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Fame & Fortune
Al Roker
Jovial TV weatherman shows a serious side
Celebrity interview

Fame & Fortune: Al Roker

When one thinks of "Today" show weatherman and frequent NBC specials host Al Roker, several adjectives might come to mind -- friendly, jovial, perhaps even cuddly. But "hard-hitting" is probably not one of them. Well, it should be.

Roker, who will surely further those adjectives when he begins hosting the new "Celebrity Family Feud" on NBC starting July 1, has also produced investigative specials and reality shows on topics from the country's growing meth problem to the risky lives of DEA agents through his production company, Al Roker Entertainment (formerly Al Roker Productions). Bankrate spoke to Roker about his life and career -- a career far more varied than most people realize.

Bankrate: How would you categorize your upbringing?

Al Roker: It was not unusual. We were lower middle class. In 1963 we used to drive to this dairy in Elmont, Long Island, (N.Y.) to a wholesaler who sold milk cheap, and we took a detour and came across this housing development with semi-detached homes for $14,500. So my dad scrounged together the $200 for a down payment. I went to Catholic school from fourth grade until the end of elementary school, eighth grade, then I got a scholarship at a school in Manhattan.

Bankrate: Were you an outgoing kid?

Al Roker: I think people think so, but I was relatively shy. I was overweight. I wasn't a very good athlete. I guess as a good defense, in my yearbook, one of the things (said about me was that I was) the black Don Rickles.

Bankrate: That's surprising, because you come off as very jovial on television.

Al Roker: But if you look at Don Rickles, even though he was the insult king, it was done in fun.

Bankrate: Were there early signs you were headed for a career in show business?

Al Roker: I did wanna be in television, but I wanted to be behind the scenes. I wanted to be a cameraman, a director or a producer. I had no desire to be on camera.

Bankrate: How did that change?

Al Roker: I was a sophomore in college, and I had a department chairman at SUNY (State University of New York) Oswego, where I majored in radio and TV, who put me up for a job doing weekend weather at the local CBS station at the end of my sophomore year. I got the job. That led to a job in Washington (D.C.), where I met Willard Scott. I got a job from there in Cleveland, and then at the end of '83 I got the job doing weekend weather at WNBC.

Bankrate: Did you take to the job of weatherman pretty quickly?

Next: "But it is what it is, and I enjoy doing it."
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