Crossing Over

After her father, the popular sports reporter, passed away, broadcaster Jennifer Weigel suspended her disbelief and tried to communicate with the dead.

The first time I met Jenniffer Weigel, it was over a glass of wine. She had asked me to be a celebrity restaurant reviewer on her weekend NBC5 show Taste, and, considering her impressive résumé, I hadn’t hesitated. During our meeting, Weigel recommended a visit to Therese Rowley, a Chicago-based medium. “Trust me,” she said. “Just go.”

So, years later, I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn that Weigel—an Emmy-winning reporter and onetime radio sidekick for Jonathon Brandmeier, Danny Bonaduce, and Steve Cochran—had written a memoir about going to the “other side” to contact her late father, the sportscaster Tim Weigel. “It’s a combo platter of a book—part spiritual questing, part memoir, part humorous essays,” said Weigel, when I called her at her home in Evanston to talk about Stay Tuned: Conversations with Dad from the Other Side (Hampton Roads; $21.95), which comes out in October. “I’ve always been a cynic, and yet I’ve always been curious about the afterlife, even before my dad got sick.”

In Stay Tuned, Weigel details how she used her on-air job at CBS to interview clairvoyants, mediums, and spiritual gurus like Deepak Chopra, James Van Praagh, and Caroline Myss. Thinking about the afterlife was a way to cope with her father’s illness and eventual death, as well as the everyday stress of broadcast TV reporting. She doesn’t hold back about her family life: “My dad was not good with intimacy or silence,” she writes. She’s similarly unreserved in discussing the broadcast world: “I’d rather be knee-deep in camel shit at Barnum & Bailey’s circus than have to sit at the [morning] anchor desk.” The spiritual gurus come in for candor, too: She calls Deepak Chopra, for example, “a little long-winded,” adding, “There have been times when reading his books made me feel as if I were cramming for a college exam.”

Sound a bit strange? I admit I had some initial skepticism about Stay Tuned. But Weigel succeeds by taking a witty, irreverent look at modern mysticism. Whether she ever makes contact with her late dad, I won’t reveal. Although I will confess that I took her recommendation and visited Therese Rowley, the medium. Like reading Weigel’s book, I found the experience enlightening and entertaining. Sure, it cost $200 for an hour and a half. But that didn’t stop me from going back a second time.

Photograph: Selena Salfen

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