Not Just a Weatherman…a Weather-mensch
This year marks the 40th anniversary of my graduation from Shakra University, which U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked as “America’s #1 Safety School.” I don’t remember much of my six years there. However, two things do, indeed, stand out. One was that wild night in the winter of ’72 when I broke into Dean Klumph’s house and short-sheeted his bed, an episode that cost me dearly. I was forced to relinquish my role as the beloved school mascot, Herb the Certified Public Accountant.
As for my other memorable collegiate moment, it was the graduation commencement speech. The speaker was Mike Busby, the weatherman at Channel 2, our local news station. Though a fine meteorologist with a keen sense of whimsy—he was renowned for reporting on devastating tornadoes dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, complete with ruby slippers—he wasn’t the original choice to address our graduating class.
That honor belonged to Gil Futterman, aka Dr. Hy Colonic, the chief plastic surgeon on the long-running soap opera, Scalpel, Please. Unfortunately, Gil had to cancel at the last minute when he was rushed into surgery for an emergency tummy tuck.
“How ironic, Dr. Colonic.”
That was the unforgettable response all of my classmates had when we heard the news. Not surprisingly, the hearty chuckles we exhibited externally belied what we felt on the inside. We were all deeply disturbed that we would not get to hear the pearls of wisdom from a man who had been snubbed by the Daytime Emmy Awards sixteen years running. (It was rumored that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences had it in for Gil because he repeatedly referred to them as “excrement incarnate” every time he lost.)
I had been a big fan of Gil Futterman ever since the 7th grade when I was bedridden for a month after a freak accident involving a can of Cheez Whiz and a blowtorch. While out of commission, I spent hours upon hours watching television. I loved the game shows in particular, especially Name That Tuna, where you could win valuable prizes by identifying songs with the words “albacore” and “chunk light” in the title. I was also drawn to the sitcoms, most notably, My Mother the Ferret, and classic westerns, such as Have Gun, Will Buy Bullets.
But it was Scalpel, Please that totally grabbed my attention. It was impossible not to tune in every weekday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. to experience the ups and downs of whiny rich people who were so miserable that they were practically foaming at the mouth to have their noses narrowed, their breasts augmented, and their eye lids Martinized.
And it was equally impossible not to be enthralled by Dr. Hy Colonic’s soothing bedside manner as he explained to patients the risks involved in surgery, the ample rewards when successful, and the exorbitant fees he was forced to charge by the International Nip and Tuck Union.
That’s why when Gil Futterman’s replacement was announced we were all duly shocked. How could a lowly local weatherman give the most important speech at the most important moment of any college student’s career (Freshman WedgieFest being the lone exception)?
Suffice it to say, we were all wrong. Mike Busby was a rock star. He provided us with inspirational nuggets that, to this day, I continue to use to guide me in my work as Professor Emeritus of Dermatology at The Online Zit Institute, and in my personal life as a husband, father, and weekend forklift enthusiast.
Here are a just few of the gems Mike imparted to us:
Never thank your boss for giving you a raise by downgrading them from a Category 5 Moron to a Tropical Storm Moron
Gale force winds are a sign from God not to wear your good toupee
When life gives you high pressure systems, make high pressure system-ade
I was moved by that commencement speech like no other speech I had ever heard, including the one my barber gave me when he discovered a family of lice nesting in my comb-over. That’s why it saddened me to read the other day that Mike Busby had passed away. He was giving the commencement speech at his grandson’s kindergarten graduation ceremony when he was struck in the eye by a spitball, fell over backwards, and split his head open on a Pyrex dish piled high with vegan Hostess Ding Dongs.
To honor the man I only knew and admired from afar, I decided to attend his funeral. And I’m very glad I did. The minister spoke of Mike in glowing terms while standing in front of a satellite map that showed the meteorologist’s soul off the coast of Nantucket.
After the service, we were invited to say goodbye to our dearly departed friend for the final time. I approached the open casket apprehensively as I had never seen another human being completely devoid of life (unless, of course, you count my ex-wife on our honeymoon night).
Much to my surprise, my apprehension turned to complete and utter calm. A huge smile formed on my face as I peered into the casket and saw Mike Busby decked out in his official Channel 2 blazer, his official Channel 2 khakis, and his unofficial Channel 2 ruby slippers.