Ron Magers' legendary career: How it all began

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We're taking a look at how Ron Magers legendary broadcasting career all began. (WLS)

Ron Magers is retiring from the ABC7 anchor desk on Wednesday, May 25. While it's impossible to sum up everything he has contributed as a legendary broadcaster in Chicago for decades, we are sure going to try - beginning with a look back at how it all began.

Ron Magers started out as a teenage DJ at a little radio station in Washington State. If the broadcast thing doesn't pan out, he could easily sell ice cream.

"I was working in the fields bailing hay for a dollar an hour. A friend of mine got a job in a radio station and made $1.10 an hour with air conditioning. So I got into radio for 10 cents an hour and air conditioning. That's the truth," Magers said.

He didn't go looking for broadcast jobs, they kept finding him. Viewers loved his conversational style and the camera loved his face. A Portland TV critic called him a "hunk of beefcake" with audience rapport.

San Francisco called and - in his early 20's - he became such a dominant rising star there. Management gave him a half-hour show called "Electric Impressions" outside of news and essentially said, fill it any way you want. He did.

"People have asked us why we want to embark on such an ambitious endeavor. Frankly, it's because we want to bring something new and exciting to you our viewers. And we want the money," Magers said on "Electric Impressions".

He has always possessed an irreverent wit, and he has never been fond of authority.

"I think Ron has that personality that if he hadn't become a journalist, he might have been a juvenile delinquent," said Emily Barr, CEO, Graham Media Group.

"She's right! I was a troubled youth. I had difficulty with authority," Magers said. "What I say is, I think I went to five colleges, and I think I left two of them voluntarily, and I know I never got a degree anywhere."

But what he's always had, perhaps, cannot be taught. His colleagues recognized it a long time ago.

"Ron just had that ability to transcend. The camera was not in his way. He came right through the camera, and like I say, that's an innate ability," former KPIX sportscaster Barry Tompkins said.

No. 1 in San Francisco. No. 1 in Minneapolis. No. 1 in Chicago. Calm under pressure with a memory that is - if not photographic - then certainly encyclopedic.

"Ron is like Google, before Google," co-anchor Kathy Brock said.

"He has a normalcy about him that people get. He's real," former co-anchor Carol Marin said.

Ron Magers is retiring the same way he has handled his half-century-long career - on his own terms.

"What I'm most grateful for is that I was able to not just survive more than 50 years, but have some success along the way, and be able to retire when I was ready to retire," Magers said.

He calls his whole journey something of an accident - a "cosmic joke." But there were signs to the contrary long ago.

See the little tyke here with an important guy - look who's controlling the microphone: it's Ronnie Magers. Beware Santa, he's got issues with authority.

About two decades after quizzing Santa, the little man in the hat had become a rising TV news star in San Francisco. His station management - that is, authority - liked him so much, they had him host a show that may be best described as brilliantly wacky.
On ABC7 Eyewitness News on Sunday night at 10 p.m., we shall float back 45 years, and reveal a Ron Magers who was quite good at making an "electric impression."

If, by chance, you have any half lens, tinted glasses you may wish to wear them to enhance your viewing pleasure.

We'll have many more stories you'll want to hear about Ron Magers. Look for special reports through Wednesday, his last day here at ABC7.
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