Best Man for the Job

By Judee Fong

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Looking tan and fit from his Hawaiian vacation, Gordie Tupper, CHEK Community News reporter laughs, “Maui is like a mini-Victoria. Everywhere I went, people would come up and say, ‘Hi Gordie!’ because they were all from Victoria and Vancouver Island!”

A graduate of Victoria High School’s Class of ‘66, Gordie always enjoyed having fun and entertaining people. While in junior high, he decided on a broadcasting career. “I built myself a little radio station in the basement,” he says. “It had a wood turntable and a microphone. It didn’t go anywhere, but it was fun.” Intent on a broadcasting career after graduation, the CHEK reporter’s first job interview was with the Department of Transport for an air controller’s job. With the flair of a natural storyteller, Gordie recalls his first interview: “I had a guy on either side of me and they were asking all these rapid-fire questions, which I was answering as fast as they fired them until one of them asked me, ‘What’s 1/2 of 1/2 of 1-1/2?’ And I just looked at him and said, ‘Is that something a pilot would ask?’ After all these years, I still remember the answer as 3/8!” Placed on the “short list,” Gordie was saved by an offer from a local radio station that needed someone immediately. “I said ‘yes’ and the heck with the air controller job! I probably made the wrong decision because the ATC guys get paid way more than radio guys,” he laughs.

Admitting he was a genuine “couch potato” until he shed 150 pounds, Gordie now enjoys an active life completing several Times-Colonist 10K races, running half marathons, biking, trying surfing in Hawaii, as well as hitting the gym on a regular basis. Flashing his megawatt grin, he enthusiastically admits, “Snowboarding is my new passion. I’m really bad at it, but I try to get to Mt. Washington once a week in the winter so I can get on my snowboard.” Gordie recalls his earlier ski attempts: “I remember trying to ski when I was 335 pounds. I could get up on the skis but when I fell down, I couldn’t get up on my own. It was so awkward needing someone to haul you back up again. When you lose 150 pounds, you have to be an idiot to put it all back again.”

The CHEK news reporter was one of several local celebrities competing in the 2007 dance challenge, Stars on Stage. “Stephen White from Dance Victoria was putting this on and I got wind of it,” Gordie explains. “I’m a big fan of *Dancing With the Stars* because I think it’s a cool show. I went to Stephen and said, ‘Hey, I want to be involved in this.’ And he said, ‘Okay, we’re going to need an emcee.’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to be an emcee - I want to dance.’ And he said, ‘Oh, do you dance?’ And I said, ‘No, I’ve never danced a day in my life!’” Partnered with professional Latin dancer Wanda Kivitt, Gordie practised twice a week for two months. Chuckling, he remembers watching *Dancing with the Stars* and thinking how easy it looked, until he tried to do it too.

“Learning to do the rumba, I had to eat extra to keep from losing weight,” Gordie says. “Even though the rumba looked slow, the routine was quite physical. It’s a huge workout and for anyone wanting to lose weight, competitive ballroom dancing is the way to go!” Gordie and his partner won the competition with their slow, romantic dance.

Exposure to competitive ballroom dancing whetted Gordie’s appetite to continue dancing, but the popular TV personality lacked a partner. Mischievously, he tells his Starbuck’s story: “I was in the lineup for coffees while my wife, Sue, grabbed us a table. This middle-aged, attractive and very fit woman, wearing a miniskirt came over to me and said, ‘You danced with my dance instructor in the Stars on Stage competition. Are you going to keep dancing?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’d like to but I don’t have a partner.’ And she said, ‘I’ll be your partner.’ And I said, ‘Okay, I’ll get back to you.’ I got the coffees and headed back to Sue. I said to her, ‘See that woman over there in the miniskirt?’ ‘Yes,’ she says. ‘She wants to be my dance partner.’ ‘No,’ my wife says. And that was the end of that.”

Happily married for 30-plus years, a family man with two adult sons and a proud new grandfather since May, Gordie confesses, “I wasn’t thrilled about getting older, so I told my boys, don’t be in any rush to make me a grandfather. But the day my grandson was born, that changed in an instant,” he says, smiling proudly. “He keeps us active and he’s a lot of fun.” He plans to coach him in T-ball in about four-and-a-half years!

Contributing his spare time as a volunteer for several worthwhile organizations, Gordie is an active director for the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society, (VIMSS), which is developing the infrastructure for various sports on Mt. Washington. Currently, VIMSS is building a training facility there and financing young athletes. Gordie has also helped with the disabled skiing competition, the annual “Coca-Cola Classics,” which raises money for the disabled skiing program, renamed the “Vancouver Island Adaptive Snow Sport Association.”

“I got to do some trophy presentations at the ‘World Cup for Disabled Athletes’ at Mt. Washington last year,” says Gordie. “It was mind-boggling to see the events these athletes took part in. I remember one athlete who was totally blind and she was entered in the biathlon. She had to compete in the cross-country skiing and then she was handed a loaded rifle for the target shooting. It was just incredible to see her shoot all the targets in the right spot!” Gordie explains that the blind athletes’ guns were equipped with a sound guide, which gave a distinctive pitch when the gun was aimed in the correct spot. Thoughtfully, the jovial news reporter adds, “Watching the disabled skiers has to be uplifting for anybody because these are athletes who have lost an arm or a leg or their vision and they are going downhill at 100 miles an hour!”

As CHEK’s Community Reporter, Gordie likes to go out and talk about what’s happening in the community and having a good time reporting it; chatting to people on the street; talking to creative organizations, artistic and musical groups. Beaming his trademark smile, he enthusiastically declares, “This is a fun job. People come up to me all the time and say, ‘Gordie, you’ve got the best job around.’ And I do - it is the best job in town.”    


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