Nate Tannenbaum dishes on almost 30 years of Vegas and bow ties

Updated July 29, 2018 - 2:08 pm

Like Carrie Bradshaw, who once confessed that she owned $40,000 worth of shoes, Nate Tannenbaum can’t say no to a good bow tie.

But the popular local TV and radio personality counts his trademark fashion accessory not in terms of cost, but quantity.

Exactly how many does he own? “Around 200,” he says. “I’m always adding a few.”

And before you ask, Tannenbaum, 61, is the first one to insist that not all ties are created equally. “I’m a bit of a bow tie snob. I only like the ones you have to tie yourself. I’m not a clip-on guy.”

You can see man and tie on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, where he does traffic and weather. Tannenbaum also hosts several shows on Vegas PBS, including “Varsity Quiz,” “The Science Bowl” and “The CCSD Middle School Spelling Bee.” You can also catch his weekly interview and music radio show called “Playing Favorites” on KUNV-FM, 91.5.

Review-Journal: What is a great Sunday in Vegas for you?

Tannenbaum: Depending on the time of year, I’m maybe watching some baseball on TV with some popcorn and a beer. I’m also the guy who likes to go to our favorite breakfast place or check out new ones. My wife is not a big breakfast person, so it’s a great time for some father-son bonding when my 19-year-old is home from college. We really like Lou’s Diner on Decatur. By the way, Lou is a female.

You’ll celebrate 30 years in Vegas in 2019. What was your path here and how did you get your start in broadcasting?

I grew up in Denver, where my dad was a college librarian at Regis College. Then he took a job at Indiana State in the late ’60s and I went to high school there. My start in broadcasting was on the radio. When I was a kid, instead of putting on magic shows or doing dance routines, my brothers and I would do pretend newscasts. By the time I was in high school, I said, “What do I have to do to be the guy who reads the announcements over the intercom?”

What did you have to do?

I had to take a speech class and do well. I heard, “Then maybe the lady who runs that department will let you do those announcements.” I started doing them and felt like I was on the right track. Then I knocked on doors until a tiny radio station hired me and I became a disc jockey at age 17. I was the Sunday afternoon sign-off guy. I had to literally turn the station off as in, “We’re done. We’ll see you guys in the morning.” It was the best. I was a kid. I was on the radio. I even got to bring a girlfriend once to the studio.”

How did you land in Vegas?

I had been working in Grand Junction but didn’t have a job anymore. An agent asked if it was OK to send that tape to a station in Vegas where there was an opening. I said, ‘I’m out of work. What do you think?’ Next thing I knew, I came to Vegas for an interview and got the job. If you told me then that I’d be in Vegas for 30 years, I wouldn’t have believed it. When I came to Vegas, we were the 99th market (in Nielsen rankings). Now we’re 40th. I love it here. I always say that Vegas is the littlest big city.

You do weather and traffic. Is it us or does this summer feel hotter?

There are 2 million people here now. When I got here in 1989, there were 200,000 people. The physical nature of the town has changed with so many more lawns and pools. There is more water in our atmosphere. It used to be when we’d have a double-digit humidity day, it was insane. That’s far from the case now. It’s rare to have a single-digit humidity day in July and August. Yet, when we say 30 percent humidity, people in the Midwest still laugh.

You host these crazy smart-kid shows on PBS. Does this give us all faith in the future?

These kids are amazing, and it’s an honor to host these shows. I get to pretend to be Alex Trebek. Half the time these kids want to jump in and answer the question before I’m finished asking it. You don’t even know the full question, but they know the answer. These kids do give you hope for the future. We always talk in the news about kids who get in trouble or live on their phones. We need to give more shout-outs to kids who will save the world.

Can you give us one hard question to impress our friends?

OK, the topic is biology. With which of the following does human interstitial fluid differ in concentration the most when compared with plasma. A) sodium ions, B) potassium ions, C) magnesium ions or D) proteins. The answer is D) proteins. It’s pretty amazing that kids have no problem tackling these kinds of crazy questions.

And those spelling bee kids …

The cutest ones are the sixth-graders. You can see them looking nervous in those bright studio lights and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m about to pee in my pants.” But when it comes to spelling the word, they snap out of it and they’re right there. By the way, those words are read at random. It really is the luck of the draw. You try to spell “corpuscle” or “stultiloquence” when the pressure is on.

Where did you meet your wife of 26 years?

We met at a Tupperware party in Vegas. I was a Tupperware lady when I was in between jobs. Remember I said that I left my job in Grand Junction? So, I sold Tupperware during that time and, yes, people were surprised to see a guy. When I came to Vegas, I kept on selling Tupperware. People said, “But Nate, you’re on TV. You can stop now.” I said, “It’s beer money and the kicker is you meet fabulous babes who know their way around a kitchen.” One night a lady came to a party and sparks were flying. She bought the Popsicle set and some measuring cups, and I violated the Tupperware rules by getting her number off her order. When we got engaged, the Tupperware people said it was OK. My wife is amazing. She’s a retired world champion synchronized swimmer who was in the show “Splash” at the Riviera.

Where’s the best place to buy those ties?

Back in the day, it was Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus at the Fashion Show mall. But nowadays I’m an online shopper at The silk ones are great. There are also the fat ones from the ’70s, but I prefer the skinnier ones. My wife even got me into retro bow ties.

Do you keep them all in a specially chilled cabinet in your closet?

No, (laughing) I have tie racks and I hang them up on the racks. I have a rack for holiday bow ties, too. I used to say back in the day that I was starting a fashion trend, but no one was paying attention.

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