Morning Show Insider: Paul Gross gifted Willard Scott something he LOVED

Paul Gross
Paul Gross

DETROITPaul Gross: Like the rest of the morning crew, I was surprised and so excited to see Kim DeGiulio’s cameo appearance on the Today Show this week. And that brought back some very fond memories from way back in 1980. But first, a little background.

I’ve wanted to be a meteorologist since I was seven years old and, when I was in high school, I befriended former Local 4 weatherman, Barry Zevan who, at that time, was working at WJBK (I used to call him and give him jokes, many of which he used on the air – and the funny thing about that is that I’m really not that funny). When I was at U of M, I stayed in touch with Barry and, in one phone call, I mentioned that my family was going to New York between Christmas and New Year’s. Barry asked if I would like to meet Willard Scott, the legendary Today Show weatherman and, naturally, I jumped at that opportunity. As things turned out, Barry and Willard used to be neighbors in Washington and knew each other very well! So Barry called Willard, who was more than happy to have me there for a visit.

So my dad and I drove into the city, and Willard greeted us warmly and showed us around in between weather segments. I vividly remember Jane Pauley and Jessica Savitch were anchoring that day. As a gift to Willard, I brought some of my mom’s homemade apricot strudel, and Willard immediately got a knife and started cutting it up…and it was heaven at first bite. He shared some with Jane and Jessica, and I still remember the stage manager yelling to Jessica “hey, get that stuff out of your teeth!” just before the end of the commercial break.

It was a great visit, but I’m not going to end the story here, because I want to continue and impress upon you how amazing a man Willard is. Fast forward three years to 1983, and I’m now working part time here at Local 4. Since that visit to New York, I had grown a mustache, and replaced my glasses with contact lenses. And one day, Eileen Wonderlich from our promotions department walks into the weather office…with Willard Scott! He looks at me for a moment (pregnant pause), and then suddenly says: “Did you bring any?” My response was, “Bring what?” He said: “That strudel!” Think about this for a moment: Willard hadn’t seen me in three years, he had met thousands of other people in the time since I visited, and I looked like an entirely different person. And he remembered me. Naturally, since I didn’t know he was in town, I didn’t have any strudel for him. But I told Eileen to make sure that I knew the next time.

And sure enough, a few years later, Willard came back to town and was broadcasting his Today Show weather live from the Roostertail Restaurant, if memory serves me correct. And this time, I came prepared. Willard was beside himself, and started talking about my mom and her strudel on national TV!

Then, in 1989, Willard came to town to speak at the Adcraft Club of Detroit’s weekly luncheon. The station bought a table for the event, and asked me if I wanted to go. Naturally, I wasn’t passing up that opportunity. But things were different for me in 1989: I was in the middle of a difficult cancer battle, and had lost all of my hair from the chemotherapy. I was wearing a crummy-looking wig. So I went up to Willard to say hi, and told him about my cancer battle, and that I was wearing a wig. And right there on the dais, in front of everybody, he lifted his wig off and said “So am I!” At that time, Willard, who was bald on top, always wore a neat little wig of his own, but the public never saw him without it. Any personal embarrassment he had didn’t matter…he wanted to offer me some encouragement and strength to get through my battle. And by the way, he started going on and on about remembering my visit to the Today Show nine years earlier…even remembering my dad.

All of these memories came flooding back when I saw Kim on the Today Show this week. I’m so blessed…

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