Ted Pretty sees you watching him deliver the weather every morning on KVVU Channel 5, and he knows what you’re thinking: “A lot of people think weather guys are dorks and dolts and very boring guys and nerdy. And they’re right, for the most part.” In Pretty’s defense, he never intended to be a weather guy. His career began as a reporter/photographer at a TV station in Kearney, Nebraska—“a total hellhole”—and he quickly graduated to morning-show features reporter at stations in Pocatello, Idaho, and Champaign, Illinois, before a similar job at Las Vegas’ Fox affiliate brought him to the desert in 1999.
The following year, Pretty enrolled in an online meteorology program at Mississippi State when KVVU—which at the time bragged about the fact it didn’t need a weathercaster—hired a new general manager who wanted a warm body in front of the green screen. Pretty raised his hand, and a few days later he was that warm body. A dozen summers hence, he’s still on the job. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, he did finish that online program. “I have a weatherman degree and a degree in TV/VCR repair that I got at the same time. I was a double major.”)
You’ve heard it hundreds of times: Weatherman in Vegas is the easiest job in town. Now’s your chance for rebuttal.
I totally agree. As a matter of fact, we just taped weather reports for all of June and most of July. But those who really believe that don’t know much about the weather in the desert, when we start to get the thunderstorms in July and August. That’s really the toughest time to forecast, because the rain showers are so spotty—it could be pouring two blocks away and not raining at your house. July and August, when nobody thinks we get weather, is the most dangerous and most busy time of the year for us. But June is pretty much cruise control for three or four weeks.
What the hell is the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny?
[Laughs.] That’s a very, very good question. If you happen to find out, please let me know! I’ve looked that up a million times, and the only real tried-and-true definition I could find on a consistent basis is, if clouds are moving in, it’s partly cloudy; if clouds are moving out, it’s partly sunny.
When’s the last time you told somebody, “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat!”?
Actually, a couple of days ago. I said that on-air—that the humidity does make a difference. When the temperature is 100 degrees, and you’ve got single-digit humidity, it feels cooler than the temperature reads. It’s actually a scientific fact.
How often do you get angry feedback from viewers when you get the forecast wrong?
I’ve gotten one piece of hate mail, and it had nothing to do with weather. I had just got my eyebrows waxed, and I guess I got them waxed a little bit too thin, and somebody was telling me I needed to wear a dress because I looked like a woman on TV. And then I got a nasty voice mail this year because I said it was going to rain and it didn’t. This guy owned a mobile car-washing service, and he was really pissed off.
I don’t think I should’ve been fired, and I probably wouldn’t have used the language he used—I’m not usually an m-f’er—but I understand that. It’s my job to get it right or get it right as often as possible. There are car-wash owners specifically who get ticked off when we say, “Don’t wash your car today,” and I understand; if my business relied on the weather, I’d get ticked off at the weather guy, too.
What’s a Vegas weatherman hate more: summer heat, winter cold or gusty winds?
Probably the gusty winds. I say all the time I’m anti-wind. It is terrible. It can be 110 degrees out and you can still find a way to beat the heat, or it can be down in the 30s and you can still find a way to beat the cold air. But there’s no escaping that wind when you’re outside; it ruins every outdoor activity. And it messes up my hair—not necessarily the hair on my head, but my leg hair.
What’s your favorite summer getaway?
We go to Mount Charleston a lot and we go to Huntington Beach, where my in-laws have a place. It’s great to go down there and get a sense of what an actual summer in a normal part of the country feels like, where you don’t have to burn the top layers of your skin when you walk outside for five minutes.
But how depressing is that drive back?
[Laughs.] It is! It’s the highest of highs when you leave and the lowest of lows when you come back, that’s for darn sure—especially when you come back on a Sunday night, it’s 100 degrees or more in Las Vegas, and you have to get up at 2 o’clock in the morning. That absolutely sucks!
How do you stay cool in a suit in the summer?
Plenty of air conditioning. And I put that thing on right when I need to and take it off right when I can. I cannot stand wearing a suit here in the summer. That’s why a lot of people out in public kind of look at me funny—I get this a lot where I’ll be at the grocery store and someone will say, “You know, you look a lot like that weather guy on Channel 5.” And I’ll say, “Yeah, I get that all the time.”
True story: Recently I read at a school, and the teacher had no idea who I was—which is fine—and she said, “Here, we had this author in the other day; maybe you want to read this book.” Well, it was [fellow weatherman] Kevin Janison’s book. And that’s fine—Kevin’s great, I read the book, no problem. The very same afternoon, I go to the grocery store, and the cashier says, “Oh my gosh, you look exactly like that weather guy on TV … what’s his name? Kevin Janison—you look like Kevin Janison!” I just kind of put my tail between my legs and walked out.
What’s your best piece of practical, yet obscure, advice for surviving the Vegas summer?
Long sleeves certainly make a difference. They keep the body cooler in some cases, if you’re not doing anything too strenuous. I say on the air all the time that a lot of the hot-weather guides say to wear a wide-brimmed hat, wear long-sleeve shirts, wear long pants, and I say, “If you want to look like an idiot, go ahead and do that.” But it will keep you cooler in a lot of cases if you’re going to be outside.
Most memorable summer activity as a kid?
When I grew up in a small town in Illinois, my summer camp was a baseball, a bat, a glove, a dirt lot and the neighbor kid. That was our social media for the next three months. That’s all we did was go outside, play catch and break our fair share of windows. What else are you going to do in the middle of cornfields?
How does a guy survive childhood years with the last name Pretty?
I’ve heard it all! Pretty in pink, Pretty woman, Pretty ugly. I was in the military, and it seems like all six weeks of basic training, that’s all I heard was people ripping on my name. But it makes you tougher. My kids don’t know what they have in store for them.
How do you wake up at 2 a.m. every day for 17 years and not accidentally swear on the air?
Who says I’ve never sworn on the air? I’ve just never gotten caught—those show tapes were burned quickly, right after the show. But, yeah, it has happened, and it will happen again. And broadcasters who say they never have, well, they’ve just never gotten caught.