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McEwen, Mark 1954–

Mark McEwen 1954

Broadcast journalist

At a Glance

From Disc Jockey to Comic

Broke into Television

Landed Spot on CBS This Morning

Sources

As the weather reporter and entertainment editor for CBS This Morning, Mark McEwen takes an enthusiastic approach toward his work and transcends his job description. While traveling the country to bring his viewers the latest forecast or entertainment report for the earlymorning television news show, McEwen feels compelled to participate in events that are unique to the area that he is visiting. He has gone hang gliding in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, toyed with bulls in a Jackson, Mississippi rodeo, and even strapped himself to the gyro thing at NASAs space camp in Florida, all in the name of television.

Yet, for many of McEwens fans, it is not the zany stunts that make them tune in every morning. His cheery disposition and enthusiastic attitude are the attributes that make him stand out. When the news is bleak, CBS producer Jay Kernis told Diane Goldner of USA Weekend, Mark reminds you its worth getting up. Even his friend and rival, Willard Scott, weatherman for NBCs Today show, admits that McEwen is ebullient.

McEwen realizes that his role as weatherman is incidental to his real job. Weather is what I do, he told Jane Marion of TV Guide, but when I get out there, Im just trying to entertain. And he has plenty of experience to make his special brand of entertainment work.

Growing up as one of six children of a U.S. Air Force colonel, McEwen lived in Germany, Alabama, Texas, and Maryland before starting college at the University of Maryland. Though life as a military child provided him with many enriching experiences, it never gave him a clear path for the future. I never knew what I wanted to be, he told Marion. I just knew I wanted to be famous. After a few years of college, McEwen started on his search for fame.

McEwens first job came in 1977 as a sports director and overnight disc jockey for WKTK-FM radio in Baltimore, Maryland. After working as Midnight Mark for a year, he moved to Detroit to take the job of music director for rock station WWWW-FM (known as W-4). It wasnt long before his duties were expanded and he was given his first big opportunity as an on-air personalitythat of the coveted morning drive-time disc jockey. His success as one of the first black deejays on a rock station was almost immediate and proved to be long-lasting. In a review of McEwens role as weatherman for CBS This Morning, Detroit News television reporter Jim McFarlin fondly remembered McEwen as possibly Detroits

At a Glance

Born September 16,1954, in San Antonio, TX; son of Alfred (an Air Force colonel) and Dolores (a bank officer) McEwen; married first wife (divorced); married Judith Lonsdale (an attorney), June 7, 1992. Education: Attended University of Maryland, College Park, 1972-75.

Weather reporter, music and entertainment editor, disc jockey, and comedian. Sports director and disc jockey, WKTK-FM, Baltimore, MD, 1977-78; music director and disc jockey, WWWW-FM Detroit, Ml, 1978-80; research director and disc jockey, WLUP-FM, Chicago, IL, 1980-82; disc jockey, WAPP-FM, New York City, 1982-83; disc jockey, WNEW-FM, New York City, 1983-86; weather reporter, The Morning Program, CBS-TV, New York City, 1987; weather reporter and music editor, CBS This Morning, New York City, 1987, named entertainment editor, 1992. Performed as comedian in numerous nightclubs including The Improv and Catch a Rising Star. Made television appearances on various shows, including Comedy Tonight, The Late Show, and Hollywood Squares. Also host Steampipe Alley (a live childrens show), on WOR-TV, New York City, 1987, and Wanna Bet? (a game show), on CBS-TV, 1992.

Addresses: OfficeCBS This Morning, CBS Inc., 524 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

best solo rock n roll morning man when he worked for WWWW-FM.

Stations from across the country soon became aware of his talents. In 1980 McEwen left Detroit to accept a position at Chicagos WLUP-FM as a disc jockey for the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift. McEwen summed up his departure from Detroit for McFarlin: After two years here I was just ready for a bigger challenge, and Im going to the hottest rock n roll station in the country right now. Though he was only hired as an on-air personality, it wasnt long before the station recognized his managerial abilities. Soon after his arrival, McEwen was given the added responsibility of research director.

From Disc Jockey to Comic

While in Chicago, McEwen dicided that he wanted to break away from the traditional disc jockey role and dive into the world of comedy. Even though he trained with the Second City Players Workshop and appeared at various clubs around the area, including Byfields and the Playboy Club, McEwens listeners never got to experience his comedic talents. Ive never been a comedian on the air, he told Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune. An audience has to see me to get what Im doing.

What McEwen was doing was setting his sights on becoming a full-time actor and comic. Though he loved his job on the radio, he was beginning to enjoy his new sideline career. After catching his act at one of the local comedy clubs, Zorn offered Tribune readers a critique of McEwen. McEwen engages his audience and does not talk down to them, preferring a folksy, mildly ironic delivery filled with lots of I-tell-yas and ya-knows. He is among the few black deejays on an FM rock station in the country, but makes relatively few racially oriented or radio-oriented jokes, sticking instead to drugs, TV and sex.

McEwens radio and comedy career continued to climb upward when he moved to New York City in 1982 to take a job at WAPP-FM. He also continued to fine tune his comedy routine at local comedy clubslike Catch a Rising Star and The Improvand even worked as the opening act for legendary comic George Bums. But McEwen was beginning to question his abilities as a stand-up comic. I was too sensitive, he told Goldner in USA Weekend. If the audience didnt laugh, I thought they didnt like me.

Broke into Television

A move to rival station WNEW-FM in 1983 would eventually lead McEwen to his big break. After working at the station for three years, he was fired due to the loss of a ratings war. At the same time, CBS was getting ready to launch The Morning program, a new morning news show. When the programs executive producer read about the deejays ouster in the New York Daily News and learned of his television aspirations, McEwen was given the job as weather reporter for the show.

Unfortunately, the shows popularity among viewers and critics alike was not good. Its fluff and froth, wrote television critic Don Merrill in TV Guide, which, with the occasional pauses for news, goes on for an hour and a half. It seems a lot longer. Of course much of television is fluff and froth. The Morning Program is just fluffier and frothierand earlier. It took less than a year for the network executives to cancel the show. Every on-air anchor for the program was fired, except for McEwen.

Landed Spot on CBS This Morning

When CBS This Morning debuted in November of 1987, McEwen was back on the air and excited to be a part of the new show. He explained his optimism to McFarlin at the time of the programs debut. Im really looking forward to the new one because now we have a big brotherthe news division is behind us. I think well get more of a commitment, and I think theyll allow the show to evolve.

McEwen was not only excited to be back on a morning news show with his old duties as weatherman, but he was equally excited to be given the chance to bring his music background into the picture. As the shows new music editor, McEwen was thrilled with the opportunity to interview music legends like Phil Collins, Quincy Jones, and Diana Ross. McEwen relishes interviews with such music luminaries as Paul Simon and B. B. Kingpractice, perhaps, for the talk show he hopes to host someday, Goldner wrote. The producers of CBS This Morning were so impressed with his ability to profile music celebrities that they expanded his role to that of entertainment editor to include a wide range of stories on entertainment personalities and subjects.

It didnt take long for CBS This Morning to become competitive with its rival morning programs. The ratings climbed, thanks in part to the popularity of Mark McEwen. Once the show was clearly on solid ground, McEwens responsibilities at CBS branched out to other areas, including serving as a fill-in host for CBS This Morning, a contributor to the CBS-TV news magazine 48 Hours, and the host of the game show Wanna Bet? In addition, he was given the responsibility of network announcer, doing voice-overs and promotional segues for prime-time programs on CBS. McEwen also appeared as a regular on the syndicated television series Comedy Tonight, a guest on The Late Show, and the first weatherman to be featured on Hollywood Squares.

McEwen claims that the secret to his success is that he doesnt put on any airs, he just tries to be himself. His marriage to attorney Judith Lonsdale in June of 1992 caused him to question the more dangerous stunts that he has done for the program, but it hasnt stopped them. His love of music, specifically his favorite album, Bruce Springsteens Born to Run, sets the tone for his world view. Life is not a sprint, he told Marion in TV Guide. Its a marathon.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1982.

Detroit News, March 5, 1990; November 30,1987; June 11, 1992; December 22, 1992.

TV Guide, April 11, 1987; September 30, 1989.

USA Today, April 20, 1993.

USA Weekend, May 15-17, 1992.

Joe Kuskowski

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