The clouds give way to sunshine over Fairmount Park on a warm June morning, and Bolaris is sucking wind. He’s just crossed the finish line at the fourth annual 5K run for Badges of Honor, a charity he launched after police officer John Pawlowski was murdered in 2009. Attendance was down this year, partly because planning was delayed, since the city assumed the event was, like Bolaris, on hiatus. He sent an email to all his fellow weatherfolks in local TV, asking them to come support the cause. Only 6 ABC’s Cecily Tynan responded. Bolaris has donated his time to a number of good deeds over the years, but the taint of self-promotion follows him everywhere. Bolaris gives Tynan a hug and thanks her for showing.
“They say I’m like poison now,” he says of the local TV news gossip mill.
“Oh boy,” says Tynan, contemplating the cops and firemen nearby and sweetly steering the focus elsewhere. “The run is not about you! It’s about them!”
They make small talk, and Tynan meets Reina, who’s been far more interested in turning her water bottle into a habitat for bugs than in the race. Smitheman is here, too. Bolaris says he’s never felt love for anyone like he has for Smitheman, his rock throughout the Miami ordeal. “I will go anywhere with him,” Smitheman tells me.
At the press conference for Badges of Honor, Mayor Nutter thanked Bolaris and said, “This man should be gainfully employed.” The grand irony is that Fox—a news organization built on controversy, led by two men accused of obstructing justice and phone hacking—fired Bolaris for what was, in effect, conduct unbecoming a guy who predicts the weather.
We’ve all played a role in this tragedy, though, in the way we fetishize our local celebrities and luxuriate in their downfall, a one-stoplight town turning hillbillies into Hollywood stars because there’s no one else to look up to, lust over and loathe. Bolaris does more than remind us we’ll need an umbrella tomorrow. He’s a window into a glamorous life we’ll never lead, and reassurance that despite the perks of his fame, we’re glad we’re not him.
Will Bolaris find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time again? It’s almost guaranteed. Will he talk or tweet about it? Maybe not, now that the stakes—his livelihood, his daughter—are higher than he ever imagined they would be. But if the network suits have a pulse, they should realize that’s why we watch him. That’s why the Daily News put him on its cover. That’s why Playboy devoted big space to his story, and 20/20 told it yet again, in prime time during sweeps. That’s why I’m writing this, and you’re reading it. Because when John Bolaris is back on television, the five-day forecast will only be part of the reason we’re tuning in.