Former weatherman Fritz Coleman and Santa Barbara resident Louise Palanker enjoy interviewing everyone from Henry Winkler to ‘Brady Bunch’ star Christopher Knight
Retired KNBC-TV weather reporter Fritz Coleman loves his new creative freedom.
“I can talk about politics, which I couldn’t talk about before. I couldn’t do social media unless it involved cumulus clouds or an onshore breeze,” Mr. Coleman told the News-Press.
Today he’s free to talk about anything he likes during the Media Path Podcast. He co-hosts it with Santa Barbara resident Louise Palanker, a veteran radio producer and documentarian.
They started the podcast two years ago, just after the pandemic started, and record their episodes at Ms. Palanker’s studio at her other home in Sherman Oaks. The Media Path Podcast airs at mediapathpodcast.com, and a video version streams on YouTube.
So far, Mr. Coleman and Ms. Palanker have co-hosted more than 100 episodes, and they said they typically get a couple thousand or so listeners for each one.
“It’s one hour long. If it’s really fun, it can go on for longer,” Mr. Coleman said. “We have no time constraints.”
Each program features the hosts discussing cultural events and making their recommendations about movies, TV/streaming shows and books.
They’ve also interviewed a variety of well-known guests, usually via Zoom.
“We’re sitting at a radio desk with a professional setup and looking at a monitor, showing the guest,” Ms. Palanker told the News-Press as Mr. Coleman listened.
Mr. Coleman, who was a DJ before he became a weatherman, said he enjoyed interviewing singer John Sebastian from the Lovin’ Spoonful, known for his song “Daydream,” and Henry Winkler, forever known for playing The Fonz on ABC’s “Happy Days” (1974-84).
“He (Mr. Winkler) is the single, nicest human being being you’ve ever talked to,” Mr. Coleman said. “I love super talented people who are comfortable in their own skin and talk to you on your level.”
They interviewed another “Happy Days” star, Anson Williams, who last fall lost a close mayoral race in Ojai.
“He was a good guy,” Mr. Coleman said, recalling the interview.
A guest who surprised Mr. Coleman was Christopher Knight, who played Peter on ABC’s “The Brady Bunch” (1969-74).
“He’s a good example of why it’s fun to have former stars from television shows we grew up with,” Mr. Coleman said. “Christopher Knight is a computer geek who started a computer company. And he’s well-versed about everything.
“It’s really a cool surprise to talk to someone you (previously) perceived in one way. You find there’s this whole three-dimensional human being.”
Mr. Coleman and Ms. Palanker also interviewed Montecito singer Peter Noone, best known for his career with the British rock band Herman’s Hermits and songs such as “I’m Henry VIII I Am,” “There’s A Kind of Hush” and “I’m Into Something Good.”
“That was one of the most entertaining interviews,” Mr. Coleman said.
The podcast hosts also have talked with singer Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers.
Mr. Medley also is known for singing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” with Jennifer Warnes on the soundtrack of the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.”
And, Mr. Coleman noted, “We had the team of guys who wrote the music for ‘Dirty Dancing.’ ”
Ms. Palanker said they got to interview Grammy-winning composer Diane Warren, who worked in the same building as Ms. Palanker,
“Her office was above me. You could hear her composing,” Ms. Palanker said.
“One day, we’re interviewing (singer) Michael Bolton. He said, ‘You should meet my friend; she’s in your building. You guys would get along. You’re both crazy.’ ”
Ms. Palanker took Mr. Bolton’s advice, connected with Ms. Warren and had her on their podcast.
“Now she calls me on the speaker phone to play songs for me,” Ms. Palanker said.
She also said her favorites from their 100-plus guests include TV and movie star Joyce Bulifant (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Airplane!”), whose five husbands included “Hawaii Five-O” star James MacArthur and “Bewitched” producer William Asher.
“She had so many stories,” Ms. Palanker said. “Each of her husbands was a disaster until she found the love of her life.” (Her fifth husband was TV and movie actor Roger Perry, and Ms. Bulifant and Mr. Perry remained married right up to his death in 2018.)
Mr. Coleman noted he and Ms. Palanker do their homework before interviews, which means, for example, reading an author’s book before interviewing the writer.
“As soon as they realize you’re prepared, they’re looser. They’re more forthcoming,” Mr. Coleman said. “It turns out to be wonderful. We’re not asking the typical red carpet questions.”
Mr. Coleman said they’ve enjoyed talking to guests such as U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, who represents the district where the former weatherman lives. During the interview, Rep. Schiff was in the Capitol.
“We heard him being called down to the floor to vote,” Ms. Palanker said.
Ms. Palanker and Mr. Coleman feel right at home on their podcast.
“I spent a lot of my career in syndicated radio, when radio was king,” Ms. Palanker said.
She said the Media Path Podcast is her fifth podcast.
Mr. Coleman grew up in the radio business, working as a DJ at Top 40 stations in Buffalo, Syracuse and Philadelphia. That led him to his career as a standup comedian, which, in turn, set the stage for his long career at KNBC-TV (based originally in Burbank and now located at Universal Studios).
“I grew up in the radio business, working as a DJ at Top 40 stations in Buffalo, Syracuse and Philadelphia,” Mr. Coleman said.
“As part of your job as a DJ, you would be invited to be an emcee at a club or to spin records. It was a way of getting your name out there,” he said. “My job was working at a jazz club in Buffalo, and jazz musicians are very much on their own schedule. Even though the show is advertised to start at 8 o’clock, they would show up at 8:15 or 8:20.
“I began to write jokes to fill the time,” Mr. Coleman said. “I started getting great reactions (from the audiences) to the jokes, so I became the opening comedian for these jazz acts.”
In 1980, Mr. Coleman came to Los Angeles and focused on a career in comedy.
“I was woefully underprepared in L.A. I came out here too early,” Mr. Coleman said. “I was doing open mikes and became a regular performer at the Comedy Store (in West Hollywood).”
He was telling an audience self-deprecating anecdote about doing the weather in the Navy and not knowing anything about weather. A KNBC producer in the audience approached him afterward and asked him, “Do you have any desire to come to Channel 4 and do some vacation relief weather and on the weekends, filling in?”
At the time, Mr. Coleman was only making $45 a night at the Comedy Store.
“I told him, ‘When do you need me to start?’”
Mr. Coleman went from being the relief weather reporter to the permanent one and retired in 2020 — two weeks shy of his 40th anniversary with KNBC.
“I loved my job. I never had as much fun with anything that requires a microphone,” Mr. Coleman said.
Today in addition to the podcast, Mr. Coleman performs standup comedy, everywhere from Santa Barbara to Simi Valley and Sherman Oaks. “I usually advertise on my Facebook page. I try to do one, two or three shows a week.”
And his and Ms. Palanker’s podcast continues to grow in popularity.
“We’re starting to get listeners in other countries such as the Netherlands and Australia,” Mr. Coleman said.
Added Ms. Palanker, “We’re huge in Sweden.”