Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
NBC's The Today Show
Currently Known For:
Weatherman, Television Personality, Actor and Author
1996 - Present
August 20, 1954
NBC's The Today Show
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“That’s what’s going on around the country. Here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods.” Whether you frequently tune in to ABC, CBS or NBC, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of Al Roker, a weatherman and television personality best known for his work on The Today Show on NBC. Beyond his daily weather reports and stories, the Queens native made an entirely different type of headline in 2002 when he elected to have gastric bypass surgery and dropped 100 pounds bringing his jovial, oversized frame to an astonishing 220 pounds. Now in better shape than ever, the 62-year-old weatherman and television personality has kept the weight off while proving he’s far more than your average meteorologist with cameos in television series like 30 Rock, The Simpsons, Will & Grace and Saturday Night Live in addition to setting a new Guinness World Record for the longest uninterrupted live weather report at 34 hours in 2014! So, how did he get his start as a weatherman in the first place? Let’s talk a walk down Roker’s memory lane!
With Bahamian and Jamaican ancestry, Albert Lincoln Roker, Jr. came into this world on August 20, 1954 in Queens, New York. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a cartoonist and pursued that passion at Manhattan’s Xavier High School where he was a member of the Cartooning and Illustration Club. After graduation, he enrolled at the State University of New York at Oswego and worked toward his bachelor of arts in communications, which he earned in 1976. By then, Roker was keen on taking every opportunity available to him and had already gotten his start as a weather anchor in 1974 when he signed on with Syracuse’s WHEN-TV, a CBS affiliate. After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C. where he spent the next two years as a weathercaster in the Nation’s Capital and met television personality Willard Scott who quickly became a mentor and friend telling the young anchor, “Never give up your day job.”
Honing his talents in Washington, D.C., Roker moved to Cleveland in 1978 and worked with NBC’s WKYC-TV for the next five years until NBC promoted him to one of their bigger outlets in New York City in 1983. He worked as a weekend weathercaster at WNBC-TV and frequently filled in for Joe Witte on NBC News at Sunrise. By the 1990s, he was quickly climbing the ladder when he started filling in for big names like Matt Lauer, Bryant Gumbel and Willard Scott on The Today Show. Five years later, Roker snagged his own CNBC weekend talk show in 1995 called The Al Roker Show, which would give his career the boost it needed to make Roker a star!
Stardom was certainly on the horizon for Roker at NBC when Willard Scott semi-retired from The Today Show in 1996 and suggested his longtime friend as a natural replacement. Even then, Roker never forgot his friend’s advice and took it completely to heart saying, “I do a lot of different things, but the weather is my base. Having a base makes it easier to cope with the ups and downs of the extremely competitive, unpredictable industry of broadcasting. You try to be prepared, but for every successful person there are another thousand probably as talented who just didn’t get that break.”
Once a regular on The Today Show, Roker built his reputation as a crowd favorite as he often went outside the NBC studio to talk with people watching from the street below. Before long, he was forecasting the weather and conducting interviews with high profile guests where his polite and friendly personality shone through to viewers around the country. “Always be yourself,” Roker says of his own style of forecasting and interviewing. “At the end of the day, that’s all you’ve really got. When you strip everything down, that’s all you’ve got, so always be yourself.”
Finding his niche among Today Show audiences, Roker shocked viewers in 2002 when he opted for a gastric bypass and lost 100 pounds. Looking like a completely new man, he embarked on a series of lifestyle changes and even shared his journey to better health in 2013 when he published Never Goin’ Back: Winning the Weight Loss Battle for Good. Staying true to his honesty both on and off the screen, he even admitted that the surgery wasn’t as easy as it looked and caused a series of difficulties with controlling his bowels. Unashamed and brutally honest, he shared the reality behind gastric bypass and admitted that he lost control of his bowels and defecated in his pants while visiting the White House shortly after he returned to the air.
Putting his White House incident aside, Roker’s incredible talent as a weatherman and journalist has earned great merit over the last two decades. In 2005, his video coverage from inside Hurricane Wilma went viral after the hurricane swept him off his feet and left him clinging to the cameraman. In 2014, he launched the Roker-thon where he reported the weather non-stop for 34 hours and set a new Guinness World Record as part of a charity event for the military and USO. The following year he broke a second Guinness World Record when he reported the weather from all 50 states in one week to support the Feeding America campaign. In 2017, he was at it again for Roker-thon 3 and broke Guinness World Records at each college after coordinating everything from the largest human letter to the longest conga line.
Beyond his life in the spotlight, the 62-year-old Roker is also a published author. In 2009, he teamed up with Dick Lochte and co-authored a series of murder mysteries and, in 2016, he teamed up with his wife, Deborah Roberts, to publish Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom for Modern Times. And, speaking of his wife, Roker and Deborah have been married for 20 years after meeting in 1990 when she joined NBC as a journalist, which brings a whole new meaning when Roker says, “I’ve been blessed with working with the best in the business.”