C.J.: Rumors rumbling about KSTP's Rusty

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2007 - 10:18 PM

The legendary dysfunction that is KSTP-TV is now manifesting itself with some unsettling rumblings about Rusty Gatenby.

After 20 years on "Eyewitness News Morning," is somebody trying to make Gatenby feel unwelcome? Newsroom gossip has it that Gatenby was told he's now only the traffic reporter, and no more entertainment reporting for him. Gatenby also reportedly has been told to lose his trademark ugly sweaters.

"Not that I know of," said KSTP-TV GM Rob Hubbard on Friday when asked about whether management is messing with Gatenby.

"Who would have told you that?" Hubbard asked. Right, Rob, as if your reporters would answer that question.

If Gatenby is cut loose, he could easily land at another station or make a lucrative transition as a local commercial pitchman with those ugly sweaters a lot of people check in to see every day. Maybe pitching BMWs for Carl Pohlad, whose company has bought part of Sears Imports, thus diversifying an empire that includes the Twins, B96 and J.B. Hudson.

In other newsroom activity, Tom Hauser has been enduring the humiliation of watching a parade of male anchor talent audition for his spot on the morning show. Hauser, who has been the male morning anchor since Mike Binkley bailed from "Hubbard's FunShip," apparently enjoys the morning slot. Does Hubbard want Hauser to concentrate on Sunday's "At Issue" and political reporting? "Not necessarily," Hubbard said. "We haven't named a [permanent male] anchor for that show yet. It might be Tom; it might be somebody else."

Cheeky chipmunks

Justin Long behaved like a raunchy little rodent while promoting the "Alvin and the Chipmunks, 2007" movie.

Fox 9 entertainment reporter Jason Matheson flew to Santa Barbara, Calif., to interview Long, the voice of Alvin; Matthew Gray Gubler, the voice of Simon; Jesse McCartney, the voice of Theodore, and Jason Lee, who plays Dave Seville.

"Bottom line is out of that four-minute interview, I could use one answer," Matheson said.

Much of the rest of the interview gone naughty was at the expense of actors Tom Sizemore and Tom Selleck.

When Matheson asked Long, who's pulling down big bucks as Apple's Mac guy in TV spots, to spin a dramatic yarn about why he was late for the interview, Justin blurted out a beauty.

"I got roofied by Tom Sizemore," said Long. That's a joke about having a drink spiked by the troubled Sizemore, who has had his problems with drugs.

Lee, star of NBC's "My Name is Earl," loved it, reaching out to hold Long's hand and saying: "Hey, Justin, I can always count on you for saying what you wouldn't expect." Lee joked that Selleck did the same for him.

Saying outrageous things, said Long, is "my bread and butter. My whole M.O. The kids want it."

Matheson replied jokingly: "The morning-show audience craves that."

Pop singer McCartney said he'll probably only hum along today at the Mall of America when he's scheduled to lead "The World's Largest Group of Christmas Carolers." When Matheson asked Long what was keeping him away, Long said: "I have to shellack my [boys]." Charming. Drew Barrymore, his squeeze, has gotta love that.

Matheson noted: "The movie is PG. That interview was PG-13/R.''

Storm-chasing 'Sisters'

The "Twister Sisters" are perhaps a little more worried about the pressures of their own TV series than they are when chasing tornadoes.

Melanie Metz and Peggy Willenberg, who've had a few cable channel specials, are getting their own series on WE. It premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. "I think that the series concept for us was really kind of a shocker," Willenberg told me Wednesday, "because we've done a couple of hour National Geographics where we were part of a show, but a series is a whole different thing. I never saw that coming. It was really a challenge to be out for six or seven weeks and try to get enough material for each show."

May and June are the months that Metz, a chemist, and Willenberg, "a desperate housewife" and animal rescue volunteer, devote to chasing twisters in "Tornado Alley" -- from North Dakota and Minnesota all the way down to Oklahoma and Texas.

"We spend a lot of time in the car during those months," said Willenberg. "You know most people think there's L.A., New York and fly-over country. And fly-over country is where we spend all our time, and this is an especially vibrant part of the United States. I never get tired of seeing all the small towns and all the things that are going on there. I lived in L.A. for many years, but the Midwest and the Great Plains are great."

While they don't chase snowstorms -- they claim to understand how tornadoes organize and how to read the storms well enough to stay behind twisters -- they are passionate about all forecasting. "I'm a weather weenie," said Willenberg.

Asked whether they could have predicted the dearth of Minneapolis traffic cops to control Tuesday's downtown gridlock, Willenberg laughed and said: "They were cold."

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of C.J.'s attitude can be seen on Fox 9 Thursday mornings.

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