After a long and distinguished career in television broadcasting, senior anchor Gary Waddell is bidding adieu to KLAS-TV Channel 8 on Friday in exchange for well earned retirement from the daily grind that is the news business.
Having sat in the anchor's chair at 8 News Now since 1980, Waddell is more than a familiar face to Southern Nevadans. He is an institution who has helped guide viewers through the growth and growing pains of a community that evolved from a modest desert oasis in the 1980s to a major metropolitan area today.
Many of his contributions to area charities, including his long-standing participation in the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, are well known to the public. He also has received numerous professional accolades, including an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and induction into the Associated Press Television and Radio Association's Hall of Fame.
But we have an urge to reveal eight things that viewers may not know about Waddell, courtesy of his newsroom colleagues.
1. He Loves Tarantulas
Not only that, but pet tarantula Frankie resides at Waddell's work station in the newsroom. When children take tours at KLAS the furry critter is typically the star performer, even if it does nothing but eat crickets and take long siestas. One time when Waddell was gone, he put longtime co-anchor Paula Francis in charge of looking out for Frankie. Imagine the fright she felt when she checked on the tarantula, only to find it in a prone position with legs up in the air and no water in its bowl. Turns out Frankie was simply molting, shedding its old fur for a sleek new look.
2. He Became Best Friends With a Rescue Dog
Bradley is the name. The miniature pinscher was shy at first, initially reluctant to be held. But the duo bonded and are often seen taking long walks in their neighborhood. He's Waddell's baby.
3. He Turned On KLAS Chief investigative Reporter George Knapp to Country Music
Said Knapp: "I grew up around country music and I hated it. When I was anchoring with him we would go eat every night and he would listen to it every night and he got me hooked on it. He liked Alan Jackson back in those days."
4. He's in Hog Heaven on a Bike
We're talking Harley-Davidson, not Schwinn. But Waddell also has found comfort on two-wheel BMWs, which is a good thing for someone who enjoys seeing America from the open road.
Waddell loves getaways such as the annual Laughlin River Run. Riding as he does for fun and adventure, it would be expected that he'd park his motorcycle anywhere. His car, that's a different matter. While his co-workers use the uncovered employee parking lot behind the station, he spends a little money to park in the shaded garage next door, eliminating the torture of climbing into a scorching vehicle on a hot summer day. Waddell, one smart guy.
5. The Man is a Gadget Freak
Waddell is the sort of fellow who has to have the latest technological toy. Back when KLAS reporters had to fight over a single cell phone, Waddell had his own, albeit one that was the size of a brick. He's also in love with still photography and cameras have been constant companions on his motorcycle trips.
6. He is a Stickler for Good Grammar
The man doesn't have an ego. He's genteel both on and off camera. But the word is he's not a fan of news producers who attempt to do math. And there's this from Francis: "Gary's mother was a school teacher, and Gary and I share a love of grammar. He's a stickler for lie and lay. In other words, a person lies down in the road. They don't lay in the road. They lie in the road. And Gary gets very worked up about it."
7. He Has a Taste of Chicago in His Blood
Waddell enjoys The New Yorker magazine but when it comes to big cities, Chicago is closest to his heart. He worked as a reporter for WFLD-TV in that city and is an insufferable Chicago Cubs fan. He and KLAS Managing Editor Terri Foley still laugh about the good times they shared while covering the 1996 Democratic National Convention, especially the live shot they did in a park swarming with rats the size of dogs.
8. He Missed His Real Calling, that of a Stand-Up Comic
Waddell always comes fully stocked with jokes. He tells so many that most of his colleagues can't remember any of them. They remember laughing about the "two guys who walked into a bar." They just don't recall the punchlines. Except for Francis, who tried to recite the joke Waddell likes to tell while addressing an audience of engineers. "So there's a golfing party and it's a doctor and a priest and an engineer and some other person that I can't remember," Francis said. "And the game is going really slowly. They ask the owner of the club, 'Why does it take forever to go around your course?' 'Well, I'm sorry, but you're following the blind firefighters. They were blinded putting out the fire in our clubhouse one year. Of course, to pay them back, and we feel terrible about it now that they were disabled, we let them play the course for free.' And the doctor said, 'Well, you know, I'm a specialist in eye problems and perhaps I can save them. Let me give them a call.' And then the priest says, 'I will pray for these men so that they might get their sight back.' And then the engineer says, 'Why don't they play at night?'"