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Interviews: 53rd Chicago International Television Awards on Mar. 23, 2017

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CHICAGO –The 53rd Chicago International Television Awards, a companion celebration to the Chicago International Television Festival – and presented by Cinema/Chicago, the organization who presents the Chicago International Film Festival – will take place Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, and will honor entertainment reporter Dean Richards, advertising guru Joe Sedelmeier and the newly-formed-but-already-influential Amazon Studios. The entire television festival will take place from March 21st to the 23rd at the AMC River East 21, and screenings are free and open to the public. Click here for a complete schedule and details.

The 2016 Awards, given in April of last year, were conferred through Michael Kutza, Artistic Director and Founder of the Chicago International Film Festival, and were “The Commitment to Excellence in Television Productions,” which was given to HBO; the “Career Achievement Award,” that went to actress Regina Taylor; the “Chicago Legend Award,” given to local ABC 7 Chicago broadcaster Janet Davies; and the “Chicago Award” which was presented to Bill Zwecker, entertainment reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times and FOX 32 Chicago.

CIFF TV
Chicago International Television Award 2016 Honorees: Janet Davies, Presenter Michael Kutza and Bill Zwecker
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago

HollywoodChicago.com did some Red Carpet interviews from last year – Janet Davies and Bill Zwecker – and will be on the carpet for the 53rd Chicago International Television Awards. On the next page, the 2015 honorees are interviewed. Both the 2016 and 2015 Red Carpet talks are published for the first time.

StarJanet Davies, “The Chicago Legend Award”

Janet Davies is an entertainment reporter and host at ABC 7 (WLS-TV) in Chicago. She has worked for the station since 1984, covering the globe as a general assignment, features and entertainment journalist. She is the host of the Chicago TV magazine show “190 North,” and she is the co-host of the highly rated “Countdown Chicago” every New Years Eve, among other program hosting duties. She previously worked in the Cincinnati (her hometown) and Philadelphia TV markets.

Janet Davies
Janet Davies, The 2016 ‘Chicago Legend Award’ Recipient
Photo credit: ABC 7 Chicago

HollywoodChicago.com: Since you grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, what was distinctive about that hometown life that you don’t think would be available anywhere else?

Janet Davies: The Cincinnati chili, of course, and Graeter’s ice cream and Dixie hamburgers…are you getting the food theme? [laughs] And since we’re in a movie theater right now, my childhood was going to the Court Theatre in Hamilton, Ohio. I remember watching, at least six times, the film ‘The Moon-Spinners’ with Hayley Mills. I was in love with the young male actor in the film, Peter McEnery.

Fast forward years later, I was in Three Oaks, Michigan, at the Acorn Theatre. I knew the owner, and he showed me an organ that they’d recently purchased. It look familiar, so I asked where it came from. He said, ‘The Court Theatre in Hamilton, Ohio.’ I was blown away, because there in Three Oaks I was reunited with a piece of The Court.

HollywoodChicago.com: Since you have some local notoriety hosting the annual New Year’s Eve show on ABC 7. What weird things have happened over the years on that live event?

Davies: Well, I was physically attacked with a champagne bottle one year. That wasn’t good, and it happened on the air. Another year, we were doing the show at the terrace restaurant at the Trump Hotel. The Trump folks at the hotel promised we’d have heaters if we did the show outside. They never showed up. So Mark [Giangreco, her co-host] and I froze our butts off, and it got so cold that people thought we’d been drinking because it was so hard to talk. We ended up in blankets.

HollywoodChicago.com: What story do you think has been the best in the history of your magazine show, ‘190 North.’?

Davies: Well, I’ll start with any story featuring the late Doug Banks, I still miss him. But there was one story, where I put on pads and skates, and joined the ‘Mother Puckers’ women’s hockey league… and I scored a goal. [laughs]

StarBill Zwecker, Chicago Award

Bill Zwecker has Chicago journalism credentials that is all in the family. His mother, Peg Zwecker, was an award-winning fashion editor and columnist for the Chicago Daily News, and the paper her son Bill currently works for, the Chicago Sun-Times. Bill Zwecker also works as an Entertainment Reporter for FOX 32 Chicago, and has worked for “The Today Show,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Joan Rivers Show.”

Bill Zwecker
Bill Zwecker, 2016 ‘Chicago Award’ Recipient
Photo credit: FOX 32 Chicago

HollywoodChicago.com: What memory or story do you think emphasizes your mother’s career in old Chicago journalism?

Bill Zwecker: Probably the most important story she did is when she discovered [fashion designer] Halston. He was in the School of the Art Institute fashion program, and the publicist for the Ambassador Hotel called my mother to tip her off about him. He was making hats for a boutique in their atrium, and she wrote about him. She then introduced him to a designer in New York City, and lent him money to go there.

Years later, when Halston sold his business for $60 million dollars, my father said to my mother, ‘You should a cut a better deal back then.’ [laughs] Halston and her remained friends until he died, and that’s probably her biggest achievement.

HollywoodChicago.com: Prior to being a journalist, what jobs did you do that nobody would believe right now?

Zwecker: I worked at a summer camp in Michigan when I was younger, where my job was to clean out all the septic tanks… and there can be many jokes made that it was equivalent to what we see in the screening room. [laughs] I also worked for Senator Charles Percy, politics was my first love. When I started writing at the Sun-Times, I actually did political pieces. Even as I switched to entertainment, it wasn’t that dissimilar to politics.

HollywoodChicago.com: Tell us something about the legendary Joan Rivers that the rest of the world doesn’t know.

Zwecker: In real life, she was the kindest and nicest person in the world. I know that sounds like something anyone would say, but there was one thing I’ll never forget about her. She told me once, when I was working on her show, that she always judged famous people by how they treated others who couldn’t talk back to them… like make-up people, drivers and wait staffs. I always thought that was a great rule of life in general, no matter who you are – people are people, no matter what.

NEXT PAGE: Three more talks with honorees from the 2015 Chicago International Television Awards.

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