Twenty Years of Chet Curtis

In 1992, the beloved anchor helmed a retrospective broadcast.

In 1992, WCVB marked 20 years on the Boston airwaves with a special news broadcast looking back at the station’s history. The occasion was anchored by Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson, an appropriate pair for the job, given their roles as faces of the station for much of that period.

Curtis died Wednesday at 74 years old, inspiring an outpouring of remembrances that recalled an era when he and Jacobson, both on-screen partner and wife, were huge local celebrities. It makes the above YouTube segment, a clip from that 20-year retrospective uploaded by user “bostonnewsarchives,” a great watch, both for those who remember Natalie and Chet through the years and those too young to know them as they were. To open the broadcast, the couple watches archival footage from 1976, when Curtis sat at the desk and Jacobson reported from the bicentennial celebrations at the Esplanade.

“Are you sure that’s you, Chet? Is that your younger brother?” Jacobson teases.

“I’m so grateful I still have the hair. Look at your hair!” he says.

“This is painful,” she laughs, interrupted by an “oohing” and “aahing” audience reacting to a montage of moments from the couple’s past.

The clip itself is now 22 years old, a testament to Curtis’s longevity as a star in Boston. George H.W. Bush was president, and we were already waxing nostalgic about his career. As a Globe obituary recalls, Curtis came to Boston in 1969, having worked for local stations around the country. He and Jacobson married in 1975. In 1981, they took first place in the ratings, and held it for more than a decade. “He was known as the ‘mayor’ of the newsroom; she was the ‘madonna’ of local broadcast news. They commanded six-figure salaries and rock-star status,” the Globe’s Joseph P. Kahn writes.

Since then, of course, local TV news ratings have seen steady decline. Curtis and Jacobson ended their marriage in 1999, and Curtis moved on to NECN. But for decades, he was a star, fueled by his talent, his off-screen romance and on-screen relationship with Jacobson, and in an age when local news won ratings and launched careers. To remember Curtis is to remember this history of local news in Boston, and a man who devoted so much to that field would have likely wanted it that way. So take a few moments to watch that retrospective clip, and others from the same broadcast.

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  • chris lyons

    Chet was a class act. Relaxed, approachable, real. I recall a VIP event I was organizing, where he was booked to serve as host for the evening. He arrived early (!!) and asked “how can I help?” then began helping us to arrange tables and chairs for half an hour. Natalie was the same way. So glad she’s still with us; so sad he had to go.