'Today' Veteran Willard Scott Dies At 87 Before he was the lovable, oddball weather guy on NBC's Today show, Scott was the original Ronald McDonald. He died Saturday.

'Today' Veteran Willard Scott, Who Delivered Weather With Shtick, Dies At 87

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Willard Scott, the jolly weatherman on NBC's "Today" show through the 1980s and '90s, has died at his home in Delaplane, Va. He was 87. Scott endeared himself to audiences with his warm and sunny disposition and his birthday wishes to the elderly. NPR's Arnie Seipel looks back on his career.

ARNIE SEIPEL, BYLINE: Willard Scott never seemed to have much trouble getting work. He narrated shows at Carnegie Hall, spent a decade hosting Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, appeared in countless commercials - and all of that was after he found success as the lovable, oddball weather guy on the "Today" show.


WILLARD SCOTT: These are just sort of piddly-do (ph) showers. That's a meteorological term, Jane, piddly do.

SEIPEL: Scott spent practically his whole life in the business. At the age of 16, he got his foot in the door as a pageboy in NBC's Washington, D.C., bureau. Three years later, Scott started co-hosting the "Joy Boys" radio show, a nightly hodgepodge of comedy bits.


SCOTT: Finally, the doctor...


SCOTT: ...Knocks on the door. The doctor knocks...


SEIPEL: His goofy act became a staple of local radio and TV. Kids who grew up around Washington in the early '60s knew Scott by another name - Bozo the Clown. He then landed a role that would become part of the fabric of American popular culture. Scott was the original Ronald McDonald.


SCOTT: (As Ronald McDonald) Well, hi. Isn't that McDonald's hamburger delicious?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Mom told me never to talk to strangers.

SCOTT: (As Ronald McDonald) Well, your mother's right, as always, but I'm Ronald McDonald. Give me a McDonald's shake.


SEIPEL: In 1967, Scott got his first gig as a local TV weatherman. Thirteen years later, he was introduced to viewers from coast to coast.


TOM BROKAW: Good morning, all. I'm Tom Brokaw, here with Jane Pauley...

JANE PAULEY: Good morning.

BROKAW: ...And the newest member, old Uncle Willard - the newest member of the "Today" family. You'll be hearing from him later. You're going to be doing the weather for us, Willard Scott.

SCOTT: I got so much weather here, I could do the whole show. You all could go home right now.

SEIPEL: Scott joined NBC's "Today" show in 1980. It wasn't long before his wacky persona won over a national audience.


SCOTT: Weather can be pretty bland on a day-to-day basis, and so what you do is to add a little shtick to it.

SEIPEL: That shtick would include playing around with his infamously bad toupee. He impersonated pop star Boy George. And then one morning, the ultimate Willard Scott stunt - he delivered the weather dressed up as Carmen Miranda.


SCOTT: Rumba (ph), riba (ph) riba, riba, riba, riba - riba, riba, riba. I don't know what arriba - hey.

SEIPEL: As Scott told NPR in 1987, not everyone at NBC was amused.

SCOTT: There were people up there who made a lot of money betting on me to fall on my face and that this whole cornball act would never make it.

SEIPEL: But it worked. And even though Scott contrived a lot of his shtick, his trademark act was actually developed by the folks watching at home. One day in 1983, a viewer wrote in asking Scott to wish his uncle a happy 100th birthday on the air. Scott obliged, and more requests flooded in.


SCOTT: Happy birthday to Louise Simms (ph) of Ottawa, Ill., a beautiful...

Emma Knievel - is it possible? - from Butte, Mont. - 100 years old? Yes. Evel Knievel's grandmother. She was...

Edgar L. Smith (ph) is 100 years old today - 104...

SEIPEL: The birthday wishes became so popular that after Scott left his post delivering weather on "Today" in 1996, he would still appear twice a week to greet his so-called birthday buddies. He also wrote books about them with his usual sense of humor. Here he is talking about one.

SCOTT: A stockbroker had recently tried to sell this man municipal bonds that matured in 20 years. And Uncle Charlie (ph) says, hell - he said, at my age, I don't even buy green bananas.


SEIPEL: Willard Scott may be best known for bringing TV viewers the weather, but what he always delivered was a laugh. Arnie Seipel, NPR News.

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