Little Boy Lost: John Bolaris Has Some Regrets

A year after once again becoming a tabloid sensation—this time when he was drugged by two glamorous con artists during a wild weekend in Miami—John Bolaris is scared, unemployed, and paying for the sins of his colorful past. But has our favorite aging-playboy weathercaster really grown up?

Former weatherman and aging-playboy John Bolaris in Philadelphia.

John Bolaris is in a bit of a pickle, as John Bolaris often is. He wants to talk, he really does. But talking always seems to get him in trouble, and right now, he’s in deeper than he’s ever been. That’s not a surprise. What is a surprise is when Philadelphia’s favorite weatherman, usually the sunny optimist, gravely intones, “This is the scariest time of my life. I’m in an abyss.”

It’s pouring rain on South Street, and I’m standing with an umbrella in one hand, phone to my ear in the other, Bolaris’s voice cutting through the torrent. He’d texted me that he needed just a minute to chat; after 20, he’s still going. His voice is so familiar, the perky narrator of countless forecasts since his first broadcast here 22 years ago, and for a moment I lose track of what he’s saying. This is John Bolaris, with all that suggests. As a teenager, I once saw him stroll into a movie-rental joint with a stunning blonde, easily a few inches taller than his five-foot-nine frame. Roughly 20 years later, Bolaris is still dating leggy blondes, and is still an object of fascination, though more for the storms in his personal life than for any he’s predicted through the dim glow of television.

Tales about Bolaris have always been ribald, stuff Chaucer would revel in—g­etting tossed across tables, getting pissed on, getting laid at a rate that would make Wilt Chamberlain applaud, leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake. Forecasters make mistakes every week; Bolaris’s has its own name—the “Storm of the Century.” After a few relatively uneventful years, the biggest Bolaris story of all hit in the spring of 2011: In the course of one lost weekend in Miami, he says, he was drugged twice by a pair of sexy Eastern Bloc con artists and charged 43 grand for a few bottles of booze and a cheap painting. What came next was unthinkable, a chain of events that grew like a lab experiment in a sci-fi thriller—begun with noble intentions but run amok, and ending in cinematic destruction.

Today, the Bolaris story is a tragedy. For the first time in his life, he’s jobless, fired from Fox in the aftermath of his South Beach misadventure. He’s a 55-year-old single dad who wakes up in the middle of the night in a sweat, worried about how he’ll pay for college for his now-eight-year-old daughter. He’s become a punch line, a mocking Twitter hashtag, a meme for unthinkable naïveté (“Roofie me once, shame on you … ”).

It’s easy to view Bolaris as a caricature. After all, he’s a guy who tells us whether it will snow tomorrow. For that, he’s made more money—he topped half a million a year at Fox—and had more sex than most of us will see in a lifetime. What’s harder to look at is how he’s sunk this low, and to recognize two essential truths: Philadelphia needs him on television. And what’s holding him back is the same thing that made him a star. It’s not a news director, or the media, or the haters, of which there are many. It’s John Bolaris himself.

“Hey buddy! That’s my cab!”

Today, every day seems to be one of those days for Bolaris. A few months ago, he would have been dressed in a Hugo Boss suit at Fox at this hour, reading charts and checking one of four models—of the computer, not bikini, variety—that he relies on to analyze high-pressure systems and sea-breeze fronts. Now that he’s unemployed, Bolaris is workout-casual in shorts and a t-shirt; only his Prada glasses suggest he hasn’t given up altogether. The plan is to pick up his daughter, Reina Sofia, from second grade across town and have plenty of time for homework and “chillaxing” (Reina’s word, now her dad’s) before a school recital tonight. A simple task, he thought, until he saw his Mercedes SUV had a flat. Now he’s frantic to find a taxi outside his apartment at the St. James, just off Washington Square. The young dude trying to cut in front of him doesn’t stand a chance.

“I’m usually not going to argue with a guy over a cab,” a victorious Bolaris says from the backseat a minute later. “But we’re talking about my girl here.”

There was a time when talk of Bolaris’s “girl” meant the newest babe he’d picked up at work. Now much of his conversation—in
person and on Twitter, where he posts multiple times a day—is about “being the best dad.” He’s on speaking terms with Reina’s mother, former NBC 10 reporter (and his ex-fiancée) Tiffany McElroy, whom he credits for giving him more time with his daughter than she’s required to. Moments before we pick up Reina from school, I ask if he’s prepped her about the strange guy with Daddy who’ll be taking notes. “Nah,” he says. “She’s great with people.”

Bolaris’s forecast couldn’t have been more accurate. As soon as we start walking east on Walnut, his wide-eyed daughter has plenty to tell me. She’s the proud owner of three African tree frogs: Sharky, Mr. Speckles, and Pat. Her hermit crab died and was given a proper ocean funeral. One of her second-grade classmates claims to have a butterfly dog, which has immediately raised her skepticism. “I looked it up in the animal encyclopedia,” she says, her long curly locks bopping around her Hello Kitty backpack. “It’s not true.” A nearby McDonald’s inspires disgust. “Do you know how they make that? I’m not loving it,” she says, playing off the burger chain’s slogan. “You know what I am loving? Whole Foods. My favorite is smoked salmon.”

Bolaris laughs. He seems almost as puzzled as I am that he’s responsible for such a precocious child, a little girl looking up to a man whose track record with women is spotty at best—married once, almost married three more times, and always ending up alone. Later, he’ll tweet, “My daughter is more mature than me.”

When he was a kid, Bolaris was as fascinated by weather as Reina is by animals. Atop the shed in the backyard of his childhood home in Bohemia, Long Island, was a weathervane. He’d drag his younger sister, Paula, to the roof, where he’d watch the sky, a child in the front row of nature’s movie screen. “We always knew what to get him for his birthday,” Paula says. “A barometer, a weather alert radio. He’d draw weather maps—not for school, just on his own. When everyone was running home from a storm, he was on his bike heading toward it.”

His path from storm-chaser to TV weatherman was Forrest Gumpian in its improbability. After community college and meteorological school, Bolaris spent three years with the Air National Guard, briefing pilots on weather conditions. His first on-air gig was at a Long Island cable station, where he quickly caught the eye of a CBS exec; at age 29, and with just a single week of television experience under his belt, Bolaris was named the weekend weather anchor for WCBS in New York. A few months later, he talked himself onto a C-130 bound for Hurricane Hugo. His live dispatches from the storm’s eye landed him on the national news with Dan Rather. “I was living the dream,” he says.

But his personal life was crumbling. His father had died a few years earlier; then, in 1988, five days before Bolaris was to marry New York model Pamela Duswalt, his mother suffered a fatal heart attack. Bolaris and his sister now say Duswalt insisted the nuptials go on. (Attempts to reach Duswalt were unsuccessful.) The wedding had a somber tone, as guests offered congratulations and condolences. “I don’t remember the honeymoon,” Bolaris says. “I was still in shock.”

Two years later, he accepted a job at the network’s affiliate in Bala Cynwyd. “The CBS president said, ‘You need to revitalize the station,’” Bolaris recalls. “‘Do your thing, become a star there.’” It seemed the perfect opportunity to raise his profile—until on the day of his local television debut, his wife announced that she was leaving him and staying in New York. Without his parents or his marriage, Bolaris was adrift. “It was like a whirlwind,” he says. His new career in Philadelphia began in complete chaos, much as it seems to have ended.

As he steps off a train at Penn Station a few days after our outing with Reina, Bolaris looks more like himself—sharply dressed in a Hugo Boss sport coat, crisp white shirt, and designer jeans with detail stitching along the inner thighs. He’s in Manhattan for a business meeting, and on the way couldn’t resist checking the weather on his iPad. (“We call this ‘troughing’ in the East,” he says, pointing at an indecipherable map. “That’s why late-day, there may be storms as the front becomes active.”) With job prospects slim, he’s taken to what he calls “Tweetcasting,” sending out weather alerts to his nearly 9,000 followers. At a friend’s lavish wedding on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Bolaris’s current girlfriend, 33-year-old South Jersey saleswoman Erica Smitheman, found him in a corner, tweeting about a tornado watch back home. “People count on me,” he says.

Bolaris quickly established a reputation for delivering more than forecasts. From his first day at Channel 10—then a CBS affiliate, before it switched to NBC—he was the center of controversy. His arrival in the summer of 1990 marked a sexing-up of the news and signaled the end of popular forecaster Herb Clarke’s career. As a result, Bolaris was initially cold-shouldered by colleagues; someone smeared dog shit on his car in the station parking lot. They warmed up once he began dating anchor Jane Robelot, a cheery South Carolina native who went to church on Sundays. Overnight, they became the city’s Posh and Becks. “That’s really what started the interest in me and the dating scene,” Bolaris says of his second career as gossip-column fodder. “We were the new sparks in town. Eventually it became too much—it was all about us and not the news.” Robelot rebounded with another co-worker, reporter Andrew Glassman, the stepson of Dallas actress Victoria Principal; it was Bolaris’s first public love triangle. One day Principal ran into Bolaris at the station and said her son wanted to move into weather. “He’s already got my girl,” Bolaris told her. “He’s not getting my job.”

Bolaris’s life became a real-life version of One Life to Live, a soap opera on and off the set. Chastised for wearing a turtleneck on-air, he did it again. An unapproved haircut (he briefly tried the unfortunate man-bangs look) caused a furor. Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz wasn’t hired with his bow tie and geek glasses intact; the station styled him that way to create the “anti-Bolaris,” a nerdy counterpoint to their weatherhunk. And Bolaris kept on dating: aspiring actresses, beauty queens, co-workers, interns, Center City scenesters, Jersey Shore hookups, and a few notable names—
fashion designer Nicole Miller; Bernie P­arent’s daughter Kim.
Just as Sinatra had Ava and Mia, Bolaris had two great loves. The first was Julie Cohen, a tall, blond Merion native and TV/film producer based in Paris who was about 15 years his junior. Bolaris bought a ring, and the station wanted to film the proposal. When he called in, heartbroken, after Cohen turned him down to stay in France, he was told to report to work anyway. After the newscast, Bolaris took refuge at the house of Flyer Chris Therien, getting drunk and crashing on his couch.

While Bolaris struggled with the rejection, he invited his friend Lauren Hart, daughter of legendary Flyers announcer Gene Hart, to join him on a trip to Anguilla he’d planned to take with Cohen. Romance blossomed. They were another high-wattage couple, but their engagement didn’t stick. “She’s an unbelievable spirit,” Bolaris says. “Looking back, I can probably say it was more of a rebound. I felt secure with her. We never really went out. We’d stay in our house in Bryn Mawr. She wasn’t comfortable with the attention when we’d go out.”

In hindsight, it seems Hart had the right idea. The more attention Bolaris receives, the worse things usually get. “There’s a lot of jealousy around him,” says WMMR DJ and longtime friend Matt Cord. “Wherever he goes, he’s ‘John Bolaris.’ He’s got a target on his back.” At the Rock ’N Chair in Avalon, a stranger relieved himself on Bolaris’s sandals and said, “It’s raining.” At the Parx Casino in Bensalem, another prankster dislocated Bolaris’s finger with an intentionally nasty handshake. Trouble followed him closer to home as well: One night he was sent flying across a table at Denim; on another, he was in a scuffle at an Old City lounge. Bolaris didn’t plant those stories in the papers, but he never shied away from the press. “No one ever told me not to talk,” he says. “I think they were fine with it because the ratings were climbing.”

The gossip was a whisper compared to the Storm of the Century, the snowfall that Bolaris—and, to be fair, virtually every other forecaster—predicted would blanket the East Coast in March 2001. After a weekend of hype fueled by Bolaris’s news director, Steve Schwaid, the flakes never fell. A weather-frenzied public heaped blame on the forecaster. “I call it ‘The Great Disappointment,’” he says, noting that people still ask him about it. “It was professional hell.”

Bolaris left town a couple years later for New York, but the spotlight in the nation’s biggest television market didn’t shine as brightly as it had in Philadelphia. (His hanging with Eric Lindros and hooking up with one of the Real Housewives of New York City never made the Gotham papers.) After about a year of dating Tiffany McElroy, Bolaris proposed for the fourth time, and this time the fiancée was also expecting. Friends say they saw a change in him after Reina was born in 2004. The bachelor seemed ready to settle down, despite splitting from McElroy the next year. He returned to Center City in 2008 to work at Fox, and on the surface seemed like a different man—balancing work with being a dad, living east of Broad, away from the shine of Rittenhouse nightlife. Behind the scenes, though, it was more of the same—late nights, boozy outings in Avalon, dirty dancing with co-workers. The Peter Pan of local TV news couldn’t grow up.

Bolaris’s arrested development didn’t affect his job until March 2010, when he flew to South Beach for the weekend. When his usual South Beach wingman, CBS anchorman Chris Wragge, who’d married a Playboy Playmate of the Year and had also dated Alycia Lane, bailed, Bolaris pressed on alone, looking for a good time on a Friday night. It arrived in the form of Marina Turcina and Anna Kilimatova, two shapely blue-eyed brunettes claiming to be from Estonia who approached him at the bar at the fashionable Delano Hotel. He bought them wine, and after they all headed outside to the pool bar, one of them suggested something stronger. “Do shot,” she said in a heavy accent. They ordered something clear and sweet-tasting. It wasn’t the first time Bolaris got in trouble after opening his mouth, but it would end up being the worst.

What followed seems impossible, even by Bolaris standards. That’s the moment he thinks he was roofied, because the rest of the night is a blur. He’d later tell the FBI that he remembered someone helping him sign something three times. He says he woke up the next day in his hotel room with a strange painting of a woman’s face and without his Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses. He found a voicemail from the girls saying they had his shades and would gladly return them. He met them at the Delano pool bar again, had a glass of wine, and wound up at a phony bar—run by a ring of Eastern European con artists—and, he says, drugged again. Days later, when an American Express investigator told him he was on the hook for 12 charges totaling $43,712.25, it was like a second kick to the balls—first he’s conned, then his lender sides with the crooks. Bolaris agreed to help Miami police and the feds bust the crime ring. He wanted revenge, to replace his image as a pathetic victim with that of the hero who took down the bad guys. So Bolaris told his story. And that’s when everything really fell apart.

Tales of the South Beach debacle didn’t surface for more than a year, until May 18, 2011, when the Inquirer ran a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gossip item about a lawsuit that John Bolaris had filed against AmEx. The night before, Bolaris had been a celebrity waiter at Citizens Bank Park for pitcher Jamie Moyer’s charity dinner and ran into an old friend, Larry Platt, then the editor of the Philadelphia Daily News. Platt told Bolaris he should speak to the DN’s crime reporter, tell his side of the tale. Bolaris envisioned a hard-hitting feature highlighting his courage in helping the FBI prosecute the Mob. When he opened his door the next morning at the St. James, what he got instead was a classic Daily News cover story, his grinning mug photoshopped into a Hawaiian shirt with the headline: “Russians, Roofies and a 43-Grand Rip-Off: Like the Movie, John Bolaris Is Nursing a Real-Life … HANGOVER!” The newspaper’s art department even turned his exploits into a comic strip.

That afternoon, Bolaris met with his general manager, Patrick Paolini, who called him “classless,” according to a source close to Bolaris. As part of his agreement to leave Fox last December, Bolaris is prohibited from discussing the station for two years, but it was no secret that Bolaris butted heads with Paolini, and that over the past few years, weather had taken a backseat to a new op­inionated-talking-head format that mimicked Fox’s national programming. Feeling marginalized, Bolaris made waves in the spring of 2011 when he pushed to interview his old pal Lenny Dykstra, who was facing jail time in California. He was firmly rebuffed. Bolaris became a very expensive squeaky wheel, with a salary just north of $500,000.

Last fall, Bolaris and Fox learned that Playboy had assigned a story about him and the reported Russian roofies ring. The writer, Pat Jordan, is a magazine industry heavy hitter, known for his incisive profiles. (His story on Steve Carlton for this magazine in 1994 depicted the Phillies ace as a borderline whack job who theorized that AIDS was created in a lab to “get rid of gays and blacks” and that the world is run, in part, by “12 Jewish bankers meeting in Switzerland.” Carlton later denied making the comments.) Jordan is a throwback to the early days of New Journalism, a guy who pushes the limits of narrative nonfiction. “Like most journalists, he knows that the best material comes when you close the notebook,” says a colleague. “Some subjects weren’t happy with him, but I think that’s because he reveals people.”

The brass at Fox, both here and in New York, forbade Bolaris to speak to Jordan except through his attorney. At the time, Bolaris’s primary counsel was his pal Chuck Peruto, whom he first met when he tried to pick up Peruto’s girlfriend in the ’90s. What’s indisputable is that Jordan sat down with Peruto, his law partner Richard DeSipio, and Bolaris for an interview. Peruto was quoted—regrettably, in Bolaris’s eyes—calling the AmEx investigator, Stephanie Barkey, a “clown” who could “suck my dick.” More damning for Bolaris was a long passage in which Jordan hung with him at Serafina near Rittenhouse Square. In the scene, Bolaris seems chatty and eager to live up to the magazine’s name—fending off advances from a 24-year-old hostess, flipping through naked photos texted by a “cute blonde,” and explaining the “regular blue-collar things” he likes to do with live-in girlfriend Smitheman (herself a onetime Playboy model), like “watch football naked.”

Bolaris read Jordan’s story on a Tuesday night in December and was shell-shocked. He contends he never sat down with Jordan at Serafina, saying that after the interview at Peruto’s office, he walked back toward the Square with Jordan and had a 10-m­inute conversation on the street before going elsewhere for dinner. He says some quotes, such as the naked football line, were made up (Smitheman swears they’ve never watched sports in the buff), and that others were pulled from previous stories or from people secondhand.

Pat Jordan tells a different story. “I interviewed John Bolaris three times when I was there,” he tells me by phone from his home in South Carolina. “Once in his lawyer’s office for about three hours, once in Serafina for about three hours, and a second time at Serafina for about two hours.” Peruto wasn’t at the Serafina interviews, but confirms Jordan’s version as consistent with what the writer (though not Bolaris himself) told him and DeSipio had taken place.

It wouldn’t be the first time Bolaris stretched the truth with the media. Years ago, when then-Daily News gossip columnist Stu Bykofsky called to confirm that Bolaris was dating Robelot, Bolaris lied, and Bykofsky called him out on it. Bolaris had also been fudging his age; Bykofsky tracked down mortgage records that proved Bolaris was two years older than he’d claimed. In a 20/20 report about the Miami scam, anchor Chris Cuomo pointed out that Bolaris “never had any sexual interest in the girls.” Bolaris later admitted to me that of course he was thinking about getting laid.

Bolaris now says he was simply covering for Robelot, and that his comment to Cuomo was part of a clarification that the Russians weren’t hookers. As for Jordan: “He’s lying through his teeth,” Bolaris insists. “He misquoted me. He made up stuff and got it from other sources and other articles. He said, ‘I need to convince my editor that I’m hanging with you.’ I’d never bury myself in my own city.”

The station had clearly had enough of its loose-cannon weatherman. The day after the Playboy story hit, Bolaris reported to work and was told to go home, two days before Christmas. In their agreement, Fox and Bolaris agreed to “part ways.” But legalese aside, Bolaris was fired.

John Bolaris was never an overt fame-seeker, but when he found it, celebrity became as much a part of him as his giddy excitement over tornado warnings. But as Bykofsky says, “Even when I caught him lying, I didn’t hate him. John’s a little loopy, but he’s likeable, and like a lot of people on television, he’s needy. What he did was dumb, but not criminal.”

I’m sitting with Bolaris and a confidant of his we’ll call the Voice of Reason inside a sleek office building on a warm spring afternoon. (“Just an isolated risk of a thunderstorm,” Bolaris assured me earlier.) They’re both trying to frame Bolaris as the hero who’s been done dirty. What’s been buried in all the bad press and social-media howling, they say, is that two of the 17 defendants in the so-called Russians-and-roofies case pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to testify against the others in October. Bolaris, who plans to take the stand, also won a six-figure settlement from AmEx.

That’s two significant victories. But as Bolaris rubs his temples beneath his designer eyeglasses, the weight of what he’s lost is overwhelming—his job, and the likelihood that another station in Philadelphia or New York will hire him while he’s still radioactive. His daughter is too bright to miss what’s going on. She knows Daddy’s in trouble, that the “bad magazine” hurt him. McElroy has moved back to Philadelphia with her new husband; Bolaris’s little girl now lives mere blocks away from him, just when it looks like he might have to leave. “I never felt fearful of anything,” Bolaris told me earlier. “It’s a sense of immortality, I guess. I feel like I can say anything because I’m honest and I’ve been here for so long and it won’t come back to haunt me.” His dreams imply otherwise, particularly the one where he’s walking along a riverbank. The ground gives way, and he slides down into the rushing water. Looking up, he sees his childhood friends from Long Island along the embankment and another figure, maybe a woman, featureless. They can’t save him from being swept away.

Bolaris still tries to maintain a sense of humor. One of his favorite stories is how the Voice, during a particularly trying time, tried to put his pain in perspective during a phone call.

“Are you squeezing your balls?” asked the Voice.

“What?” Bolaris replied.

“Are you squeezing your balls?”

“What? No.”

“Squeeze your balls. Go ahead.”

“Okay,” Bolaris said. “I’m squeezing my balls.”

“Now let them go. Don’t you feel better?”

“Yes. I feel better.”

Alternative stress-relief techniques aside, Bolaris says he’s a changed man, that he needs to represent a station more professionally and understands he’s “not the exception to the rule.” I ask him about his Twitter account, which reads like the musings of a high-school kid—responding to pranksters with “Go away hater … you’re gone loser” and giving shout-outs to celebrities like Katie Couric and Jerry Seinfeld and Charlie Sheen who never shout back. Has he considered a total Bolaris communications blackout until he gets a new job?

“No Twitter?” he asks. “No anything?”

“You’re pretty active,” I say.

“But things that are relevant, in the news. Fragging. Y’know, what it does for the environment.”

“Fracking.”

“Yes.”

The Voice of Reason chimes in. “Would it be better if he went silent for a while? Maybe.”

“Would it be?” says Bolaris, as his voice climbs to a Mickey Mouse pitch. “If I’m not myself?”

“You’re a lightning rod,” the Voice says. Bolaris sighs, resigned to the obvious truth laid before him.

“Are you addicted to Twitter?” the Voice asks. “Or could you go off it?”

Bolaris is silent for a moment, then stutters, unable to answer the question.

“If you had a job and they said, ‘Be the weatherman. Don’t be Mr. Accessible.’”

Of course!” he squeaks. “Of course! If they said to me, one tweet, one thing, you’re fired—I’d sign it. It’s very scary in my
life, having my little girl, being frightened about … ”

Bolaris takes a deep breath. His eyes glisten.

“ … not being able to take care of things. I try to be positive, try to be the bright light. Tell my daughter, ‘You never need to worry about it, Reina.’ But inside, I deeply worry.”

Bolaris seems on the verge of a breakthrough. He’s called and texted me day and night, more than anyone I’ve ever written about; it’s partly his neuroses, but also because he sees this story as his last chance to scrub himself clean and revive his career. Local TV news isn’t kind to aging heartthrobs. He can’t afford to make mistakes anymore, personally or professionally. What he’s only beginning to understand—slowly, begrudgingly—is that the Russians and the media didn’t bury him: They simply handed him the shovel. In his naïveté, his openness, his determination to somehow simultaneously be John from Long Island and John Bolaris, weatherman and ladies’ man, he did the digging himself.

The Voice of Reason says something Bolaris seems never to have considered: “Isn’t it sad in retrospect, if you could do it over, how much better off you would have been eating the 43 grand?” In that alternate reality, he’d only be “JB” in the federal case. No Inquirer blurb, no Daily News dog-and-pony show, no Playboy. This story, too, would likely disappear.

“Yeah,” he says, recognizing, perhaps for the first time, his own role in The John Bolaris Show. “I could have made it go away.”

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.

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