It’s time to share, instead of privately cherish, the interview I did four months ago with former Twin Cities anchor Mark Suppelsa.
Last week Suppelsa announced that in December he’s retiring from Chicago’s WGN. The wildly underappreciated former KSTP-TV anchor did very well after taking his talents to Chicago. “Widely regarded as one of Chicago television’s best news anchors for nearly 25 years,” wrote Chicago media expert Robert Feder, Suppelsa “is calling it quits at the top of his game.”
“We will be moving to our place in Montana, my dear,” Suppelsa told me. “I’ve got an old trumpet I’m going to be warming up for fun; hiking some mountains we’ve been familiar with the last 23 years; kayaking our lake. And then figuring out ways to give back for the good luck we’ve had and enjoyed.”
Q: What was your visceral reaction to hearing about Paul Magers’ struggle with alcohol?
A: I was stunned. But then again, when I told of my struggle with alcohol five years ago, it stunned a few people. As I’ve learned since I went to treatment, this is a very democratic disease.
Q: Can the anchor’s chair be an added component leading to an addiction?
A: Oh, I don’t think we TV anchors are special. Possibly the pressure of this business can be one of many triggers in the life of a person who has addiction issues. But I’m an alcoholic first and what comes next, as my sponsor teaches me, is dealing with life on life’s terms. In other words, I can’t drink my worries away.
Q: What have you learned about alcoholism that Paul could benefit from now?
A: I can’t teach Paul anything. I will say, the first person my wife suggested I go to the morning I admitted I needed help was Paul’s brother Ron [Magers, also a former Chicago anchor]. Ron has lived a life of sobriety for decades. A thing Ron said really stuck with me: You’ll really like it on the “other side.” No truer words were ever said to me.
Q: Is there anything funny or quirky that has become part of you since alcohol was put in your past?
A: I think I could go start “Sporting Events Anonymous.” In sobriety I’ve found walking into a stadium is like walking into my own Zen Nirvana. Stress, life’s big and little issues, worries, just seem to melt away. The quirky part? I LOVE going to games alone.
Q: Chicago looks very dangerous, leading the nation in shootings. Do you feel safe?
A: Yes. It’s a wonderful, huge city. There are probably five neighborhoods and 1,300 individuals identified by Chicago police metrics that are responsible for most of those headlines in a metro area of 8 million people. That said, as a reporter and as a citizen, the areas affected by gang warfare and gun violence need media, political and police attention or it will never change.
Q: I’ll lighten up now. Are the Cubs still lovable with the words “World Series Champions” behind their name?
A: Yep. I’d wager there are more Cubs fans across America than any other type of fan. That’s lovability. WGN showcased them nationally/internationally when they were the Lovable Losers. Now, with a revamped Wrigley and a championship trophy, they’re more like the Lovable Juggernauts.
Q: Can someone living in a city like Chicago actually miss anything about Minneapolis?
A: Oh, certainly. Candus, my wife [of 26 years], and I are very outdoorsy. I keep a pair of cross-country skis at the ready in the garage. When Chicago gets snow lately, it’s here today, gone tomorrow. I remember my first week at KSTP-TV, a producer taking me fishing right near the airport, 15 minutes from work. It’s not that easy to do in Chicago. I miss that stuff. This weekend, I’m taking our canoe and driving an hour and a half to find a gem, a quiet spot. In Minnesota, that drive would probably be 25 minutes.
Q: Is it weird to hear somebody you diapered singing “Santa Baby?”
A: Ha! We’re very proud of our daughter Ava’s singing and songwriting talents. Trust me, I don’t know where it came from. We say the same about our son Matt, who is fluent in a number of languages. I took Spanish seventh grade through senior year of college and I can barely get myself to “el restaurante” without some Spanglish thrown in there.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.