How embarrassed are you? I asked Rusty Gatenby.
“Very,” a solemn Gatenby said Monday. I called him within minutes of my startribune.com post about the KSTP-TV traffic and entertainment reporter’s mysterious departure from the TV station where he worked more than 30 years.
“Your question is absolutely right. Very embarrassing. I’ve had a clean record my whole life,” Gatenby said.
When you are a TV traffic reporter, the one thing for which you cannot be arrested is suspicion of DWI.
Jan. 19, at 1:23 a.m. in Excelsior, Gatenby was arrested after allegedly blowing a .134, according to the South Lake Minnetonka Police Department incident report.
After my Web posting but before I reached Gatenby, he posted this on Facebook:
“Hey everyone.. well it’s true.. after more than 30 years at KSTP I am moving on. I have nothing bad to say, in fact, I feel truly lucky for the amazing times I’ve had. I challenge anyone to have had more fun at a job than I have. I hope to see you all again down the road. In the meantime, I’m going to take a long long nap.”
Now Gatenby colleagues know why Rusty was noticeably less jovial in the last weeks of January. That was a big clue, as was his absence from “5 Eyewitness News Mornings” for the start of February sweeps. TV people usually have to be very sick or have a death in the family to be excused during sweeps.
“Right now, I haven’t been convicted of anything,” Gatenby said.
I told Rusty I did not think he could keep this a secret. It was reported in the Jan. 28 edition of his neighborhood newspaper, the Lakeshore Weekly, under “South Lake Minnetonka DWI Arrests.” Our interview was filled with long silences.
“I wish I could handle this privately,” Gatenby said.
But this didn’t happen in private. A police stop is public.
Was this his first DWI arrest?
“Yes,” he said. “And it was in the neighborhood and I had health issues with a member of my family I was dealing with; I was literally on neighborhood roads to go home.”
He said he was pulled over for not coming to a complete stop at a sign about 3 miles from his residence.
Gatenby has always been straight with me when I’ve called about his various, usually humorous, hiccups at work. His smart mouth was always getting him in trouble. My favorite was from 2007: State Fair PR people reportedly asked the station not to send Gatenby back after he hammed it up too much with a newborn pig.
Gatenby is one of those polarizing figures. You like him or you hate him but you watch him. TV stations like having those kinds of personalities because even viewers who dislike them will watch just so they can complain.
I remain a Gatenby fan. I still hate most of his sweaters, but I enjoy Rusty, who should be looking svelte Feb. 22 when he competes at the fifth annual “Dancing With the Twin Cities Celebrities” charity ball at the Minneapolis Marriott.