Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Art Holliday
For more than 40 years, Art Holliday has been part of many St. Louisans’ daily routines. The veteran broadcaster started in sports before spending 22 years at the news desk with co-anchor Jennifer Blome on Today St. Louis. Now, he’s a leader behind the camera in his role as news director at KSDK.
How many Emmys do you have?
A modest three. They are from my sports days in the ’80s. Once upon time, somebody thought I was the best TV sportscaster.
Do you remember your first job? How much was that first check?
It was in Oklahoma City at KOCO-TV in 1977. I think I was making $14,000 or $15,000 a year. By today’s standards that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re fresh out of college and used to looking under seat cushions for beer money, that 15 grand is pretty good.
When did you actually know you could make a living at this?
The turning point for me was when I was still in college. The guy running the broadcast department at MIZZOU was named Lee Wilson. He had come up through the ranks with Tom Brokaw and had worked with most of the major networks as a producer and videographer. I had just completed my first year in the J-School and was trying to figure out what to do regarding internships. I made an appointment with Lee for advice. He suggested I enroll in summer school and become a T.A. He also gave me a spot doing sports. I didn’t expect that answer, so while I had his attention, I asked him the money question: Do you think I have what it takes to be successful? And he said yes. That was a big moment for me because if he had said anything different or suggested I consider a plan B, that would have crushed me because I really valued his opinion.
What story are you most proud of?
In 1983, the Cardinals were coming off a World Championship, and Whitey Herzog was a god in St. Louis. He wore a wireless microphone during a game for a profile piece of mine. Today, it’s nothing extraordinary, but it hadn’t been done back then. About 10 years ago, Whitey’s personal assistant asked for a DVD of the original and Whitey also reached out. He watched it with his grandkids. The fact that a story I did 35 years ago still had meaning stands out to me.
What is the most fun thing about the business?
To me it’s the camaraderie and the people. If you work anywhere long enough and have good fortune, eventually you make friends. I enjoy the irreverent sense of humor that often rears its head in newsrooms. We deal with a lot of death, destruction and horrible stories, and the sense of humor to cope is sometimes a little odd. Jennifer Blome and I were co-anchors on Today in St. Louis for 22 years. During that time, we got to be really good friends who made each other laugh on and off the set. We would frequently crack each other up on the air to the point where we could barely speak, much less get the rest of the story out.
Did you always plan on becoming a news director?
Years ago, I did. When I was doing Today in St. Louis, I decided I might want to be a news director, but when I realized how many meetings my news director went to, I tabled the idea. Years later, my director of content, Carol Fowler, recruited me. Now, I’m trying to figure out the pace of being a news director in a major market TV newsroom.
Who is the one person in the business you will always stop what you’re doing to watch or listen?
I’m a huge Bob Costas fan. For whatever reason, he paid attention to my career. I remember the first time I met him at Busch Stadium. Unbeknownst to me, he also recommended me for a sideline reporter position for the NBA with NBC Sports in the ’90s. They ended up hiring Ahmad Rashad, but I still got a shot, and it was all because Bob was talking me up to his network peers.
Enough of the job. What are the real passions for Art Holliday?
I love the whole creative process. I started making independent films in the early ’90s. I did a documentary about schizophrenia, Before They Fall Off the Cliff. It was accepted in several film festivals, Channel 9 aired it on prime time, and that kind of wet my appetite.
Art Holliday is known for being the sharpest dressed man on TV. How did that come about?
There’s a photo of me in college on the news set, and if you had it, you would ask a much different question. Once I got hired, I wasn’t wearing a coat and tie everyday, but several days a week. I just started paying attention to style, I liked it, and I got good at it. I always joke with people that I went to Garanimals University.
Now there is no need for your incredible necktie collection, what will you do with them?
My collection is overflowing, but I probably shouldn’t get rid of everything too soon. I will have to dress up occasionally.
Do you cook?
Right before I went from sports to news, my wife and I decided that whoever got first would start dinner. Suddenly, I had a job where I got home at noon every day. At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be for 22 years. For the better part of two decades, I did a lot of the cooking and grocery shopping. My schedule changed, and my wife has been cooking for the last few years. No one would hire me as a chef, but I’m decent. I know my ways around the kitchen.
What restaurants would you head to for your last three meals?
When my wife and I were dating and first married, we lived in Maryland Heights. There was a nearby restaurant called Balducci’s. I loved Balducci’s pizza. I’m also a big fan of Citizen Kane’s and Mission Taco.
Do you have a man cave?
I’m in an apartment now, but in the house that we lived in before, I had close to the perfect man cave. I had a high definition projector and 100-inch screen. Movie and sports time, you knew where to find me. Pool table, pinball machine—my man cave was tricked out. The worst part of selling that house was giving it up.
What has the pandemic made you appreciate?
Black Pumas is a fantastic band. I turned my daughter onto them, and we were supposed to go to a concert last March. Music is one of the common things she and I share.
What’s one thing you’re really good at that few people know about?
I get a lot of enjoyment out of writing. Just for my own amusement, I write lyrics and poetry. Occasionally, if a feature lends itself to it, I will rhyme a news story.
Best place to travel?
Whether it’s the Caribbean, Hawaii or some of the other places around the world that I haven’t seen, I’m a sucker for blue water. I remember my wife, daughter and I went on one of the Caribbean cruises where you island hop. There was this one day, we stopped off at one of the islands and got on a snorkeling boat. It was just the perfect day.
What sporting event do you wish you could be at?
I’m a big basketball fan. If I had the chance to go to the Final Four, I would take it. I also love tennis. What tennis fan doesn’t want to go to Wimbledon? If the Cardinals are in the World Series, I’m dropping everything.