Video Vault: Fun times on TV with Wilma Smith

Wilma at WEWS from 1977-1994, then to WJW

CLEVELAND - Former WEWS anchor Wilma Smith announced she will be retiring from WJW and Cleveland TV in May. Wilma joined WJW in 1994 after 17 years at WEWS.

Wilma came to WEWS to be the co-host of the Afternoon Exchange in July 1977. She and Joel Rose along with Fred Griffith were the original hosts of the show.

While she would anchor weekends with Bill Jacocks and then later the 11 p.m news with Ted Henry, it was the Afternoon Exchange and later Live On Five where Wilma was able to do longer-form interviews and have fun with guests.

I've put together a few fun moments from our archives highlighting Wilma and guests, plus some hijinks with her co-anchors.

First is Firth, Peter Firth.

The actor was doing a live talkback interview from Blossom Music Center when he lost his balance and, on live TV, fell off his chair.

A stunned Wilma rolled with Firth's flop and the interview went on.

In Firth's defense, the ground in the area we used for our live interviews was uneven. This was not the first time a guest fell over but it usually happened just before or after the live shot and rarely did it happen on air.

Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo was a frequent guest on Live On Five and the Morning Exchange. In this appearance, Hanna brought bugs, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. You can see Wilma is just mortified at the thought of the bugs getting anywhere near her.

Next up: TV legend Billy Crystal.

Crystal was in town to appear at Playhouse Square. He was red hot in the entertainment world as part of the Saturday Night Live crew.

 He did two segments on Live On Five preceding his show. The studio was packed with employees of WEWS watching the funny man do what he does best, be funny.

During the commercial break between his segments, an ad came on for a home medical company's lift chair. Crystal was enthralled with it and improvised the comedy bit you see.

Roy Weissenger co-anchored Live On Five for nine years. One of the fun things Roy did with the studio crew was to throw wadded-up promo scripts to them a la football passes.

Unbeknownst to Roy, the crew saved the scripts in a box over the anchor desk and what you see is a promo shoot with the snowstorm of old script balls falling on Roy. Wilma joins the fun, throwing them back at the crew. Roy may looked annoyed to you but is actually relishing the good "gotcha" the crew concocted.

Finally, some pumpkin fun.

As her co-anchor, Ted Henry was a loose cannon. Fun and often unpredictable, Ted didn't always stick to the script, leading to moments like this, his pumpkin comparison.

Wilma and Ted both have stories about big pumpkins, Wilma's from Japan, Ted's from Florida. Ted's non-scripted "It's huge!" became a newsroom catch phrase for the rest of Ted's career at WEWS.

The pumpkin fun ends the newscast and we get a glimpse of the late Nev Chandler and the retired Don Webster.

Wilma, we wish you the best in your retirement. Always the classy lady, you'll be missed on the airwaves of Cleveland.

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