Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from August 17, 2009

Rocks and Bonds

I miss Bill Bonds.

There---I said it. So sue me.

Bonds, the old channel 7 newscaster, was often more the news than the stuff he was reporting.

His was a time when we were fortunate to have several ne'er-do-wells on the air in Detroit, all at the same time.

There was Bonds, of course, and his ham-handed way of delivering news---that is, when they were able to sober him up enough to make it before the cameras for the 11:00, after Billy drank dinner following the 6:00.

There was "Acid" Al Ackerman, the sportscaster, whose wrath was felt by many an athlete and coach in this town. An interview with Ackerman was often prickly and always entertaining.

There was Sonny Eliot, the goofball weather man who made the news a "must see" at 11:21, so you could listen to pun after pun and watch as Sonny would pluck the Keweenaw Peninsula from the Michigan map he chalked up and tweak it. Or listen to him say things like, "It's going to be cloudy and windy tomorrow, or 'clindy'," as Sonny would combine the two words, vertically, with his ever-present stick of chalk.

You had the husband and wife team of John Kelly and Marilyn Turner, whose act grew too big for the news, so channel 7 gave them their own show, "Kelly and Company," in the mornings. I always wondered if Marilyn fought the exclusion of her last name.

I might be one of the few people alive who knows that John and Marilyn had themselves a son, Dean, who played several years in the NHL and was known as a "tough guy", or "enforcer" in his day. Dean used his mother's last name while he fought his way through the league.

There was the pixie-ish traffic and weather girl, Jo Jo Shutty-MacGregor, who was married to radio newsman Byron MacGregor. Jo Jo was a tiny thing and was one of the first to give us traffic reports from a helicopter.

But Bill Bonds was the epicenter of all this garish, in-your-face news reporting style that dominated the 1970s and some of the 1980s.

Billy Bonds, circa nowadays

How else to describe it, when Billy, loaded one night, challenged Detroit Mayor Coleman Young to a fistfight?

Coleman wasn't on the air with Billy at the time, and can you imagine if he had been? Might have been off the charts.

Bonds owned Detroit television for about a decade or so. The 11:00 news on channel 7 was something to behold on many nights, if only to see Billy deliver the stories with that overly dramatic style that could make even the most innocuous news item seem like a heart-stopping bulletin.

He was one of those guys you tuned in to, even if you didn't care for him.

There's a classic moment you might still be able to find on YouTube of Bonds pissing off Utah Senator Orrin Hatch so badly that Orrin ripped off his mike and earpiece and stormed off, leaving Bonds alone with an empty camera shot of the Capitol Building.

A bootlegged copy still exists on YouTube of Bonds losing his mind during a pre-taped, solo news break, spewing expletives and mocking co-anchorwoman Doris Biscoe, one of the classiest ladies ever to appear on Detroit TV. Doris was black, and Billy did a poor and distasteful impression of her during his outburst.

I had been shown that outburst about 15 years ago, it having been pirated by a former channel 7 engineer that I knew, who played it for me only after swearing myself to secrecy about who was showing it to me.

Now it's available to everyone in the world, just about.

Oh, and the engineer's name was Bob Daniels, who no longer has to fear for his job.

Bonds took to doing Gardner-White commercials and is now doing the occasional pitch for the Bernstein Law Offices. Even those spots have been filled with Bonds-generated drama. Sometimes it seems that the more Billy tries to be sincere, he comes off as just the opposite.

I used to work for a time at Art Van Furniture, as a manager, and I remember some of the salesmen telling me of their time working at the AVF location on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak.

Seems there was a bar nearby and occasionally Bonds could be seen being led out of there and into a limousine, where he was given pure oxygen and prepped for the 11:00 newscast.

True? I wouldn't bet against it.

I'm not telling tales out of school because if this is the first you're reading that Billy was a drunk, then how did you climb out from under that rock and get access to the Internet?

Bill Bonds, a Detroit classic. A man whose drinking and toupee often overshadowed the real news of the day.

Not that overshadowing the news is necessarily a bad thing, considering how depressing everything is nowadays!


  1. Greg,

    Years ago, I listened to Bill Bonds being interviewed by J.P. McCarthy. J.P. wanted to know why Bonds was considered to be the King of the news in Detroit.

    Bonds indicated that he was the "King" because, before he ever entered the newsroom each day (usually in the early afternoon), he already knew more about the news than eveybody else combined. He further explained that he was not bragging. Rather, he was just stating the facts.

    His theory was that, while others were shopping or sleeping, he was reading every paper that he could find, reading books, watching the news on TV and listening on the radio, and talking to perople (remember, these were the days before the Internet!). As such, when he entered the newsroom, he was the "King"!



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