News Column

Catching up with Mark Steines [Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA)]

October 7, 2013


He might be one of People Magazine's sexiest men alive. But when he's home in Dubuque, he's simply Mark - a down-to-earth father of two, DIY-enthusiast and a fan of the pizza at Happy Joe's.

Mark Steines was a KWWL-TV reporter In Waterloo until a story about his Tom Cruise resemblance caught national attention and eventually catapulted him to co-host of "Entertainment Tonight." He would go on to interview hundreds of A-list actors, musicians and athletes on the set, on location and at some of the most star- studded award shows and celebrity engagements.

After his stint with KWWL-TV in the 1980s, Steines moved on to KSPR-TV in Springfield, Mo., where he was a sports anchor until 1991. From there, his career led him to KCAL-TV, in Competelli - where he was awarded two Emmys and a Golden Mike Award - and assignments for ESPN.

In addition to his work as a broadcast journalist, Steines also did some acting, appearing as a security guard in the movie, "Nixon."

In 1995, he began as a correspondent and substitute anchor for "Entertainment Tonight." Prior to being selected as a co-host, Steines also was the anchor of "Entertainment Tonight Weekend" and primary substitute anchor. He resumed co-hosting "Entertainment Tonight Weekend" on a regular basis in September 2010.

In 2012 and after 17 years, Steines left "Entertainment Tonight" to pursue other opportunities.

Today, at 49, he is the co-host of the Hallmark Channel TV talk show, "Home ' Family," alongside Paige Davis. The show premiered on Oct. 1, 2012.

He also recently gave Rachel Ray a few new DIY tips as a guest on her show.

Steines spent time in Dubuque in July visiting family, friends and some of his favorite stomping grounds.

We caught up with him at his favorite hangout as a Hempstead High School student - Happy Joe's Pizza and Ice Cream Parlor.

TH: I'm interested in why you picked Happy Joe's as the spot for this interview.

Steines: When I was growing up, my brother, Mike, used to work here. My friends and I used to come in and press our faces up against the glass. He never gave us any free pizza, though. His picture is hanging on the wall with all of the other photos of former Happy Joes employees. That's one of the reasons I like coming in here. It brings back a lot of memories.

TH: You still have a lot of family in the area. How often do you get back to Dubuque?

Steines: All of my family is here and is originally from the

Bellevue (Iowa) area. None of my family is from LA, so it's nice to come home. I was back for my high school class reunion last year. It was very surreal coming together again at this part of our lives. It's not very easy to get back.

TH: What are your impressions of the area when you return?

Steines: A lot has changed! It's really interesting to see. But when I come home, until recently I would come home to the house I grew up in with my parents. It makes me feel a little old, but it also is very familiar.

TH: You made a big transition from your 17-year tenure with "Entertainment Tonight" to hosting Hallmark's "Home ' Family." What made you decide to make the switch?

Steines: When I started, "Entertainment Tonight" was the landscape for entertainment news. It set the gold standard. It started to evolve into more of a press tabloid format, where what the viewer was looking for was which celebrity was going to unravel next. What people don't always understand is that these celebrities are also artists.

They're wild flowers, free-spirited and are under a certain amount of pressure. It's a tough career. Their lives are followed, and they lose a certain amount of privacy. If you try to harness a wild horse, it's going to buck. But on the flip side of that, I think if they want to escape it, they can. When the scandel with Tiger Woods hit, he was nowhere to be found.

When Sandra Bullock was going through her divorce, she was out of the spotlight and resurfaced when she felt better able to handle the situation. So, there's a controlled release of a celebrity's image.

TH: During your time with "Entertainment Tonight," you had the opportunity to ask some of the most controversial questions to some of the most legendary entertainers and travel the world. Who is the most memorable person you interviewed or your favorite place you traveled?

Steines: There have been so many amazing people that I've met. But if I had to pick one, Cher was always a favorite. John Travolta and Johnny Depp also were great. Hugh Jackman is one of those people who has that rare combination of amazing talent and warmth. The best part of my time with "ET" was the places I'd get to go. When I interviewed Johnny Depp for "Pirates of the Carribean," a couple of years later, I was back at the exact same location reporting from the closing scene of the barricades from "Les Miserables." The places I got to travel throughout the world were just incredible.

TH: How has the transition to Hallmark been for you?

Steines: I'm older now, have two boys at home (Kai and Avery, ages 9 and 11) and am a single parent. So, the transition has been a comfortable one. You get tired of being on a plane all the time. Then you have to get on another plane tomorrow, and it takes 36 hours to get to where you're needing to go. I have more stable hours now, where we shoot live and in one location. I can get my kids to school in the morning and be home with them at night, which was never the circumstance before. It's very fitting that I'm co- hosting a show that's all about family. That's where I'm at in my life.

TH: Do your kids have a sense of what Dad does for a living?

Steines: Lately, I'm trying to teach my kids about the value of money. They recently wanted to go to Disneyland, and I said, "You know, it's very expensive." Kai looked at me and said, "Dad. You're on TV."

TH: For those who haven't tuned in yet, tell us about the new show with Hallmark.

Steines: It's like Pinterest for TV. It teaches people how to be their own asset, from do-it-yourself projects to cooking, games, health and fitness and lifestyle. It's all centered around the home and the family.

TH: What has been the biggest change for you with Hallmark?

Steines: Shooting live every day is a new experience for me. It's a challenge but a good challenge. I think it's made me better at my job. I love coming in and working on all of the DIY projects.

TH: Tell me about your career path. How did you go from small- town Iowa to where you are today?

Steines: My Plan A was to become a professional football player. When I injured my knee, since I always loved sports, I decided to become a sportscaster. So, my Plan B became my Plan A. I looked for career opportunities in larger markets, like LA, and kept getting rejected. Then in 1988, when Ron Steele did the story about my resemblance to Tom Cruise, I suddenly had three job offers. I took a job in Springfield, Ill., which was close to home but opened up a lot of doors for me. Soon, I was contacted by agents who said, "We'll help you go places, kid." That was like my golden ticket and got me into the L.A. market. What really made me up my game was the thought that Johnny Carson might have been watching me. Usually, the news was on right after the L.A. Lakers'game. So, it was possible that he could have left his TV on after the game and watched. Eventually, "Entertainment Tonight" saw me and offered me an opportunity. Do I have regrets? Millions. I've missed out on a lot of things with family and friends. But, there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make when you're reaching for that top rung.

TH: What is a non-working day like for you? What do you enjoy doing?

Steines: I hang out with my kids. I love to paint and take photographs and have work in a gallery in downtown L.A. I released a book, "See the Light - A Passage to Sierra Leone" (2009). Traveling to Sierra Leone was a life-changing experience. I was there with a group of doctors, nurses and volunteers to document the needs of the people and to see the hope this group provided. We saw unbelievable poverty, sickness and desperation. But we also saw joy and gratitude. To help raise funds, I published a book of the images I captured while there.

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