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NBC 4 anchor Wendy Rieger has a solid resume as a broadcast journalist, including stints at WAMU, WTOP, NPR, and CNN. She’s been doing the 5 p.m. news for more than a decade, and she’s always had her share of fans. But with this quote during her coverage of Hurricane Sandy, her image took on a new dimension:
“I’m startin’ to develop a love-hate relationship with this little ol’ storm,” she said into the camera from Rehoboth Beach. “Because just when it starts getting me all excited and I start thinkin’ it’s a wonder to behold, then it just does this.” She pointed at the surf. “It just goes all flat. And it starts lookin’ like nothin’ much. Kinda like my datin’ life.”
Twitter went crazy for it. Rieger’s Sandy coverage produced several other gems, including a scene where the wind pressure made the ceiling tiles flap in her hotel room’s bathroom (she did that report from the shower stall), and exclamations such as “This thing is like, pounding us from behind!” and “Look at this monster coming in! Wow!” Both of those clips still live on YouTube, as does a behind-the-scenes segment where she calls her loyal crew “hunks of burnin’ love” and makes fun of the “crap” they’re eating.
Rieger’s lady-looking-for-a-thrill vibe peaked, however, as the storm really began to hit. She was on the hotel’s rooftop, animatedly describing the tempest, and at the end of the report, she let down her guard. “I’m now huddled against the building to get out of the wind,” she said, with her back to a stucco wall, her blond hair soaked, and the camera lens coated in water droplets. “It’s been a while since I’ve covered a hurricane, and I am reminded, note to self: Waterproof mascara. Waterproof. Mascara.”
The vulnerability, the twinkle in her eye, her sense of timing—it was hilarious and poignant at the same time. She wasn’t a damsel in distress. She wasn’t trying to outdo NBC 4’s Pat Collins, with his yellow rain hat, his props, and his gently goofy demeanor. She was an accidental soliloquist.
After the storm was over, she joked on air about how her coverage had landed her 300 dates, and that she was going to do them all in one weekend by speed-dating with the men, one minute at a time. Her love life (Rieger’s bio says she lives with two cats in Chevy Chase and Annapolis) inevitably came up a few weeks later when she interviewed comedian and talk-show-host Steve Harvey. He said Rieger should put an emphasis on verbal communication with D.C. men, because “if he’s serious about you, he’s gonna step out his cubicle and he’s gonna make the phone call.” The rest of the conversation:
Rieger: “Like I said, he just has to be breathing at this point.”
Harvey: “And he will be.”
Harvey: “And he’ll be breathing all over you.”
Reiger, whispering: “That’d be nice.”