Saturday, July 25, 2015

Van Amburg: The Highest Paid And Most Elusive Bay Area TV Anchor Ever

 To this day, Van Amburg, remains the highest-paid (at just over a million dollars) and most elusive Bay Area TV anchor ever.


Amburg, the iconic KGO-TV "News Scene" lead anchor, is very much alive and well, according to friends and sources. He resides in El Cerrito.


He lives a quiet and simple life. And he doesn't do interviews.


In addition to all the money and prestige, Amburg had quite a lot of clout at KGO; maybe too much clout for some of the ABC managers. When "Fred" Van Amburg left Channel 7 in the late 1980's it was sudden and swift.



29 comments:

  1. The bosses at Cap Cities,which owned ABC and KGO at the time gave the order to their station managers to cut the salaries of the on air talent at their owned and operated stations and Van Amburg refused to take a pay cut of half his yearly salary and instead retired.Since then,he only has done one interview,with Dave McElhatton years ago.

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    1. Van's son is now a successful Hollywood executive - he is the president of Sony Television.

      https://sites.sonypicturestelevision.com/aboutspt/executives.php?id=27

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  2. He's probably a very bitter & angry old man now..."Rrrrr, fix me a fucken drink & tell the guy on the phone to Go To Hell!! No Interviews!! RRRRR!!"

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  3. His last newscast was Aug 29th 1986. It's amazing to look back on that newscast and see that there was NO fanfare on his last night. It's almost like he had no friends.
    Also take a look at the length of the packages back then.
    When was the last time you didn't see weather until almost 32 minutes into the newscast.

    Here is a youtube link to that last show...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx7qxTjpoEk

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    1. SW in Santa CruzJuly 25, 2015 at 1:50 PM

      That was a good watch. Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even the mind numbing commercials.

      The only difference is the quality of the newscast. That has certainly suffered over the years.

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    2. Wow, exactly 20 years after the Beatles last concert, at Candlestick, Aug 29 1966. Hey, remember Van in the role of a newsman in the 1972 Robert Redford film, "The Candidate"!

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    3. Omg, I recall ALL of those commercials. And refreshing to see Van reading from his desk copy and looking up intermittently. He was a workhorse, and his delivery so smooth, almost effortless. Boy, how classy and timeless the whole newscast was.

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    4. I'm the one who unearthed that tape.

      Ironically it was sitting in the archives at KPIX.

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  4. Hmph, more like Fred Van Assburg if you ask me...not one of my favorite neighbors.

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  5. Van Amburg is waaay better than the losers on local television these days. .

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  6. I think the guy is still sore after all these years.
    Maybe a little ego issue still to this day.

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  7. He was to me the best anchor in Bay Area. I also remember when he did color on radio for the Oakland Raiders!

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  8. johnny bom bonneyJuly 25, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    Seem to remember hearing that Van's brother was a corporate higher-up at ABC; any truth to that?

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  9. Van Amburg is still fresh in Bill O'Reilly's memory, as O'Reilly mention him (and Herb Caen) earlier this week on "The Factor."

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  10. My first memory of Van Amburg on TV, is of him doing a stand-up during the summer Olympics in Rome, 1960 ... dressed in a toga.





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  11. New format terrible.

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  12. I like your new format a bit better. It's easier to distinguish the comments from your commentary. Lately, I've been focusing more on your commentary and ignoring "Shecky", the angry commenter.

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  13. Rich did you remember Van Amberg when he was a 'communicaster' on KNEW in the late 1960s. He did a regular talk show on AM 910 along with such other hosts as Robin King, "remember, love too, is a four letter word," right winger Pat Michaels, "our day WILL come, upward and onward!" and Joe Dolan, who was the left winger. Steve Somers, before he got into sports also did a weekend talk show as did a fellow named 'Hilly' Rose on KNEW.

    Interesting sidelight to Van Amberg: He was also Bill King's 'color' announcer on the Oakland Raider radio broadcasts from 1966-68 when KNEW was carrying their games.

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  14. Van Amburg was at the top of his game in 1974 when Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" did a piece on local news in San Francisco. At the time, KGO had a 50 share and people across the country were wondering why they were so successful. "60 Minutes" commissioned a UC-Berkeley journalism class to record every local newscast for a month and tabulate the stories. They found that KGO ignored foreign and Washington news, and emphasized "fire, crime, sex, tearjerkers, animal stories and the occult." It was a winning formula. Wallace interviewed Amburg on the "News Scene" set and asked him about a promo he did, saying "Male member found on railroad tracks. Film at 11." Amburg denied he said it that way and said the teaser was longer. But he said the story was important because there was a "victim out there." Clearly Amburg wasn't intimidated by Wallace. The "60 Minutes" piece went on to bash KPIX for trying to copy the KGO format without success. It was interesting to see a CBS News piece that was sharply critical of a CBS affiliate. Of course, at the time KPIX was owned by Group W/Westinghouse. Wallace also played the famous "KGO Cowboys" promo and followed that up with the pathetic attempt by KRON to copy that with their "Newshounds" campaign, where they made the anchors wear papier-mache dog heads in promos and print ads. Wallace interviewed KRON managers who were embarrassed by the campaign. Wallace pointed out that KRON, which had the most traditional newscast in the market, had once been No. 1, but fell due to KGO's format. Wallace said that people felt the KGO call letters stood for kickers, guts and orgasm. Afterward, people at KGO felt that the "60 Minutes" piece was an attempt by CBS to attack a successful ABC O&O, but Van Amburg did pretty well standing up to Wallace. And Van Amburg would remain as the top anchor KGO for another 12 years.

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    1. Thanks Dave Price. Well written and very enlightening.

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    2. Thanks for sharing, I'd love to see that 60 Minutes segment. I'll try YT.

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  15. My first memories of Van is when he was a sports anchor at Pix at their studios on Van Ness. Fred Zhender was the assignment editor!

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    1. You can bet that assignment desk had a full bar.

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  16. SFGATE has a clip of the KGO Cowboy promo...

    http://blog.sfgate.com/thebigevent/2011/11/28/van-amburg-and-the-news-cowboys/

    Yeeee Hawwwww!

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  17. Yes Van's brother was the General Manager at KABC in Los Angeles during the early to mid 80s.

    But he too left shortly after Van by the new Capital Cities management.

    Van did do an interview with Rich or another radio host a few years ago on that Santa Cruz station. He sounded great - a man who invested his earnings well and continues to lead a rich life.

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  18. So, wait...Van Amburg earned $1M back in 1986? That's the equivalent of more than $2M today. Holy cow. That's leaps and bounds over the best paid today.

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  19. When Van Amburg was still Fred Van Amburg he lived across the street from us in El Cerrito - in fact, they were renting the tiny little corner house - Manila and Lawrence Streets - late 1950's-early 1960's. By the time he was on KGO, they had already moved - but that's where he started out.

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    1. Neat. El Cerrito has sure seen it's share of star power- Van and the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival to name a couple!

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  20. During that terrible November 1978 Van did the best coverage imo.

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