Okay, Wendy Rieger is waay blonder than she was as a rookie TV reporter. “I’ve been out in the sun a lot more,” the Channel 4 anchor explained to her co-workers Wednesday.
Ha! Rieger started her television career as a “mousy dishwater blonde” because no one told the former radio journalist to color it. Soon enough, she was sporting the rich golden locks of other TV glamour girls.
Other than that, Rieger hasn’t changed much in her 25 years at the station. There was a short on-air tribute to mark the occasion Wednesday; on Thursday — her actual anniversary at NBC4 — she was travelling to Norfolk for a story on the USS Arlington and celebrating Rieger-style.
“I’m not wearing any makeup or washing my hair today,” she told us by phone. “I’m giving my whole body a break. And my cameraman is buying me a drink tonight.”
The Virginia native, 56, started in 1988 and quickly developed a loyal fan base with her free-wheeling personality and ability to give the impression that she’s having a ball. She’s been the 5 p.m. anchor for 11 years, but gained a cult following with some legendary reports in the field — notably last fall’s coverage from Rehoboth Beach of Hurricane Sandy. Huddled next to the hotel, she finished one live shot with, “Note to self: Waterproof mascara.” Later, she explained her love-hate relationship with the storm: “Just when it starts getting me all excited and I start thinking it’s a wonder to behold, then it just does this” — she pointed to the tiny waves — “it goes all flat. . .kinda like my dating life.”
The boyfriend thing has been a running gag for the past two-plus decades. Lots of dates, no Mr. Right. Her last relationship with an Irish doctor lasted five years; nothing serious since they broke up. “My love life has really been flat for three years,” she said with a laugh. “But I have my career.”
That includes her on-air family at NBC4. “Being there a long time is the norm. We all go way back; we’re a loose group of people.” There’s lots of joking around — in January, Rieger inadvertently dropped an expletive coming back from a commercial break. She apologized on air and received her first-ever official reprimand: “There’s a letter in my file.”
Not that she’s planning on changing much at this point in her career. “The one thing I tell new people: ‘You’ve got to be yourself.’”
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