Monday, April 28, 2008

Where Are They Now?: Thor Tolo

When you think of Channel 3 Sports, you can't help but remember Thor Tolo. Thor was a weekend sports anchor who has a witty sense of humor (to say the least) and tons of energy. His travels took him through Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Seattle among other places where he is currently host on the afternoon drive show for KGNW, a Salem Radio station.

We recently touched base with Thor to see what he's be up to and found he had a lot to tell us. So enjoy, another in our "Where Are They Now?" feature from the Director's Cut Blog.


Having driven my U-Haul through the night on the last leg of a three-day journey from Laredo, Texas to Quincy, Illinois to take a sports reporter gig at the NBC affiliate there, I pulled into a Holiday Inn and phoned Laredo for my messages and got the voice of news director Paul Beavers offering me a round-trip flight from St. Louis to Cleveland to interview for the weekend sports anchor opening left by Jim Mueller or Wayland Boot or any of the other 18 folks who'd held down that fort through the 1980s.

After three weeks of learning the ropes with Allen Davis, who stayed on a couple more years with sports producer Al Symanski, I debuted on Saturday, March 4th, 1989. It was an evening Tom Sweeney - our weekend news anchor - called "the most unusual in his many years in broadcasting." No sooner had I tossed back to Tom and Connie Dieken and gone to commercial than Sweeney glanced over and said: "Good job, but why were you shouting?"

Channel 3 weekends (with weatherman Terry Burhans) were off and running into a new era. I produced and anchored my own sportscasts every Saturday and Sunday at 6 & 11. Occasionally I'd do Fridays when Jimmy Donovan was off doing NFL games for NBC, but my day job during the week was really the night shift (3 to 11:30 pm) helping Jimmy prepare his sportscasts. I learned more about "relaxing into the moment" with that guy than anybody else I've ever worked with. He's the best conversational writer I've seen.

I'm maybe best remembered for (a) capping off my 11 o'clock call of the '89 Kentucky Derby with "Sunday Silence wins by half a nose...make it half a booger"; (b) pushing back my chair after a show opening sports tease and rolling off the back ledge while Jim Hooley led the newscast with a death penalty story; and (c) joking off air with Hooley about auto racing not really being a sport, then turning to the camera, on air, and saying: "Yes, the Cleveland Grand Prix - what a waste of gas!"

However, it's also true I broke the Browns' hiring of Bill Belichick on the Sunday night before the Tuesday morning Art Modell introduced him as the successor to Bud Carson. I was the only person to grab a sound byte with Larry Bird on his last-ever stroll off a basketball court in a Celtics uniform following a playoff loss to the Cavs at old Richfield Coliseum. And, after Cleveland State basketball coach Kevin Mackey's crack house arrest on Friday the 13th (July 1990), I was the only reporter to interview on camera any of his players. I also, on camera, took a Tom Candiotti curveball to the groin. It didn't air.

One year to the day after winning my Best Sportscaster Emmy, I got fired. It was June 8, 1992, so I caught on with all-sports station WKNR - co-hosting their morning show for a year with Paul Tapie. In August 1993, my dream of anchoring post-game shows on the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network actually came true when I was brought on board by their flagship station (KFAN), where I hosted in mid-days before moving to mornings.

On July 12, 1995, I debuted my nightly call-in show on KDKA Pittsburgh - the world's first radio station - and won a Golden Quill along with four sports reporting awards.

After sunset, my show could be heard in all or parts of 37 states. In May of 1997, I married the gorgeous gal (Shelly) I'd met in the KDKA newsroom two years earlier.


After a fairly remarkable run of more than seven years on KDKA, we've since settled into our downtown Seattle condo overlooking the Puget Sound and Elliott Bay. (That's where Tom Hanks and his boy row their boat in Sleepless In Seattle.)

For four years, I've hosted the Pacific Northwest's only "live" drive-time Christian call-in show every afternoon on KGNW - one of more than a hundred stations owned by Salem Communications, the nation's third largest radio chain. I've traveled with Bible League to Africa, Asia and South America.

Put it this way: you're not going to confuse my 50,000 watt high-energy show with any typical program of the genre.

Shelly owns a very successful event planning company [Tolo Events, LLC]. Business is booming with our offices in both Seattle and Pittsburgh. This summer she coordinates the grand opening of the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center with President Bush possibly attending.

Channel 3 was one of the most enriching and cool places I've ever worked. It was my fourth of eight jobs (and third of six places I've lived) since graduating from college. The behind-the-scenes voices of producers like Nick Kovijanic - who went on to MSNBC - and Al Szymanski - who went on to NBC Sports in New York - still echo after 16 years away.

Donovan, Davis, Dieken, Hooley, Burhans, Steve Browne, Tony Harris, Kim Bratton, Leon Bibb, Jill Beach, Tom Beres, Paul Orlowski, Tom and Del, Liz Habib, the great Irishman - Tom Sweeney and anybody else whose name I'm spacing out - thanks to all you guys & gals for making my years in Cleveland so much fun! (Oh & Stanley Fears) And, you thought I was a piece of work!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please PLEASE take this joke called Thor Tolo back and get him out of the Seattle market. He is just another Ted Baxter of the Radio. Full of himself, NOT funny in the least. Can't even read prepared copy (news) well.