NEW YORK – Greek-American TV news anchor Ernie Anastos celebrated 40 years in broadcasting in New York City this year. Having won many Emmy Awards throughout his impressive career, the New Hampshire-native reflected on his work in an interview with the Daily News.
“You know, it’s amazing. It’s a positive affirmation of my purpose in life. I meet people on the street who watched me and now their kids are growing up watching me,” Anastos, 75, told the Daily News.
After stints in other cities including Boston, Chicago, and Providence, he was hired at New York’s WABC for the Eyewitness News in 1978. He worked alongside Rose Ann Scamardella, his “good friend” and the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Roseannadanna made famous by the late Gilda Radner, the Daily News reported.
Among his first big stories was an interview with Melanie Cain, a Vogue model involved in a love triangle that ended with her fiance, a pub owner, murdered by a horse trainer also involved with Cain. Anastos told the Daily News, “They put me on it and said ‘Hey can you do something with this?’ I’d only been in New York maybe a month- to cut a long story short, I got an exclusive interview. That story put me on the map.”
Another scoop came in January 1979, he said, the Daily News reported, “I was the only reporter [around] when [former U.S. vice president] Nelson Rockefeller died — that particular night he had a heart attack and they brought him to Lenox Hill hospital. I ran to the hospital and got an exclusive.”
The terror attacks on September 11, 2001 were a particularly difficult subject to report on for Anastos who is well-known for his good nature and positive attitude. He told the Daily News, “Over the years there have been papal visits, World Series, Super Bowls, New Year’s Eves, but the story that really changed me the most, and was the most painful and significant in my career, was 9/11 and how we responded as a city and as a family and a country.
“When we were on the air we kept doing our job, then one time I went into my office, this had to be two weeks in, and I was talking with someone…about what had transpired and I lost it. I didn’t lose it on the air, but I lost it in conversation. All of that emotion built up in me.”
A firefighter had given Anastos a piece of glass from the Twin Towers at the site and when a few years later he tried to speak about it at a charity function, the emotion overwhelmed him.
“I couldn’t go on,” Anastos told the Daily News. “I really had to stop and catch my composure.”
On a lighter note, Anastos recalled a 2009 on-air flub when he accidentally said the f-word. “That was definitely something you’d call a blooper,” he told the Daily News, adding that “Fox sent me a nice note clearly saying they knew this was not intentional, but in the end it worked out fine. People who know me know that’s not my character.”
Anastos was honored by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with “Ernie Anastos Day” on March 21, 2017, an event covered by The National Herald. Among the highlights of his job is visiting schools and sharing a positive message with the children. “Every night I go on the air and say ‘Good evening,’ then tell people why it’s not. I try to focus on positive stories. Yes, there are problems, and there are also solutions,” he told the Daily News.
Whenever members of the community meet Anastos in person they always remark on his youthful appearance and as the Daily News reported, “the Greek-American admits that having a good head of hair may be part of what’s keeping him on the air.”
Anastos said, “Yeah, that helps! I guess it’s all in the genes. My father and my grandfather both had good heads of hair and so did my grandparents on my mother’s side,” the Daily News reported.