Roger Grimsby was an orphan who was born in Butte, Montana and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, by a Lutheran minister. After graduating from Denfeld High School in 1946, he attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, before studying history at Columbia University in New York. Grimsby was a U.S. Army veteran who was stationed in Germany before serving in the Korean War. It was during his stint in the Army that the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) sparked his interest in news broadcasting. Grimsby returned to his native Duluth, Minnesota, where he began his anchoring career in 1954, serving as an announcer for WEBC Radio. Shortly thereafter, he decided to switch to the growing medium of television, working as a correspondent and news director at various television stations around Minnesota and Wisconsin, including WEAU-TV Eau Claire, WISC-TV Madison, and WXIX-TV (now WVTV) Milwaukee. He then spent two years (1959–1961) at KMOX (now KMOV) in St. Louis, before becoming the anchor and news director at ABC-owned KGO-TV in San Francisco, in 1961. He was then hired away by New York City’s WABC-TV in 1968, where he was co-anchor on Eyewitness News alongside Tom Dunn from 1968 through 1970, and then Bill Beutel from 1970 to 1986. He won six Emmy Awards at WABC-TV before he left that station in 1986 to join WNBC-TV. After two years at WNBC, he relocated to San Diego where he was anchor for KUSI news, before going into semi-retirement in 1990.
Grimsby’s departure from WABC was a rather acrimonious one. After Grimsby left in 1986 (in an incident recounted by several of his colleagues, including Tom Snyder who reported the incident on The Late Late Show soon after Grimsby’s death), ABC decided to retaliate by buying a building across from WABC’s Lincoln Square studios where three bars Grimsby often frequented stood and evicting the bar owners from the building. For some time while anchoring at WABC, Grimsby also moonlighted as a reporter for the ABC Radio Network. During this time, Grimsby would serve as a newsreader for the network’s five-minute national news updates in the 3:00 PM hour every afternoon, choosing which stories he would report and writing the reports himself. Grimsby, in a 1982 interview with then-colleague John Slattery, called it “one of the best kept secrets in broadcasting.” (Outtakes from Slattery’s report later aired as part of Tom Snyder’s tribute to Grimsby following his death.) Grimsby was known for beginning his broadcasts with the phrase “Good evening, I’m Roger Grimsby; here[a] now the news,” and ending them with the phrase “Hoping your news is good news, I’m Roger Grimsby.” Chevy Chase later parodied the opening line on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment with his catchphrase, “Good evening, I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.”
Grimsby could be rather funny, himself. His humor was off-the-cuff, often with the typical journalist’s sarcastic tone. One famous remark, widely circulated on an industry outtake reel, came after a studio wide-shot caught colleague Mara Wolynski using an extended middle finger as she finished an argument with someone off-screen before her story was introduced on the 5 o’clock edition. At the end of the 6 o’clock edition, Grimsby, with a straight face, looked into the camera and quipped, “Well . . . as Mara Wolynski would say — ‘We’re number one.'” He frequently punctuated his banter with other Eyewitness News team members with his humor. One evening he read a story about the proliferation of dog feces around Manhattan, referring to it as a “veritable minefield”, then transferred the broadcast to sportscaster Howard Cosell who questioned with “a veritable minefield, Roger”, to which Grimsby replied (without skipping a beat): “Don’t step in it Howard.” Or the time his co-anchor, Bill Beutel, reported a story about a lawsuit in California alleging that a girl had become a nymphomaniac after falling from a San Francisco streetcar. Grimsby chimed in with “Imagine if she had fallen from a train!” As part of the same 1982 piece featured after he died, when asked about embarrassing moments on air, Grimsby said once that he had mispronounced “count”.
Grimsby was not immune to foul ups himself though. In one example from the early 1980s, which has since made the rounds on YouTube, Grimsby and some of the others started laughing after he started and opened the newscast with, “We are live…hoping your news is good news, I wanna quit now!”. He and the rest of the team laughed again as he tried to report on a tuberculosis outbreak. After nearly a minute Grimsby collected himself, said “okay, composure,” and finally stopped laughing. His on-air feuds with fellow “Eyewitness News” team members, including Howard Cosell, Geraldo Rivera and gossip columnist Rona Barrett (whom he openly called “Rona Rooter”) were legendary. He once segued into a Barrett report after a story about garbage by saying “Speaking of Garbage.” He often appeared in films, usually playing himself as an anchorman, in such movies as Bananas, The Exterminator, Ghostbusters, Turk 182, and Nothing but Trouble. Roger Grimsby died on June 23, 1995, in New York City of lung cancer, at the age of 66.
- September, 23, 1928
- Butte, Montana
- June, 23, 1995
- New York, New York
Cause of Death
- lung cancer