After hitting bottom, Fox's Mark Mathis feels back on top

Jan 15, 2009

In 2003, it didn't take long for Charlotte viewers to notice WCCB's new weather guy Mark Mathis was unusual. Sometimes, he barely talked about the weather at all. Clips of his act would later make Mathis a YouTube hit. Unorthodox, sure, but station management didn't mind. News Director Ken White had brought Mathis to Charlotte after the two had worked together at a station in Shreveport, Louisiana. There, often instead of being at work, Mathis was MIA. And White would find him, he says, at the nearby riverboat casinos. "And I'd have to call," White says. "And I knew all the security people at the various boats. And I'd call and they'd say 'Oh yeah Mark's at our boat. Right now he's at Table 7. I don't know if he's even playing, he's just talking to people.' So they'd hustle him back and yell at him and tell him to come back. And then Mark would express shock that I would find him on the boat. And how dare me call him on the boat. And then I'd say 'Mark you are here to do the weather.' And he'd say 'Oh yeah that's right.' " Despite Mathis' shortcomings, White would later hire the meteorologist for the second time at Fox Charlotte. White was sure Mathis' quirky act would boost ratings. "It was one of those really good match-up," White says. "Mark was perfect for us at that time. The down side was that the demons got to Mark." Despite coming across as wacky and fun-loving on the air, away from the cameras Mathis was battling addiction. Yes, there were drugs. "Yeah you can ask what! (laughs) I don't really like to go into that" But Mathis is willing to talk about his alcoholism. When news of his addiction later became public, it seemed the perfect explanation for the broadcaster's odd performances. But Mathis says he was never drunk on the air. "Everyone thought that was the reason I was acting the way I was on the air," Mathis says. "Which is not the case, if I was ever drunk, I wouldn't come in." Mathis' boss says Fridays were especially bad. "I was always holding my breath on Fridays," says White. "I was "Where's Mark?" I had numbers - friends, girlfriends, every number for him. And there were Fridays that we couldn't fine him." Mathis says he bottomed out in the fall of 2004 while holed up drunk, broke and hiding from friends in a Charlotte hotel room. The next day, his father paid for a plane ticket back home to Texas so Mathis could go to rehab - his second try at sobriety. By now, White, the news director, had to fire him. Once he was done with treatment, Mathis would land another gig at a small station in Colorado. He was sure his days in Charlotte were over. "You know, everybody thought they knew what went on," Mathis says. " And there was just too much that was said that I thought I would ever come back here. And I thought I had burned my bridges here although I loved these people. I really did. Co-workers, bosses, everybody. I loved 'em." But by last spring, Mathis was headed back to Fox Charlotte. White, the news director, was given the green light to re-hire the now sober Mathis as a co-host on the morning show "Fox News Rising". It was welcome news for viewers who missed Mathis' antics. But the more traditional role also allows Mathis to display a more serious side - like in this interview with County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts. Show audio: So you were telling me earlier that a lot of city governments are doing this in order to hope generate some jobs in and around the community, right? (That's exactly right) Mathis says his new on-air personality is more reflective of who he really is, than the over-the-top act from a few years ago. He's won over a new set of co-workers who weren't around during his previous stint in Charlotte. Tera Blake is the morning show's meteorologist. She says Mathis is a genuinely caring person. "He makes you smile every single day, no matter what kind of day it is," says Blake. "That's a good thing. You know, no matter what goes on, he's got some kind of joke for it." As for his addiction, Mathis says it's tough to stay sober. He says he attends AA meetings - 3 to 5 times a week - and a gap that used to be filled with vodka and wine is now filled with God. Mathis says he's always been religious, but now he's spiritual. "I think religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell. Spirituality is for people that have already been there. I was there. I was in the pit." Mathis says he's learned from his past but doesn't dwell on it. Instead, he's looking forward, and saying 'thank you' to everyone who's welcomed him back. "I am the luckiest guy on the face of the planet right now," Mathis says. "I got back what I threw away. And it's been given back to me." Mathis says he wants to stay put in Charlotte. He considers the city home. And he says he plans on staying at Fox as long he's welcome.

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