Bill Bonds: Michigan’s Most Controversial Newsman
Hands-down, my all-time favorite Michigan newscaster was the late Bill Bonds.
He got into fights.
He argued with people he interviewed, often ending with the guest walking out.
He was an admitted alcoholic; he mentioned this live on-the-air.
He was arrested for drunk driving.
He got fired.
He was known for his hot temper.
He could curse a blue streak.
Who cared about the news? We just wanted to watch Bill do his thing.
What was his thing?
Reading the news. Throwing in his comments, showing disgust, and rolling his eyes. And if a news script was lamely written, he’d call out the culprit responsible for writing such drivel.
If any newsperson other than Bill pulled this stuff, they would be immediately let go.
But not Bill.
The Michigan audience could not get enough of him. He was more of a real, everyday person, not afraid to relay his personal feelings about certain topics. Most newspeople go through the motions, reading the words off the teleprompter. Bill did that, too, but often went off on his own diatribes. And we ate it up.
I remember when he was arrested for DUI and was getting bad press. I actually wrote him a letter and told him that many of us had his back. I never got an answer...and I never expected one...but that was OK.
Bill Bonds was a good-looking guy, with ever-changing hairstyles and toupees until he found the style that would epitomize his most iconic look, and how we envision him today.
1963-1968: Newsman for WXYZ, Detroit.
1971: Has a part in the film Escape From The Planet Of The Apes
1971-1995: Back at WXYZ
1987: Appears in the film Robocop
1989: On the air, Bonds challenged Detroit mayor Coleman Young to a boxing match. Bonds admits his alcoholism on live TV.
1995: WXYZ fires Bonds after his DUI.
One of my favorite moments was when Bill’s bosses told him he was not allowed to plug Girl Scout cookies on the air. So what did he do? He plugged Girl Scout cookies. Watch that great video here.
This Girl Scout cookie moment epitomizes what I liked about Bill Bonds...if he felt something was right, he did it anyway, and damn any authority figure who tells him different.
Born in 1932 in Detroit, Bill did a tour of duty in the Air Force and afterward, started doing radio news in the 1950s. His first gig was at a station in Albion and later a handful of Detroit stations. Wanting to do television news, he tried getting in at Channel 2 and Channel 4, both of which turned him down. He eventually started at WXYZ Channel 7 as a street reporter, and later replaced Leon McNew as anchorman.
Bonds’ excellent coverage of the 1967 Detroit riots brought him a job opportunity to Los Angeles, where he went for three years doing news for KABC. Out there, he did so-so, and was more than happy to come back to Michigan – and Detroit – in 1971. He left for a year doing news at WABC in New York from 1975-1976 but came back to Detroit where he was the most comfortable…and appreciated.
After leaving WXYZ in 1995, he did a few other gigs at WJBK Channel 2, WXYT-AM, and again at WXYZ for another year around 1998. He spent his remaining years doing commercials, most notably for Gardner-White furniture. He was invited to events for WXYZ and was always honored by his peers.
In his 80s, Bill was having difficulty walking, but sorely wanted to get back doing the news: "God, I miss it," he said.
Bill Bonds passed away at the age of 82 from a heart attack on December 13, 2014.
He's a hard act to follow.
"Stay Classy, Detroit."
THE FOLLOWING VIDEO CONTAINS MANY CURSE WORDS!