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September 23, 1928|
|Died||June 23, 1995
New York, New York
|Education||St. Olaf College, Columbia University|
|Occupation||Journalist, Television News Anchor, and Actor|
Roger Grimsby (September 23, 1928 – June 23, 1995) was an American journalist, television news anchor and actor. Grimsby, who for 18 years was seen on the ABC Television Network flagship station WABC in New York City, is known as one of the pioneers of local television broadcast news.
Roger Grimsby was an orphan who was born in Butte, Montana and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, by a Lutheran minister. After graduating from Denfeld High School in 1946, he attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, before studying history at Columbia University in New York. Grimsby was a U.S. Army veteran who was stationed in Germany before serving in the Korean War. It was during his stint in the Army that the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) sparked his interest in news broadcasting.
Grimsby returned to his native Duluth, Minnesota, where he began his anchoring career in 1954, serving as an announcer for WEBC Radio. Shortly thereafter, he decided to switch to the growing medium of television, working as a correspondent and news director at various television stations around Minnesota and Wisconsin, including WEAU-TV Eau Claire, WISC-TV Madison, and WXIX-TV (now WVTV) Milwaukee. He then spent two years (1959–1961) at KMOX (now KMOV) in St. Louis, before becoming the anchor and news director at ABC-owned KGO-TV in San Francisco, in 1961.
In 1968 Grimsby was brought to WABC-TV in New York City by recently hired news director Al Primo, who the station imported to bring his Eyewitness News format to New York. Grimsby's initial co-anchor was former WCBS-TV newsman Tom Dunn but the man who was most closely identified with him was Bill Beutel, who replaced Dunn in 1970 and co-anchored the news with Grimsby until 1986.
A six-time Emmy Winner, Grimsby was fired from WABC in 1986 and, in an incident recounted by several of his colleagues, including Tom Snyder (who reported the incident on The Late Late Show soon after Grimsby's death), ABC further punished Grimsby by buying a building across from WABC's Lincoln Square studios where three bars Grimsby often frequented stood and evicting the bar owners from the building.
Grimsby was hired by WNBC-TV shortly after his WABC departure, where he served as anchor and reporter. In 1990, he relocated to California where he and George Reading of KMST became the first anchor team on KUSI's newly launched newscast.
Other career notes
For some time while anchoring at WABC, Grimsby also moonlighted as a reporter for the ABC Radio Network. During this time, Grimsby would serve as a newsreader for the network's five-minute national news updates in the 3:00 PM hour every afternoon, choosing which stories he would report and writing the reports himself. Grimsby, in a 1982 interview with then-colleague John Slattery, called it "one of the best kept secrets in broadcasting." (Outtakes from Slattery's report later aired as part of Tom Snyder's tribute to Grimsby following his death.)
Grimsby was known for beginning his broadcasts with the phrase "Good evening, I'm Roger Grimsby; here now the news," and ending them with the phrase "Hoping your news is good news, I'm Roger Grimsby." Chevy Chase later parodied the opening line on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update segment with his catchphrase, "Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not."
Grimsby could be rather funny, himself. His humor was off-the-cuff, often with the typical journalist's sarcastic tone. One famous remark, widely circulated on an industry outtake reel, came after a studio wide-shot caught colleague Mara Wolynski using an extended middle finger as she finished an argument with someone off-screen before her story was introduced on the 5 o'clock edition. At the end of the 6 o'clock edition, Grimsby, with a straight face, looked into the camera and quipped, "Well . . . as Mara Wolynski would say -- 'We're number one.'" He frequently punctuated his banter with other Eyewitness News team members with his humor. One evening he read a story about the proliferation of dog feces around Manhattan, referring to it as a "veritable minefield", then transferred the broadcast to sportscaster Howard Cosell who questioned with "a veritable minefield, Roger", to which Grimsby replied (without skipping a beat): "Don't step in it Howard." Or the time his co-anchor, Bill Beutel, reported a story about a lawsuit in California alleging that a girl had become a nymphomaniac after falling from a San Francisco streetcar. Grimsby chimed in with "Imagine if she had fallen from a train!" As part of the same 1982 piece featured after he died, when asked about embarrassing moments on air, Grimsby said once that he had mispronounced "count".
Grimsby was not immune to foul ups himself though. In one example from the early 1980s, which has since made the rounds on YouTube, Grimsby had fallen victim to a fit of laughter just before a newscast began and it spread to everyone in the studio as the program opened. Grimsby, still trying to compose himself and failing, opened the newscast with, "We are live...hoping your news is good news, I wanna quit now!". He could not get through the lead story, concerning a tuberculosis outbreak, without laughing again and the crew continued to laugh with him. After nearly a minute Grimsby collected himself, took a deep breath, said "okay, composure," and went on with the newscast as if nothing had happened.
His on-air feuds with fellow "Eyewitness News" team members, including Howard Cosell, Geraldo Rivera and gossip columnist Rona Barrett (whom he openly called "Rona Rooter") were legendary. He once segued into a Barrett report after a story about garbage by saying "Speaking of Garbage."
While working at WNBC-TV, Grimsby inadvertently became a part of New York radio history as the very last voice to be heard on WNBC-AM. He was reporting live from the station's final broadcast for Live at Five, as the studio counted down the final seconds to the switch to WFAN. But transmitter engineers were a few seconds late in cutting off WNBC's feed, meaning that Grimsby could be heard off-mic, declaring to viewers and listeners: You heard the countdown, it's over.
Roger Grimsby died on June 23, 1995, in New York City of lung cancer, at the age of 66.
- Bananas (1971) - Himself
- The Exterminator (1980) - Himself
- Ghostbusters (1984) - Himself
- Turk 182 (1985) - Himself
- Power (1986) - Commentator
- Nothing but Trouble (1991) - TV Anchor (final film role)
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- Ramsay, Greg. "WABC 1980s". TVARK. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- YouTube Video – "WNBC Radio sign-off on WNBC-TV" The October 7, 1988 signoff of WNBC radio, as covered LIVE by WNBC-TV on LIVE AT FIVE. Reports from Al Roker & Roger Grimsby. The TV station busted Grimsby's prerecorded package, as the final 2 seconds were counted down. Coverage continued with Al Roker at Shea Stadium, where a ceremonial switch was thrown marking the move of WFAN radio down the dial, from 1050 to 660.
- audio file-Last moments of WNBC/first moments of WFAN
- Roger Grimsby at the Internet Movie Database
- UHF Nocturne - print ads for KGO featuring Roger Grimsby
- Broadcast legends - Roger Grimsby Biography
- Carter, Bill (June 24, 1995). "Obituary: Roger Grimsby, 66, Anchor And Initiator of 'Happy Talk'". The New York Times.