Local Broadcast Legend Barry ZeVan Dies
Twin Cities broadcasting legend Barry ZeVan has died. The long-time weatherman and entertainer passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 82. He leaves behind a bevy of broadcasters who worked with him, including a stint right here at CCX Media.
“It was great seeing Barry around the studios here,” says CCX Media Executive Director Mike Johnson, who remembers watching ZeVan forecast the weather on local stations when he was a kid.
ZeVan’s unusual on-camera style earned him a reputation as “the peek-a-boo weatherman” stemming from his habit of glancing around at the camera while writing on his map.
In a 2019 interview with Johnson, ZeVan, who lived in Golden Valley, explained the origins of the name.
“I had my face not facing the camera, I’m facing the board writing. I thought, ‘this is rude! You’re supposed to look at your audience.”
Creating “Retro Weather”
After leaving a long career in weather and other programming at KSTP and KARE, among others, ZeVan still had the TV bug. So he asked Johnson if he could produce a show in CCX Media’s Create studios. That was the start of “Retro Weather.”
Beginning in April of last year ZeVan, introduced by comedy legend Louie Anderson, would give weather forecasts in the old style, writing information on a weather map from memory. More than just a unique national forecast, Retro Weather was ZeVan’s chance to reminisce about a long life in broadcasting including a final show featuring a decades-old clip of ZeVan forecasting the weather with a special guest: musical theater star Robert Goulet.
Weather forecasting was never his goal. He fell into it almost by accident. Born into a show-biz family, his grandfather was an agent for George Burns, Gracie Allen and Milton Berle. His first career goal was acting and singing. As early as age 5, he was singing on the Pittsburgh’s KDKA radio, later appearing in movies and stage performances.
But in 1954 he lost a film role because he looked too much like the lead actor. His mother, worried that would keep happening, told him to try something else. So he joined the Air Force where he was given a choice: work in the motor pool, or become a weather forecaster.
Writing His Own Story
But weather wasn’t ZeVan’s only vocation. An accomplished filmmaker, he produced a number of documentaries including American Indian Homelands:
Matters of Truth, Honor and Dignity – Immemorial, a critical look at the U.S. Government’s practice of taking land from Native Americans for which he won a Telly award. And ZeVan turned to writing, authoring his memoir, My Life Among the Giants.
ZeVan’s long career ended shortly before his death, on Dec. 26 when the final episode of Retro Weather was released.