KARE 11 news director Jane Helmke is considering the fate of Sven Sundgaard’s beard.

Some in the local broadcasting community find the meteorologist’s unkempt facial hair an unprofessional distraction. They are mystified by why he’s allowed to appear on air this way.

You don’t see facial hair on TV guys. Think about it.

Even fake news anchor Jon Stewart made a big production (as a subplot of a bit) out of shaving his beard as he returned to his desk at Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” this week. The late Ed Bradley, CBS’s “60 Minutes” correspondent, had a gorgeous beard. But overall, it seems that custom and tradition have dictated that anchors be clean shaven.

Some have been allowed to fuzz up that line briefly with the popularity of “Movember” fundraisers during which TV personalities and others grow mustaches in November to benefit prostate and testicular cancer research. WCCO and KARE 11 allowed on-air personalities to grow mustaches.

However, former Fox 9 news director Bill Dallman was hard core, said no and would not bend the rules.

Around KARE there is rumbling that Sundgaard’s beard is religion-related, connected to his conversion to Judaism. But wouldn’t Sven’s beard be longer if he had become a Hasidic Jew? That’s the only sect I know of where facial hair is an important element, not that I am any expert on Judaism.

“It’s a partial reason, though I’m not orthodox. … Partly just a different look (since March — it’s not new) ...” Sundgaard wrote me via Twitter.

“What do you think of [Sven’s beard],” Helmke wanted to know.

It was jarring at first, because he’s a TV person, but I’m used to it. Sven was born to break the rules and the mold. I had concluded KARE was making a concession to the hip, coolness quotient Sundgaard brings to the studio by letting him look like a male model. Then I started hearing rumblings from those looking askance, saying the beard is unbecoming and scruffy in a market this size.

Helmke declined to discuss the hipness of her employee’s beard, saying, “Well, you have to ask Sven about that. For me, I actually have been thinking about it because I’m not sure it plays as well in the morning, especially. I do think there are beards that are kind of hip and cool.”

So we should have a ruling soon as to whether Sven should or should not have a beard on TV. I’m guessing Sven can get his fans to create an uproar that spares the whiskers.

Why no coats?

Moving from Sven Sundgaard’s face to his gorgeously sculpted torso, I wondered what was going on with him not wearing a suit coat. KARE 11 Sunrise anchor Tim McNiff hasn’t worn one some days either.

As I researched this, I heard that the KARE studio is much warmer than it was when Paul Magers was there.

“The lights are hot out there,” Helmke said.

But the lights are hot at all the stations, and local TV guys usually wear suit coats.

“Good point,” she said. “They had them on this [Tuesday] morning. In the summer they wear them a little less.”

If they are going to go jacketless, male anchors need to make sure their shirts have the crisp look of heavy starch. As the season changes, we can look forward to Sven transitioning out of the muscle dress shirts and into the muscle sweaters.

I enjoy the dress shirts because I’m entertained by the notion of Sven’s accidentally ripping through the fabric like the Hulk, just before he turns all incredible and green.

Sudden interest in Essence

Suddenly lawyer Doug Carnival finds himself fluent on matters of fashion and Essence magazine covers.

The lobbyist and his wife, Megan Murphy, a St. Paul schools volunteer, are especially enthralled with the September cover of Essence featuring Kelly Rowland.

Their daughter Jenny Carnival designed “the vest the girl’s wearing on the cover,” he told me.

“If you look on the index page, down in the right corner, as I recall, there’s an acknowledgment of the company she’s with, Bernardo Fashions in New York. She’s the chief outerwear, I guess they call it, designer.”

“Jenny’s designs have also been for sale in Barneys stores and Nordstrom stores throughout USA and at a department store in London,” said Jenny’s proud daddy, in an e-mail after our phone chat. “Here are the coats that are now on the showroom floor in Saks Fifth Avenue that Jenny designed for the Ashley B collection of Bernardo Fashions. I will also send you her spring/summer ‘lookbook’ of new designs for the collection.”

“Lookbook”? Come on!

How many copies of Essence magazine have been bought?

“About a dozen,” he laughed. “My wife’s been giving them out to everybody we know.”

I don’t imagine you’ve bought Essence magazine before? “No comment,” he said.

And you have no idea who Kelly Rowland is? “I do not. Help me out,” he said.

I told Carnival the name of Rowland’s most famous former singing partner, to which he responded, “Oooh, I know who Beyoncé is.”


C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”