Ten Atlanta radio/TV personalities who made comebacks like Paul Ossmann

Comeback kids in Atlanta media: (Top left, clockwise): Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson, Eric Von Haessler, Porsche Foxx, Amanda Davis, Jeff Hullinger, Christopher “Crash” Clark.

This was posted Friday, August 18, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

People love a good comeback, a resurrection, a return to glory. Paul Ossmann earlier this week is a most notable one, having lost his job as chief meteorologist at 11Alive the same year he lost his home and his wife. He started as a free-lance fill-in guy at CBS46 and five years later, is now its chief meteorologist.

But there are plenty of others who were able to regain their footing. Here are ten examples, whose comebacks vary in prominence but all prove that while the media world can be a rough-and-tumble world, second (and sometimes third) chances are given.

Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson

The Kimmer spent 14 years at 640/WGST-AM as a popular, jocular talk show host until the station dropped him abruptly right before Thanksgiving of 2006. (The station in general was losing steam anyway.) At the time, with no great offers, he decided to retire from radio. He moved away from Atlanta in 2007, purchased property in western Massachusetts, played copious amounts of golf and rode his Harley. He spent summers in Palm Beach, Fla., eventually moving down there full time for financial reasons. He even got himself a horse named Jack, the Good Ol’ Boy. Radio? For seven years, it became a receding memory.

Then Atlanta-based Cumulus Media came a callin’ a little more than a year after launching an all-news FM station at 106.7. The owners wanted a talk show personality that could immediately place the station on the map. If anything, the Kimmer had heritage in the market going back to the early 1970s. With his return, the Kimmer decided that he could replicate the formula that worked so well on WGST, even bringing back part of his core WGST talk show team, including the man of 1,000 voices Jim Gossett and Pete “Snake” Davis.

In the end, it worked out. He’s pulling in solid ratings, especially among men 25 to 54. He and mid-morning host Shannon Burke are almost single-handedly keeping that station afloat.

Jeff Hullinger

Jeff Hullinger was a hot-shot sports announcer for WAGA-TV for 18 years from 1984 to 2002, winning a bevy of Emmy Awards, doing Falcons play by play and subbing in for CNN’s “Talk Back Live.” At age 43, he figured he’d have an easy time finding another good gig in Atlanta. It didn’t happen.

He worked briefly in Tampa and Atlanta news/talk station WSB but was unemployed when I wrote a story in 2010 called “Whatever happened to Jeff Hullinger?” Good news soon followed; 11Alive hired him weeks after that story came out.

At the NBC affiliate, he started as a political correspondent in 2010, became an anchor in 2012, did some sports anchoring in 2014, then was named primary male evening anchor for 11Alive in 2016. It’s been a steady and impressive career resurgence.

Amanda Davis

Amanda Davis was charged with a DUI after hitting another vehicle in 2012, which led to her departure from Fox 5 (WAGA-TV) after 26 years in 2013.

Her broadcast career appeared to be over. But then CBS46 added her to their “Just a Minute” roster in 2015. The weekend before her return to the airwaves as a commentator, she was arrested again for a DUI. She decided to take time off and go into rehab. In 2016, she did a remarkably candid three-part series for CBS46 about her alcoholism. Late last year, she landed the morning anchor job at the station.

Eric Von Haessler

When he was let go from the Regular Guys in 2013, the irreverent Libertarian knew knew he no longer wanted to do rock jock morning radio. Instead, he decided to pursue political talk.

He first began hosting a podcast to build up his chops. It worked. News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB program director Pete Spriggs liked what he heard and hired him in 2015 for a weekly weekend show. He waited patiently and earlier this year was rewarded a weekday show at 11 a.m. He brought in Tim Andrews, formerly of the Regular Guys, as part of his team. While he is on only one hour a day on the AM/FM dial, he is well positioned to get more time in the future.

Christopher “Crash” Clark

Christopher “Crash” Clark was a radio traffic guy for many years for stations like Hot 107.9, Q100 and 99X. For the Morning X, he was the over-the-top party guy and would often get himself in trouble. He was fired and suspended multiple times but always managed to get his job back – until late 2005. After an incident where he allowed a couple to get freaky in a bathroom at a bar for 311 tickets, 99X let him go for good.

Following a stint in Boston, he came back to Atlanta and worked at Dave FM, then V-103 with Ryan Cameron, both afternoons and mornings.

But ratings disappointed. He lasted less than a year with Cameron in mornings.

Then 11Alive decided to give him a shot at TV covering traffic, an unexpected mid-career change. He has been their morning traffic man now for more than three years, his goofy chemistry with meteorologist Chesley McNeil undeniable.

Porsche Foxx at V-103 studio announcing her return.
(Rodney Ho / AJC staff)

Porsche Foxx

Porsche Foxx was a popular V-103 afternoon host until December, 2004 when DeKalb County police arrested her and charged her with driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and a suspended license. Six weeks later, V-103 let her go. She entered alcohol rehab. In 2007, V-103 re-hired her as a mid-day host. “It’s been two and a half years, ” she told Frank Ski and Wanda Smith at the time. “I’m a better woman today. I’m more resilient. I make better decisions.” Less than two years later, she was let go again.

Eight years later, Steve Hegwood was building staff at his new Old School 87.7 and decided to give Porsche another shot last year. 

She triumphantly returned last July on air.

Bristol, CT – October 5, 2016 – Studio X: Elle Duncan on the set of SportsCenter
(Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Elle Duncan

Elle Duncan is a case of taking what she learned in Atlanta and transforming that into a national gig.

Duncan, at age 20 in 2003, started working with the 2 Live Stews before moving to V-103 and Ryan Cameron‘s show a year later. At V-103, she was unable to land a spot that worked for her long term. She worked as mid-day host and as part of Frank Ski and Wanda Smith’s morning show.

After V-103 let her go, she spent a year doing traffic for 11 Alive. While there, she was arrested for a DUI in 2013. The station briefly suspended her but she got her job back. Her heart, though, was in sports, not traffic. Later that year, she left for the New England Sports Network.

Last year, she was hired to be an ESPN SportsCenter anchor.

The 790/The Zone morning show Mayhem in the AM (Chris Dimino, Nick Cellini, Steak Shapiro)

On June 17, 2013, Nick Cellini of sports station 790/The Zone started a silly bit making fun of ALS victim and former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason, a bit that he truncated after he realized it was going south.

But a Saints fan posted an audio clip on a Saints fan bulletin board and it went quickly viral. They were quickly suspended and after more social media backlash, let go completely by the end of the day. All three members of the team expressed their regret and apologies, but the damage was done. (The Zone itself would die soon after as a station.)

Within a few months, Steak Shapiro and Chris Dimino landed jobs at rival station 680/93.7 The Fan.  But Cellini was placed in purgatory for far longer, considered responsible for the bit and talking to me that day, truthfully saying the station was sinking anyway. At one point, he was driving Uber to make ends meet.

In 2015, Fan owner David Dickey finally hired Cellini for the morning show with Dimino and Christopher Rude. (Rude himself was just let go last week, leaving Dimino and Cellini to man the morning show.)

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