Ron Hunter, the charismatic newsman, said to be the “real-life” Ron Burgundy, was found dead in his home at age 70.
Ron Hunter, a distinctive presence on the New Orleans airwaves for several decades, was found dead Tuesday in his home in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada. He was 70 years old.
Ron Hunter, a legendary television newsman, the man some believe to have been the inspiration for the Ron Burgundy character in Anchorman.
Ed Kilgore, a colleague of Ron Hunter’s had this to say about the legendary newsman, Hunter:
“Ron Hunter had THE biggest ego of any person male or female I’ve ever worked with, and it’s not even close. It was actually quite incredible how much Ron valued his own opinions and appearance, and yet in a strange way, he made it seem natural; like, doesn’t EVERYBODY think like I do? You want an example? Ok, for starters, when Ron began anchoring at Ch2 after moving to Buffalo from New Orleans, where he virtually owned the market, we didn’t call it Ch2 News, or Action News, or even News news. We called it, “The Ron Hunter Report”. Not only that, Ron had a special animated opening made up, which featured a likeness of Ron, with his big bouffant hair-do, running around with a microphone as if he’s out getting the scoop. The show then opens, with Ron leaning into the camera, and with a booming voice “I’m Ron Hunter, and the big story in Buffalo is…..” The standing joke around the news room, of course, was that the next word would be “me”.
Ron was the actor of our generation, and seemed proud of it. He often BECAME the story, which was ok if it helped the ratings, and it often did. Oh, so you want an example? Here’s one, and forgive me for forgetting the names, but Ron once did a tear jerking story about a young girl of 9 or 10 years old who was dying, who gave a vital organ to a girl her age so that the ailing young girl could have a nice future. Ron did some amazing interviews with the parents of both girls, and then in the story, used closeup shots of both girls with appropriate, gut-wrenching music behind them as we dissolved back and forth between the two adorable young faces. Heck, I’m crying just thinking about it. Anyway, do we fade to black here? Are you KIDDING? Heck no. I hear Ron instruct the cameraman to zoom in very close when he wraps up the story, so we finally come out of the story, and there isn’t a dry eye in the studio or newsroom, and Ron hesitates…one beat….two beats…..three beats….a big tear — a REAL tear I’m telling you — gushes down from one eye, as Ron actually whispers on camera, “we’ll be right back”. You can’t make this stuff up. Ron Hunter WAS Ron Burgundy in Anchorman if ever there was somebody to base it on.”
Mr. Hunter worked as news anchor and reporter for WWL-Channel 4, and this news station reported Mr. Hunter’s death Wednesday on its Web site.
Allison Hunter, Ron Hunter’s, said Wednesday night that the cause of her father’s death has not been determined but is believed to be natural causes.
After his job at WWL, Mr. Hunter worked in high-profile newscasting jobs in Buffalo, N.Y.; Miami; Chicago and Philadelphia.
In Chicago, he anchored with Jane Pauley before she departed local news for the “Today” show, and Maury Povich, who would later gain fame in his syndicated daytime talk show.
At the height of his success in Chicago, Mr. Hunter earned a six-figure salary.
Hunter returned to New Orleans in 1981 to work for WVUE-TV, at the time, the city’s ABC affiliate, gaining notoriety for his “cocky” presence and flamboyant reportorial stunts.
He was eventually promoted to news director at WVUE and granted a huge contract, but he later sued the station after an negative parting of ways.
Mr. Hunter’s personal and public personas tragically collided in 1990, when his wife, Marilou “Bunny” Hunter, shot and killed herself while lying next to him in bed, hours after she placed an anonymous call to Mr. Hunter’s radio show to discuss their marital troubles. The death was ruled a suicide.
He later worked in local radio and created the “Stars and Shields” program (later “New Orleans Most Wanted”), which aired on WNOL-TV.
Allison Hunter said her father retired to the Las Vegas area in 1998.
Ron Hunter is survived by his daughter, Allison Hunter of Baton Rouge, and his son, Colt Hunter of Henderson.