SAN DIEGO — The adventure movie "Romancing the Stone" has nothing on Kathi Diamant, co-host on KFMB-TV's (Channel 8) morning talk show, "Sun Up San Diego."
But for her job, Diamant would not have been buried in six feet of snow at Lake Tahoe during an avalanche rescue simulation.
Because of information she learned on the show, Diamant decided to trace her ancestry on a trip to Europe and the Middle East in 1985, a trip that ended in her witnessing an Israeli police beating of a Bedouin who mysteriously had been waiting for her.
She decided to take the trip after a "Sun Up" segment about the "Precious Legacy" exhibition of Jewish treasures at the San Diego Museum of Art. Her family name seemed to jump out at her from a photographic blow-up of names on the wall of a Prague synagogue.
Diamant has interviewed George C. Scott, Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Burnett, Merv Griffin, Victoria Principal, Cliff Robertson, Carl Sagan, John Houseman and 2,500 or so other guests in 6 1/2 years as a host on television shows in North Carolina, Sacramento and here.
High-octane stuff. But then, Diamant, who joined fellow host Jerry G. Bishop on the show in 1983, has always enjoyed adventure.
Her upbringing was cosmopolitan. She grew up in France and Germany with parents who were in the theater. She graduated from high school in South Korea and studied to be an actress at the University of Georgia and Florida State University.
Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., she and Bishop preside at the "Sun Up San Diego" studio, interviewing myriad authors and celebrities and doing the news, plus fashion, cooking and health features.
With more than 20 years in radio and television, Bishop has a more extensive broadcasting background than Diamant, and they work well together--she highly enthusiastic, he packing as much "barker-style" energy into his voice as anyone, whether posing a Hollywood "brain buster" question to his audience or hyping a new sponsor.
Generally they interview guests one-on-one. Occasionally, "if it seems right, we will both interview a guest," Diamant said. They join in interviews at times when the subject matter involves couples, and at other times, she said, if a guest has a reputation for evading reporters' questions. "That allows one of us to sit back and think" about what's really being said, she said.
Diamant can't believe her hours at "Sun Up": in for work at 7 a.m., out by 11 a.m. After a recent show she looked around the studio as if she didn't want the secret to get out and almost whispered, "I do have the best job in town. I get to meet interesting people who are right on the edge of what's coming up. It's seven minutes of a peak situation, then I have the rest of the day to experience the city."
Both are asked to do endless community service projects.
"The first year I was here I did everything I was asked," Diamant said of the Easter egg hunts and fund-raisers she emcees. Now she does one assignment a week. She's in Big Sisters and regularly takes out a young girl who needs a female role model in her life.
"You take things out of a community and you need to put things back," she said. "For me it's a Karmic. Thank you to the city."
"Sun Up's" chief strength is its grab-bag format, which ranges from the sublime to the not so sublime. On Tuesday, Bishop and Diamant interviewed former Pueblo skipper Lloyd Bucher and Edward Dmytryk, a blacklisted Hollywood director from the 1950s Communist witch hunts. Both men--having been imprisoned--talked about liberty.
Guests on the show over the past few days included professional skateboarders, the husband of a $15-million California Lottery winner, a former cocaine addict and an expert on tanning. During the same period other guests talked about AIDS, epilepsy, kiss avoidance techniques and how to make sushi.
A Chicago native, Bishop has been a co-host since 1978, when he left a job as director of the Easter Seals national telethon.
Bishop, 45, backed into broadcasting in 1962 when he realized the folk music group he sang and played guitar in would never be a serious challenge to the Kingston Trio.
Bishop said he studied broadcasting in college as a fallback . . . "and I fell back."
His first radio job was programming Strauss waltzes and the fast movements from symphonies for an Evanston, Ill., classical music station. "They wanted just short, quick pieces, but I upset some people by serializing 'Peter and the Wolf,' and rewriting it in a hip vernacular," he said.
"By doing that, I realized I could do things on radio. It was better than singing to a bunch of drunks in a smoky room."
He moved to rock 'n' roll, working top stations in Cleveland, Chicago and Washington. Bishop--his real name is Jerry Ghan (The Morning Man)--was one of 12 journalists picked to travel with the Beatles on their first American tour in 1964.