Will Ferrell appeared in character as Ron Burgundy on Conan O’Brien’s late night TV show to promote Anchorman 2, the sequel to his 2004 comedy Anchorman.
Really, it should be Anchorman 3. Because the original Anchorman aired right here on WMAQ-TV, in the late 1970s -- or so the story goes. It starred Ron Hunter, the prototypical pompous, blow-dried TV newsman. Hunter, the real-life bridge between Ted Baxter and Ron Burgundy, was so vain he used to hand out laminated business cards identifying himself as “RON HUNTER: ANCHORMAN.”
Hunter came to Chicago from Buffalo, where, according to a colleague, he had “THE biggest ego of any person male or female I’ve ever worked with, and it’s not even close.” His broadcast wasn’t the news, it was “The Ron Hunter Report,” introduced with a cartoon of Hunter chasing a story.
Hunter wasn’t entirely shallow: in 1977, he won an Emmy for his coverage of a South Side hostage situation, which was credited with helping free the captives. But the next year, he moved to another local TV market, Philadelphia. There, according to a 1996 article in the Tribune, he
... reportedly was the highest-paid anchor in Philadelphia. He had Bunny, an adoring blond beauty 20 years younger, as his wife. He owned a rambling ranch house with a swimming pool in South Jersey, a collection of expensive French wines, a red 1957 Ford Thunderbird, and a 5-by-7-foot projection screen on which he would admire videotapes of himself reading the news.
You can see the parallels to Ron Burgundy’s bachelor pad. Like Burgundy, who lost his job for using the f-word on the air, Hunter also fell on hard times.
Although they weren’t funny, and there was no redemption for Hunter, as there was for Burgundy, who saved his co-anchor from bears at the zoo. In 1990, after he had bounced down the news ladder to a 5,000-watt station in his native Louisiana, Hunter’s wife Bunny shot herself to death while the couple were in bed together. Hunter was fired from his job, and never worked in broadcasting again. The Tribune profiled him after he was arrested for breaking into a neighbor’s house and stealing $3.64 worth of food.
After Hunter died in 2008, Anchorman director Adam McKay (who lived in Philadelphia when Hunter was on the air there) insisted that Ron Burgundy was based on a “composite” of big-city local newsmen, including Mort Crim and Chuck Scarborough.
But certainly no one’s life was closer to Ron Burgundy than Ron Hunter’s.