John Bolaris Belongs in Philadelphia

A sad exit can't be all that's left for this city and this weatherman.

For John Bolaris, even something as simple as taking the train to New York inevitably takes a dramatic turn. Back in the spring, I joined him for his trip and when we arrived in Manhattan, all was well. We had a friendly interview on the way. Bolaris showed me some forecast charts on his iPad. He laughed about the time he had an awkward back spasm while taping a promo for the Flyers. As we rode up the escalator into the bowels of Penn Station, we noticed a middle-aged fellow in front of us. He looked frail and shaky. As we talked, the man’s legs gave way and he fell backward into the arms of Bolaris, who caught him and somehow stayed on his own feet. If not for the meteorologist’s quick save, that unsteady commuter would have taken a very painful head-over-heels spill.

That’s life for Bolaris these days—drama on a daily basis, and unfortunately for him, he’s usually been the one tumbling down. My profile of Bolaris in the September issue of Philly Mag (read “Little Boy Lost: John Bolaris Has Some Regrets” here) began with a few phone conversations late last year. His Russians-and-roofies escapade in Miami had already made front-page news, but he still had his job at Fox. He told me Playboy was working on a story about the scam he was caught up in, his role in helping the Feds nab the con artists, and the $43,712.25 in bogus charges that American Express still expected him to pay. That Bolaris was a different guy than the one I hung out with over the past few months, in the wake of the Playboy expose that led to his firing. Now, jobless and leaving Philadelphia—and his eight-year-old daughter—to find work, he’s still in a dark place. On Twitter this week, he wrote a cryptic, teary “goodye” that left some friends worried about his health:

I’m so depressed thatI can’t do what I love to do…Hope everyone remembers me not for my free spirited life style, but for my love of what I do…feel fortunate to live and experience your love&hate, what it’s all about …

After speaking with Bolaris yesterday, I’m happy to report he’s not on suicide watch. He also hasn’t completely closed the door to finding a job here, though by my assessment, it’s a long-shot: Fox and Action News won’t touch him, and CBS 3 doesn’t need another soap opera in the wake of Larry Mendte’s cyberhacking scandal with Alycia Lane. That leaves NBC 10, and as mind-blowingly amazing as it would be to watch the veteran weatherhunk team up with newsbabe-of-the-moment Sheena Parveen and his old pal Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, there’s only so much airtime—and money—to spread around.

I hope I’m wrong, though. Bolaris belongs here, both on the news, getting all geeked up about an impending storm, and out in Rittenhouse Square or Avalon, where on any given night, he’ll pose for photos with adoring fans and endure abuse from the haters. Back in 2002, when Bolaris left town for a few years in New York, he did so on his own terms, and his emotional bon voyage aired during sweeps. What makes his current story a tragic one is that if we’ve really seen the last of Bolaris on television here, his exit is sad, not celebratory. It’s not for ratings. Yet again, as you’ll read in this month’s issue or online, it’s one we’ve followed closely, and is largely of his own design.