I was sorry to hear of the Gavin MacLeod’s passing. While I enjoyed him as Murray Slaughter on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I enjoyed him even more on The Love Boat…because, unbeknownst to him, his character, Captain Merrill Stubing, was my weather sidekick, and actually had a little in common.
Back in 1979, while I was going to grad school part-time at the University of Arizona in Tucson earning my journalism Masters degree, I worked three different broadcasting jobs: morning drive guy at KCEE-AM, weekend overnight guy at KAIR-AM, and weekend weather dude at KGUN-TV, an ABC affiliate.
It was a time when Tucson TV stations liked to use radio announcers to do weekend weather because we were used to making almost no money and we could ad lib, which was important since we had no scripts for our weathercasts.
We had none of the sophisticated electronic graphics weathercasters have today. To prepare my map I ripped off the “weather features” feed on the weather wire, took into the studio and used that information to place little magnetic, rubber things on the map: sunshines, rain drops, pressure systems and fronts. I did two weathercasts each evening…one at 5pm and one at 10pm. The map for the early show took about 20 minutes to create, but the late one took less time because not much changed over those five hours.
Here’s where Captain Stubing and I got together. On Saturday nights I’d have the program monitor on while I prepared the studio map. I timed it so I was updating the map while Love Boat was on. As I placed the little magnetic symbols on the map, Capt. Stubing was greeting the guest stars as they boarded the Love Boat. Coulda been Charo, Bert Convy, Florence Henderson…anyone who needed some network TV exposure to keep their careers going .
Yes, it was all mindless, but I was studying to be a “serious journalist” and the weather seemed mindless as well. I enjoyed doing it but didn’t find it challenging, especially because Tucson doesn’t actually have any weather aside from hot, hotter, hottest and the few weeks in the summer they call “monsoon season” when it rains like crazy for an hour or so, then stops and it’s hot and dry again.
Just as celebrities graced his gangplank, they also passed through my studio, always stopping as they saw me create my map to ask about the weather.
One night it was the original TV fitness guy Jack LaLanne. I didn’t recognized him at first because while in TV he looked like a bulked up muscle man, in real life he was Tom Thumb. He was at our station to appear on our local talk show. Jack stopped in his tracks and asked me what I was doing. I could have been a wiseass and told him I was creating the world’s largest AAA Triptik, but explained I was preparing my weather map for the upcoming newscast. “Well, keep at it!” he chirped, flexed a bicep and continued on his way. Hmm..that was under-whelming.
On another night Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater walked through. He was a little quiet and creepy and I didn’t see him right away because on The Love Boat, Doc was trying to score with a comely passenger in a bikini who was way out of his league and Capt. Stubing was comforting social director Julie McCoy when no one showed up to “dress like a rodent night.”
Sen. Goldwater kinda stared at me for a moment, then in a very accusatory tone asked me, “it’s not gonna rain, is it?” Even if it was I wouldn’t have wanted to validate his personal forecast. After all the tagline for his ads when he ran for POTUS in 1964 was “in your heart you know he’s right.” But in America’s hearts they knew he was wrong and he lost to LBJ in a landslide. It didn’t give me much confidence he could predict the weather either.
And so it went. Gavin MacLeod as Love Boat’s Capt. Stubing greeted his arriving guests as I greeted mine as they passed through my studio. Each week brought a new roster of surprise guest stars for both of us….doing our duties…rain..or shine….all before Fantasy Island’s Tattoo announced, “the plane, the plane!” Gavin MacLeod/Capt. Merrill Stubing…it was a pleasure to serve during prime time with you. RIP.