He?s usually the man who asks the questions. But Bay Area TV host and interviewer Ross McGowan remembers one time when the tables were turned and he was speechless.
?I had this woman come up to me once just out of the clear blue sky,? he said. ?I was walking down the street in San Francisco. She stopped me and said, ?Ross McGowan? Have you ever had to work hard for anything??
The truth is, the imperturbable broadcaster worked hard for decades to make it all look so easy. Even when confronted with a question that might have ignited hotter heads, he politely held his tongue.
Now, after 40 years cajoling confessions from celebrities and candor from politicians, McGowan has stepped away from the microphone, retreating to his Healdsburg home to play tennis and golf, learn photography and sleep in. October 2 was his last day.
Since 1993 he?s been getting out of bed at 2:00 in the morning to be on set and prepared to host KTVU?s ?Mornings on Two.? That means that during the week he has to be in bed by 7:30 or 8 p.m.
And yet McGowan is slow to complain or sound ungrateful for a career that has kept him employed in his native Bay Area since the 1970s, first for 14 years as the affable and boyish straight man to the ebullient Ann Fraser on KPIX?s old ?People Are Talking? and later stepping into the role of elder statesman on ?Mornings on Two.?
?I?ll dabble with broadcasting a bit. I just don?t want to work full-time anymore...although I?m sure lucky to have a job,? he said on a recent afternoon, stretching out his long legs on the porch of his home on Fitch Mountain, two dogs at his feet.
?Of all the people who wish they had a job, and I just don?t want to get up too early,? he adds apologetically. ?But after 17 years I?m tired of it.?
At 66, no one would begrudge a man his retirement, but McGowan insisted that when station management put out the press release about his pending departure, there would be no mention of the ?R? word.
?There were three things I didn?t want on there. I don?t want, ?I?m retiring.? I don?t want ?I?m pursuing other business interests? and I don?t want ?I want to spend more time with my family?...particularly if you met my family,? he adds with typical downplayed humor.
McGowan lives in a casual house overlooking Healdsburg, with sweeping views of Alexander and Dry Creek valleys. He bought the place in 2002, following his close friend and TV foil Ann Fraser, who also has a home in Healdsburg as well as a summer place further down the Russian River.
During their years on ?People are Talking,? viewers had fun guessing whether Ann and Ross, with their simmering on-screen chemistry, were really an item; they did little to dispel the rumors, although it was all in fun. Fraser said she and her husband Ron Lorentzen and Ross are like ?The Three Musketeers.? In fact, McGowan unwittingly had a hand in bringing them together. Lorentzen was a producer for one of McGowan?s shows in Seattle back in the day and after Ann picked Ross out of a bevy of wannabes to be her co-host on ?People Are Talking,? McGowan recruited his old associate for a job at KPIX.