Bob Welti isn't sure he's entirely excited about the prospect of retirement, but he's not about to turn back now.
"I wanted to retire," the longtime Ch. 5 weatherman said. "I told KSL long ago that I wanted to go out at the end of this contract. It's entirely my own doing."Welti is winding down his television career, which began at Ch. 4 (then called Experimental Station W-6XIS) back in 1947. He'll continue putting in appearances on Eyewitness News at 6 through the end of February with his replacement, Mark Eubank, and he won't wind up his KSL-radio spots until the end of May.
But even phasing into retirement isn't necessarily easy.
"It's sort of hard to change when you've had a habit for 41 years," Welti said. "My reaction to seeing Mark (Eubank) is the same reaction I had when Len (Randolph) started doing the broadcasts at 6: What's he doing on my set doing my show? But you get used to it awfully fast."
"I might have stayed another couple of years, though, if they'd offered me the money I hear they're giving Mark."
And Welti is going out just about the same way he came in - amid considerable silliness. Last week alone he got hit with snowballs and took several pies to the face on the air.
"That was reverting back to my childhood," he said. "I figure they're not going to fire me."
Actually, it was reverting back to his days at Ch. 4 when he and former sportscaster Paul James were famous for their stunts.
"We used to do an awful lot of horsing around," Welti said.
There was the time James set the weather set on fire. And the time he brought in a 8-foot Frankenstein that "scared the heck out of" Welti while he was on the air.
"But things were different back then. News got more serious and we got a little bit more serious.'
Welti and James were part of the No. 1 news team at Ch. 4 from 1951 until 1965, when they changed channels to KSL. And they took that No. 1 rating with them.
As for his successor, Welti says those spots KSL is running about their longtime friendship aren't just scripted.
"Mark and I really are old friends. We've been friends for years," he said, adding that the two former competitors used to "pal around together" when both attended out-of-town conventions.
Welti also said he isn't planning to quit work entirely. He'll continue working at his advertising agency "just to keep a little bit busy." And don't be surprised if you see him turn up in some advertisements.
"But if I go back on TV again, it will take an awfully good offer from 2 or 4," he said with a laugh.All of our local TV stations have been weather obsessed, but KSL has taken this to new extremes.
"Right now we're weather heavy," admitted Bruce Lindsay, who's both an anchorman and managing editor at KSL. "But things will settle back to normal."
But even with a ratings-grabber like Eubank, adding a minute to the weathercast may be a mistake. What people really want to see is tomorrow's weather and the five-day forecast. You don't need an extra minute for that - a minute that's coming out of hard news.
I'll give KSL the benefit of the doubt. Let's hope that this really is somewhat of a settling-in period - that they're trying to take advantage of the addition of Eubank (which has cost Ch. 5 a bundle) and things will calm down.
But let's also hope that leading into the newscast with a weather promo ends soon. And let's hope the "Mark's back" campaign dies down soon. It's getting to be overkill.
There are signs this is temporary. Last week's "at-home-with-Bob" segments on the 10 p.m. newscasts have come to an end. They were planned to make sure people knew Welti wasn't being forced out - to avoid any kind of Jane Pauley-Deborah Norville comparisons, Lindsay said.
And we'll just have to remember that the silliness involving snowballs and pies in the face was Welti's idea. Not the most dignified exit, but the one he apparently wanted.