Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Van Amburg; Still the Highest-Paid SF TV Anchor

Van Amburg.
Real Name: Fred VanAmburg
Station: KGO-TV
Lead Anchor: "NewsScene"
1986 Salary: $950,000

**Still the highest-paid SF TV anchor and stalwart for KGO's landmark local TV News--left in December, 1986 and no one knows, for sure, what he's up to, but lots of speculation.

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  1. I don't understand why local news anchors make so much money. They come to work, read off a teleprompter, take a two hour lunch and then go home. They don't cure cancer.

    The average person doesn't even know their names. (Besides Dennis Richmond, everyone knew him.)I'm not saying they shouldn't be paid at all, but 200-950 thousand dollars to read what someone else wrote for two hours a day is just crazy!

    Maybe the stations could turn a profit if they took the time to rethink the model. Times have changed since the days when viewers only had 3 news options.

    I can get the news on my phone in seconds, why do I need to wait until 5pm to watch an overpaid anchor flub their lines?

    1. I don't understand either. They don't do much of consequance for the world or the region or even for the TV station. Same problem throughout the country. Too many people are grossly overpaid for just doing a 9-5 job (or less in these cases). THen those high salaries become the barometer for what other professions should make. It has little to do with their real value to society. They are all easily replaceable because it is not a particularly unique skill set they bring to the job.

    2. Why don't you try being a Top 5 market TV News Anchor and see if your not particularly unique skill set works.

  2. Believe it or not...Van Amberg's real first name was Fred, and his last name was Van Amberg. But he went by the on air name when he was an ABC anchor and he also was a 'communicaster' (talkshow host) on KNEW radio back in the late 1960s with the likes of Hhilly Rose, Joe Dolan, Pat Michaels, Robin King and Steve Somers.

    Van also did radio color
    (not very well unfortunately...because he really didn't know much about football) on the Raiders' radio broadcasts with Bill King from 1966 through 1968. His last game was that memorable AFL Title loss when the Jets Joe Namath and his mates hung on to beat Oakland 27-23 at windswept Shea Stadium on a frigid January afternoon. The Jets of course went on to win the Superbowl that year in a hug upset.

    Van also was one of the pioneers of those silly little interludes of back and forth exchange between the anchors....it was called 'Happy Talk'
    back in those days, and believe it or not, it was a big reason KGO was so popular at the time.

    KGO was also quite popular in the ratings in those days because they had some strong personalities to go with Van Amberg, including weatherman Pete Giddings, sports anchor John O'Reilly, and co anchor Jerry Jensen.

    1. You hit the nail on the head. Those 4 guys were THE top crew for years.

  3. 1986 Was a long time ago- Van Amburg and family couldnt still be living that lifestyle on interest. And maybe thats why nobody ever hears from him..he really could be in some desolete area on a farm he bought living the simplest of lifes..dial up cable and his 1984 Sears console TV. He must be around 80 by now..the slow life or old folks home.

  4. Fred even appeared as an anchor/reporter in the movie the Candidate.

  5. His brother Bill was a reporter at LA's KABC "Eyewitness News," among other places which I do not remember...his brother Tom was a local TV executive, the GM of several stations.

    The happy talk" concept was pretty much invented by ABC and its O&Os, WABC, KABC, KGO, and WLS--the fast-paced show where personalitites were supposed to be regarded "like family." Van was indeed one of the linchpins for this kind of approach.

    While he may not have known much about football, neither did KSFOers Jim Lange and Gene Nelson, who assisted Lon Simmons with "color" on Forty-Niners radio broadcasts.

    1. Bill Van Amburg was his son. I went to Cal with him in the late 1970's.

    2. Don't forget WXYZ in Detroit on your list of ABC O&O stations (at that time) -- Bill Bonds was as colorful an anchor as they come.

  6. That's $1,973,000 in today's dollars---and I'm sure he was worth it considering the great ratings they got.

  7. The late KPIX anchor Dave McElhatton actually did an interview with Van Amburg in the mid-1990s from the latter's home in El Cerrito. I bet that's where Van Amburg still resides. Apparently, he never cared for any off-air schmoozing, unlike the Happy Talk air time. I would suggest you find alumni from both his KGO years and KPIX years before that when he was the sports anchor for John Weston.

  8. Van Amburg was the first anchor to run the numbers and figure out how much he was worth to a TV station. It was brilliant. He showed management what they were making from local TV news before he arrived and, based on ratings, what they were making later. Then he showed how his salary had not kept pace with the station's profits. Since no one knew why ratings went up or went down (and they still don't), managers were frightened by Amburg's implied threat to walk. They gave him what he said he deserved.

    He held on to his job until his demands became more trouble than managers thought his presence was worth. I may be wrong on this, but I recall KGO's ratings actually increased after Van left. This was in no way a reflection on his considerable talent. It simply disproved his strategy years before. Just as Van's contracts suddenly ramped up the salaries of anchors across the country, his departure caused salaries to fall. But by then, he had long cashed the checks.

    Whatever happened to Van Amburg? The question was asked and answered in a sweeps series by the same name reported by Dave Macelhatton on KPIX in 1991 or so. If was the ultimate local SF TV "get."
    At the time, Van was living comfortably in his East Bay home. He has not emerged publicly since, but he should.

    Van Amburg was a driving force in the public's reliance on local TV for news. He was uncompromising in his standards. We may have disagreed with them at the time, but at least he had some.

    1. Excellent analysis. Perfectly stated.

  9. Rich, why don't you tell us how much your buddy, Melanie Morgan, is being paid.

    She's a complete idiot, and for proof, I'll cite her Cumulus-loving statement that Cumulus has health-savings accounts as part of its health coverage. Usually, companies that offer this have a very high deductible. Is this true for money-grubbing and soul-less Cumulus?

    Also, if Melanie The Meanie Morgan had a brain, she would know, as I do as an employer who offered a very good standard health-care insurance to my employees, plus the option for a health-savings account, that health-savings accounts are only for high-income-earning individuals.

    A person earning minimum wage and not covered by insurance cannot have an HSA. Nor can a person who earns the typical average wage in America. They will opt for a high-deductible insurance before they use an HSA.

    Furthermore, one concern with HSAs is that in economic downturns, for those accounts where money can be extracted, lower-income individuals will often turn to the HSA to withdraw, such as when energy and/or food prices spike, as they are doing now.

    I have a question for Melanie The Meanie Morgan: please explain how an HSA will benefit a person earning $35,000 a year; $52,000 a year; $24,000 a year.

    Not all people earn as much as you and your hubby, Melanie.

    I paid my employees well for the type of work they did; more than the compeition. I matched their 401Ks 100 percent. But, out of 62 employees, I only had ONE who opted for the HSA, and she ended up regretting it when she had a huge medical crisis and no coverage.

    Melanie The Meanie Morgan is now a Corporate Cumulus Clone who played her cards right by not openly criticizing what happend at KGONE and then removing from her laughable, jingoistic, xenophobic Web site (unless those posts have now been removed as well) any info abou the KGONE slaughter.

    While I don't favor Obamacare the way it was instituted, wait until health care costs drive down this economy, Melanie The Meanie Morgan. HSAs are not the answer.

    As a conservative, KSFO's dumbing down of conservative thought makes my head spin. The current crop of conservative "thought" leaders is woefully bankrupt and filled with Ayn Rand worshippers. They are bankrupt morally and spiritually, despite so many claming evangelical credentials. After all, Christ's main message was to help your brothers and sisters.

    And, Melanie The Meanie, before you call me a "phony f**k" again for claiming I am conservative, I'd be happy to send you my nearly quarter-century worth of column and editorial clips that I have from my years as a publisher and editor. My conservative credentials are solid. I'm just not a flippant Tea Party nutcase like you and Brian The Brainless Sussman. Climate-change-denying birthers. That's Melanie The Meanie Morgan and Brian The Brainless Sussman.

    1. You show your ignorance of HDHP's & HSA accounts. Those two things are complementary not mutually exclusive. Since you know nothing about that and obviously fabricated everything about being an "Employer" and knowing about HSA's, I disregard everything you have to say. Next time do a little research before spouting off.

  10. The two jerks on KSFO morning have found a way to demonize the young man murdered by Jorge Zimmerman. The weatherman Sussman now claims Treyvon chased and beat up fatso Zimmerman. I've been waiting to hear them demonize the five murder victims in SF. But as of yet nothing. I wonder why they have not attacked the reputation of those five victims (by bringing up the gambling debt angle for example). What is different between the murder victim Treyvon and the 5 SF victims? I can not quiet put my finger on it....race can't be it? Is it?

    1. They showed video today of Zimmerman getting booked. He was in shape (30 pounds lighter than the lineup pic most media use to identify him) and presented no facial bruises or contusions. He claims he was getting beat up by Trayvon and subsequently shot him in self defense.. He never went for medical assistance for his alleged bloody nose etc. The police would have sent him mandatory had he presented any medical issues. Sorry but he murdered Trayvon and is feigning self defense for killing the kid but that dog won't hunt anymore.

  11. I'm always surprised to find that people who are at least computer literate enough to write a Blog or respond to one don't take the extra 10 seconds to Google or Bing something or someone to find an answer to their question.

    I found this as the top hit for Fred Van Amburg on Bing:

    Biography for
    Fred L. Van Amburg More at IMDbPro »
    ad feedbackDate of Birth
    13 September 1910, USA

    Date of Death
    15 March 1990, Fresno, California, USA

    Birth Name
    Fred Van Amberg

    Longtime TV news anchor in San Francisco, California.

    1. Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms 11:24 AM, I do not believe this information is accurate.

      If you set Van Amburg's birthdate as 1910, that would put him in his late 60s or 70s when this header photo was taken--probably at KGO in the late 1970s or 1980s. Not a chance. For all of us who remember him at KPIX (if you are as old as I), he was not in his 50s in his sportscasting career...and in his salad days at Channel 7 he was no senior citizen.

      So is he even dead and gone? And Fresno???

    2. That trivia is incorrect. The interview on KPIX was in 1992, and there was no way he was 76 when he was fired from KGO. I'm always surprised to find people who are at least computer literate enough to respond to a blog don't take the extra 10 seconds to think about what they're typing.

    3. Pardon me for skipping the sarcastic reply. The IMDb report on Van Amburg's death is incorrect. This item appeared in Jeannine Yeomans' column in the Chronicle on May 28, 1999:

      "It was the end of an era Sunday when TV legends Belva Davis and Rollin Post celebrated their retirement after a combined 70 years in Bay Area television...

      ...former KGO-TV anchor Fred Van Amburg made a rare party appearance."

  12. OK 11:24, why don't you take the extra 10 seconds to do the math?? If Van Amburg was born in 1910, that would make him over 70 years old at the height of his popularity at KGO. I don't think so. Just cause you read it on the internet doesn't make it true...sheesh.

  13. That must have been another Fred Van Amberg, because if you also googled 'Van Amber' you'll find a story archived from 1991 that someone did on Van Amberg, a year after his supposed 'death.'
    As far as I know, he's still very much alive, although I believe that he's about 82 by now.

  14. It's interesting how many sports anchors have come through KGO over the years. The list is really mind boggling:
    Bon Fouts, John O'Reilly, Barbara Hunter, Jim Celenia, Ton Conigliario, Tom Janus, John Buren, Mike Barry, Dan Lovitt, Marc Gibson
    Dan Lovitt, Don Sanchez, Mike Schumann, Larry Beil, and Rick Quan
    (among others).

    That's 15 anchors in 40 plus years, but I'm sure I've left out of a few other names.

    KPIX and KRON and KTVU have had a few faces come an go over the years, but I daresay that KGO has had twice the number of TV sportscasters over the same period of time. Interesting.

    Here's a partial list of some of the others from the other

    KPIX: Barry Tompkins, Milt Kahn (only two horrific months back in the spring of 1974), Wayne Walker, Joe Fonzi, Drew Soicher,
    Rick Quan, Dan Fouts, Dennis O'Donnell, Kim Koyle, Mindy Bach.

    KRON: John Brodie, Barry Tompkins, Ron Barr, Tony Conigliario, Tom Nettles, Bill Orwig, Carolyn Burns, Tom Nettles, Pete Liebengood,
    Gary Radnich, Vernon Glenn.

    KTVU: Gary Park, Steve Physioc, Mark Ibanez, Joe Fonzi, Fred Ingles.

    Anybody with any ideas of why KGO sportrs anchors have come and gone so much more frequently over the years than the other stations?
    It certainly isn't because KGO TV has been unstable..far from it...they've been a TV news leader in the bay area for years.

    1. All great points...

      Milt Kahn! For some bizarre reason KPIX at this time decided to completely rework its newscasts and get ride of just about every anchor. In came Gene Tuck, Andy Park and Kahn, who combined Saturday Night Live-type parody with a free-form stream of consciousness sportscast. Still don't know what to make of him; read later that he went back to his public relations biz.

    2. Ah we can't forget the regrettable Martin Wyatt on Chan 7. He is somewhere now still mispronouncing names.

      Bill Orwig...yes! Mr. Smiley!

  15. He was probably the first true "star anchor" in San Francisco, a profile on a higher level than, say, John Weston, Wanda Ramey, or Art Brown, to name a few early notables. And it seems that much of the attention is directed at the women; Unlike other cities, in the Bay Area the female anchors have generally surpassed the men in "stardom"--stay longer and achieve a higher level of name and face recognition.

    Belva Davis, Wendy Tokuda, Kate Kelly, Anna Chavez, Suzanne Saunders, Cheryl Jennings, Pam Moore, and Dana King, to name some, generally drew more attention than their co-anchors. Even someone we didn't much like (Terilyn Joe) eclipsed the guy sitting next to her (who cared about Richard Brown?)

    Three male anchors after Amburg really became full-fledged TV news stars--Pete Wilson, McElhatton, and Dennis Richmond. And none would qualify as a matinee idol; they were basically known for their rather plain and direct style.

    1. I think Weston was the first modern anchor for the Bay Area.

  16. Classic Van Amburg - Jonestown Special report

  17. Lisa Vande VoordeMarch 28, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    John Weston!! Wow, that's a memory! I remember watching him as a child in late 50's, early 60's on the old B&W rabbit-eared TV. All these posts got me looking around, and I found this interesting, recent piece written by John Hartlaub, SFGate -- lots of photos and updates about local TV news people. And John Weston is still alive! Hartlaub also mentions Van Amburg, saying he's disappeared from view, but he really wants to interview him. Check it out:


  18. Nick, that's the REVEREND Art Brown to you, pal!

    1. I have been trying my damnedest to glean some info about him but so far no luck. I imagine, since he appeared in "Dirty Harry" and maybe elsewhere film or TV, he's on IMDB...but now that august Web site is not to be trusted!

  19. Van Amburg was born in 1930 and still resides in El Cerrito. Still married, has three children and numerous grandchildren. Living a quiet life but not a recluse.