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August 1996

Determination Propels Talk Show Host

 

By Deanne BARTHA

Nadine Haas was meant to be on television. As the host of “Talk of the Town,” shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on Adelphia Cable, her colorful background includes facing tremendous adversity.

That adversity made her into a fighter who continues to enjoy life with total determination.

The over 50-year-old’s career on the big screen started out with more than a little unexpected notoriety.

A model in her teens, Haas entered a few beauty contests. Competing for Miss London, Ontario, was fine with the 16-year-old, but the swimsuit portion of the pageant was not.

Even though she declined to enter the swimsuit portion, Haas became the first woman to win that competition without fully participating in all the events.

While at the Miss Canada pageant, bending the rules gained her an onslaught of unexpected publicity.

Again, the swimsuit segment came up and Haas just couldn’t bring herself to get on stage.

After three tries, she quietly slipped out and ran the few blocks it took to get back to the building where her street clothes were waiting. Not seeing her come forward, her mother thought that she’d been disqualified.

Shortly afterwards, while watching the newsreel at a local theater, Haas saw her face cover the entire screen. The report deemed that the unusual pageant occurrence was newsworthy. She sank down in her seat.

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Nadine Haas (next to waiter) played the
governor general’s wife in the late-1980s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
television series, “Nest of Singing Birds.”

Now, the Canadian-born woman laughs about the incident. “I got a lot of advertising from that,” she quipped.

Early in life, Haas wanted to be a dancer. She excelled in her lessons and won several certificates from the Canadian Ballet.

However, a life-threatening bout with tuberculosis put a halt to her dreams for 10 months. Doctors didn’t think she was going to make it.

“I have no intention of dying,” the 16-year-old insisted. She lay in her bed, plotting her next career move.

“I was very determined,” Haas reflected. “I wanted to do so much with my life.”

Her start in modeling came at the age of 18 while she was still under treatment for the disease. She traveled to Toronto, studied modeling and drama and worked there for 1-1/2 years.

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Nadine Haas, host of Adelphia Cable’s “Talk of the Town.”

An only child, Haas decided to return to her roots in London, Ontario, and opened her own modeling agency. The city’s residents loved it.

Haas soon found herself staging shows and designing sets. One show’s popularity and review was so great that the local newspaper - which was doing a story
on the show - allowed Haas to watch the first edition roll off the press at 3 a.m. the following morning.

Soon, an opportunity developed on a television talk show in nearby Hamilton. .

At the time, Haas was continuing to model on a limited basis. “It was my life, my entertainment,” she said.

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From left, Nadine Haas with former Commander-In-Chief of
Vietnam forces, U.S. Army General William Westmoreland,
and Buffalo native and Vietnam veteran Stephen Banko.

Then an opportunity arose for Haas to be a guest on a local cable television program.

After her appearance, the station manager asked her if she’d like to appear on other spots. She spent the next two years developing her television hosting and interviewing skills.

“I worked on children’s programs, did interviews and did anything, anytime they needed me,” she said. “All the while, I didn’t realize what good experience I was getting.”

During that time, Haas met a doctor, whom she later married.

It was a move that gave her three beautiful children but also drew her into 10 years of a tumultuous relationship.

“After that, I managed to get visas for my children and myself and started a new life in Buffalo,” said Haas, now the grandmother of five.

With very little money but enormous determination, Haas worked three jobs to make ends meet.

After eight years in the U.S., she married Ralph Haas, of Transit Valley Country Club - the Dean of Western New York Golf Professionals. They’ve shared 23 fine years together.

Overcoming major obstacles - both personally and professionally - has given her the impetus to write a compelling account of her often misperceived appearance of a life of luxury. The book is currently in collaboration.

My social life is not a big one,” she said. “I’m much more interested in working. I’d rather dream of things I’d like to do and go ahead with a career.”

Her interactions with celebrity guests over the past 18 years more than makes up for any lost entertainment in her life.

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She has interviewed such personalities as media-mogul Ted Turner, U.S. Army General William Westmoreland, U.S. Army Lt. General Calvin A. H. Waller and her favorite colleague and friend, Erie County Sheriff Thomas Higgins.

“I interview him at least twice a year,” Haas said. “He’s kind and gentle, but strong.”

Health problems a few years ago prompted Haas to restructure her time spent on “Talk of the Town.” Despite being in and out of hospitals, she continued her valuable work on the program.

The popular show continued to air with the help of Rick Karnath, head of production at Adelphia Cable. “Talk of the Town” has been on the air for 18 years.

During that time, Haas and her television crew have shared some memorable comic moments.

“Once, we were getting ready to interview a Russian ballerina,” said Haas as she fondly remembered a live broadcast. “The interpreter didn’t show up, so her husband, who spoke broken English, interpreted the questions and answers for us.

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Nadine Haas with media-mogul Ted Turner in a television camera still shot.

“At first I thought the man was coughing. He started each sentence with loud grunts, groans and harrumphing. Another ballerina who was supposed to relate the woman’s personal information, knew nothing. I was beside myself. It was like being on the program by myself.”

Another show featured clowns whose antics included throwing flour up into the air. Somehow, they managed to get Haas in on the act by lifting her up on a medium-sized stool, leaving her and pretending they forgot her.

Realizing her show was being “hijacked” and that there was nothing she could do, Haas just sat there and smiled. She thought it would be a disaster.

She laughed at herself as she watched the tape at home.

“The whole thing was so stupid and ridiculous,” she said, noting that she was laughing at herself.

As for the crew, Haas said their antics have lessened and they’ve “settled down considerably.”

But if anyone asks what her show is all about, she’ll answer, “A little bit of everything. Expect the unexpected.”

Deanne Bartha is a Staff Associate of Living Prime Time 50PLUS.

Photos courtesy of Nadine Haas.

 

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