Fredericks' peculiarities gave weather a personality

W ell-known out, unknown in.

Meteorologically speaking, that's John Fredericks, who just dropped the curtain on a dozen quirky, yet memorable years on KVBC-TV, Channel 3, and Darren Miller, late of Indianapolis' WXIN-TV, for whom the curtain rises Monday as KLAS-TV, Channel 8's evening weather wizard. Miller's a blank slate to Vegas, and evening newscasts allow less leeway to act loopy than Fredericks' morning/midday slots. But he'd be smart to study Fredericks footage and absorb -- in theory, but please not in mimicry -- some lessons.

A Fredericks fan? Not I. Meteorologists boast specialized skills other newscast regulars lack. Some wear it subtly, others smugly. Fredericks always seemed to instruct rather than explain, teach rather than talk. And he was strangely Bela Lugosi-like, a dark undercurrent buzzing beneath the bonhomie. But Bela Lugosi packed charisma -- he was a star for a reason. So did Fredericks. Not everyone connects to every TV personality, but at least he had one -- pronounced, offbeat and, critical to the new media paradigm, uniquely identifiable.

He grasped the importance of performance, especially in a city where, with rare rainy/snowy exceptions and an endless drone of summer heat advisories, weather alone doesn't strike enough sparks to fire up those segments. Only a few locals fathom that, such as droll Ted Pretty and too-infrequently-seen Nate Tannenbaum (now the R-J's multimedia producer).

The trivia contests, bits of shtick, forecast-ending golf swing, passionate pet advocacy and serial saga of his dogs -- hooking not only older loyalists, but younger viewers so coveted by stations to stave off that vital demo's defection from traditional media -- all made him more than a cog in the News 3 news machine. His peculiarities gave them a pulse and personality that helped humanize Channel 3 more than conservative Channel 8 and the often interchangeable faces on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.

Meteorology has manufactured a few masters of personality-powered TV, most famously David Letterman, whose storied rise stemmed from a stint as an Indianapolis weather wise guy. His antics? Reporting temps for fictitious cities and congratulating a tropical storm upgraded to hurricane. Vegas transplants may recall well-traveled Lloyd Lindsay Young, whose Tarzan-worthy yell of "Hellooooo (insert name of city)!" earned a kooky cult following. And Willard Scott and Al Roker, whose prognostications pale beside personas that, love 'em or loathe 'em, gave "Today" a swift kick in the cumulus.

John Fredericks wasn't quite as flavorful, and he wasn't my flavor. But take note, Darren Miller: In a local vat of vanilla, he had a scoopful of quirks and a sprinkling of nuttiness worthy of Ben & Jerry. To many viewers, he was a yummy treat.

Remember: You arrive from the city that served up David Letterman, TV's reigning banana split.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at or 702-383-0256.