Back in the day, every PPR episode started with a short skit. Think Saturday Night Live but not nearly as funny. Over the first 14 years of the show we must have produced close to 150 of these so-called “opens.” Former KUSI meteorologist John Coleman starred in at least 14 of them.
Be it sitting in a hot tub with Stephanie Kelly (spoofing the TV show Elimidate), or impersonating weapons specialist “M” in James Bond, John Coleman proved that his talent did not stop at the weather map. And that’s the PPR connection for this week’s blog entry.
I take you back to Friday April 4th, 2014, John Coleman had just given his signature Friday night sign-off (“it’s that wonderful day between Thursday and Saturday…”) and we were walking out of the station together . “See ya Monday JC,” I said. Coleman replied “No you won’t.” I didn’t think much about it until I strolled into the studio 72 hours later and learned my KUSI sidekick of 15 years had called it a career. Turns out Coleman’s final KUSI weathercast came exactly 20 years to the day after his first. He put in his 20 and left. No farewells, no goodbyes. Coleman just rode off into the sunset like Alan Ladd did in the 1953 classic Shane.
Shortly after his low key retirement, John and his wife Linda sold their San Diego home and moved to Las Vegas. The TV business is weird. You can sit on a set with somebody four times a day for 15 years, and then –poof-, you never see them again. In this business you’re conditioned to just “keep on keeping on.”
I don’t get to Vegas as much these days, so it was going to take something special to create a reunion opportunity with my friend and mentor. Something like being inducted into the “Old Folks Home for San Diego Broadcasters,” better known as the NATAS Silver Circle. Let me clarify. I was being inducted. Coleman is already in. (as a Gold Circle member, no less).
Long story short, I asked John to be my presenter at Sunday’s awards ceremony. Coleman was one of the first to recognize the possibilities for the PPR, but more importantly, I just wanted to see him again. For nearly two decades I had a front row seat to the greatest show on earth: John Coleman in front of the green screen! I learned a ton from this man. For example did you know it’s possible for a human being to smoke an entire cigarette during one 90 second commercial break? Or that while producing a first rate weathercast with one hand, John was able to simultaneously play an off shore on-line high stakes round of Texas Hold ‘em with the other?
Using baseball parlance, Coleman was a five-tool player. He could do it all. Inform and entertain. Love him or hate him, you couldn’t help but watch him. They call that the “It” factor. And John has “IT.”
So Sunday morning I rolled into the reception area of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and saw my friend for only the second time since he left KUSI. He’s lost a little weight and likely can’t kick at the breeze as high as he once could; but his eyes still twinkle and his mind is still razor sharp.
I’ve always maintained that the best of friends are the ones you don’t see for years but with whom you can seemingly pick up in mid-sentence for your last conversation without missing a beat. John is that kind of friend. Within seconds we were re-living his infamous on-air stumble over the weather phrase “mass solar ejection.” (It’s available on YouTube).
Mr. Coleman has enjoyed the TV career the rest of us can only dream of. Just consider this. Sunday I was being honored for producing a local high school football show. John created the Weather Channel. He had every right to look down his nose at me, but he never did, in fact just the opposite. From the day we first met, John treated me as a contemporary. You have no know idea what a shot of confidence it is to have a Hall of Fame talent like John Coleman consider you a colleague instead of a clown. It’s a debt I can never repay but I can do this.
I can write a public thank you note and tell him and you how much he means to me and everybody who worked with him here at KUSI. And just in case I don’t get to see him again I want him to know how much I respect and love him.
In the immortal words of the Outlaw Josey Wales, “I rode with him and I ain’t got no complaints.”
PS: I put together a montage of some of John’s best PPR appearances. Enjoy!