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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

So, What Do They Really Look Like & How Do They Live?

We've all seen the Before and After photos of famous actors and actresses. But it's an uncommon sight to watch some of the news anchors, reporters, commentators, and experts unmasked. Away from the elaborate studio sets, lighting that highlights the personalities' "best sides," makeup and hairstylists -- (Oh, I wouldn't give to have my hair cut and colored right now) -- these men and women who flood the airwaves could pass for June from "Leave It To Beaver" and her husband Mr. Cleaver. Regular folks who live next door. Maybe.

I should mention that many of the men are older than their female counterpoints and that their unmasking is not as stark. What else is new? Men can sport stomachs cantilevering over their belts, deep wrinkles and nasolabial folds, and hair speckled with gray. Yes, there are some men like George Will who take a stab at looking younger and wear a hairpiece to cover what I can only assume is a bald head. For my money, he should toss the mop and go au natural.

What is even more interesting about this new age of broadcasting is a chance for us, the viewers, to take a peek at the way these TV folks live. “It’s a glimpse into people’s homes that we otherwise would not have" I was shocked when the cast members of "Saturday Night Life" did their bits from home. The apartments of these Millennials, who make an average of $147,00 yearly, look one step beyond a college dorm. There were sports pennants on some of the walls while others were blank. One bedroom looked just big enough to fit a double bed. I wonder what Scarlett Johansen thinks when she visits her fiance Colin Jost's apartment in New York City. Just sayin'.

In that same episode, host Tom Hanks "broadcast" from his kitchen in one of his many homes in Pacific Palisades or from a home in Malibu. Hanks stood in his kitchen, a comfy background for the "SNL Home Show." A friend of mine has the same kitchen cabinets and the exact same light fixture.

Tom Hanks At Home in His Kitchen -- Photo credit: Chicago Sun-Times

In a Washington Post lifestyle article, writers Jura Koncius and Roxanne Roberts penned

"On camera at home, TV personalities provide a peek at their book collections, wallpaper and cats"

"The first day Craig Melvin broadcast from his Connecticut home last week, his producers told him to pick the room with the strongest WiFi signal. So the “Today” show co-host headed up to his home office.

CRAIG MELVIN's Wallpaper Photo credit: NBC Universal

Two minutes before airtime, his director piped up: “Wow. That is some wallpaper, huh?” Indeed. The navy and white Palm Tree pattern by Serena & Lily was bold and busy. It was a statement. Viewers noticed. “I have heard more about that damn wallpaper than anything I’ve done on NBC,” Melvin says with a laugh. “Everyone has an opinion.”

"Anderson Cooper stood in a corner of his West Village home dressed in a dark T-shirt, facing the camera. “Tens of millions more Americans saw their world shrink to four walls, or the walls of their homes, myself included,” said Cooper at the open of his CNN show “Anderson Cooper 360.” He was standing against a backdrop of leather-bound books, a globe, a vintage chandelier, and what looked like a leather wing chair.

It's fascinating to see into other personalities' homes. Some choose to sit in their library with neatly arranged bookshelves in the background. The locale gives off a learned, serious vibe. Others either don't have the time or space and sit in a bare office with only a desk, chair, and computer. I've seen guests in their livingrooms, seated in an upholstered chair that mimics one FDR use for his fireplace chats.

"Former Republican National Committee chair and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele’s home office elegantly displayed the classic symbols of a Washington power broker: photos, diplomas, and a painting or two. 'It’s a nice, effective background,' he says. “It works very well.”

For those of us who watched "Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous," the work-from-home format gives us the chance to pop in unannounced and get a glimpse of how these TV personalities live when off the air. And without the makeup and other perks, these women and men make us feel a bit better about ourselves.

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Sue Hepker
Sue Hepker
Apr 25, 2020

So true! I have been going to lots of Zoom meetings and I spend most of my time checking out what I can learn from the background - who my colleagues are based on their home contexts. Bet they are doing the same with me! Background environment is the new "body language" of eLearning.

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