17 Things You Might Not Know (or Were Trying to Forget) About John Bolaris
Tonight at 10 p.m. CNBC is airing the episode of its true-crime documentary series American Greed based on the adventures of Philly weather swain John Bolaris. How could it not be epic? The forecaster has seen more ups and downs in his 58 or so years than a cheap thermometer. Here, a cheat sheet of the meteoric meteorologist’s life of high- and low-pressure systems, to prep you for the fun to come.
- According to a 1996 Philly Mag profile that is not, alas, available online, when John was a child, he was afraid of storms and would hyperventilate whenever one was coming. His mom would drape a towel over his head and sit him in front of a vaporizer to calm him down.
- John used to drag his little sister, Paula, to the roof of their childhood home on Long Island to watch the sky. “We always knew what to get him for his birthday,” Paula told Philly Mag in 2012. “A barometer, a weather alert radio. He’d draw weather maps — not for school, just on his own.”
- John married his only wife, New York model Pamela Duswalt (there have been at least three fiancées), in 1988, five days after his mother died of a heart attack. (Pamela was the former girlfriend of Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.) Bolaris told Philly Mag in 1996 that Pamela insisted the wedding go forward despite his grief. The marriage didn’t survive his 1990 move to Philly to work at WCAU; Pamela told him she wanted a divorce after his first broadcast.
- Within months, he was being consoled by co-worker Jane Robelot. (She wanted marriage; he said it was too soon.) The list of conquests Bolaris made while predicting the weather at ’CAU included Merion’s Julie Cohen (he bought her a ring; the station wanted to film his proposal, but she turned him down); singer Lauren Hart (they were engaged for a time); Flyers goalie Bernie Parent’s daughter Kim Parent; fashion designer Nicole Miller; Miami weather babe Maria Genero …
- In February 2001, Bolaris infamously hyped a coming blizzard as “the Storm of the Century,” predicting a weather Armageddon on the last night of sweeps week, which his station then won for the first time. The ensuing panic led to school and business closures, not to mention runs on milk and eggs. When the city got less than an inch of snow, he was sent anonymous death threats, pages torn from the Bible and a beer bottle stuffed with dead crabs. One night at a bar, a man pissed on him and snarled, “It doesn’t look like snow.” He promptly left town for a job in New York City.
- Former WCAU co-worker and current Philly media maven Tiffany McElroy is the mother of Bolaris’s only child, Reina Sofia, born in 2004.
- In what led to the American Greed treatment, Bolaris, who resurfaced on Philly’s Fox 29 in 2008, flew to South Beach for a weekend in March 2010. Two shapely brunettes picked him up at a bar, coaxed him to do shots, and slipped him a roofie. He woke up the next day in his hotel room with a painting of a woman and missing his Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses. The ladies had thoughtfully left him a voicemail saying they had the glasses; when he went out to meet them, they drugged him again. He wound up with $43,000 in charges on his American Express card. When AmEx wouldn’t void the charges, Bolaris went to the police and helped the feds bust what turned out to be a multinational crime ring. The FBI report on his adventure was … interesting.
- Nobody knew about any of this until May of 2011, when then-Daily News editor Larry Platt (formerly the editor of Philly Mag) convinced Bolaris to tell readers his story. Bolaris thought the idea was to make him look heroic; instead, the DN went with a photoshopped picture of him in a Hawaiian shirt and a cover headline blaring, “Russians, Roofies and a 43-Grand Rip-Off: Like the Movie, John Bolaris Is Nursing a Real-Life … HANGOVER!”
- Meanwhile, in April of 2011, former Phillie Lenny Dykstra showed up in the lobby of his buddy Bolaris’s Philly apartment building with his teeth missing and his clothes covered with food stains. He told Bolaris he had taken a cab there from Virginia, where he’d been watching his son play minor-league baseball, and needed $1,000 to pay the driver, plus $2,000 for a flight home to California, where he was due to appear in court. “He was a mess,” Bolaris told Newsday. “I let him use my shower. Made him a turkey burger. Gave him some clothes I had from some golf tournament.”
- That same year, when Bolaris appeared on the Preston and Steve Show, Bubba the monkey smashed the weatherman’s iPhone and then hung up on Ryan Seacrest, who was calling in.
- Also in that same, highly eventful year, Playboy magazine assigned a story about Bolaris and his weekend in South Beach to respected profile writer Pat Jordan. Fox 29 didn’t want any more bad publicity for Bolaris and insisted he only talk to Jordan in the presence of his attorney, Chuck Peruto. In the resultant story, Peruto invited the AmEx investigator who’d dealt with his friend to suck his dick, and Bolaris showed Jordan naked phone pics and explained that he and his then-live-in girlfriend, former Playboy Playmate Erica Smitheman, liked to do “regular blue-collar things” together, like “watch football naked.” Fox promptly canned him. Bolaris swore he was misquoted; Jordan stood his ground.
- Bolaris and Smitheman got engaged on the Howard Stern show in 2012, when he was 55 and she was 33. A few months later, she commandeered his phone while he was asleep and tweeted sexy photos of herself to all his Twitter followers.
- In July of 2014, celeb boxing promoter (remember when that was a thing?) Damon Feldman announced a match between Bolaris and Lindsay Lohan’s dad, Michael Lohan (remember when he was a thing?). When Bolaris subsequently cancelled (via text message), Feldman said he was going to sue. “I finally agreed to do it for charity,” Bolaris told Philly Mag. “But then there was a lot of negative feedback from my friends. They said, ‘You don’t need to do this. You want to be like Octomom and Tanmom?’”
- In August 2014, after Bolaris and Smitheman had dinner and drinks at a crab shack in the Hamptons, he hailed a cab to take them back to their hotel. Another group attempted to hail the same cab, and the driver told Bolaris he was taking that party. When Bolaris protested, the driver told him to get away from the cab, punched him in the face, and zapped him with a stun gun. Police arrested the driver, who claimed self-defense. “I don’t know how it happened,” Bolaris told Philly Mag. “But it does seem like there’s this dark cloud following me around.” (He and Smitheman are no longer a couple.)
- In 2015, Bolaris began hosting a weekly local radio show, CenterStage with John Bolaris. His first guests were then-mayor Michael Nutter and Natalie Didonato of Mob Wives.
- Also in 2015, Bolaris announced that for a mere $500 a month, he was offering a “concierge weather service” that would phone, mail and text clients weather forecasts seven days a week, at the times of their choosing.
- Earlier this year, Bolaris made it known that he was following his passion for real estate and was licensed in Pennsylvania and New York. Then he announced that he was listing (for $58 million) the 14-acre Long Island estate on which F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby. And tweeted about it to Kanye West.
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