Experiencing a hurricane at seven years old and falling in love with it, you know you are destined to be a meteorologist when you grow up. In this episode, Dani Behr and Tara Joseph interview friend to the stars and expert meteorologist, Kyle Hunter. A worldwide expert on severe weather, hurricanes, climate, natural hazards, Kyle explains why LA has the best weather in the world. He also opens up about his friendship with Sir Tom Jones that paved the way for more connections and opportunities and the happenings with Music Night. Learn about hurricanes and Hollywood in this one-of-a-kind episode.
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Hurricanes And Hollywood With Kyle Hunter
Our guest has a unique skillset. Not many people can claim to be an award-winning on-air meteorologist or can say that they have three university degrees. On top of that, not many people can say that they’d been President and COO of Tom Jones Enterprises. Let’s welcome to the show, the fabulous, gorgeous and terribly handsome Kyle Hunter. How are you?
I feel like it was my epitaph. I’m alive to hear it.
I know you’ve been working with Tom Jones, which we’ll get into. I was so surprised to read that you are a meteorologist. How does that happen? How did you get into that? Tell us about how it all happened to you.
To be a weatherman or a meteorologist, you have to have a lot of degrees. I was born and raised in Tennessee. When I came out to California with UCLA, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got a double degree in Political Science and Meteorology. Two things that I was interested in. While I was getting a degree in Meteorology and learning about the weather, I happened upon Tom Jones Enterprises and it changed my life forever in a good way.
What made you want to be a meteorologist to start with?
When I was about seven years old in Tennessee, which is a part of Dixie Alley like a tornado alley. There was a tornado that came over at 2:00 in the morning. I remember the house next to us got partially destroyed. I heard it roaring. Ever since that moment, I was fascinated by the weather. I thought, “What in the world is a tornado?” It was night time so nobody saw it. You heard all the big noise. The next day, you see all the destruction or devastation. That’s not the good part of it. Nature has its beauty too, whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes or thunderstorms. I fell in love with all aspects of the weather, good, bad and I never lost that love.
You’ve gone from a state-filled with tornadoes and hurricanes to a state with potential tsunamis and earthquakes. I literally have nightmares about tsunamis. I don’t know about you, Tara. Tara and I are both from London. We don’t get any of this extreme weather in the UK so coming to the States, there’s something quite exciting and terrifying at the same time about a hurricane, an earthquake or a tsunami. What are the chances that we are going to get another major earthquake and a tsunami on top of it?
First of all, I have to take up for Britain just a little bit. I have seen severe drizzle in London at one time.
The drizzle is not going to kill us, though. It might depress us but it’s not going to kill us.
We get an earthquake here in Southern California, there is no question about it. We’re well past due for a 7.0 magnitude or greater. I came from Tennessee and these places where they have tornadoes and in some remnants of a hurricane. You can predict those things. Think about a hurricane. We know two weeks or three weeks out that one’s out in the Atlantic or the Pacific is heading our way. A tornado or severe weather, we may know that three or four days in advance. We don’t know exactly where it’s going to hit, but at least we know that there are thunderstorms coming. With earthquakes, there is no warning whatsoever. If you’re lucky to be sitting around at 4:00 in the morning and not doing anything else, then you have it and there you go. It can happen at noon, it could happen at 1:00 and nobody knows. Earthquakes are hard to prepare for, but yet we’re going to have one, not just at this very moment.
I have nightmares about it. I’ve heard about Utah since you’ve lived there. I’ve been to a movie theater. I was here for the Big One in Santa Monica at the time. I’ve been in a movie theater and the whole room has completely gone back and forth. You’ll never be prepared for it because you have a little mini freak out.
I was at h Club not so long ago when the last big one happened. We were in a screening. I thought they had those chairs, the additional sensations. All of a sudden, this guy came into the room and said, “Evacuate.”
You knew you hadn’t paid for the vibrating seat. You knew something was going on.
It took me a moment to register. With my house, I take out all the insurances, the fire insurance and the earthquake insurance. Every opportunity, I take it out to be on the safe side.
In California, most of the time you have to if you have a mortgage that forces you to buy earthquake insurance.
Fire insurance is mandatory. Earthquake isn’t but I do it anyway.Real estate in Los Angeles isn’t cheap. People pay for the weather. Click To Tweet
Fire insurance is mandatory if you live in the hillsides.
I don’t know about either one of you, but you talk about the Big One. The biggest one that I was here was in January of 1994, the Northridge earthquake. Dani, were you here for that? It was a 6.7, the Northridge earthquake. I should know that thing because I look into it. I have lived here for many years before that happened. When that happened at 4:31 in the morning on January 17th, 1994, I was living in Westwood where UCLA is, where I’d gone to college. The two-story building I was in, the next day was redlined. They’re devastated. Many buildings were destroyed that night. It’s a wonder my building wasn’t. It shook for days and days after the initial earthquake. People who’ve lived here for many years know, but not for the 1994 earthquake. They think, “I’ve lived through earthquakes 3.5.” When you get into a real earthquake and we haven’t had one since 1994 in Los Angeles, you will want to run home to London, Utah or Tennessee. We all did. I remember Tom Jones and his wife were here when it happened and they both wanted to go back to Wales.
I’m so happy you’re on the show because we talk to many people about many different things, but there are very few people that have a real professional chat about the weather. The British love to talk about the weather. That’s all they talk about in a very complainy way, “It’s too hot. It’s too cold.” Every time I ring home, I say about Utah. They’re always going on about how it’s too cold, it’s too rainy. The summer is always too hot. They’ve got their one week of ice weather and now it’s too hot. It’s interesting to have someone who has the expertise and knowledge about the real weather in LA. One thing LA is known for is its weather and its climate. That’s why people flock from all over the world to come live here. What I like to say is it’s so expensive in LA now. We pay weather tax. When people move from different states and different countries to be here, as far as the LA climate goes, do you see it always sustaining? Do you see it changing? Do you see it as still the best climate in the world? What’s your take on LA climate?
We live right at California along the coast from San Francisco down to LA to San Diego to Baja California, Northern Mexico. It’s called a Mediterranean climate. We’re so lucky. Only about 1% of the earth has our climate. It’s also over in the South of France, around Cannes and Antibes and in that area around the Mediterranean. It’s nice weather most of the time, sunny and 75. I think it was the LA Chamber of Commerce who paid everybody off in the ‘50s around here and said, “It’s always 75 and sunny. We never have weather.” We get thunderstorms, rain, hail and 100 miles per hour Santa Ana winds. We get water spouts during the wintertime off the coast. We get tons of severe weather here in Southern California but, “Don’t tell anybody that down at the tourist Bureau because they think it’s going to be here.” You’ve talked about American weather though. Mark Twain, the great American humorist said, “Everybody talks about the weather like they do in Britain, but nobody seems to ever do anything about it.”
We had more rain here in LA, in California than ever before. It felt like being back in the UK. I know it’s great because we have drought and everything in the state. It was torrential. I had water coming through every orifice of my house.
That was the biggest rainfall since I’ve lived here since 2000, which obviously was well needed.
People shut down here when it rains. I have people say to me, “I’m so sorry, we need to cancel the meeting, it’s raining. I can’t go out. I don’t know how to drive in the rain. I’m so sorry, the rain doesn’t suit my whatever.” California doesn’t do well in the rain.
LA people don’t do rain. They certainly cannot drive in the rain.
They closed schools early. They’re like, “No bus service for the kids and stuff. It started drizzling out near the coast and there’s a quarter of a mile fog. We can’t stand the weather.” Most people out here can’t drive in it either. You see all these accidents all the time. For the most part, though, you said it Dani, which I thought was interesting. You said a weather tax. I’ve always said that the real estate out here is cheap. You pay for the weather.
Do you know what else is a bit of a fallacy? Whenever you tell anyone in the world that you live in LA, they say, “There are no seasons.” There are all seasons here though. The autumn is coming. The leaves are changing. The winters and the nights get freezing cold. We’re blessed with some sunny and 75 days, but the nights are cold. You got those deserts freezing cold nights. You can put your fireplace on and you’d get this springtime with new blooms. I totally disagree with that one. What do you say?
After all the years, I’ve known both of you, we’ve never had a long conversation about the weather. I’m enjoying this, but here’s the funny thing. It dawned on me that we have tons of severe weather but it was about 75 and sunny. It was perfect. I defeated my own argument there. You’re exactly right.
It’s interesting here because I find that when they say, “Today is the first day of summer, today is the first day of fall or whatever it is.” I always find that during that day, the weather totally changes. I remember, it was the last day of summer. It was 100 degrees. It was the first day of fall and all of a sudden, it was 65. It literally changes as they say the day changes.
I think it is because you’ve put it into your consciousness.
It is true, though. It’s so totally true.
Maybe in the last few years, but before it was pretty sunny 75.
Now we do have seasons here.
Both of you brought up something, which is interesting. We got rid of drought and thank God we don’t have a drought. We have plenty of snow up in the high Sierra, which is where we get most of our water. That melting of it.
When you’ve got all the stuff behind you, is it actually there or is it just a green screen?
It’s not behind you. It’s totally green. There’s nothing back there.
How would you know where you will position your hand?
When you watch a weatherman or woman on television, they look to the left or to the right because there’s a monitor there that shows exactly what you see at home with the maps behind us. They’ve done what’s called a chroma key insert. Those are the maps. We have a clicker that advances the map so we can talk and do it. Here’s something your audience ought to know and most people don’t know. Here’s your exclusive. No matter where you watch the weather, whether it’s on the BBC over in London, whether it’s in Los Angeles, CNN, local TV News, no matter where you see a man or woman doing live, whether on television they don’t use a prompter. They do three, four or five minutes off the top of their head. They’re called the great rubber band in the news business because these are live shows. They have an earpiece, an IFP, and the producer saying, “Kyle, we lost a live shot or a reporter. Can you do another two-minute weather? Can you do 2:20?” That’s all off the top of your head. We bring the weatherperson to always bring all these newscasts in on time. If you have to be off the air at 6:30, the weathercaster is the one who brings it in time because these are highly produced shows. A lot of people don’t know. Sportspeople, all use prompters. Newspeople, all use prompters. Even for breaking news, very little ad-lib. The weatherperson 100% always ad-lib.
That’s my background as a TV host. We did not have the budgets in the UK to have a teleprompter. That’s very much an American entitlement. They didn’t have the budgets and it wasn’t part of being on TV. I’m also like you. Once you have that background of being able to do live TV with the three producers and the people in your air and being able to count down, it’s quite a skill that you learn over time. It lays the foundation that you can do any TV hosting after that.
It was one of the greatest skills because a lot of people watch the Today Show or they watch Ryan and Kelly on television, this chat shows early in the morning and they think, “They’re freewheeling. They’re just talking.” No, they’d gone home at night with their Bible. They know all the guests. They’ve read the books. You have to prepare to make live television look easy.
It does a lot of preparation and a lot of camera rehearsal. On top of that, things go wrong. VTs don’t pop up in time and the producers and you’re saying, “We’ve lost the commercial break. Talk for another three minutes.” That is definitely part of the skillset.
One time, when we started at a new station down in San Diego a few years ago, I was a chief meteorologist and our commercial machine went out. I had to do an eleven-minute weathercast. All of a sudden, you’ve stopped being the weathercaster and you start being a teacher. You started going, “Here’s a low, here’s a high. Here’s what low means. Here’s what high means.” You had to be a teacher all of a sudden.
Kyle, you got to a point where you then moved from meteorology to Tom Jones. How did that happen? Tell us about your relationship because I’ve met Tom multiple times with you. You’re incredibly close to him as you are with a number of Hollywood’s oldest and biggest stars. Tell us about this other Kyle that we need to know.
It’s just pennies from heaven to meet Tom Jones. You said I went from meteorology to Tom Jones. The truth of the matter is I was still at UCLA. I never got a chance to use my meteorology degree or be on television. I started working with Tom as an assistant for a couple of years. I was running the company. His son has always been his manager. I got to know him and travel with him and that was a great delight. We got very close. After about ten years of working for him, he and I went out and had lunch together. Tom and I had lunch at the Mondrian Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. We had a martini and I’ll never forget. He looked over and he goes, “Kyle, I’ve had a great life because I’ve done what I wanted to do. I know you want to be on television and host and you want to do the weather. I want you to do that. I want you to be as happy as I am.”
It was stunning because I was very important to him and the organization at that time. I called some friends and said, “I’d like to do some TV weather.” At a TV station in Santa Barbara, an ABC affiliate Channel 3, a woman by the name of Kate Winsell was doing the weather. One day, she said, “I’m going to take a vacation. Why don’t you come up and meet my boss, my news director and see if he puts you on?” I did. I drove up to Santa Barbara. He put me on. The next thing you know, the next week I was doing weekend weather and still continued with Tom Jones.
You’d probably need to work on your looks though, Kyle. You’re quite handsome and good looking and to say the least. You have very nice hair. You have a good face for radio and for TV, which you can’t always say about everyone.
Thanks for the compliments about my hair. I do appreciate that.
You launched your initial career and it went on hold because you started working with Tom Jones, then you relaunched it while you were with Tom Jones, which is very interesting.
First of all, all the good things in my life, Tara introduced me by saying I know a lot of celebrities and a lot of A-listers. I know a lot of the old Hollywood is all because of Tom Jones. All of the good things in my life, connections, jobs, opportunities, all of them have all come through Sir Tom Jones, my association and friendship with him. What he suggested, even my life, he knew I loved television, the weather. Even though I was very important to him and his organization, he wanted me to branch out and do what I wanted to do.The big real stars are all very courteous and respectful of their fans and give them pretty much what they want. Click To Tweet
Does he sing to you often and is he singing around the house? I think that’s a question most of us would probably want to know. Does he sing a lot and does he sing to you and what does he sing?
He sings a lot. He does sing around the house. He does sing in the car. There’s no romantic appeal here, he doesn’t sing to me. He would never do that. I’ve got to tell you a story if you don’t mind. This was about several years ago. Me and John Stamos, who’s an actor on Full House and whatnot, and Tom, we went over to a seedy club over Encino, California over in the Valley. We had some drinks. All of us have some drinks and we listened to music. On the way back, we’re in the car and I said, “Tom, you sing all the time, but I’m going to entertain you for a change. I’m going to sing.” My favorite song is Green Green Grass of Home, which is one of Tom Jones’ songs and obviously, it is one of his big hits.
I know all the words. I’ve sung it for years. I said, “Tom, I’m going to start singing.” He was like, “Okay.” I go, “What’s the first line?” I’d been drinking. He goes, “The old hometown looks the same.” I said, “The old home town looks the same. What’s next?” “As I stepped down from the train.” I said, “As I stepped down from the train, what’s next, Tom?” “and there to meet me is my mama and papa.” That went off for the entire song. Tom Jones has the patience of Job to follow me along and at the end of it I said, “I’m going to do it again.” He said, “Please Kyle, don’t sing that song again.”
Tell us all about your Music Nights, but mentioning Green Green Grass. I’m sure I remember your other dear close friend Priscilla Presley was talking about the fact that Elvis was very important with this song, how he championed it in the US charts.
Let me tell you about that song and then I’ll go into the Music Nights. When Green Green Grass came out in 1966, Tom’s big hit with it. Elvis Presley would be traveling on a bus. He loved that song. He loved his mother a lot, as most people know and most fans know. He would cry when he heard that song. Priscilla tells this story. Every few miles, Elvis would pull the bus over to a phone booth, imagine a phone booth in that day and age. His assistant would get out and call the local DJ and say, “Please keep that song playing. Put the record on again, Green Green Grass of Home. Elvis is going to Memphis right now. He’s going home and he wants to hear it.” This would last for a couple of hundred miles that he kept wanting to hear that song. Obviously, nobody had a tape recorder back then and that kind of stuff. You had to get your music from the radio station.
I think we all knew this story, but the Music Nights started with me and my dear friend Jeff Franklin, whose creator, an executive producer of Full House. We started having a Music Night and it started out slowly. It was a dinner party one night. I know exactly who was there. This was the very first night. It was me, Sir Tom Jones, Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, Garry Marshall and his wife, the creator of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley and all the movies and whatnot, Jeff Franklin and his girlfriend and Priscilla Presley. We were all having dinner. We would go in and start playing on the piano. It was just a sing-along. We were singing songs like Take Me Out to the Ballpark, which maybe you two girls don’t even know. It’s very American. That’s what we knew. We’re singing songs. That was many years ago. We had a lot of fun. In two weeks, they said, “Let’s do it again.” More and more people started coming. Top artists would be there and top comedians. We had everybody. The Beach Boys would come along. We’ve had Mick Jagger, The Stones, that kind of caliber.
Are they singing with you? Are they literally singing along on the piano or acapella?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We’ve had many that I can’t even think of who was there now. It’s just top talent. Some I might don’t want to say because I don’t know whether they want to know they’ve been there.
Sometimes in this town, you have real Hollywood moments. Through you, I’ve had some real Hollywood moments. I remember coming to Jackson literally being there with Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, the Beach Boys, Peter Noone and all standing around the piano singing. I remember coming to another one sitting next to Gene Simmons and his gorgeous wife and then everyone getting up and going in and again, playing bongos around the piano. George Hamilton is sitting on my other side telling us fabulous stories. I’m honored to have been a part of some of those extraordinary nights because you’re mixing with these people that are legendary icons. Honestly, Dani, they’re amazing. It’s an amazing night.
Kyle, where’s my invitation? I want a Hollywood Music Night at Kyle’s. Can we go?
You are definitely invited to the next one. Tara, let me follow up on that. We’re so pleased to have you there. As you will know, you’re just great. Jeff and I put together an eclectic group and we all get along. There’s no pretentiousness. There’s none of that stuff, even with Tom Hanks, one of the most wonderful guys in the whole wide world. He is so lovely and Gene Simmons, Mel Gibson is up there many times. He’s a lovely man and we get all this group together and Mickey Rourke for God’s sake.
Everyone has to leave their ego at the door.
No one’s got any egos.
They really don’t. It’s a great time. Tara will tell you, she’ll testify as well. We may start at 7:00 PM cocktails, talking and a lovely dinner, go into the music room, have a cigar, have a cognac. We’re there until sometimes 6:00 or 7:00.
I know Tara is not there until 6:00 or 7:00 AM. She doesn’t drink cognac.
I’ve been there until probably 3:00 AM. The energy is so amazing. You just don’t want to leave. When you see Tom up-close singing, it’s like, “This is such a moment.” I don’t want to head home.
Kyle, this is a major compliment because Tara likes to be home in bed before midnight. Not that she’ll turn into a pumpkin, but sometimes she likes to be bagged. I’ve never seen her out past 11:30. I’ve known Tara since I was sixteen so you must be doing something right.
Here’s one of the great compliments that you don’t get directly, but indirectly. It’s almost what Tara said. I’ve had so many people call me, “I’d love to come, but I’ve got to leave by 11:00 PM or midnight. We have dinner at 7:00 to 8:00 PM, I’ve got to leave.” Nobody ever left. They would be there at 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning. These people who said they had a dentist’s appointment at 8:00 in the morning. I was like, “You told me you had to leave at 11:00.” They’re like, “I’m staying a little longer.”
I’m coming to the next one. I must warn you, I’m a bit of a baritone. I’ll do with the lower part harmonies if there are any going on.
Have you ever seen Dani and her group when she was fourteen? It’s Faith, Hope and Charity. That will make you laugh when you switch off from this. Go on to YouTube and have a look at that.
Thanks very much, Tara, for throwing me under the bus. You don’t need to, Kyle, honestly.
Kyle, I encourage it. Go on.
I haven’t seen that but Dani, you have now earned yourself an invitation to the next Music Night. Our Music Night is what I consider the fight night. On the first night, you come to Music Night, you must sing.
I felt the pressure. What song? Should I sing the whole song?
Do you remember the Fight Club with Brad Pitt? He said, “Here’s the first rule of fight club. If it’s your first night, you must fight.”
When is it? What’s the date? I’m going to lock it in right now and start rehearsing.
Probably, in the coming months or so. I promise you’re invited.
Is everyone dressed up because I love a sequin? Tara knows I love a sequin for our dress up.
It’s casual. I’m in jeans and either a nice T-shirt or button-down. We all sit around and it’s fun. Some of the newcomers or some of the people who are new to Hollywood, they love to take pictures and they’re like, “Can I get pictures with this person?” They don’t care. I’ve always been in Hollywood because I’ve been around the greats and Tom Jones was the best. Never one time did I ever see him turn down an autograph or a photograph. He said, “That’s my job.” There are some people sadly who did, “I don’t sign autographs anymore. No pictures,” and they walk away. The big real stars that I’ve ever been around in my life, they’re all very courteous and respectful of they’re fans and give them pretty much what they want.
I’m so excited to join you, Kyle, on the next Music Night. I know Tara will be there too and she looks forward to it obviously very much. You have been an absolute joy. We would love for you to come back again and be regular here on LaLa Landed. You probably got so many stories. We’re just getting started.
I have so many stories. I’ve got like 30 more. Are we done?
We’re going to have you back. Save them for next time.
I care about you and I respect you both and all the best.
We love you. Thank you so much, Kyle. We look forward to you coming back again. If you’ve got any suggestions or questions about how to be a weatherman or girl, feel free to make comments on our Instagram page, which is @LaLaLandedPodcast. Also, go to Facebook at LaLa Landed and then there’s also our websites, which is LaLaLanded.com. All that information and future episodes will be there as well. Thanks again to Kyle Hunter and to my wonderful partner, Tara Joseph. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.
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About Kyle Hunter
Kyle Hunter is the award-winning on-air meteorologist and severe weather expert on both The History Channel’s national and international hit “Serial Killer Earth” and The Weather Channel’s very popular series “So You Think You’d Survive?”. He is called upon often worldwide as an expert on severe weather, hurricanes, climate, earth’s natural hazards (earthquakes, wildfires, tsunami, volcanoes, etc.) and social behavior and vulnerability to high-impact weather events and storm chases annually.
Kyle has three university degrees: a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in geosciences and meteorology, plus a Bachelor of Arts in political science with an emphasis in earth & space sciences. He ventures out to The Great Plains each year to storm chase and to study thunderstorm formation and social behavior during and after severe weather events.
The American Meteorological Society has certified Kyle and he has been named a Fellow of the esteemed Royal Meteorological Society in England. The Radio & Television News Association of Southern California has awarded Kyle twice their most prestigious broadcast journalism prize, the Golden Mike Award for ‘Best TV Weather’.
In August 2008, Kyle became the Chief Meteorologist at FOX 5 in San Diego, launching that station as the first-ever in the nation to be built in true High Definition from the ground up.
Prior to becoming Chief Meteorologist at FOX 5, Kyle worked for several years on-air in Los Angeles (KNX/CBS News), Palm Springs (NBC 6) and Santa Barbara (KEYT-TV 3). Kyle began his on-air career at age 17, as morning weather anchor at the CBS affiliate (WDEF-TV 12) in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. While a student at UCLA, Kyle hosted his own daily radio show on the university’s station (KLA), spinning records, interviewing guests and taking calls.
On the business side, Kyle has worked in the entertainment industry with many well-known celebrities and spent many years as President & COO of Tom Jones Enterprises, with offices in Los Angeles and London. Kyle looked after every part of Sir Tom’s life and career including, touring, promotion, records, publishing and marketing. Several A-List celebrities in music, acting and producing have sought Kyle’s advise on a myriad of personal and professional matters.
In 1995, Kyle and his two friends co-founded Evit Caretni, Inc., a full services internet media company, where Kyle was in charge of strategy and new business. Starting with only a $25,000 loan from City National Bank, Kyle and his partners grew the startup from just themselves to more than 40 full-time employees and millions in revenue. Early clients were AOL, Warner Bros., Disney, AT &T, Paramount and ABC TV. At the height of the Internet Tech Boom in 2000, Kyle and his co-founders sold the company for millions of dollars to a publicly-traded company called Rare Medium, Inc. (NASDAQ: RRRR).
Kyle is currently the Founder and CEO of new startup Weatherboom, Inc., an app with a revolutionary way of combining social media and the weather.
An Angeleno since he was a teenager, Kyle lives in Beverly Hills and still frequents his alma mater, UCLA, where he was on the Varsity Rowing Team.