By Judith Salkin
You gotta love a guy who can laugh at his former reputation as a self-absorbed player, and is thankful that while in that condition he managed not to totally screw up anyone else’s life along the way.
“If I had gotten married or had a kid when I was in my 20s, I would be divorced and who knows where the kid would be,” says KMIR’s evening news anchor Gino LaMont. “I certainly wouldn’t be married to my wife if she’d met me back then.”
Now 52, LaMont has been a fixture on Coachella Valley newscasts for most of the past two decades. But it took the Orange County native a while to decide what he wanted to do with his life.
Today LaMont is a respected member of the Coachella Valley’s news community, anchoring the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. news shows. He spends his time before coming to the studio at 3 p.m. making breakfast for his kids, Parker, 8 and Hudson, 1, taking care of Hudson until heading to the studio at 3 p.m., grocery shopping, doing laundry and cooking for his family.
“My wife (Sandra) works as the manager of a gym and she takes care of getting my daughter Parker, 8, from school. There’s no way it can work if we don’t split it,” he says of the shared work load. “I’m afraid of her. No, really, I am,” he adds with a deep smile.
LaMont’s life might not have ended up the way it has if he hadn’t called former KMIR (and now KESQ) news anchor Karen Divine in 1994, asking about a job in local television. On his third go ‘round living in the valley, “I was 32 and told her ‘I think I want to try this television thing’.”
He’d used his college years to see the country, attending schools from UCLA to North Dakota. “I loved learning, I loved going to school,” he recalled. “I just never finished. Working at restaurants and bars I walked out every night with a pocketful of money at 10 p.m., and got to go have fun.”
Divine offered him an internship in the newsroom where he started pulling copy before moving up to floor director then to photographer and eventually to “being a one-man band, shooting the stories and doing the voice over, but not being on camera,” he says.
When the weekend weather spot opened up, LaMont initially turned it down. “My girlfriend told me I was an idiot,” he says. “There were thousands of people sending out tapes who would have jumped at the position. So I called back and took the job.”
Never having been on television, “I was so nervous I was walking circles around the building at 10 a.m.,” he says. And he was in makeup by 2 in the afternoon. “By the time I went on-air at 6, I’d either sweated or wiped all the makeup off and I was dripping in sweat.”
LaMont has spent most of his career at KMIR, although his contract wasn’t renewed in 2003. “That was hard,” he recalls. “No one was calling, except Casey (Dolan) and he offered me a job on his morning show.”
LaMont loosened up cracking jokes, talking about new stories with Dolan and making conversation. It gave LaMont more confidence as a broadcaster. When he was offered “Eye on the Desert,” LaMont was back on-air and nine months later, KMIR called and offered him a spot on the station’s morning show. “I was happy thinking they wanted me for the weather,” he said.
At this point in time, LaMont is happy being a part of the Coachella Valley community. “I could go to St. Louis and make a lot more money,” he says. “But you don’t get the president coming to St. Louis for four days or have the film festivals and the golf tournaments we have here.”
With his family his priority, when he gets home at midnight LaMont puts on sweats, grabs a stack of Oreos and turns on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” “That is my 22 minutes,” he says with a grin. “No kids, no wife. Me and Stewart.”