Sue Palka, Fox 5 DC’s Chief Meteorologist, on what makes a successful on-air weather forecast~
“It’s a combination of a teaching experience, from my teaching years, which were only about seven years. I remember that you have a main idea that you have to deliver, and I feel like I’ve failed as a forecaster if you don’t know the weather when I’m done.”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. It’s such a pleasure. I mean, it so sincerely to have two of my favorite people in broadcast and life in Washington, DC, Joe and Sue Palka. Welcome to Our Town!
Sue Palka: Andy, I know you say that to every guest, but we are delighted to see you because you’re the real star of this podcast and we are so excited.
Joe Palka: That’s true, how many people say to you that you are my hero, Andy, and you continue to be my hero, you really do.
Andy Ockershausen: It sounds like hero worship, but it’s true. They don’t worship me, they worship those call letters.
Joe Palka’s First Impression of WMAL Personalities, 1980s
Joe Palka: It’s true, but well, they were great call letters. The most outstanding among a handful in the entire country. And boy, I can remember when I was a young broadcaster back in the 70s and early 80s and I would think of WMAL. Around 1980 when we were first married, we came to visit some people in Washington. I was still in Erie at WRIE, and I heard this guy, John Lyon on the air in the afternoon, and he was, he picked up a guitar and he started singing. I’m just, “Oh my God.” And then there was a guy Tom Gauger on and he was playing piano with somebody from the philharmonic. Then I found out that John Lyon was just a fill in, I thought, this is the greatest radio station I’d ever heard in my life.
Andy Ockershausen: Joe Palka, you are a fountain of information. What you have done and you’ve accomplished is amazing, ’cause your wife has out gamed you, like my wife has out gamed me. That’s so great, I’m so proud of Sue Palka, what she has accomplish and what Janice Ockershausen has accomplished, and we’re lucky to have two great women in our lives.
Joe Palka: Who had no taste in men, right?
Andy Ockershausen: That’s right.
Sue Palka: Well, I’ll tell you, honestly-
Andy Ockershausen: Well I’ll tell you, reading about you guys in Erie, Pennsylvania, the snow capital of the world, they tell me.
Sue Palka: My gosh, they had 13 inches of snow on November 10th this year. My dad-
Andy Ockershausen: In Erie.
The Palkas Live in Our Town Thanks to Andy O
Sue Palka: -and he said, I gotta get out of here. They had over about 200 inches last year. But before we get into Erie, Andy, I’ve got to just say Joe and I would not be in DC if it weren’t for you. And I never forget that. And when you invited us on the podcast, I told Fox 5, “I’m absolutely doing this, I have to do it because I owe Andy.” We would not even be here if it weren’t for you and WMAL offering Joe the job.
Joe Palka: Let’s toss a couple of bones to a couple of people who are no longer with us, Jim Gallant and Eileen Griffin. Now they were also responsible for my departure, but guess what, had they not brought me here, our life would have changed entirely.
Andy Ockershausen: Everything was timing. Was on my way out when you came in, but that happens too.
Joe Palka: Yeah, well, God works in funny ways.
Andy Ockershausen: But that’s life. But to have Sue remain in our lives has been terrific for Janice and I cause we knew her as a fresh face kid doing weekends, and all of a sudden she’s a major, major star. And I say that, I know what I’m talking about. I know what the public reflects about Sue Palka.
Joe Palka: Well, I have a feeling that had television not been invented in 1985 when
Sue first started, they would have invented it just for her.
Sue Palka: Oh, stop.
Joe Palka: Oh no, you were a school teacher.
Good Timing for Sue Palka | TV and Weather
Sue Palka: I think my timing was right because what was happening at the time that I got into weather is they were looking for women. A lot of those women didn’t have necessarily a meteorological background yet. So for me, I was a teacher and an actor and that combination got me in the door, but then I had to get certified.
Andy Ockershausen: Why would I use to call them weather girls.
Joe Palka: Oh, yeah.
Sue Palka: Now I wish somebody would call me a weather girl.
Andy Ockershausen: You remember those days.
Sue Palka: Oh my gosh, yes.
Joe Palka: A female weatherman.
Sue Palka: And honestly, women back then in the 70’s and 80’s were used as set decoration. No, no, that’s the traffic person. No just kidding everybody who does traffic.
Andy Ockershausen: But Sue, you lived through the years coming down here and starting on the weekend. Almost like you started fresh down here, although you had worked in Erie, correct?
Road to Our Town – Erie, PA | Omaha, NE | Richmond, VA
Sue Palka: I actually auditioned in Erie, but I worked in Richmond, doing-
Andy Ockershausen: What?
Sue Palka: -WTVR weekend weather there.
Joe Palka: Yeah. I was at WRVA and Sue . . .
Andy Ockershausen: That’s great call letters, incindentally.
Joe Palka: Yeah.I was the afternoon drive guy, but Sue as a result of our efforts in Omaha where we had been previously, she had a couple of tapes of commercials and things and then she applied in Richmond-
Andy Ockershausen: Erie and Omaha are not together.
Joe Palka: Yeah.
Sue Palka: Erie, Omaha, Richmond to DC.
Joe Palka: Yeah. We’d had an adventure.
Andy Ockershausen: You paid your dues on your way out?
Joe Palka: Oh we did.
Sue Palka: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Sue, you have done so much more than weather for Our Town and I’ve been with you in so many personal appearances for years and years and years, which I think was a part of your success as viewers, people saw you live and in flesh and boy that makes a big difference, I think that they attract viewers to your program.
Sue Palka Grateful for Community
Sue Palka: Well that is the old school mentality is that, we are lucky to have these positions, I feel like I owe it to the community to give back and to also make sure they know I’m a part of your life and you’re a part of my life and we have similar experiences, so.
Andy Ockershausen: There’s more to Sue Palka than the weather?
Sue Palka: Oh yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: No question about that. Tell us about your acting, why did you give up acting? You’d be a great star, if you’d have stayed with acting.
Joe Palka Does the Acting in the Family
Sue Palka: Joe is still acting. Joe has taken it over.
Joe Palka: I’m still acting. I actually got Sue involved in the Erie playhouse back in the 1970s and she did great and we did a little bit of acting out in Omaha.
Sue Palka: So not very good.
Joe Palka: Oh no.
Sue Palka: And I still have dreams that I’m onstage and I don’t know my lines yet.
Joe Palka: No, I know, but I think that it helped. I think your teaching helped you in your acting and in your TV. It gave you a presence, but I think also the acting helped you out on TV because you became very bodily aware and she just stood up there in front of the camera and was a natural.
Andy Ockershausen: She’s a natural. She’s being herself. She’s the same off as she is on to me. But I’m a rarity.
What You See is What You Get with Sue Palka
Joe Palka: That’s the thing about Sue, what you see on TV is what you get. We have never had a situation where people might come up to us, whether it’s at a shopping center or while we’re eating at a restaurant, that people come up and say, “Oh, we like your work or hi Sue.” And she’s been so gracious, and so wonderful.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s the reason you’re so jealous, I have noticed that from you Joe. Jealous of this gorgeous woman. Who hasn’t changed much in my 30 years experience with Sue Palka. Really, she hasn’t.
Sue Palka: That’s so sweet.
Andy Ockershausen: I said, Joe, you’re getting a little thin on top but generally look great.
Joe Palka: Happy for all I’ve got.
Sue Palka: I’m getting a little thick in the middle. Everything shifts and changes.
Theater of the Mind – WMAL 60s, 70s and 80s
Andy Ockershausen: Did you know under the auspices AFTRA, we did Live Radio Act on WMAL radio, one time we tried it as an experiment and we brought Jackson Weaver, he started as an actor.
Joe Palka: Wonderful voice, wonderful character.
Andy Ockershausen: With Evelyn Freyman, you remember that name. She was an actress and we produced a radio show like the old Hollywood drama. Of course it was a turkey but it was so much fun to get these people have talent. John Lyon performed in it, remember he played a Banjo or something.
Joe Palka: Did he really? Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: That was like 1960.
Joe Palka: Well, the theater of the mind. Another thing to remember about old time, and I say old time, it really is timeless because it doesn’t go out of style, people just lose faith in it. But WMAL that I remember had a wonderful way of developing the mind’s eye, and the theater of the mind.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Joe Palka: And whether it was Trumbull and Core, or Harden and Weaver or even any of the fellows even Mayhugh was not necessarily off the wall or anything like that. They had a way of placing themselves inside of people’s minds so that you knew them as friends and not just something that was very similar to an iPod or something-
Sue Palka: How about Ken Beatrice? He’s a legend. He can still do Ken.
Joe Palka: “Get back to me soon, will yah?”
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my God, you two. You’re a fountain, I knew you were a dictionary, you love this station, I know it. As Janice and I love it and you learned to love it ’cause Joe was here. I grew up also knowing Channel 5, I had a lot of friends at Channel 5 I worked with them over the years, Ernie Baur and Lucille-
Ernie Baur and Channel 5
Sue Palka: Oh, love Ernie.
Andy Ockershausen: -both worked at 5. Lark McCarthy was a WMAL TV girl at one time.
Sue Palka: Really?
Andy Ockershausen: So we had a great relationship with Channel 5. I’ve seen it grow and grow and grow. Now, it’s like it owns the audience.
Sue Palka: I’ll tell you Andy, we are doing now… When I first started at Channel 5 and by the way, Ernie Baur was a huge part of making me feel comfortable and welcome at Fox 5.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s a great director.
Joe Palka: ’cause he’s such a nervous, reticent guy. He’s a little quiet and you know.
Sue Palka: Ernie would always make me laugh and he would loosen me up before we would do the broadcast, but we only had 10 o’clock news when I started and now we are on, I kid you not, every hour from five until midnight and I do seven of those newscasts. We do a final five at 11:30 to 12 so people say, “Gosh, how did you raise kids and do the schedule?” I’m like, “It wasn’t like that then.” Fortunately for me, my children are grown and I have the time to devote to this now.
Andy Ockershausen: Your girls have gotten old now, I remember when they were born.
Joe Palka: They were older than we are.
Sue Palka: They were as old as we are when we came here.
Andy Ockershausen: No way.
Sue Palka: Yes they are.
Joe Palka: Yes that’s the thing that shocks us.
Sue Palka: So 32 and 29. I was 30 when I came-
Andy Ockershausen: Are your daughters married?
Joe Palka: And I was 34.
Andy Ockershausen: You are a grandmother.
Sue Palka: I’m a grandmother and Joe is a Grandpa.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Joe has always been a Grandpa.
Joe Palka: Yeah.
Sue Palka: Grandpa McCoy. We have a daughter Liz, she’s married to Mike and they have a daughter, Anastasia, and they live in DC. Talk about places that have changed Andy, how about Navy Yard? That’s where they live.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, do I know it? WHOAAAA.
Sue Palka: It is so changed and so much fun. So they’re having a blast raising their little girl down there, and she is 15 months.
Joe Palka: You know Lizzy is on Channel 9 now on a freelance basis.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that right? Oh my God.
Joe Palka: You’ll catch Liz on Channel 9 doing freelance.
Andy Ockershausen: We got to check into that, this is Andy Ockershausen I got to take a break here and come back with that. This is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, this is a wonderful experience I’m having with the Palka’s because we’ve known each other so intimately for over 30 years. That’s hard to believe.
Sue Palka: 30 years.
Andy Ockershausen: Over 30 years.
Joe Palka: I’ve lived another lifetime is what it is. When I left here I was 34, I’m 66.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you’re both have at it. Wonderful, wonderful lives. And Sue, your experience as an actress, you still an actress ’cause you get up to act that that weather every night, and that’s not easy.
Teaching Experience a Big Plus in Delivering Weather Forecast to TV Viewers
Sue Palka: That is exactly what I consider it, it’s a performance for me. It’s a combination of a teaching experience, from my teaching years, which were only about seven years. I remember that you have a main idea that you have to deliver, and I feel like I’ve failed as a forecaster if you don’t know the weather when I’m done. But I’ll tell you, Andy, full circle for Joe and myself is that when we came to WMAL, I had a little secret and that was that I was four months pregnant, and I auditioned-
Andy Ockershausen: You hid that from everybody.
Palka’s Secret While Interviewing for Weather at WTTG
Sue Palka: And guess what? It was WMAL that got me to apply at WTTG, because you guys were using Bob Ryan to do the weather here. He critiqued my tape because I had no confidence and I had been working in Richmond, he said, “I think you can do it, go apply at a Channel 5, they have a weekend opening.” So I sent the tape over and I had edited myself and I forgot to put audio on it. So the guy-
Andy Ockershausen: Silent weather.
Sue Palka: -the guy called me, and goes, “Hey, you look great.” He goes, “We had to get somebody to sign your weather for us, we have no idea what you sound like.” But he said, “Why don’t you come on in to WTTG and do an audition?” And now I’m four months pregnant, so I don’t want them to judge me on that. So I got a big old double breasted jacket and I hid my baby bump. He said to me at the end, he goes, “You know what? You’re on top of the heap and I think you have a really good shot at getting this.” I said, “And I have a really good shot at delivering a baby in February, and I hope you won’t, dismiss me because of that, but I understand if you’d rather wait.” His mouth just went like this, that was the jaw.
Joe Palka: Dan Cohen, yes.
Sue Palka: I love Dan, he’s still around, he went to Channel 4 after Fox 5, but he said that, well, it’s not going to be my decision, Sue, and he put Betty Endicott on it and she said, “Are you kidding me?”
Andy Ockershausen: Wonderful gal.
Joe Palka: Yes she was.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh Betty, she had been at Channel 9 you knew that of course, she then went to 5.
Sue Palka: Yes. So she was News Director and she said, “Are you kidding me? This is gonna be great for the viewers, they love it.”
Andy Ockershausen: She was absolutely right. It’s part of life.
Joe Palka: Yes she was. Oh my goodness. 25 years later, people will still say, so how are the babies?
Sue Palka: They still do, and they actually ended up doing research while I was still doing weekends and they said, we like the weekend girl, we’ve been watching her get pregnant. “Like you know what I mean?” And so at the end of that, a little bit after that, and then they said, “Now we’re watching her belly go down.” I remember there was a guy at Fox, this was hilarious. He did not know I was pregnant because I would try to hide my bulk with things that were four sizes too big for me, so I just look like big girl and he goes, “Hey, I got to ask you, how’d you lose the weight?” At the end I said, “You know Alex, I was pregnant, right?” He goes, “Oh no, I had no idea.”
Andy Ockershausen: That was probably a sportscaster.
Sue Palka: He was an editor actually, but he was embarrassed. Now we have a daughter who is in this market, she is freelancing for WUSA and she has a baby as well. So it’s fun to have her reporting, and it has brought everything full circle.
Voice of America
Joe Palka: Right, she’s also at Voice of America where I am as a newscaster, infrequently.
Andy Ockershausen: Voice of America was a big part of our announcers here, used to moonlight at Voice of America.
Joe Palka: Did they really?
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, Bud Steele and-
Joe Palka: Oh no kidding.
Andy Ockershausen: -John Lyon, they all did work for Voice way back.
Joe Palka: I had no idea. It was really funny because I play in an old men’s baseball league, Ponce De Leon Baseball and I had tried to get into voice of America for years and I was playing one day, I said to my friend Steve, who just joined the team, I said, “Steve, where do you work?” He goes, “Voice of America.” I said, “I’ve been trying to get in there for years.” Three days later I had an interview and I’ve been there for seven years. So I mean all that experience-
Sue Palka: Steve was running VoA by the way.
Joe Palka: WMAL on my resume doesn’t do any good. You play first base with one of the muckety mucks that heads Voice of America and that’s how you get the job.
Andy Ockershausen: Is it still as active as it used to be, the Voice?
Joe Palka: No, no.
Andy Ockershausen: Changed dramatically?
Joe Palka: I love it ’cause-
Andy Ockershausen: What hasn’t changed?-
Joe Palka: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: -I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed Sue Palka looked exactly like she did in the mid 80s.
Sue Palka: Oh my God.
Andy Ockershausen: My wife and I know Sue very well. We see her at social events, she never changed Joe.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: You and I have Joe.
Joe Palka: I know, I know. Sue hates it. Cause-
Sue Palka: It’s because you guys don’t color your hair.
Sue Palka Forever Beautiful
Joe Palka: -I mention it to her once a week because when we were first dating, I had a friend who was a girl who said to me, “Joe, she’s beautiful and she’s gonna be beautiful forever.” And I said, “Do you really think so?” She goes, “I know.” I said, “How do you know.” “Just her face, I can tell.” And every week I say the same-
Sue Palka: I always say to Joe and she was just trying to get you to get out of the way, like let’s get this guy outta here. Yeah, your new girlfriend seems great.
Andy Ockershausen: Joe I had the same problem, you have a beautiful wife, that doesn’t get any older and neither do I come to think of it.
Sue Palka: Janice is awesome.
Andy Ockershausen: I refuse to get old.
Joe Palka: I know, I know. On the inside we’re still maybe a little too young, right?
Andy Ockershausen: You guys have made such an impact on Our Town in a lot of different ways and we’re gonna come back and talk about Sue Palka, the weather girl. This is Andy Ockershausen in Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town with the Palkas, Sue and Joe or Joe and Sue, it doesn’t make any difference, you all come as an entry I know that. Thank God that you’re here, and both of you and we’ve had such a wonderful, wonderful relationship and seeing Sue every night, Joe, I don’t see you much, but I know you’re a playwright, I know you have talent. I know that you’ve had a wonderful life.
Joe Palka on Leaving WMAL and Forging a New Career as Playwright
Joe Palka: It’s been interesting. It really has because as you know where we record this broadcast, I left here about 33 years ago and I didn’t know what was gonna happen to me. Andy, let’s be quite honest, it wasn’t without a great deal of anxiety, you just don’t know where we’re supposed-
Andy Ockershausen: That’s normal.
Joe Palka: -we were supposed to have gone to Buffalo, but when Channel 5 offered Sue the full time gig, I became a Mr. Mom and put together sort of a catch as catch can career, and I evolved in first of all, a talk radio host and then I became a teacher over in Northeast DC on the other side of the Anacostia River. Throughout all that time I was trying to forge my way as a playwright. I haven’t given up on it yet, but I think I was just good enough to delude myself.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you write a book?
Joe Palka: No, no, but I wrote a play called “Last Stand of the Polish Sharpshooters” and yeah, it takes place at a Polish club in Erie, Pennsylvania. And actually received some honors.
Andy Ockershausen: And a ghost, and a twisted gun.
Joe Palka: No, no. But the sharpshooters were the boulders and every Polish stereotype. But it was a loving, wonderful, homage to a blue collar way of life, and oddly, it was written in 1989 and I think it would probably be more pertinent today, people are saying that the-
Andy Ockershausen: Did you shop it? Try to get people interested in it.
Joe Palka: I’ve had about 20 productions of it as far away as Omaha and Alabama, and it’s even represented by a guy who you’ve never heard of named Gary DaSilva that if you were to Google, you’d find out that he represents the estates of Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart. The thing is that it’s funny to have that kind of a goal, Andy, because sometimes there have been times over the last 30 years where I wished I hadn’t written it, ’cause I came this close to having it go mainstream. I had other representation guy named Mitch Douglas from International Creative Management who at one time was the literary manager or the literary agent for Tennessee Williams. So I thought I was on my way, but the man upstairs has a funny way of working, I don’t think he’s given up on me yet, he’s brought me to close. I’ve written about five plays and one was produced in Buffalo about six years ago. It’s called “Mookie Cranks a Tater”.
Andy Ockershausen: You have credits.
Joe Palka: Yes. I’ve got to have a very impressive resume. Just not, what I wanna do is have the hit plays where I can grow a pony tail and get my ear pierced and just kind of look, and maybe smoke a pipe and then just snub my nose at all the little people.
Sue Palka: Welcome to my world Andy. It’s a lot of work.
Joe Palka: I’ve had some success but just not the kind I’ve wanted.
Andy Ockershausen: Wait a minute, you’ve had a wonderful, wonderful career, just writing and let people look at what you’ve done. You have audience.
Joe Palka: It’s been spectacular, there’s no greater thrill in the world than when you’re sitting-
Andy Ockershausen: You did it without the weather?
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Sue has to depend on the weather and you don’t.
Joe Palka – Acting Career
Joe Palka: I’ve been very active in the local theater community for most of the last 10 years.
Andy Ockershausen: You get out, I know that. Nobody does more than Sue Palka by getting out. Helps Channel 5 immeasurably I know that.
Sue Palka: Joe’s got something that I don’t have, he’s got a major movie credit coming, tell Andy about that.
Joe Palka: Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up ’cause I was just about to- ]
Sue Palka: You didn’t forget, did you?
Joe Palka: -Myself, no. I didn’t, I was waiting for you to bring it up.
Sue Palka: I know my role.
Andy Ockershausen: You had a show that crashed in Buffalo, that’s amazing.
Joe Palka: No. No. It got a great review in Buffalo, yes it did. No, I was-
Andy Ockershausen: I’ll remember that, Palka number one in Buffalo.
Joe Palka: I’m a member of the screen actors guild. How did I get that card?
Andy Ockershausen: SAG?
Joe Palka: Yes, SAG. How did I get that card?-
Andy Ockershausen: Are you a SAG member?
Sue Palka: Oh yeah.
Joe Palka: -I used to do Bill’s Carpet Barn commercials and they did them on film. So that’s how I got my SAG card. Same Union as Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, Joe Palka from doing, “It’s a 72 hours, savings spectacular.” Well, infrequently I’ll get a call from a lady up in Baltimore to come up and try for a movie, and I was going to audition for a policeman. Just go in there and say, “Okay, we’re coming in.” That was the nature of the audition, which is how those things go-
Sue Palka: And they didn’t tell you what the movie was?
Major Movie Experience – “Wonder Woman 1984”
Joe Palka: No. Well, they told me it was called Magic Moment, but they didn’t tell me what it meant, what that meant. So she says, “Here, read this.” It was a part for an old man and I had all of 10 seconds to look it over and I just read it. I thought, I wish I’d had another 30 seconds to just really absorb that. Three months later, I get a call from Pat Moran and she says, “They want you.” Really? “And you should know that this is the next Wonder Woman movie.”
Andy Ockershausen: She’s the AFTA person?
Joe Palka: No, no, she’s-
Sue Palka: No, that’s Pat O’Donnell.
Joe Palka: Yeah, that’s …
Andy Ockershausen: Pat O’Donnell. She’s still there?
Joe Palka: Yes she is.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my God.
Sue Palka: And she is awesome.
Andy Ockershausen: Janny, we used to do business with Pat.
Joe Palka: Yeah. So Andy, I went and I had two days’ work, which I had my own stand in, and I worked-
Andy Ockershausen: Was there a dressing room?
Patty Jenkins, Director
Joe Palka: There was this woman who comes out for a rehearsal … I did have a dressing room, I could even show you the picture. Yes, a beautiful dressing room. This woman comes out, she’s just cute as a button and as nice as can be, just the way you would want your kids kindergarten teacher to be, and she’s just chatting away and everything. And we said, by the way, what are you doing here? She says, I’m the director, Patty Jenkins, who will be someday nominated for an Academy Award. Could not have been nicer. Now keep in mind, I’ve done a lot of theater in my time, and there have been community theater directors who haven’t been 100th as nice and she says, “Don’t you worry, the day we shoot, we’re gonna do it a million times, till we get it right. And they could not have been more wonderful, you just didn’t imagine in a major motion picture. I was awfulizing my future thinking, oh, they’re gonna look at me and say, “Oh, you’re a mistake, you’re not the guy we wanted.” Or they’re gonna say, “That sucks, you’re fired go …” ’cause I’d seen that kind of thing happen. It was THE grandest artistic experience of my life. It really was great. So I’m gonna be in that movie when-
Sue Palka: It’s the second Wonder Woman movie coming out in June of 2019?
May End Up on the Cutting Room Floor?
Joe Palka: Let me offer a caveat, however, because it’s not unusual for somebody to end up on the cutting room floor. It happens, it has happened to me twice. However, I will say that there were a hundred people involved in my scene. They had to get people in motion, cops chasing looters and kids running around, and for me, cause I’m in the middle of all this chaos delivering my line, they’re gonna blow a big portion of the budget if they cut me. I’m not saying that they can’t, they can. So if I’m not in it, I told you that it was possible.
Sue Palka: If you hear that Joe has been hospitalized around June of 2019, you’ll know his part was cut.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh no.
Wonder Women Beauties – Gal Gadot and Lynda Carter
Joe Palka: I got to see Gal Gadot, you know the woman who played-
Sue Palka: She’s the Wonder Woman.
Joe Palka: Oh my God.
Sue Palka: The Israeli actress.
Andy Ockershausen: What’s her name?
Joe Palka: Gal Gadot.
Andy Ockershausen: I know the original Wonder Woman, she lives here.
Joe Palka: Yes, she does.
Sue Palka: Yeah, she does. Lynda Carter.
Joe Palka: She’s still beautiful. She used to . . .
Andy Ockershausen: I love her husband too, he’s a good guy.
Joe Palka: Yeah Altman.
Andy Ockershausen: Bobby Altman
Sue Palka: They’re great people.
Joe Palka: Sophie Altman was his mother, she did-
Sue Palka: She did It’s Academic, right?
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely, she produced that, she started it on Giant.
Joe Palka: It was funny ’cause I saw a picture of her and Gal Gadot together in the paper. I looked, I said, “They’re both gorgeous.”
Sue Palka: Lynda Carter is still gorgeous.
Joe Palka: Yes, really beautiful.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Joe, one of the young guys you will work with when you worked here was Tim Brant.
Joe Palka: He was a very gifted communicator. He was a very good … as an ex-jock.
Metromedia | Bob Bennett | Fox 5
Andy Ockershausen: In my relationship with 5, I go back to when Bob Bennett was here. He became President of Metromedia, died two years ago, right before Thanksgiving, and Tom Maney died before him. All my friends at Channel 5 have all disappeared and it happens over the years, right?
Joe Palka: Yeah. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Lot of friends … Sue is still here. I love it!
Joe Palka: Yeah.
The Story of the Lost Fox 5 Jacket
Sue Palka: Oh, I came in, it was still Metromedia in 1985 but it was about to go Fox. So I remember clearly them handing me a jacket that said Fox 5. And I treasured that jacket, I thought it was so sharp and my little kindergartener, Nora took it to school one day and I never saw it again. “Nora darn it, they never give out jackets at Fox.”
Andy Ockershausen: They created that thing as Fox 5, NBC then became 4, before that was WRC and WTOP television, you remember that?
Joe Palka: Yes. Yes, yes.
Sue Palka: Oh yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Now Fox 5 is part of our culture, I believe.
Joe Palka: It is, instead of being that UHF, well of course, I guess it was always UHF on Channel 5 but it was still a distant fourth behind the big three at the time. But now they’re all jammed up together if not a little bit behind Fox.
Andy Ockershausen: Listening to Sue talk about her hours and I know that I live with them because I see her morning, noon and night, sometimes. Maury Povich used to have a job, I think he made $1.75 an hour, he did the Noon news and he did the 11, 11:30. He stayed at the station.
Sue Palka: Panorama was on at Noon. He was great on that and so he would split his day. Maury’s schedule…, and by the way, he was so wonderful to work with. He’s a very, very kind and generous man.
Andy Ockershausen: A delightful guy.
Sue Palka: Absolutely is. But he would come in at Noon and I think he’d probably come in at 11, the show was really beautifully produced. And then he would leave and usually go do a round of golf and then we’d see him, he’d go to dinner, do whatever he did, and then we only had 10 o’clock news. So eventually he became the anchor of the 10, he did sports beginning.-
Andy Ockershausen: Everyday. Five days a week, except over the weekend.
Sue Palka: Never called in sick. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Whatever happened to Povich, every time I see him, I said, “Are you still on television Maury? I don’t know what happened to you.”
Sue Palka: Fox tapped him early on to go to New York.
Andy Ockershausen: All the guys are good to you, Sue.
Sue Palka: Ah, they are very nice. I’ve been very grateful to my colleagues.
Joe Palka: Everybody is very nice.
Andy Ockershausen: As we said, you couldn’t get any better than Ernie Baur.
Sue Palka: Ernie in the best.
Andy Ockershausen: Lucille and the whole cast over there was local people.
Joe Palka: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: They all got trained at WMAL.
Sue Palka: We have so many fun stories.
Doreen Gentzler | Willard Scott | Bob Ryan
Joe Palka: The thing about DC, there’s probably more people who had been here their whole lives than what we think, but there’s also a very transient community. When you get somebody to lock in on, whether it’s Sue or a Gordon Peterson who’s no longer on the air or anybody, it’s good to have that anchor. It’s like people look at Sue as though she grew up with them, and that’s such a wonderful story.
Andy Ockershausen: Doreen.
Sue Palka: Doreen’s the best.
Andy Ockershausen: Yes.
Sue Palka: Doreen is wonderful.
Andy Ockershausen: She worked with the General Sarnoff. Willard Scott, we had a deal to hire Willard to work on WMAL and do the TV show. He at the last minute, he backed off because he couldn’t let the General down. I said, “What the hell is he talking about?” He loved General Sarnoff who was the President of RCA, which is NBC. He had met him, spent time with him and he said, “I can’t leave.” He stayed at Channel 4.
Sue Palka: So loyal.
Joe Palka: Your are kidding?
Andy Ockershausen: Before he went to New York for The Today Show.
Sue Palka: And they did the swap with Bob Ryan and Willard, didn’t they? And that’s how we got Bob at WRC.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. Bob was so great when we had him. He sat right here and talked to us, as did Gordon Peterson. I don’t want anybody to forget those people.
Sue Palka: No.
What It Was Like for Joe Palka to Work with Willard Scott
Joe Palka: Well, I did a commercial once with Willard Scott for, as a matter of fact, we’re talking about Robert Altman, that he was associated with some savings and loan that had some difficulty. He was very unfairly accused of being responsible for it going belly up.
Andy Ockershausen: It was the bank, was it?
Joe Palka: I believe it was-
Andy Ockershausen: Commercial bank of some sort.
Joe Palka: a bank something, First American. First American is what it was. But that aside, Willard Scott was so damn charming. He would just tell all these stories-
Andy Ockershausen: He hasn’t changed a bit.
Joe Palka: He had this quick wit and people were coming up as they were observing him doing this commercial and he couldn’t not talk to them, he couldn’t not be gracious. And I thought what a wonderful … His handler had to finally drag him into his own trailer to get him away so we could settle his mind a little bit.
Andy Ockershausen: Sue Palka is that way she talks to everybody, I’ve seen it at all the events.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Thank God for John, Don Bosco Cristo Rey.
Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, Takoma Park, MD
Sue Palka: What a wonderful school.
Andy Ockershausen: You have done so much for, and the great thing for our community, and it’s part of our life now, Don Bosco. Taking care of kids that couldn’t get an education now going to college.
Sue Palka: A phenomenal school with a 100% fantastic results, and those kids are future leaders, they blow you away. So if you haven’t heard of Don Bosco Cristo Rey, please Google it and give them your support.
Andy Ockershausen: Sue, you’ve done so much for Don Bosco.
Sue Palka: Janice is the one who got us all involved in that and I appreciate that.
Joe Palka: It was so funny because Sue started as a teacher and I was a broadcaster and then she became the broadcaster and I became the teacher for many years. So God has a hell of a sense of humor. I don’t think I like it, but I was over in Northeast DC as I’ve already mentioned in the heart of the hood, but it was just funny the way twisted around like that.
Andy Ockershausen: Joe, what is your career path now? What are you gonna do? You’re still young enough to start a new career. Why don’t you try writing, playwriting? If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
What the Future Holds for Joe Palka – It’s in His Hands
Joe Palka: There’s a part of me and it becomes almost toxic in a person’s life when these, I don’t wanna call them pipe dreams cause as I said, they’ve all come true, just not in the magnitude of the way I want to do it-
Andy Ockershausen: Keep doing it Joe.
Joe Palka: But there are things you can hold too closely. And I think that’s one of the great lessons of maturity, it’s wisdom, and once I learn to let some of these things go, as I told you, I had a pretty nondescript audition for a major motion picture and I got it. I never dreamed I would get it. This year I had a spectacular audition for the Shakespeare Theater of Washington for their Richard, III, I was fantastic, did not get it. So, the man upstairs has a way of handling what you’re gonna … I’m going just let-
Andy Ockershausen: Thank God for the man upstairs, you’re right.
Joe Palka: Well, he was smart. He let Sue become the breadwinner and it afforded our family abundant opportunities, not only financially, but in other respects as well, that we never would have had otherwise. I’m sure we would have been very happy had we gone to Buffalo, but not like we’ve had this adventure here, it’s been pretty great.
Andy Ockershausen: Been a wonderful wonderful experience here.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: We don’t have Buffalo snow, Joe, have you noticed?
Our Town Spirit Keeps Us Young – It’s Home
Joe Palka: No, do I, I have noticed that, and there’s a spirit of about DC. There’s a spirit about DC, it keeps you young. It really, don’t you think?
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, we live it because Janice and I grew up here at WMAL, we believe in monuments of marvel, and monuments of stone. We talk about it all the time. Joe, you were part of it and we love Our Town.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s pretty great. Now we got Amazon been bringing all these people.
Sue Palka: It’s exciting.
Joe Palka: Yeah.
Sue Palka: Even when you travel, when you come back to DC, it feels so good. It’s like, “Oh man, I’m glad I took the trip, but I’m so glad to be back.”
Joe Palka: Be home.
Sue Palka: It really feels like home. I don’t know what will happen down the road, how long I’ll work, but I can’t see us leaving this area. We would not go far.
Joe Palka: No.
Sue Palka: Because DC gets into your bloodstream.
Joe Palka: It does, and beyond that, we wanna make sure that we have a grandma and grandpa’s house for the kids to come home to. I think that’s the most important. Janice, she’s shaking her head, we don’t wanna bring them to grandma and grandpa’s condo. But, no, there’s a spirit here. We love western Pennsylvania, I’m from Pittsburgh, Sue is from Erie, but we go up there and people age so quickly. We love them, they’re great people, but they age so quickly.
Sue Palka: Not enough Sunshine.
Joe Palka: Yeah. Of course you might have a heart attack because the intensity of life here.
Sue Palka: And, the traffic.
Joe Palka: The traffic. But we at least look good while we’re going down.
Andy Ockershausen: You have a great relationship ’cause you communicate with each other. You’re both communicators in your own way, which is great. And that’s where Janice and I have a chat, she’s a communicator, she runs my life like Sue runs yours.
Joe Palka: Yes, yes, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: But like we said, there’s somebody up there watching out for us, you know that don’t you?
Joe Palka: Yeah.
Sue Palka: Yeah.
Joe Palka: Yeah, there’s no question about that. It took a while to reconcile that because, I mean, let’s face it, when I started, I was the breadwinner for about the first seven years of the marriage and I had paid a lot of dues at $2 an hour in a farm field in Waterford, Pennsylvania. And it took a while and I don’t wanna see that there say that there were resentments as much as there were regrets, and I had to wrestle with those regrets. But in recent years I’ve come to conclude that the adventure wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting.
Andy Ockershausen: We came to the conclusion 30 years ago that Sue is better than you are.
Joe Palka: Well, believe it or not, it was on her third broadcast when she was in Richmond. I said to myself, she is gifted with this and some days she’s gonna make more money than I am. I just didn’t think she was gonna make all the money.
Andy Ockershausen: That goes to show how smart you are Joe.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: But you guys are such a big part of Our Town now we’re so … I’ve been bugging Sue for six months to get this date and we finally came up with one.
Sue Palka: Sorry it took so long.
Andy Ockershausen: But I had to have you included cause I consider y’all a pair.
Joe Palka: Well that was so nice of you to do.
Andy Ockershausen: So much for my ego Joe, by bragging about someone I love, which is WMAL, which it’ll never be again.
Joe Palka: It never …
Andy Ockershausen: But there’s so many memories.
Memories Keep WMAL Alive Today
Joe Palka: It died a premature death. They killed it. It could have died of natural causes, but then and again, the spirit of WMAL, the sense of community, the involvement in the community, the personality, that stuff hasn’t died. It just has been put into some secret cubicle someplace-
Sue Palka: Reformat it.
Joe Palka: If they ever bring it out again, it’s going to be great. There’s a place for it already.
Andy Ockershausen: Television, Sue Palka represents that.
Joe Palka: Yeah, no there’s no doubt about it.
Andy Ockershausen: Get out. Get dressed. You guys do it every day, and It’s so important. Joe, incidentally, I love your outfit.
Vintage Clothing – Ray Bolger 1930s Suit
Joe Palka: Well, thank you. I’m a vintage clothing guy. This vest is from 1900.
Andy Ockershausen: It look likes a Pennsylvania cowboy.
Joe Palka: What’s that?
Ken Hunter: I like the chain.
Joe Palka: The chain, that’s a pocket watch. That’s not a vintage. Do I have an anything else on that’s vintage? Just the vest which is-
Andy Ockershausen: Janny O. He looks like an Erie cowboy.
Joe Palka: My coat in the corners is from the 1930s. It’s probably got a ghost in it somewhere.
Andy Ockershausen: Sue, you’re a lucky woman to have Joe, and he’s so lucky to have you.
Sue Palka: I am.
Joe Palka: The scarf is from the twenties.
Sue Palka: Joe just got a suit, he buys everything vintage.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Joe Palka: It’s a great story.
Sue Palka: Well, I should let him tell you. It’s kind of a zoot suit, but it’s gorgeous, it’s very tailored, he got it on Ebay, I’m sure. And on the inside it belonged to Ray Bolger because back in the day, they used to sew the names in.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my God.
Joe Palka: I’ll show you the picture of it after we get off the air.
Andy Ockershausen: Once in love with Amy.
Joe Palka: Yes, yes, and of course-
Andy Ockershausen: Always in love with Amy.
Joe Palka: -there it is, and the guy who sold it to me it’s Reese’s pieces, his name is Reese, if you wanna email him, he has to go by the Queen. So you email the Queen at Reese’s Pieces. So obviously he’s a member of the gay community and you would not sell a fake suit if you don’t wanna lose your credentials as a gay man. And so I trust that.
Sue Palka: But he did, when he first put on the Ray Bolger suit he also kind of transformed himself into a scarecrow and said. . .
Joe Palka: “Oh, lalalalalalala.”
Sue Palka: You got the song.
Joe Palka: Yeah, no, I do enjoy vintage clothing.
Andy Ockershausen: What does scarecrow say? “I wish I had a brain.”
Joe Palka: I wish I had a brain, right?
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you have a brain, Joe.
Joe Palka: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: You are fortunate to have a beautiful brain too.
Sue Palka: I guess that makes me Dorothy, right? Is this Kansas? I mean, I’m not sure what happened. How did we get here?
Andy Ockershausen: We wish you guys so much success, you’ve already had it, keep doing it. You’re such a big part of Our Town. Sue, you know how long I begged for you to do this, because I know how busy you are.
Sue Palka: I am so glad we got to do this. I thank you for doing the podcast because you’re bringing back so many great memories.
Andy Ockershausen: Janice’s idea, she’s produced it, she started it, led me through everything. What we’re hoping to do, Joe, is we’re gonna take all these things as a package and give them to a school or someone like a journalism class or something cause you listen to it there are a lot of people with a lot of stories on his podcast that these kids have no idea what the world was like.
Joe Palka: Right. Right.
Andy Ockershausen: We have newsmen, sportsmen, women, men. We’ve got over 160 people we’ve talked to. Nobody has been better than Joe and Sue Palka.
Joe Palka: Well no ones … And here I am pandering again, but I remember in a room over there where the music director used to hold court. I remember Andy was in there one day and I was talking about New York. He says, “The heck with New York.” Only probably didn’t say heck, he says, “Where do you get the kind of trees that we have here in DC?” Do you remember saying that? You did say that. Well, the point is that Andy Ockershausen has been the greatest Ambassador for Washington DC.
Sue Palka: Most definitely.
Our Town is Community
Joe Palka: That the community of Washington DC, people go someplace and they hear Washington, they think of politics, but this is a community where people live-
Andy Ockershausen: Our Town.
Joe Palka: -and really good people live here. Really good people.
Andy Ockershausen: We’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, we had a homeless woman, one of our guests on the show to talk about living in a shelter, what life was about. Now, I don’t know if anybody’s ever paid attention to homeless people, but they have a story, they’re in a different world than we’re in Joe, and it was so interesting to hear that, so we’ve tried to cover the gamut of people of all walks of life and I think it’s paid off. Paid off for me, it’s kept me alive, hasn’t it Ken? You think so.
Ken Hunter: Yeah, look at you.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Joe and Sue, what’s in the future for you now Joe, you’re gonna keep writing, of course and keep working?
Upcoming Conor McPherson Play at Quotidian Theatre, Bethesda, MD
Joe Palka: Well yeah, keep writing and if any opportunities avail themselves to audition, I certainly will do that. A year from now I’m going to be in a play at the Quotidian Theater up in Bethesda by Conor McPherson, he’s the great Irish playwright, it’s called Port Authority. And they booked me a year and a half in advance cause there’s so many lines and I’m so glad they did, because lines to not come quickly anymore. So I’m going to be in that in about a year, I hope there’ll be something in between, and-
Sue Palka: You’re still at Voice of America.
Joe Palka: I’m still at Voice of America, I’m working with such nice people there, it’s a great feeling.
Sue Palka: Lot of former radio broadcasters.
Joe Palka: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Forget Hollywood, stay here Joe. They’ll be after you if you move out there, but don’t go. If you move, you’re gonna take Sue with you, we don’t wanna lose Sue.
Joe Palka: Oh No.
Andy Ockershausen: But you guys are so special to us and thank you very much for doing this podcast and being part of our lives. We say that for Janice and myself, but I think for everybody that ever was a WMAL person, Joe, cause they all listen in now. We here from them all the time.
Joe Palka: Oh, do you really?
Andy Ockershausen: They remember so much of what we talked about. All the good things.
Joe Palka: They’re special people. Each one is so dynamic in their own way, all those guys I was on the air with, whether it was Tom Gauger or poor Ken.
Andy Ockershausen: We went to a lot of funerals recently.
Bill Trumbull | Chris Core
Joe Palka: Too many, too many. Bill Trumbull the greatest at them all probably, and he passed away way too young.
Andy Ockershausen: Chris Core has done quite well.
Joe Palka: Yeah.
Sue Palka: Yeah. I hear him doing his Core Values on WTOP. Great writer.
Andy Ockershausen: He lives in Florida
Joe Palka: Does he really? No.
Sue Palka: Oh my gosh, I did not know that.
Joe Palka: Oh, boy.
Andy Ockershausen: The world has changed now Joe, you can live anywhere and be on radio.
Joe Palka: I know. I know.
Andy Ockershausen: You can be anywhere and do a podcast Joe.
Joe Palka: One thing Chris was good at was connecting with DC-
Andy Ockershausen: We love you guys and thank you so much for being on Our Town and being a big part of Our Town and continue to do it both of you.
Sue Palka: And Andy, thank you for making it possible for us to live in Our Town. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.
Joe Palka: Amen.
Joe Palka: I’ll put that on my back on my book I’m gonna write. People ask me to write a book, but I’m afraid it be dishonored, ’cause nobody would read it.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I would read it.
Sue Palka: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: We have a book, It’s called Our Town.
Joe Palka: As long as you know how to spell Ockershausen. I still don’t know.
Andy Ockershausen: You know you’re the best. This is Andy Ockershausen, this has been a most delightful Our Town with Joe and Sue Palka.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season 4, presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook, or visit our website at OurTownDC.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL Radio in Washington, DC. And thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.
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