“NBC wants to do a reality show based on Colleen and me,” deadpanned Fritz Coleman. “But they want to up the tension and make me a ‘weatherman in transition.’ I said yes, but only if I can pick out my new clothes.”
Fritz was the guest of honor last Friday evening at the Burbank Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala, held at the Marriott Burbank Hotel Convention Center. The witty weathercaster took the occasion to banter with longtime friends, reminding several hundred Burbank notables that he’s also a veteran stand up comedian.
Popular news anchor Colleen Williams has been Fritz’s NBC4 partner for the past 23 years. “It’s been the longest successful relationship I’ve ever had,” said Fritz. “And the least costly.” And as Colleen rushed out of the banquet room to cover some item of late breaking news Fritz quipped, “There’s a chalk body outline somewhere.”
“Our gala’s a fun event,” said Chamber Executive Director Gary Olson. “The silent auction items are priced for friendly competition and the entertainment’s upbeat.” (As Barry Lamster Entertainment and The Showcase Singers amply demonstrated.) But this year, the Chamber wanted to do something extra special. So when Fritz indicated that he was receptive to being on the honoree hot seat, “the Board was thrilled.”
Fritz did have some trepidation, though. “I’m shocked even to be here after NBC deserted Burbank. I feel like Edward Snowden,” he confessed to the guffawing crowd.
But the audience of Burbank movers and shakers knew well that Fritz’s association with Burbank goes all the way back to 1982, shortly after he escaped from Buffalo– a place that makes more weather than it can consume locally. He joined NBC4 as the weekend weather soothsayer in 1982 then moved into weekdays in 1984.
Fritz, who had been working as a well-received stand up comedian before joining NBC4, found his new gig to be very congenial. Where else in the country but LA would there be a “storm watch” because the land might be inundated with a whole inch of rain? (Ah, the good old days.) His TV audience found Fritz to be very congenial in turn, making him a Southern California broadcasting icon. Practically every major newspaper in the region has hailed him as “Best Weather caster.”
While in Burbank, Fritz made quite a few friends. He knew Bud Ovrom when he was Burbank’s City Manager, long before Bud was to serve under future LA Mayor Antonio Villagarosa and “arrange for the Mayor’s tanning salon appointments.”
He knew close friend Jack O’Neill for many of his “75 years with NBC,” before he left to dress like the Godfather and work with the Hope family. He remembered when former Mayor Bill Wiggins “was the model for the Big Boy set.” And he even remembered Burbank Mayor David Gordon’s “brilliant campaign speech” when he promised to “give Burbank what it needs—a colonoscopy.”
All kidding aside, Fritz has been a great fan of Burbank. Fritz raised two sons and a daughter in Burbank while involving himself in many charitable activities. He’s entertained or emceed at countless local service and civic organizations within Burbank and throughout Southern California.
He’s been a long time supporter of the Salvation Army, has helped run academic decathlons, has supported adult literacy programs and has championed arts education. (And Wiki notes that Fritz received the 2004 EMA Community Service Award for his involvement with NBC’s 4 Our Planet, a children’s program.)
So it was more than fitting that Gary Olson declared Fritz to now be a lifetime member of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Gordon “was very pleased” to present Fritz with the keys of the city, representing “the first opportunity he had to honor someone in this fashion.”
For his part, Fritz thanked NBC for the Burbank memories: trading jokes on The Tonight Show, appearing in many series and specials for NBC4, clowning with Bob Hope, presiding over the aforementioned “storm watches” and pretending that LA actually has four seasons. Concludes Fritz, “All of the great memories of my career took place in Burbank at 3000 Alameda Avenue.”
When engaging in raillery with Board Chairman Eric Foster, Emcee and Chamber Board member Sunder Ramani presented Fritz with several proclamations from elected officials. The one from Congressman Adam Schiff, which will be read into the Congressional Record, perhaps says it all: “It’s a great honor to call Fritz a friend.”
To see Fritz in weathercasting action, watch NBC4 News at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. To learn more about Fritz, please visit http://www.nbclosangeles.com/on-air/about-us/Fritz_Coleman_.html