships. This is an unheard of feat. It took a lot of luck and even more skill.

With that in mind, the City of Hartford decided to throw a parade to celebrate the victory. My TV station then made a commitment to provide live coverage (as did the CBS and NBC stations). It is something we’ve done before when one team or the other won.

My memories of parade coverage are mostly made up of awful weather and equipment failures. Somehow, by chance, unseasonably awful days are always picked. Bob Picozzi reminded me yesterday how one parade was held in some late season snow. I just remember number fingers and toes and trying to hide in the state capitol as long as was humanly possible before darting out to my position on the street.

Equipment problems are another story. A television program is mounted using hundreds of separate pieces of equipment. They could be as small as microphone connectors or as large as an entire satellite truck. In the field, many of these disparate pieces become choke points. If it breaks, nothing passes farther downstream.

In our last parade attempt everything that could fail, did. That was followed by unforeseen failures that had to do with ‘how’ we were doing things, as opposed to ‘what’ we used to do them.

For example, “live” TV never really is anymore. The delay can be a few frames (there are 29.97 frames per second in TV) up to a few seconds. This is not a censorship plot, but the outcome of using digital equipment. As signals pass through and are manipulated digitally, there is a small lag while the math is being done.

In the studio, that’s not a problem – we have it figured out. In the field, that means getting audio to reporters’ earpieces from multiple locations is a nightmare. Is there a delay? How much? And, can you send the reporter every bit of audio EXCEPT his very own voice (which would be delayed and confuse him, much as the echo at a baseball stadium can confuse the people singing the National Anthem).

As you can see, I didn’t drive to Hartford with fond anticipation.

Then, add to that my insecurity over the weather forecast. All week it had called for warm temperatures on Sunday. By Friday it had also become likely that there would be enough instability to produce a scattered shower or two across the state (and, as it turns out, there was a Severe Thunderstorm watch for Litchfield County – just northwest of Hartford). Most places would stay dry, but with Hartford’s parade track record, I couldn’t rule out a shower.

Everything worked out perfectly.

I got to the Legislative Office Building parking garage at 10:50 AM and immediately found a ground floor space, near the exit. I walked then labyrinth of ramps and corridors from the LOB to the Capitol. I walked outside, in the sunshine, and found our main satellite truck. There was no panic. There were no angry words. With hours to go, all the wiring and testing had been done, and it all worked. I had a bottle of water and ate the meat and cheese from a sandwich (it’s the diet).

Our coverage started at 1:30 PM. Just before 1:00, I headed out to our position, behind the Capitol building, near where the floats, bands and teams would start their journey and separated from their happy fans by orange plastic fencing (which would later come down to allow the crowds the opportunity to fill the area in from of the podium built for the ceremony).

Our 1:00 PM run through, where everyone got to see if they could communicate with everyone else, also worked well. I was working with Joe Sferrazza, a photographer who had started at Channel 8 a few months after me. Michelle Clarke from our assignment desk and Brian Albon, usually a director, were field producers.

We began our coverage. Eric Dobratz, producing the show, let me know he wanted me to use our mobility to find people to speak to. No problem. There was a truck a few hundred feet away, not yet moving, with Senators Lieberman and Dodd. I pointed to Joe and walked to the truck. There was a loading gate on the back, so I jumped up and then stood on the rear of the truck.

The senators moved to the back, and in a few seconds we were on the air, live. And then, the truck started to move! I had a wireless microphone and wireless earpiece, so it wasn’t a huge problem. Senator Dodd, sensing my lack of athleticism, threw his arm around my shoulder to help brace me… and the interview continued.

I am told that on TV, the interview looked great. It was live and spontaneous and obvious to all that I was perched on a moving truck. It was also obvious that that was more than I had bargained for. That made the shot even better.

It was at that moment where I set the tone for Joe, Michelle and Brian as to what we’d be doing. They bought in 100%. We would not be boring nor pedestrian.

From there we interviewed Miss Connecticut while I stood on the running board of her car… while in motion, riding the rear of the car carrying Meghan Pattyson and Bob Picozzi from CPTV, and on top a huge flatbed truck talking to a steel drum player – while he and his steel band played… and the truck rolled.

After the parade had passed and the fans streamed up the lawn, I concentrated on speaking with people. By this time, I was spent. All my energy was gone. The effects of a few hours of sleep were catching up with me.

The team, coaches and a few pols spoke from a stage attached to the Capitol’s steps. Thankfully, they were brief.

This parade’s coverage turned out totally different than the last time. It was as if we were two different stations. I like this outcome better. And, I was very glad to eat a little and get into bed.