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Alumnus finds 'link' to success

George Gray

By Diana Young
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2002

George Gray takes on role as host of new daily 'Weakest Link'

A UA alumnus recently landed a job that every schoolyard bully would envy - he gets paid to dish out insults on national television.

George Gray, a 1990 University of Arizona graduate, recently began his tenure as host of the new, syndicated version of "Weakest Link," a game show where the host has free rein to tease contestants as they attempt to bank money before voting off the player they consider the "weakest link."

After the success of the show in Britain and the subsequent success of the hour long U.S. version, "Weakest Link" began airing its syndicated, half-hour long version on Jan. 7 with Gray as its host.

Though he claims his new job is community service at the suggestion of his parole officer, Gray actually auditioned for the show the old-fashioned way, he said.

"I joked around that they had seen just about everybody in Hollywood," Gray said. "I was surprised they didn't call my father."

Gray, who was born in St. Louis and raised in Tucson, got an early start in show business. His mother, a casting director, put him in movies as an extra when he asked. His pay: $35 and a day off school - enough to make any fifth-grader happy

"That's how I got into the movie business - I was a kid trying to avoid studying," he joked.

Gray got his comedy career started in Tucson doing stand-up at Laffs Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Blvd. Additionally, he did stand-up, sketch and improvisational comedy in The Cellar, formerly located in the basement of Memorial Student Union.

Gray took a semester off college to film "Teen Angel," a 1989 movie starring Jason Priestley. Although the film caused him to leave school and live in a motel for the duration of the shoot, he said the experience was eye-opening.

"It has nothing to do with glamour; it had nothing to do with stardom, but I really dig this - I really dig the art form," he said.

After returning to school and graduating with a bachelor's degree in personnel management, Gray "packed his bags and came out to L.A."

After a hosting job on The Learning Channel's "Junkyard Wars" and several other television and film credits, Gray landed the job on "Weakest Link" - a job he said has provided him with one main challenge: "to stop laughing every day.

"I'm having too much fun. I don't have a real job. There's people who work for a living. There's single moms that raise children. I wear make-up for a living; I don't have a real job."

One challenge of Gray's job - a must for any "Weakest Link" host - is to heckle contestants, often using the show's trademark one-line jabs, called "who-slams."

"Who is the Tito of this Jackson 5?" Gray said as an example, before comparing himself to Anne Robinson, the British host of the primetime version.

"When Anne does the slams, Anne can get away with something more intellectualized," he said. "I'm a kid from Tucson saying 'Who's the plastic pink flamingo in front of this trailer park?'"

Pink flamingo or not, Gray has come a long way from being a fifth-grader who ditched class to film movies.

Joel Valdez, UA senior vice president for business affairs, worked with Gray's father and remembers Gray as being "a regular youngster."

"There was kind of a cute movie that was produced here; they did a lot of filming at Tucson High," Valdez said of "Can't Buy Me Love," a 1987 movie filmed in Tucson. "He played the role of some college kid coming back to town, and they're at a party or something. It was kind of funny - not a 'Revenge of the Nerds' type thing."

Gray, who currently divides his time between Los Angeles and his home in Bisbee, said he enjoyed his time at UA.

"I had a great time at the U of A," he said. "It was just tons of fun. Good people, the students are awesome, the campus is beautiful, the bars - great. I used to love to hang around the bars.

"You always know you're in trouble when you show up at The Buffet," he said. "I usually went to The Buffet after finals."

Though he may have had to sacrifice the Tucson bar scene, the former Wildcat said he is happy with his new job.

"I'm having an absolute hoot," he said. "I'm tickled pink to be able to get out for Tucson and represent."


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