Todd Fooks is gambling that a move to Tucson as KFMA FM 92.1's new morning personality is better than actual gambling, which is how he spent much of his time during a three-year hiatus from the business.
"I worked for a (radio) station in Chicago doing nights and afternoons. When my contract ran out, I was unemployed and happy about it. I was ready for a break," Fooks said. "Then a year turned into two and three, and I found myself playing professional poker, mostly on the Internet, but sometimes live. I was making money, but it was a really stressful lifestyle. It was something I enjoyed that turned into (something) a lot like work. ... It was mostly filled with irritation.
"Then I became a blackjack dealer for about three months, and that was one of the worst jobs I've ever had, for sure. Being a blackjack dealer means giving people nothing but pain. (Players) may occasionally get lucky, but the house is going to win in the end. For my job, to take people's money just left me with so little satisfaction. I feel for all the blackjack dealers out there. It's not an easy job. You can't put a smile on that. It was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I'm very, very, very happy to have the job in Tucson."
Fooks—he drops the "s" as part of his on-air persona—replaces Frank Brinsley, the popular morning host who station owner Lotus transitioned to struggling 100,000-watt classic-rock station KLPX FM 96.1. That move, which took effect last July, seems to be showing positive results—and it highlighted a change for KFMA, which has spent the last nine months transitioning from Brinsley's talk-driven morning antics to a music-intensive focus.
Fooks' arrival could balance the two perspectives.
"Frank does two to four songs an hour. That's a major-heavy talk show," Fooks said. "If I'm playing 11 or 12 songs an hour and pack it down to eight, that still leaves plenty of time for entertainment. I'm not worried about whether it's called a music-intensive show or not. I love music, and I'm going to make jokes. KFMA has such a rabid audience for the music, anyway. ... We're in the business to get ratings. I'm going to let people get to know me, and we're going to have fun."
Instead of sweating ace/queen on one of those Internet gaming sites that the government just shut down, the Windy City native looks forward to sweating in Tucson.
"Chicago is an awesome town. It's a great city, but it's an arctic hellhole. It sucks," Fooks said. "I was landlocked the entire time. I'm an outdoor guy, and coming from the flattest state in the union to a place with this rich landscape is great. I've been out hiking a bunch of times, and I love it. I'm on the porch in my newly rented apartment looking over this canyon with a bunch of prickly plants that look great, but I won't touch them. I'm really happy to be here, and really happy to be working in radio again. I know it's going to be balls-hot in the summer, but Tucson is a great town."
KVOA Channel 4 has picked Rob Guarino to be the station's new chief meteorologist.
Guarino is making the move from his home in Delaware after sitting out a year following a stint as the morning-weather personality at KOAT in Albuquerque, N.M.
"I'm a weather junkie," said Guarino, who hopes to bring an educational, out-on-the-town approach to the position. "I love being out in the live shots with people, interviewing them. My style on the air is very social, very fun, very laid-back. Tucson's weather will allow me to play it up more and have fun with it. When it's sunny 26 days in a row, you can have fun with this stuff."
That fun will include an effort to increase the station's weather presence in an educational capacity for students, Guarino said.
"We have this thing called the Weather Challenge, a Nickelodeon-style game that I use in schools. It's unbelievable. We had a three-year waiting period," Guarino said. "We're taking it to Tucson, where we'll teach kids weather. It's like a rolling game show. It's pretty cool. There's a lot of fun stuff I bring to the table as part of weather education."
Guarino, who replaces longtime KVOA meteorologist Jimmy Stewart, says the opportunity at KVOA is perfect, not just because it ends his absence from the business—he stayed occupied through liveweatherblogs.com, a weather-information outlet—but also because of changes in his family dynamic.
"The timing and position is great. In Albuquerque, having the morning-weather position combined with flying back east drove me into the ground," said Guarino, explaining that he would visit his two children in Delaware on a regular basis. However, his ex-wife is relocating to the West Coast in July, which makes a Western gig far more convenient this time around.
"My kids are going to be in San Diego," he said. "... I'm not going to come out there unless my kids are within a car ride or a short flight. That all came together."
Guarino traces his love of weather to remembering the impact of a major storm he and his family experienced when he was an 8-year-old in Brooklyn, N.Y. From that moment, he has marveled at the science.
"The unknown of weather still keeps me going," Guarino said. "We (meteorologists) are good, but we're not 100 percent right. Until weather is 100 percent right, and there aren't unknowns in forecasting, discovering and uncovering those unknowns is what drives me. It's the art of forecasting."
Guarino, who starts officially with the station next week, said he looks forward to melding art and science for KVOA viewers.
"Tucson is fun, (with) a lot of great restaurants. I like the way it's growing, with the way it mixes the new with the old," Guarino said. "I went around the whole city, good and bad, and said, 'Yeah, I could live here.'"