Good Bye, Bob Dale

It’s been a few weeks now, but the letters and calls keep coming in. There’s a real sense of loss among San Diego television viewers that Bob Dale is gone, and with him, an era.

Bob was our weatherman at NBC 7/39, and before that, a movie host. And before that, he presented the afternoon movie over on KFMB. And before that he was a kid-show host, movie emcee, and TV disc jockey, playing phonograph records on the air at a pioneer television station in Cleveland.  That was 1947, when the studio lights were so hot, he had to keep the records flat on his desk, or they would warp and be useless.

I admired Bob’s history. He was there when television began. But that’s not the thing that I’ll remember most about him. It was the gracious way he carried his celebrity. And make no mistake, this man was a huge star in our city. Never mind that he never believed he deserved that fame, he nonetheless felt that with it came responsibility.

TV personalities today are judged, as much as anything else, by their ability to make guests, and the audience squirm. Whole programs are built around tabloid fascination with human discomfort, and shame. Bob couldn’t imagine hurting anybody’s feelings. We trusted, that no matter how awkward the situation, he would neither embarrass himself, nor us.

A long-time viewer told me a story of watching Bob Dale one day. I’ll recount it as best I can. It seems Bob was moving through a crowd, live microphone in hand, interviewing San Diegans, when he came upon a wheelchair-bound man who had obviously suffered some kind of stroke, and could not speak clearly. The man tried to say a few words, but they came out broken and slurred.  At last the man said “I’m sorry, I’m so difficult to understand”. Today, such a scene would have never made air. A cynical host would sprint away to someone more attractive and whole. But, Bob Dale listened, let the man finish his words as best he could, and then said, “We are understanding you just fine,  Sir, God Bless You”.

Watching Bob Dale interact with his fans, you could see why they loved him. He had time for a word with everybody. And I think it’s because he really didn’t think he was one bit better than any of them. He didn’t believe he deserved to cut in line, or be at the head of any table.

I used to talk with Bob Dale. He was an encyclopedia of film and television history.  The stories of people he met and things he did were simply amazing. Yet, he never saw himself as a celebrity. He was one of a dying breed of television performers who thought more of his audience than he did himself.  And in my book, for that alone, he’ll always…always be a star.


There are no comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: