Who remembers our dear friend Mike Roberts ?
He was our friendly weatherman for ions and pretty much part of my life, viewing the Okanagan CHBC News (now Global TV – Okanagan) on a regular basis, as a kid. He even had his own show segment on CHBC channel.
Way way…way back!
Before social media was ever invented. Mike Roberts was the Okanagan social hub of our times. One day, I said to son-in-law Graham and daughter, Tianndra, it was about time Mike Roberts retired so a new fresh face could venture into the media spotlight.
Now don’t get me wrong.
I really enjoyed Mike’s broadcasts, but though his time in show biz should possibly give way to the golden years in the Okanagan. It wasn’t long after I said that, my wish was granted, when he decided it was time to hang up his weathering tools and look forward to golfing throughout the Okanagan Valley.
Being an avid golfer, I suspect he’s a member at one of the golf clubs.
All happy for his retirement, I was applauded to see the runner up for Mike’s position. To my dismay, a rival broadcaster and his running mate, meteorologist Wesla Wong, were picked to continue on Mike’s legacy .
To be clear, I do NOT know Wesla Wong, but I sure know the other person.
Flabbergasted that it takes two meteorologists to explain the weather in the small community of the Okanagan Valley, is an understatement. But whatever, maybe the two can take that extra time to actually enjoy the Okanagan. Maybe that IS their goal ?
And maybe, Mike Roberts was really superman, when it comes to being a weatherman. Meaning, he overtook a lot of responsibilities, most meteorologist’s can’t handle today, I’m figuring.
Whatever their reason, it’s not really my concern.
But, I wasn’t at all prepared to see who the other person was going to be. The one to take over the role of meteorologist on Global TV in the Okanagan.
You know the old saying,” Be careful what you wish for?”
I will always remember that day. The day I saw the same man who previously embarrassed me on LIVE TV. My routine visit to the sunny Okanagan, (home-sweet-home) and here, I so happened to glance at the TV to hear the weather report. There he was, the man, Mr. Duane English.
Duane English comes from Edmonton, Alberta and worked for various broadcasting companies throughout the blue-collar city. I met Duane English for the first time, while doing a “spotlight” gig about the Canadian Outdoors, from starting a fire to catching your meal, to cooking by the campfire. It was the day I was promoting my published book, ” Canadian Recipes of the Great White North.”
The first day I met Duane English, he really did seem like a nice guy, but little did I know about this TV business. After the tight security entering the building, Duane English greeted me in the foyer with a picture prefect smile. Soon he hustled me away into his little cubbyhole of an office, giving me a quick lesson on “live” showbiz.
Being on “LIVE” TV was indeed a brand new experience for me.
Was I nervous?
Sure I was, but I thought the trained staff would lead me into a comfortable situation.
Well, was I ever for an unexpected ride of my life.
To picture it, you’re on a design set (a green backdrop) with this big TV camera remotely controlled on wheels. It was pretty much in your face – lol.
And the lights! Wow! So many lights!
My two 10 minute sessions on TV, were staged as such : one was inside, while the other was outside. You think you have it under control, until the camera operators says,”Three…two..one.” And then he flips his finger meaning you’re now LIVE and…ACTION!
Now. Just seconds before the LIVE ACTION was broadcasted across Alberta, Duane English smirks at me and quickly says,” Don’t worry, you have only 300,000 people watching your segment- RIGHT NOW!”
Suddenly, we are ON AIR !
The off-guard thought of so many people watching our segment put me into an immediate “freeze up”. A term expressed by many, who have experienced this daunting effect. It means exactly what it says. You freeze ON AIR and anything that was in your head, immediately vanishes. You can’t speak, no matter how much you want to. It’s just not going to happen. Total anxiety quickly sets in, while the whole experience becomes a mortified feeling of devastation.
While ON AIR, we were standing by an island counter, facing the camera. Duane English began introducing me, as I stood there dumbstruck from pure fright. With his cheerful glee to the camera, he physically hits me hard on the leg with his fist (which can’t be seen on TV).
Understanding he wanted me to snap-out-of-it!
I began to mumble some incoherent words and once again he hit my leg. Another technique so commonly used in showbiz ( in an emergency) is jarring others memory, by asking direct questions. This way they hopefully come out of the shock of being on TV. So, this is exactly what Duane did.
BUT – his dragger eyes could have killed !
It worked. As soon as the ten minute session was over (and I did finally manage to explain my point of the view) the lights and camera quickly turned off, Duane English yelled at me,”What the hell was that?! Listen! In the next session you look at me, NOT THE FU&@&k camera!”
I was in shock, to say the least.
This man, who I perceived as a nice carrying person turned into this viscous orangutan, spitting his words in my face!
I wasn’t amused!
Now I had to go outside and start a campfire, getting ready for my next segment. He quickly pointed to the stack of wood in the yard I would use, so I nodded. He told me to be ready in 5 minutes. Once again I nodded, still fuming inside by how I was treated. So I set my watch for five minutes and planned for my campfire to be burning nicely, as the next segment hit LIVE ON AIR once again.
I planned it perfectly.
Soon, the five minutes went by and no Duane English. I was getting really concerned after 15 minutes, as my little campfire was smouldering into nothing more then white ash. So, like anyone else, I fuelled up the fire with more wood. And I’m talking about old 2X4’s, which were nothing more then garbage wood. As soon as I did this, a crew member came running out barking orders at me to stop using up the wood. I tried to explain to him, Duane English told me to use it. This character was NOT going to listen to anything I had to say. He was outright rude! As a matter of fact I can’t use the words this arrogant ape said to me.
I was like ok – WHATEVER!
So the campfire turned into a smouldering pile of white ash. Soon afterwards, Duane English came hustling out. He looked at the campfire and said,” What the F&@$k is that?!”.
I tried my best to explain why, but to my little radar, I saw that little smirk on his face. Right there and then, I knew it was a set-up. He wanted me to fail and made sure one of his bolstering crude crew members, came out to make sure I would become a laughing stock on LIVE television.
In fact, I was going to be publicly embarrassed on TV.
Another girl came out to do the forward segment with me. We were supposed to roast marshmallows on a nice open fire. She looked at the campfire and looked at English. Duane just shrugged his shoulders, rolling his eyes, meaning,” What can you do with stupid?”
I shook my head in disbelief.
Here we were (the girl and I) roasting marshmallows on a white ash dead fire pit to over 300,000 people – LIVE! The marshmallows were stone cold! The whole experience was totally embarrassing, when the outdoor camera went LIVE showcasing this “expert woodsman” who had no idea how to make a simple campfire ! Well, that’s exactly how it appeared on LIVE TV.
It was obvious where this segment was going.
So, mad and determined, I set out to make the best ten minute segment I could imagine. I even made it look like the girl and I were old friends from way back.
You know – Bulls$&@t.
After the second segment of my first TV appearance career, I really did think it was all over, being humiliated ON AIR. Thank God there wasn’t twitter back then – lol. To my disbelief, the Executive TV Producer phoned me up, asking if I wanted to do another couple of segments.
I was stunned.
Listening over the phone, I said,” Are you sure… I mean…my last performance wasn’t star quality.”
He said,” Oh no! We received a lot of emails and they want you back.”
“No kidding!” I said. Once again, I was totally dumbstruck!
Well, after that I did three more LIVE quick shows of two-ten minute outdoor segments. My fans seemed to love me. The Executive TV Producer told me, the reason they loved you so much, was because you showed them what really happens to a green-horn out in the woods. My fans compared me to them. Oh boy! The thought they compared me to a bubbling fool in the wilderness.
Go figure! Oh well, so what!
I went on another couple of shows, with one explaining what really happens when you get lost in the wilderness. It’s a true precarious story, that happened to me. Using only my own determination for survival skills, I was lost for over 14 hours in the middle of British Columbia rugged terrain, with evidence of a rogue Grizzly. Doesn’t matter how experienced you are in the wilderness, strange things can happen. Sometimes you can prepare, but it’s always the unexpected that happens.
My shows were a success! Soon I received a call from another possible outdoor show called WILD TV. The Edmonton owner was interested with my segments and wondered if I be interested in doing this part time.
My response was,”Sure!”
But I quizzed him, if he saw my performances, and the fact, my shows were portrayed as a green-horn lost in the woods?
He told me,” Sure did! Loved it!”
I said,”OK then. What did you have in mind?”
He told me he was working on this new show called WILD TV and he could possibly have some of my segments on his show. It all sounded good, but when it came down to it, he decided to go with hunters perspective instead. Which is kind of sad, because I was looking forward to a career in showbiz.
Today, you can find WILD TV in full broadcast mode.
TV is all about ratings, and I’m figuring he would get better ratings with all the hunting fans out there in Canada and United States. Mind you, today, with all the reality shows of mix-matched lives of celebrities, I figure I do well with the green-horn effect out in the wilderness.
The irony of it all ?
I am very experienced in the Canadian Outdoors and like all of us, you can’t always control Mother Nature and apparently LIVE TV. Both control you! Outdoors you can be the best-of-the-best and in a second, a precarious weather situation or rogue Grizzly bear, could place you in a pickle ! As LIVE TV goes, you better be prepared for ego driven announcers.
Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut for my own segment on WILD TV but, who knows, maybe one day I’ll get another call to showcase my outdoor skills.
As for Duane English?
He taught me what lies (get it?) behind the set of TV magic. All I can say for Duane, I wish him well and I hope he has changed his ways, being more respectful to others, when he’s not flashing his sparkling teeth ON AIR.
That’s show biz!
By Bari Demers – screenwriter / writer
PS – I love the Okanagan! Raised in Vernon BC. Went to Polson Park Junior High School when it was still in Polson Park. High school graduation was at VSS ( Vernon Senior Secondary school) and continued on to college at Okanagan College in Kelowna. Skied Sliver Star in Vernon and Big White in Kelowna.