Sunday, January 24, 2010

Remembering Frank Deal

Frank DealI first met Frank Deal in his living room, years after he stopped appearing in Piedmont dens every weeknight. Neill McNeill and I were producing a series of 'Where Are They Now" pieces on WGHP personalities and the former weatherman reluctantly welcomed us into his home. I had not grown up watching Frank Deal, but by the time I set up lights and a camera in his front room, I'd seen enough archive tape to know I'd entered the crib of a master broadcaster. But he was so much more! A card-carrying member of local television's golden age, Deal did it all: emceeing shows, interviewing notables, hosting puppet shows, helming the felt board that for many years was all the 'Weather Center' a medium market TV station like El Ocho needed. It was there, amid the stick-on clouds and paper mache snowflakes that Frank Deal truly distinguished himself.

Known as much for his endless torrent of corny jokes as his prognostication, Deal approached local TV with a comedic lilt and the heft of a thespian. Viewing his many highlights is akin to watching a gifted athlete run circles around his teammates. That his nightly groaners were the product of a paid joke service is testament to his dedication to the craft of communication. Not that he needed the help! Even if his humor was more your Grandmother's speed, there was no denying Frank Deal was intrinsically funny. Whether he was miming his way through a silent forecast or laying a little ham-bone on the extended outlook, dude had timing, style and chops. Which is why I was so surprised the elder Mr. Deal to be shy and thoughtful; eager to please, but reticent to gloat over his impressive legacy. I don't remember everything we covered that evening, but I do recall Frank lamenting local TV's fascination with gadgets. Clearly, he'd rather connect with the viewer through human warmth than shock and awe them with the latest cold technology. I was surprised to catch myself nodding in agreement...

Frank Deal died this morning at the age of 84. For 27 years he was the erudite Clown Prince of the Piedmont's evening airwaves. Upon retirement he threw himself into helping his church and community. Though our contact was sporadic, I'm grateful and proud that I shared air with Mr. Deal, for his generation forged a new way to communicate. Not only that, they did so with integrity, verve and - in Frank Deal's case - a mischievous twinkle that let you know that it was okay to laugh at the nightly news. Sure beats some pseudo-scientist shouting from atop his Doppler...


jhs said...

Frank Deal was great. I grew up watching him and he was by far the best weatherman of that era.

Unknown said...

Is one of his sons Jeff Deal with Orlando's wftv news channel



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