Over the years, Portland TV has given us many memorable personalities, from "Rusty Nails" — the performer who "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening says inspired that show’s Krusty the Clown — to a short stay at KATU (2) by former Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly.
Like O’Reilly, some broadcasters spent time at Portland stations before moving on to bigger and better — well, at least bigger — things. O’Reilly, for example, spent nine months as an anchor at KATU in 1984-1985. In 2015, a former Portland colleague recalled O’Reilly as "rather pompous" but "intelligent."
A notorious story from O’Reilly’s days at KATU involves the newsman supposedly leaving a copy of his hefty paycheck in the office copier. When a fellow staffer found it, word spread quickly about the amount O’Reilly was making. Unconfirmed rumors put the sum at $100,000 per year, an amount one local TV veteran called "an unheard-of figure at the time."
After his brief stay in Portland, O’Reilly went on to make an impact in the national TV market, first as a host of "Inside Edition" from 1989 to 1995, and then his long run as host of "The O’Reilly Factor," a top-rated show on the Fox News Channel.
In April, O’Reilly and the Fox News Channel parted ways, in the wake of controversy over allegations that O’Reilly had sexually harassed Fox News female staffers. After a New York Times story about a reported $13 million in settlements that had been paid to women who alleged that O’Reilly had sexually harassed or behaved inappropriately toward them, O’Reilly’s 21-year career at Fox News was over.
Ann Curry also moved on from Portland to a national platform, and then abruptly exited it. Curry attended high school in Ashland, and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1978, before beginning her broadcast journalism career. Following a stint at KTVL in Medford, Curry joined KGW (8) in Portland in 1980, and worked there until 1984.
Curry joined NBC’s "Today" show in 1997 as news anchor. When Meredith Vieira left, Curry was promoted to "Today" cohost with Matt Lauer, in 2011. But her tenure proved rocky, and after a ratings decline and reports that the powers that be weren’t happy with Curry, she made a tearful on-air goodbye in 2012, and was replaced on "Today" by Savannah Guthrie.
Another high-profile Portland refugee, Rob Marciano, was KATU’s chief meteorologist from 1997 to 2003 before making the jump to CNN as news and weather anchor. Marciano left CNN to join "Entertainment Tonight" as co-host. In 2014, Marciano returned to weather when ABC News hired him as senior meteorologist.
Before his high-profile jobs co-anchoring "20/20" on ABC and hosting his own show on the Fox Business Network, John Stossel worked at Portland’s KGW. In an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2009, Stossel recalled joining KGW in 1969. During his time at the NBC affiliate, Stossel worked his way up from researcher to on-air reporter. Stossel left Portland in 1973.
During his years at ABC, and his appearances on the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, Stossel became identified with a libertarian perspective, one he shared in such books as, "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats. and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media."
Back in 2009, Stossel also shared a thought about Portland.
"All that city planning that the know-it-alls in Portland enforce sounds nice, and might make some people happier to have a city that looks the way they think it should look," Stossel said. "But it makes life more expensive for everyone and denies people opportunities."
Though "Rusty Nails" didn’t leave the Portland area, the performer’s pop culture impact was massive, if you consider that Portland native Groening says the "Simpsons" character of Krusty the Clown was inspired by "Rusty Nails."
In real life, the man behind the clown makeup was James Allen, a Portland native whose "Rusty Nails" persona made him a favorite among Portland kids who watched his show on Portland TV, beginning in 1957. Allen hosted kids’ shows for 16 years on Portland TV stations, including KOIN (6) and KPTV (12.)
Allen made appearances around the Portland area as "Rusty Nails," and was also an ordained minister. He died in 2015, at age 87.
These are, of course, just a few of the Portland TV personalities who have either made an impression locally or beyond our borders. Which ones would you choose as most memorable? Heck Harper? Bob the Weather Cat? Kathy Smith? Mike Donahue?
Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I’m working on compiling our list of Portland TV all-stars.
— Kristi Turnquist
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