Fox 9 anchor Jeff Passolt and his broken hip were motoring around his home pretty well behind a walker the day I interviewed him. He was already dreaming of ditching the walker and fantasizing about a HurryCane (ultimately vetoed by his doctor).
Passolt took a severe fall Feb. 7 at the State Capitol after interviewing Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton sent Passolt flowers; he returned the favor Thursday with cookies and candy when the governor went under the knife to remove a cancerous prostate.
Passolt doesn’t expect to swiftly rejoin the anchor desk with Kelcey Carlson, where he likes to torture meteorologist Ian Leonard with fortune cookie messages with blacked-out words to change their meanings. Passolt is happily enjoying “the best care ever” from his watchful wife, Maryann.
“Initially they told me probably six weeks,” Passolt said of his doctors. “The reason is because of my diabetes. It turns out that slows bone growth, especially in major joints because the blood flow is not that good. I really hope it’s a little quicker than that.”
Minnesota-born Passolt started as a sports anchor at KARE 11 where he worked with Paul Magers. (Wishing Magers well, as he appears to be having his own issues based on his absence from LA’s KCBS anchor desk for most of the February sweeps.) Magers, interestingly enough, encouraged Passolt to consider making the transition from sports to main anchor. Passolt wasn’t ready to make the change then, as he left KARE 11 for a sports anchoring job at Denver’s KMGH-TV in December 1993. He came back to Fox 9 after his daughter Lesley-Anne taught dad a lesson during a Take Your Daughter to Work Day.
Lesley-Anne did on-camera work at KMGH-TV that was so strong, Passolt told her: “You’re really good at this. Would you want to do this for a living?” And she said ‘No, ’cause I want to be with my family.’ ”
That was a dagger to her dad’s heart.
“I’m not kidding you, within about a month or so Channel 9 called me,” he said. “I was only here for one day. I did my test. What I found out when I went to the station is it was all news copy. I thought it was a sports gig. I didn’t think it went that well. They ended up offering me the job and I came back 21 years ago. I guess it was kind of meant to be.”
Q: Do I need to demonstrate the mincing gait we should use when it’s slippery?
A: That’s what I was doing. I walked up to the Capitol, feet were [slipping from under me]. I got in there and all of us, the governor and his assistant, everybody said, “Be careful out there, it’s so slick.” I was just barely moving when I got across the street; I put my foot up on the curb — everything went flying. I had no time to think. I had surgery on my neck in May, spinal stenosis. One of the things they teach you is if you are going to fall, try this, so I was trying to get around on my butt. I only made the turn about halfway. Whammo.
Q: What do you have in your hip now?
A: A 6-inch incision, 3-, 4- to 5-inch screws from the knuckle into my femur. Then they sewed it up on the inside and I have staples going all the way across here. You can see some bruising. That’s good compared to what it was. It was just gross.
Q: Why haven’t you gone blond? Anchormen don’t go gray anymore; they become blonds like President Trump.
A: Is that blond? I really think it started to go gray on me when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, 15, 20 years ago. Once it started to go I thought, “I’ve got enough to mess around with,” and to be honest with you, I think as long as I’ve been on TV, the people who comment about your looks, they’re never commenting on a guy so much. So I figured, why bother?
Q: Am I remembering this correctly? When you were at KARE 11 you wanted to be a main anchor, and Paul Magers wasn’t going anywhere so you left?
A: Actually, he was encouraging me to be a news anchor. I thought “I don’t want to do news. News is devastation, death, murder, drugs, fires.” And then after covering sports for 13 years I realized [laughing] a lot of times you’re covering drugs and murders.
Q: Which of your on-air colleagues do you get asked about most and what do people want to know?
A: Ian, No. 1. He’s got such a personality. He’s such a goof. He doesn’t mind being called that. Also people have really warmed up to Kelcey. She’s just a really special person. The other person on the show who was very much like her was Marni Hughes.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.