Thursday, February 24, 2005

Meet Mac

If you didn't catch this Bill Flick story when it first ran last summer, it's a great "day in the life."

Article from The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)
Meet Mac
Published: July 20, 2003

Not long ago, a tour group was passing through the WEEK television studios, its members craning, ogling, leering, peering, to catch an eye-load of one of the station's on-air personalities.
That's when a rather road-weary, weather-challenged 1988 Toyota Tercel - it's the kind that might also make pizza deliveries there - rambled into the parking lot of the station, located in a far outreach of East Peoria.
Yup, the tour group got its wish.
Within moments, its door creaking open, out popped Tom McIntyre, the station's cornerstone anchor man.
"That Tercel of his," Mike Dimmick chuckles later. "Rust doesn't begin to describe it. It's like I told him the other night when we had all that rain - rain is no problem for him. The water just goes right through the floorboard."
In a world of high-gloss, high-maintenance, blatantly pretentious, Jaguar-driving talking TV heads, we also have one Thomas Allan McIntyre, who on Tuesday will celebrate his 30th anniversary of being a dependable part of the Central Illinois living room.
In an era of 120-channel TV, when viewing options are endless, amazingly more than 30 percent of all 10 o'clock viewers have their sets tuned to McIntyre. The last eight years he's shared with Dimmick.
Theirs is an audience share almost unheard of in times of such TV variety.
Yet the Tom McIntyre ego?
It's more hidden than Waldo.
Or, as he puts it, "Do you know what a 2003 Jag costs?"
Humble, unassuming, even shy in unfamiliar crowds, this man has every right to NOT be.
"I think the true magic of Mac," says Mark DeSantis, the TV-25 general manager, "is that even after all these years, after all his success, he's still paranoid enough to worry just a little about his job. It's that quality - being a little skeptical of the very position he's created - that is the driving force to keep him working even harder."
The McIntyre day begins much like yours and mine.
Up about 7:30 a.m., he catches up on the news and shares time with his wife of 24 years, Mary Mathews.
A little later, McIntyre - he's now only three months shy of 60 - might wander off to the River Plex, a center in downtown Peoria, for a workout on the treadmill, or he might imbibe in an ongoing property-improvement project along Peoria's Moss Avenue, also called his home. It is 105 years old.
But by 3 p.m. while the people of Peoria and Bloomington begin to kick back and exhale after another day, McIntyre is truly beginning.
At the office, even first thing, he is frenetic, "cutting" promotion tapes (the blurbs you see laced throughout an eve to promote that night's newscast) or checking the assignment sheet for calls to make and stories to track.
At 5, as you're readying for supper, McIntyre is absorbed in a battery of flickering TV screens - he's viewing his own station, plus Channel 31, Channel 19, MSNBC, CNN and the Weather Channel - to see what everyone has, also to occasionally blurt something like, "Hey, Channel 19 is doing something on Dalton Mesarchik (the slain Streator 7-year-old whose body was found in March). Is there something we missed?"
By 6, out onto the News 25 "set" (on TV it appears rather quaint but is, in fact, a cavernous, high-ceilinged room that looks like the inside of Lowe's), he guides through the news with co-anchor Denise Heilman.
In the TV world, there are those "face" guys who "perform" the news. Not McIntyre. There is no pretense here. Not off-camera either.
By 7 p.m., he's simply still working.
"I remember," says Eric Shangraw, a fellow reporter and anchor, "one of the first things that struck me about Mac was seeing him every night, popping a meal into the microwave and twisting open his nightly liter of pop. You'd think he'd go out or go home, between newscasts, to get a breather. But he rarely does. He just works more."
If you listen to his news pals long enough, you get that drift.
Nice guy. Kind.
Hard-working.
Reliable. Trustworthy.
And thrifty.
Says the quick-witted Dimmick, who can begin a Tom McIntyre comedy routine if the news shtick ever fails, "Mac still has suits from the Eisenhower administration and, by God, if he can lose enough weight to fit in them again, he'll wear them!"
Born in Bloomington, reared in Chenoa, educated at Illinois State University, where he teethed at WGLT in the days when its closed-circuit waves reached only dorms, McIntyre first bounced around in radio - WIOK in Normal. WIRL and WWCT in Peoria - before one day in 1973, when while cutting a videotape for a job tryout in Lake Charles, La., he discovered that WEEK also had an opening.
That beginning - it was July 22, 1973 - wasn't exactly Walter Cronkite or Walter Winchell.
"When I started," he says, "I think I said, 'Good evening ... in the headlights tonight' at least three times. Several times, I also completely forgot my microphone, after which an engineer would come out and cut off my tie."
Through the more than 12,000 half-hour newscasts, he's waged the anchor seas with familiar names like Tom Connor, Kathy Dancy, John Wingate, Anna Werner and Shelli Dankoff.
His 20-year union with Christine Zak - it remains one of the longest local news-team tenures in America - at one time led to newsroom chuckles that he was with Zak longer than any wife. (McIntyre has wed three times but his marriage to Mary Mathews has now exceeded his job pairing with Zak.)
"Once a year," says Max Jacobs, a WEEK managing editor and close McIntyre friend, "my husband and I have a party at our house. We always invite Mac, and the neighbors all want to meet him, and after they do, they always say - 'Gosh, he's such a regular guy' - and I always say, 'What else would you expect?' "
This week it will be more of the same for the low-key McIntyre as he passes Year 30 - an almost unheard of digit in the transitive world of TV news - but he won't be there to enjoy it. Conveniently, he'll be on vacation.
"Oh, I'll come in and enjoy the cake," he assures.
Then no doubt, he'll hop back into that Tercel, which - who knows - may have another 30 years as well. With McIntyre still in it.
For a man who's constantly in the spotlight, it's all sort of funny. He really doesn't like it focused on him.

Mac facts
High school class: Chenoa, Class of '61.
First paying media job: WIOK-AM in Normal. $90 a week.
Initial goal at WEEK: "I hoped to somehow last two years."
Biggest story: Going to Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf War buildup in 1990.
Worst moments as an anchor: Covering the deaths of Tom Connor, the station's legendary first big-name anchor, who died in 1977, and weatherman Bill Houlihan, who died in 1994 and to this day may be the most known WEEK personality in its 50 years of broadcasting.
Funniest moment on-air: The 10 p.m. cast during which Mike Dimmick, weatherman Jim Barnett and McIntyre tried "Vegamite," the Australian sandwich filling. "Barnett looked like a dog eating peanut butter," says McIntyre.
His body double: Once or twice a year, McIntyre says he is stopped by people who say, "Hey, you're that guy I see on TV all the time ... Jay Janssen."
Years left now that he's nearly 60: "My wife says I can't retire."
Passions: Motorcycles. Owns a 1978 R100/7 BMW motorcycle. Also preoccupied with restoring their 105-year-old home along Peoria's picturesque Moss Avenue.
Number of injuries incurred while doing battle as a homeowner: Two. He broke a collarbone while trimming a tree several years ago and pulled a ligament in a leg two years ago after falling off the garage.
Favorite reads? History, mysteries, bike books, psychology, the broadcast trades.
Favorite TV shows: None really, since he works during prime time. "Mary and I will watch a very few taped shows together, but for the most part, 'prime time' television I know by reputation only."
Favorite color: "You're kidding, right?"
Most-used curse word: "Not going anywhere near that one, either."
If not in TV, I'd be ... "I'm not really trained for any other job. I've thought about something related to motorcycle work ... sales, for example ... but everyone I know who's made their avocation their vocation has regretted it.
Favorite movies: "If I answered that, I'd be e-mailing you back every day saying things like "Add 'Alien.' Add 'The Princess Bride.' Did I include 'The Maltese Falcon'?"
Best advice someone ever gave you: "Take your work seriously but not yourself."
Best vacation spot? "Mary and I both loved Spain. I like Scotland. She thinks it's damp and gray. Feet up on the deck of a cruise ship being doted upon is hard to beat, no matter where the ship is."

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