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Anchors Away: Can Nashville’s TV News Professionals Tune out the World and Relax?

NewsChannel 5 anchorman Rhori Johnston, Channel 4 anchorwoman Demetria Kalodimos and WKRN News2 anchorman Bob Mueller / Photos courtesy of WTVF, WSMV & WKRN

They’re in your homes nightly. You tune in to see their friendly but authoritative faces as they deliver the latest news. Chances are you’re in your recliner, shoes nowhere in sight, but it’s not easy to imagine your local anchormen and women similarly supine—after all, news never stops happening, and duty frequently calls.

If nothing else, newscasters do have to eat.

NewsChannel 5 anchorman Rhori Johnston, Channel 4 anchorwoman Demetria Kalodimos and WKRN News2 anchorman Bob Mueller /  Photos courtesy of WTVF, WSMV & WKRN

NewsChannel 5 anchorman Rhori Johnston, Channel 4 anchorwoman Demetria Kalodimos and WKRN News2 anchorman Bob Mueller / Photos courtesy of WTVF, WSMV & WKRN

When we caught up with Channel 5’s Rhori Johnston, he’d just sat down at Burger Republic in the Gulch. Food happens to be his respite, be it exploring local eateries with kids Piper and Seaver, or assuming chef duties himself. “I used to work in the restaurant business, so that’s what got me started tooling around in the kitchen a little bit,” understates Johnston. An experienced cook, he has compiled a 3-ring binder stuffed with recipes that he pulls out “on weekends, when I have time.” He says his usually low-carb menus often involve chicken, adding that “sometimes, making an appetizer or a salad is more fun than the entrée. You can really get creative with them,” he explains, “surprise people with something different.” Johnston may have surprised viewers recently as a guest on Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town,” where he rolled up his sleeves and prepared Blackberry Pork Chops, clearly at ease behind the burners.

Rhori Johnston prepares a meal / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

Rhori Johnston prepares a meal / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

Not surprisingly, the kitchen-bound anchorman says he’s “really gotten into wine the last few years. I find that that’s a lot of fun, talking to people about wines, and pairing them up with foods.” His friend Jimmy Collins, longtime publisher of the Nashville Wine Press, is one of a group of friends who, Johnston says, will “discuss and taste wines together, with Jimmy as ‘the explainer.’”

Cooking, he emphasizes, “is such a stress reliever. I’m ruled by the clock. There are deadline pressures every day. It’s nice to be able to unwind in the kitchen—good glass of wine, friends, some good music—and just have fun preparing a good meal.”

Johnston, who has relatives in Nashville and had become attracted to the city long before moving here, was delighted to accept his current assignment in 2005. “I love the live music scene here,” says Johnston, who often catches shows at 3rd & Lindsley. Since relocating, he says, he’s been finding more balance. “I take my job seriously, and it is a 24-7 job in some respects, but it’s a very good family over there [at Channel 5]. Everybody’s watching out for each other, and we all get the time we need to unplug and de-stress.”

Demetria has been “hands on”  in many of her productions, shooting and editing herself, but she’s most comfortable working with her team on a shared vision / Photo courtesy of Demetria Kalodimos

Demetria has been “hands on” in many of her productions, shooting and editing herself, but she’s most comfortable working with her team on a shared vision / Photo courtesy of Demetria Kalodimos

If you ever see Demetria Kalodimos sitting completely still, it’s likely because she’s at her anchor desk. The popular newswoman, who recently hit the 30-year mark at Channel 4, isn’t otherwise prone to remaining stationary—or avoiding cameras. “The fun thing is, I do video work as a hobby,” says Kalodimos, also a documentary filmmaker. “My husband [Verlon Thompson] is a great musician and singer/songwriter/performer, and sometimes we’ll just shoot a little video for fun, on the weekend. But at the same time,” she adds, “I love to hike, I really love to travel, I’m constantly trying to learn to be a better musician on different instruments. My husband is painstakingly trying to get me to play mandolin, which I’ve really enjoyed,” says Kalodimos, who was a “very driven” flute major in college until broadcasting (initially at radio) proved a more natural path. She and Thompson combine their interest in hiking and travel by taking walking trips abroad. Walking trips, she says, “[are] a wonderful way to travel and not have to skip dessert.”

Demetria Kalodimos with one of her three Cornish Rex cats / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

Demetria Kalodimos with one of her three Cornish Rex cats / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

Having grown up in an artistic family, Kalodimos remains passionate about painting. “When I actually have ample leisure time, there’s nothing more fun than to bring out paintbrushes and paints.” Her Cornish Rex cats seem to agree; they’ve been known to “step in the paint and just take off,” she says—particularly a dearly departed pet named, no kidding, Paintbrush.

To get away, she and her husband go to their “hillbilly beach”—their personal piece of shoreline along the south Harpeth River. “We take an FM radio, float a cooler and sit in our lawn chairs, thigh-high in the water, and hang out all day long.” Pondering her considerable energy, she says, “I hope I know how to relax. My husband thinks I don’t. You know,” she admits, “I don’t think you ever truly unplug from news. Sure, I’ll take a vacation, but if you’ve got this in your blood, the last thing you want to be is totally out of touch. If you’re an innately curious person—and ‘curious’ is a nice way of saying ‘nosy’ [laughs]—then you’re well suited for this kind of work.”

Bob Mueller, who’s been with Channel 2 News nearly 34 years, echoes Kalodimos’ sentiment: “I probably don’t ever really check out, except when my phone battery dies for a couple of hours.” Or, perhaps, when he’s attending a local game. “Sports is a nice release for a couple of hours,” says Mueller, “when you’re not thinking about anything else.” It’s a wonder the busy newsman didn’t end up a sportscaster, given the wide variety of athletically oriented activities he enjoys. Because of his high-profile career, Mueller is as likely to be participating in local events as simply spectating.

Bob Mueller enjoying some pool time / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

Bob Mueller enjoying some pool time / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

“I’m a hockey fan, I go see the Preds a lot. Got to skate with the Predators a couple of times for some charity events,” Mueller mentions. “I go see the Sounds sometimes in the summertime; they let me throw out the first pitch every now and then. I’m a golfaholic,” he continues. “Whenever I can get out and hit the links, that’s my escape. I’m really fortunate, because I get asked to play in a lot of charity events,” says Mueller, whose own fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will tee off for the 18th time this June. “So I get to play on some really nice golf courses at charity events.”

For a more extended getaway, he and his wife hit the beach in Destin, Fla. “It’s really funny, because there’s a lot of people from Middle Tennessee who vacation in Destin. And I probably get recognized more at the beach than I do anywhere,” he says, laughing. When Mueller is at home, he’ll chalk up a cue stick or pick up a book. He recently finished bios of Steve Jobs and Walter Cronkite, and he’s about to crack open “This Town,” a book on Washington life and politics given to him by Channel 2 News co-anchor Samantha Fisher.

While he clearly appreciates his WKRN teammates, Mueller notes that Nashville is “lucky to have three, four really good news organizations.” Citing the lengthy tenures he and many of his TV colleagues have enjoyed here, he says, “We fell in love with Nashville, and made this our home. And, in this business, that’s really rare.”

SIDEBAR

Investigating Phil Williams

NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams / Courtesy of WTVF

NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams / Courtesy of WTVF

Award-winning Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams admits that digging up dastardly details can take a personal toll. “Up until recently, I would say that work was my life…” Upon turning 52, Williams decided to make a change. “Instead of going out and buying a convertible,” he says, “I decided to buy a pair of running shoes.” The purchase, he says, hardly brought immediate gratification. “When I started running, I frankly did not enjoy it.”

The turning point, he says, was signing up for the Country Music Half Marathon. “I am such a goal-oriented person, that I was afraid I would not stick with it unless I had some kind of goal in front of me.”

“Suddenly, the bug had bit me. It was a sense of accomplishment that I had not expected,” says Williams, who began running 15 to 20 miles a week and eating wisely, dropping 30 pounds and shaving 30 minutes off his initial half-marathon time.

By necessity, the self-described homebody says he largely avoids social events. “I have been in situations where it became very obvious that certain people would prefer that I not be there,” he says, chuckling, “because they don’t feel like they can relax.”

Phil Williams, suited up for a run in Granny White Park / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com

Phil Williams, suited up for a run in Granny White Park / Photo by Bill Hobbs www.billhobbs.com


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