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Tom Bergeron

September 24, 2012

It’s about time someone came forth to name the Sexiest Man Alive Over 50 (besides Sean Connery). Isn’t it our duty? OK, let’s make it our business..

We’re not in our 20s or 30s or 40s anymore, but we do have eyes; we do have fantasy libidos… and we do like a man with integrity. In the interest of all red-blooded American women who want to swoon over a man who is closer to the age of receiving Medicare benefits than getting diaper rash, we need a post-50 choice for Sexiest Man Alive.

And his name is: Tom Bergeron.  His “aw shucks” attitude about being called the  Sexiest Man Alive Over 50 was refreshing to say the least. (And Maks, you’re not the only one who would like to pinch his keister.) What makes him so endearing is his sense of humor, his boyish good looks, and the fact that he’s a happily married man of 30 years who truly loves his family… and he’s a recovering mime. (Who knew?) I caught up with the “Dancing With the Stars” host to pick his brain about a few things —  including how it feels to be 57, his take on this season’s all-star cast of DWTS and if he could have a do-over in his life, what would it be?

I see on your Twitter profile that you are a recovering mime. So cute, but seriously?

That’s right. I studied and performed and even taught mime years ago. I grew up loving silent film comedy, Charlie Chaplin & [Buster] Keaton, [Harry] Langdon & [Harold] Lloyd and all these people, and physical comedy was always a love of mine so when I was interested in performing at some capacity, a local college – where I was doing a radio show at the time – offered a course, a mime course. I thought I’m going to try that. And I really took to it.

I thought you were kidding. I didn’t know you actually did mime.

Oh, absolutely. I wrote a book a few years ago that is currently holding up some of America’s finest windows. There is a picture of me doing street mime in old Montreal.

The book: “I’m Hosting As Fast As I Can: Zen and Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood?” 

That’s it, yeah.

What is the art of staying sane in Hollywood? Is that even possible?

At the end of the book I allude to the fact that it’s really the same about being sane in Hollywood as anywhere else. There’s a subtext in the book about meditation, about being present, about being alive to the now of your life, and that is really, I think, the key whether you’re in Hollywood or in Poughkeepsie.

We want to get to know you a little better so tell us five things we don’t know about Tom Bergeron.

Let’s just say there’s four of them you don’t know because I don’t want you to know, and the fifth one you’ll have to find out on your own. (Laughs)

How can I do that?

That’s called a boomerang answer.

Is there anyone I can pay a few bucks to to find these things out about you?

No, my personal life is closely guarded.

When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be on radio.

You transitioned into television as a game-show host. Did you want to be an actor at any point in your life?

Yeah, I did. I loved the idea of doing improve theater but television happened really by accident. It was that radio show that I did in NH that got me into television because people who  lived in the north shore of Massachusetts who worked in Boston TV station, listened to my radio show and as a result I got phone calls to come down to Boston and audition for things. Ultimately one of those auditions got me in the door at WBZ which was then the NBC affiliate. And I was there full and part time from ’81 until early 1994.

Huff/Post 50 did a profile of 20 celebrity couples who have been married over 25 years

I saw that. I read and looked at it. It’s funny because I think I was [about] the only one in a solo picture. (Laughs).

You’ve been married 30 years. What’s the secret to a long happy marriage for you two?

Not taking [marriage] for granted and knowing – like anything – it’s a growing, living thing; you don’t exchange vows, put on the ring and then say ‘OK, that’s done.’ You’ve got to keep it alive and real as you grow and as your experience in life grows … as parents, and now we’re sort of semi empty nesters. We’re both very strong people individually. We know that we’d be OK on our own but we’re much better together. I think that we constantly renew that choice to be a team.

How did you meet Lois?

I was doing my nightly radio show which I did for a few years in Portsmouth, NH. I did it for a week from the set of the NH public television fundraising auction, and my program director really had to twist my arm to do that because I wanted to stay in a studio where I had complete control. … And then, the first night, I see this very hot red head walking around. She’s sometimes operating a camera, other times kind of barking orders at people and swearing like a truck driver. I thought: I gotta meet that woman.

What was your pick up line?

I invited her and her co-workers to come to a live show. We were doing a live broadcast – sort of a takeoff on SNL from what was then Theater By the Sea in Portsmouth. It was sketch comedy that I had written  with some of my co-workers and I was doing improve. The show went very well but it was freaking her out. She was thinking: oh, God, the last thing I want to do is get involved with a performer. So after the show, the audience was invited next door to a big bar to have a post-show party and she and her co-workers came to that. She told me later, “I thought you were going to be insufferable. I thought you would just be basking in all of this post-show adulation.” And what I really wanted to do was get out of there. Because after the show is done – as anybody at DWTS can tell you, I’m the first one out of that building. (Laughs) I leave almost skid marks. I think the pick-up line which wasn’t’ intended to be a pick-up line was just her watching me not want to bask in this post-show stuff but to go out and have a real evening. I think that’s what kind of turned the tables.

How does Lois handle your celebrity when people come up to you on the street in public?

We both know that it’s an affirmation that what you’re doing is working. I would have to tell you I could count on one hand the amount of times that anybody came up and was either a little too over the top or was in any way making an uncomfortable situation. That’s over 30 years. And also there’s the knowledge that there will be a day when nobody comes up. It’s the nature of everybody’s career so make hay while the sun shines.

You have two daughters.  Do they watch you?

Occasionally, but you’ve got to remember, their entire lives I’ve been on TV or radio – whether in Boston where they first grew up or on Hollywood Squares, so they’ve always grown up with me working on radio or television and having people kind of recognize me and come up and say hi. And we treat it very casually at home. They always knew I liked what I did and it provided us – and still does – with a very nice lifestyle, but it was always a gig. They never wondered where they were in the priorities. Sometimes when they were in high school and a friend would come over to our house for the first time, and I would open the door, and the kid would go: ‘You’re Tom Bergeron!’ (Laughs) And [my kids] hadn’t told them. And the girls have a hyphenated last name so it wasn’t quickly apparent with their friends.

So, all these years later, how did you get the call to host DWTS?

I got the call from my agent. We’ve been together for over 20 years. She’s use to me saying no to things. It might appear I work hard but I’m really quite lazy. At this point I was doing “America’s Funniest Videos,” for network and Hollywood Squares had just wrapped in ’04. So I think it was like February or March of ’05, and she said “ABC wants you to do a summer show, and you’re going to do it.” And I said, “Oh, really? What is it?” She said, “It’s live. You love live television.” I said, “Well, that’s true, what is it?” She said, “It’s a big hit in England!” I said, “OK, fine, what. is. it?”  She said, “You’ve got to promise me before you answer yes or no, you’re going to look at a DVD of the British show, and then decide.” I said, “OK, that’s fair enough.” She said, “I’ll send it to you, it’ll be at the house tomorrow.” I said, “Oh, good, what is it?” She said, “It’s a celebrity ballroom competition.” I said, “Are you kidding me?! What don’t you just cast me in an infomercial and put a bullet in my career!” (Laughs) And then the next day, I didn’t look at more than 20 minutes of the show … and I liked it. I liked that it was a hybrid of old-style variety with modern reality. I liked the fact that it had a sense of humor about itself …and I thought, you know, it’s going to be a six-week summer show, what’s the harm? And it’s proven to be one of the real gifts of my career.

You are the perfect host for that show. You’re such a quick wit. You’re very quick on your feet. What’s your favorite come-back line with Len?

It’s hard, because as quickly as I come up with them, I forget them. Len and I – of the three judges – are probably the closest. When Lois and I have been in England, we’ve gone out with him and his fiancé Sue, and we get together for dinner when she’s in town. Len and Bruno do “Strictly Come Dancing” in England. I’m very fond of all three of them and particularly of Len.

Carrie Ann needs to get over that foot fetish – the lifting of a foot an eighth of an inch off the floor.

I think that’s her particular bug-a-boo, and Bruno gets more and more animated every season. I think I told him on the air once last season, you’re about one eruption away from living in Pixar. (Laughs)

I love his animation & energy.

The nice things about them, they are so distinctive. They play against each other so well. Each of them have such a distinctive energy about them. And we’ve been so fortunate, all these other shows, their judging panels have been like musical chairs. [Our judges] have been consistent with us and it has made a big difference. On those occasions when Len has been going – I think there has been three – there’s been a guest judge filling in, as well intentioned as they are, it just throws the whole show off.

Give me a little take on Bruno, Len & Carrie Ann as judges. When I watch the show, and I listen to their critiques, there are times when I think: are they watching the same dance I just watched?

I have that experience with all three of them sometimes. And I’ll grant you, I’m not schooled – even after having been doing this for seven years – I still am apt to be swayed by the emotion of something as opposed to the technique of it. It’s their job to be technically aware as well. Len is much stricter about the rules of the dance than say Bruno or Carrie Ann might be. But certainly there have been times over the run of the series where I look at them like they have three heads – individually have three heads (laughs) — because I just don’t see the same dance, but I’m not judging it through the same prism of experience either.

This season has got to be the most challenging season ever for DWTS because everyone can dance. Six of them have won, two came in second, two have placed third. Somebody has to go home first, and somebody has to go second.

[Exactly.] Imagination the humiliation of being the first one voted off of the all-star season. That’s it. Your life as you know it is over at that point. (Laughs) But that’s part of the high-wire act. That’s what makes it more compelling. It’ll be hard for them, but fascinating for us.

Quincy Jones had that great line with all the superstars who participated in the “We Are the World,” video. He said, “Check your egos at the door.” 

Absolutely.

Is it going to be kind of like that this season?

I don’t know. I kind of like the egos bumping into each other on live TV, don’t you? That’s just fun. (Laughs) I would hate for everybody to be on their best behavior. That would just be boring.

In the past you’ve had more than a couple of celebrity dancers that really did not take the judges critiques very well. Michael Bolton and Billy Ray Cyrus come to mind – not that I blame them. After the show was everybody OK?

You know, I don’t know if all those bridges were mended. Ultimately, I think some people took some of the criticisms to heart, and on occasion, some of the criticisms – to be fair to the stars –  maybe got a little too personal or over theatrical. But that’s the nature of live TV … and that’s the pleasure of it. You never know. I stand there waiting – just like you guys do watching at home – when is this going to go off the rail? But when it happens, it’s real emotion. And it’s fascinating to be part of it, and in my case to be a bit of the ringmaster, to try to get it back on track. Sometimes I think there was some lasting ill will. (Laughs) I don’t think everybody patched it up and lived happily ever after. But at the end of the day, it is a celebrity ballroom competition so come on, take a deep breath and count to 10.

And, take your money and be happy.

(Laughs) Yeah, exactly. And realize that life isn’t that bad.

I think DWTS is such a hit because you and Brooke help it along by being such good co-hosts. Speaking of Brooke, does she ever get a pimple? She’s beautiful!

You get to see her when she’s all gussied up, but I’ve got to tell you, we have a script meeting on show days in my dressing room – the whole gang comes in, the producers, me, Brooke and the writer, and she comes in with her little baseball cap and her sweats on and looks absolutely stunning then!

Is Brooke fun to work with?

She is. She is such a pleasure. No drama. Very low key and fun. Very team oriented. We don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like sometimes on camera because of the nature of what we do. She’s got to be in her celebriquarium and I’m on the stage. We got to spend the day together when we announced the cast and had a wonderful time.

Your first co-host was Lisa Canning and then Samantha Harris. What happened to those two?

Lisa left after the dance off with Kelly and John O’Hurley. I don’t know the behind-the-scenes decision-making there. I don’t know Lisa was as comfortable on live TV maybe. With Samantha, she had an opportunity to be working more with Entertainment Tonight at the time, and I think that was around the time that Mary Hart may have been thinking about leaving and they increased her profile there, and then she, more recently has been on “Stars Earn Stripes.”

You’re such a happy-go-lucky guy on the show. It’s live TV, does anything every rattle you?

No. I don’t mean to sound glib, but I look forward to it, I love the adrenalin of it. I prefer being on live TV to doing taped television. DWTS is much easier for me to do than, for example, “America’s Funniest Videos,” which is taped. That show I love. We call it the annuity at my house because it goes on forever but in terms of the actual doing of it, live TV is definitely my preference.

I hate to put you on the spot, but the contestants on this season, who would be your top three?

Your presumption that you’re putting me on the spot assumes I’m going to answer the question. Why piss off the rest of the cast by picking a few? (Laughs)

I asked Jonathan Winters recently how it feels to be 86. So I want to know from you, how does it feel to be 57?

Well, considering the alternative … I actually feel, in a lot of ways, that I’m in better shape than I was when I was 30. This isn’t what I thought 57 would feel like. I thought I’d feel a little bit like a cooling ember. I don’t feel that way at all. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting talking to you after I had a training session at the gym. I love this time of my life. I love who my kids are as young adults, and certainly I  have been fortunate with the way my career has gone, and Lois and I are having a wonderful time and are still as strong as ever. So it’s good.

At this point in your life, do you pick and choose your friends more carefully?

[Yes]. Life is too short and I don’t need the headaches anymore, and it’s more fun to hang with people who have less baggage and are low maintenance.

You think certain people have perfect lives but in reality nobody does, do they?

No. No not at all, and that’s what makes it all fascinating. It goes back to if everybody was on their best behavior on live TV, how boring it would be. How pissed would you be if you met the person with the perfect life and found out it was really perfect? I don’t want to hang out with them.

If you could have a do-over in your life, something you could take back and do it over again, what would it be?

Oh, that’s a really good question. I would not have hosted to 2008 Emmys. I would have gone with  my gut instinct and said, “Great idea as a press release, lousy idea as an actual show.” (Laughs) They had the idea because it was the first year that they had a reality host category. Heidi, Jeff and Howie Mandell. My initial reaction when they came to me with it was: that’s like herding cats … different approaches and styles. So reluctantly I agreed to do it. And then unfortunately we had a producer who really didn’t offer anything, and kind of left us hanging so it was a singularly unpleasant experience. That would be my do-over. I would have politely passed and held my ground.

OK, here’s a pop culture question. Do you know who Honey Boo Boo is?

I do, only because my trainer in California told me about this kid, and I went on YouTube and was absolutely astounded.

Is she going to be doing DWTS in 15 years?

I would think it would have to happen in 15 minutes.

I’m going to give you a supreme compliment so hold on to something.

Alright

We think you are the sexiest man alive to woman over 50. How does that feel?

OHHHHH, thank you! That’s very flattering.  It feels very flattering. The sexiest man and my name in the same sentence? … I’ll take it. (Laughs)

Posted on Huff/Post50

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