Birthdays don't bother Wayne Cox; it's all the attention that goes with them he doesn't like. "I try not to celebrate birthdays anymore," says the television personality. "It stems back to when I was five or six years old. The kids at my birthday party started to sing 'Happy Birthday,' and I ran and locked myself in the bathroom."
Turning 60 this year, Global TV's Wayne Cox has been a part of B.C.'s radio and television industry since 1968, when he was just 19 years old. "I didn't really know what I wanted to do out of high school," says Wayne. "I was a big fan of television in those days. I liked to watch Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and all those old shows."
Wayne says the turning point was a book he read, written by Johnny Carson. In it, Carson said he began his career in radio, suggesting it provided a solid grounding for a future in television.
"I always listened to radio, like everybody else," says Wayne. "So that was the trigger. From there, I took a correspondence course, which led to a radio job at what was then CKLG-FM, now CFOX."
Carson's advice was right. On-air jobs in Quesnel and Kamloops were followed by work back home in Vancouver at CKNW, CKWX and CJOR.
"I started off as a disc jockey, doing a lot of chatter, music and commercials. I didn't really get into any kind of journalism until the *Vancouver Show* [at CKVU, now Global TV]," says Wayne. "That was a lot of fun because it was two hours of live television every night with interviews, bands and demonstrations. I kind of miss that."
Soon after, Wayne anchored the 6 p.m. news with one of Global's current producers, Doriana Temolo. He credits Temolo for his on-the-job education. "I learned a lot from her," he says. "I was undisciplined because I was coming in as a disc jockey just having fun."
In addition to anchoring the news, Wayne also hosted a variety of game and television shows, including *Acting Crazy*, *2nd Honeymoon* and *Talkabout*, a game show that played on CBC nationally and on all Fox-owned and operated stations in the United States.
Wayne says he came in through the back door to become the weather personality he is today. In 1992, CKVU had an idea for a Saturday morning show with anchor Jennifer Mather [now Burke]. "They were looking for a guy who would do the weather, but more importantly, he would be outside at various events, interviewing people at the beach or a festival, or downtown in a park," says Wayne.
Wayne's friend Roger Hope, a cameraman at the station, offered Wayne's name for the job because of his background doing live interviews with the *Vancouver Show*. "I had already filled in doing the weather for Fred Latrimo, when he used to do it at the old BCTV, so I sort of had the gist of it," says Wayne.
Wayne also began doing the weather for the 6 p.m. news. "I'd fill in for Norm Grohmann on the News Hour and, when Norm retired, they asked if I would continue to do the weather," explains Wayne. "I wasn't really coming into it as a weatherman, but as a television personality who could do interviews and live TV."
Wayne learned early on that forecasting B.C.'s weather is tricky business. Such elements as the Pacific Ocean, the mountains and Vancouver Island, which frequently act as a buffer for the Lower Mainland, can make predictions complicated. "But I don't make the forecasts," says Wayne. "I'm just the messenger."
Wayne's Global TV weather information comes from Environment Canada, which sends out bulletins with a synopsis of what's to come. "Sometimes there's only three minutes every night to cover the entire province, so it's only a general look at the various areas and what they can expect. It's pretty broad-brush stuff."
The audience takes its weather seriously, but always with a sense of humour. "For some odd reason, I'm responsible for whatever happens, whether it's good or bad," he laughs. "No one ever blames Squire [Barnes] for the Canucks losing. Nobody blames Tony [Parsons] for a war that breaks out, but if one drop of rain falls, it's my fault. Of course, it's all done in good nature."
People stop Wayne on the street because they feel they know him. "That's wonderful to hear, because you know they're out there and they're watching," says Wayne, whose passion for golf is also well-known to his audiences. "What would surprise audiences about me? I guess they wouldn't know that I've been a wrestling fan for many years; and a country music fan."
Wayne also admits to having enough Hawaiian shirts, his trademark summer forecast apparel, to last from Victoria Day in May to Labour Day in September, without repeating a shirt. Many in his collection are shirts sent in by approving viewers.
"Some people have even made shirts for me. I've also been sent things like key chains, luggage tags, Post-it Notes, and a beautiful cookie jar in the shape of a Hawaiian shirt," says Wayne. "I even got a beautiful stained glass window in that shape too. I have a shrine at home of all the collectibles. It's been fun - something different."
Born in Vancouver, Wayne makes his home in South Surrey/White Rock, an area he says he discovered 30 years ago. "I was living in New Westminster at the time," says Wayne. "I looked out the kitchen window in the pouring rain and saw a bright light to the south. I wondered what that light was, so one day we took a drive, ended up in the White Rock area and realized the weather really is that much better in the south."
With a milestone birthday approaching, Wayne contemplates slowing down - eventually. "I don't think I'm much different than any other baby boomer in that we're not going to go gracefully," says Wayne. We're going to go in our jeans and the stuff we wore in the '50s, '60s and '70s."
Wayne believes perspectives on aging have changed since his parents' generation who seemed ready to retire when 60 arrived. "I don't believe our generation thinks that way. I think we're still going full speed ahead."
With two sons in their 30s and a teenage daughter, Wayne is also proud to call himself a grandfather. "Each of my sons has two children, so I'm four times a grandfather," he says.
Wayne is hesitant to give advice to others in his generation. "I'm not a really good guy to ask for advice. I've just always tried to have as much fun as I could," says Wayne. "I've always had a hard time finding that balance between tucking enough away for the future and yet still having enough to enjoy right now. If you can hit that balance, I think that would be perfect."
Reflecting on his career, Wayne is most grateful for the opportunities he's had. "I think I've had the best job that really isn't a job," he says. "Looking back at the people I've met, like Jack Webster, Pat Burns and Al Davidson - names from the old radio days and, here, Tony Parsons, what a dream to work with him and all the people along the way."
Recent years have seen a rapid change in television technology. Wayne's happy to have been in the business when times were simpler and more vibrant. "The changes that are happening are so incredible," he says, "and this is just the beginning. So many roles are being taken over by computers. As well as robotic cameras filming our newscasts, we run robotic cameras in Ottawa from here in Burnaby."
Recently, Wayne was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, an honour given to B.C. residents who have made an outstanding contribution to entertainment in the province, across Canada and around the world.
"For the most part, I've been a journeyman kind of broadcaster," he says. "Being a B.C. kid, a Vancouver kid, and then all of a sudden being up on a wall with a whole bunch of older entertainers you remember from your youth, and modern day entertainers, too. That was a very big thrill for me."
SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER - April 2009
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