Despite the easy smile, former KARE 11 anchor Asha Blake says she was never the sweetest personality in broadcasting.
The fourth of six kids, Blake’s toughness was apparent to her mother. “She said I was hard as nails,” said Blake
“I am one of the toughest people you will ever meet but I prefer not to live that way,” she told me when the former broadcaster, now CEO of Goldenheart Media, returned to Minnesota as author Alan C. Fox’s director of worldwide media engagement. Fox was promoting his latest book, “People Tools for Love & Relationships: The Journey from Me to Us.”
“You don’t get to the top of two networks by being a wallflower. Everybody thinks I’m lucky. No,” Blake said emphatically. “I worked 15-hour days. I’m really tough. It took a lot of toughness and perseverance.”
Blake worked on “World News Now,” “World News This Morning” and “Good Morning America” at ABC and on “Later Today” at NBC.
But I hear she seemed like her same old sweet self at a get-together with her former KARE 11 colleagues where the food was prepared by former KARE photographer Quyet Nguyen, who owned Mister Q Vietnamese Cuisine when Blake lived here.
“IT WAS ALL DELICIOUS! I have fond memories of Mr. Q and his restaurant. He really outdid himself,” said Blake. “He graciously cooked several dishes, including my favorite, spring rolls, and we all even had food to go! He was an angel to me while at KARE 11 and he still is now.”
Q: You’re out of the TV news anchor business right now and happy?
A: Yes. I did it for 25 years. That’s a looooong time, but I’m really happy doing what I’m doing and the person I work with, Alan Fox, is fantastic. So you can’t beat that.
Q: Do you miss TV?
A: I don’t miss being on TV at all. I had a wonderful career for 25 years and accomplished all I set out to do in that world. I still get calls to be on camera for certain shows so that’s nice. I do them if it fits into my schedule. The work that I do now puts me in contact with producers (many of whom I have known from past jobs) so I still get to dream up segment ideas and “talk TV.” I could not be happier.
Q: Tell me about your strangest KARE 11 live shot?
A: That’s easy. I think it was at the Minnesota State Fair. I was asked to go into a tent with — I believe it was Babe Winkelman, outdoor fishing and hunting expert, and test some kind of bug spray. So into the tent I go with hundreds and hundreds of bees or mosquitoes -- I don’t remember which -- to prove that the bug spray worked. If memory serves, I did have some kind of beekeeper outfit on, too. Amazingly, the spray worked. I don’t remember getting one bite. It was a very funny live shot. Not something I ever planned to do while at the Minnesota School of Journalism. I also remember that Babe was quite nice and very friendly. I still can’t believe I said yes to that request. It was fun though.
Q: With whom did you have your most difficult interview while at KARE?
A: I don’t remember any person being difficult. The hardest interviews to do, that come to mind, are the ones where I was interviewing parents of missing children -- Miranda Paffel, Corrine Erstad and Jacob Wetterling. I still remember the kids and the stories over 25 years later. Those stories never leave your mind.
Q: Are you still in touch with your former KARE 11 colleague Amy Powell?
A: Amy and I see each other from time to time out in LA. She’s really busy. She’s got early morning hours. It’s a little more difficult to connect but we connect from time to time. She working at Channel 7 ABC station
Q: What were you told about the racist phone calls you and Amy attracted at KARE 11?
A: I was never told there were racist phone calls.
A: Never. Why didn’t you tell me? I didn’t know about any. Am I surprised? No. Especially back during that time period, but I was never told.
Q: That’s shocking. I know about mine. Usually they make the racist phone calls to me.
A: That’s the difference. In television they go to the news director, they don’t come directly to me.
Q: You’re working with Steve Harvey, a man of some curiosity to me. I want to say I don’t like him but I watch “Think Like a Man, Act Like a Lady” a couple times a month and think his television show is exceptional. What can you tell me about him behind the scenes?
A: We go to see Steve Harvey when Alan Fox does an interview. His whole team has been wonderful when I’m helping set up a segment. They have a well-run shop. Steve is super nice and really busy if you read his book. He’s business from 4 in the morning to 10 o’clock at night. He’s always polite and cordial and respectful. I can’t say enough good things about Steve Harvey. You really see who somebody is based on the people around him. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed interviewing a lot of people. If they are nice, generally their staff is nice. If they are sloppy and don’t ge t the job done, staff isn’t as good.
Q: Do you know Steve Harvey well enough to say, the next time you see him, “Just call me Miss Columbia?”
A: HA! That’s funny. No, I don’t. He’s a really wonderful person to everyone on our team when we travel to do his show but he’s also SUPER BUSY actually doing the show, so there is not a lot of “get to know you” time available. It would be nice to sit down and have a chat with him someday — I think he’s a very interesting person.
Q: Tell me about these TV shows you go to where everything’s not so good?
A: Uh-oh. Cut to tape right now.
Q: If there is something you could change about television news, what would it be?
A: That’s an interesting question because there is so much that has changed in the last 25 years. More in-depth pieces. Al Jazeera has tried to do that and nobody’s watching them, so what does that say? [Since our interview the NY Times has reported that Al Jazeera America plans to close by April.] But I appreciate the attempt to do more in-depth pieces and some of them are pretty good. I guess I’d like to see that and not just the 20-second story. Doesn’t that sound like an old-fashioned thing to say: [affecting old timer’s voice] Longer pieces, people.
Q: You met up with some KARE 11 people?
A: We had an absolutely fabulous time last night. It was great to see the people I worked with: the news director, the assignment editor, photographers, reporters, everybody I worked with so many years ago. I was wonderful. I have pictures. I might give them to you.
Q: Did you notice that most of your Minnesota friends, attending that party thrown for you, couldn’t fit in the clothing they wore back when you were at KARE 11 although you remain the same size?
A: That’s funny, too! Now, this is the truth. We decided we all still look the same. I’ve become quite good at knowing how to dress to hide my not strong points!
Q: How do you stay in such timeless shape?
A: Thanks for the nice compliment. I have always been pretty active. When I worked at KARE 11 I had ice skates, Rollerblades and a gym bag in my car at all times. I really enjoy physical activity — mostly running and strength training. I’m fairly good with following my eating plan, except between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m SO not perfect, C.J.
Q: What is your skin care routine? You look dewy, or is it just the melanin?
A: Thanks again for the nice compliment. I’m going to now put you in my will! Genes do play a part, I’m sure. My mom looked great into her 70s. Believe it or not, my skin care routine is very simple. I don’t believe in spending lots of money on high-end beauty products. I use Neutrogena soap and eye makeup remover and an oil-free foundation.
Q: You’ve always seemed so placid. But I know you’ve got another gear.
A: I think everybody in news has a few different gears. OK. When you work in a newsroom you have to have different levels. I like to be nice and fun and a have a good time, but you’ve got to get the job done. I have my Let’s-get- the-job-done side.
Q: You ever yell at anybody?
A: Oh yeah. Ask my daughter! Although I don’t yell at her. Kids really know who you are.
Q: And where is she now?
A: Her second year at Berkeley. I used to say, “Sash, I’m strict, aren’t I?” and she would say, No, you’re not that strict. I thought I was but apparently not. She’s great. She comes to visit Minnesota quite often. She has her dad’s relatives down in Faribault. She loves Minnesota, too, like me. I absolutely love Minnesota. My recent trips back for work and pleasure have been fabulous. I have lived in many places over the years but still say Minnesotans are the best.
Q: You said “her Dad”and you’re not wearing a wedding ring?
A: I told you this was off limits, C.J.
Q: Why? You’ve been divorced a long time.
A: Five years.
Q: You still don’t acknowledge it?
A: Oh yeah. It’s on the Internet. It’s not a problem. I’m just kidding with you. Mark’s doing really well. We had a great time taking Sash up to Berkeley and celebrating the fact that she got there and it was good. We see each other all the time. [Mark Dusbabek played for the Vikings and the Gophers.]
Q: If you could return to TV, what is the job you’d like?
A: I think I really enjoyed talk show work the most, which is sometimes serious and sometimes fun. I like the mix. Daytime talk show is probably my most favorite job I had and one I would do again.
Interviews are edited. To contact C.J. try firstname.lastname@example.org and to see her, check out Fox 9’s “Jason Show.”