In 1962, Detroit broadcast legend Sonny Eliot launched a weekly TV show called “At the Zoo”. For the next 17 years, he entertained and educated viewers – many of them children – about wildlife and helped them to better understand and enjoy animals. His show was so popular, Detroit Zoo visitors used to ask, “Where’s Sonny?” Today, we know. Rest in peace, Sonny.
Marvin "Sonny" Eliot, a veteran broadcaster whose corny jokes and genial manner endeared him to Detroit-area audiences for decades, has died at 91.
Legendary Detroit weatherman Sonny Eliot is best known to viewers for his comic antics when presenting the forecast for the day’s weather. What few realize is that he is the consummate professional predicting a half-century of weather long before radar, Doppler or any high-tech services were available. He pioneered weather forecasting as a standard feature in local television newscasts.
From the early days of radio drama to the heyday of television news to the biggest television events to returning to radio, Sonny is the most famous weather journalist in Detroit. Generations saw him as host of a 17-year series, “At the Zoo,” saw the Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day Parade through his eyes or learned state geography as he told the weather in Hell, Ishpeming or Kalamazoo.
“Sonny has been a strong, steady and inspirational fixture at WWJ Newsradio 950 since 1947,” writes Rich Homberg, VP and general manager of the station. “Sonny Eliot is a tireless and innovative force in Michigan Journalism.”
Some of the many awards and citations Eliot received include the Sloan Award for his traffic safety tips at WDIV, citations by the American Legion and American Meteorological Society and the Toastmaster International Award. Inductions include the Michigan Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.
Few know that his funny repartée kept him alive in dire times. During World War II, Eliot was a B-24 bomber pilot when he was shot down over Germany and spent the next 18 months as a prisoner of war. He staged original skits and reviews for prisoners in Stalagluft I. He subsequently earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in mass communications at Wayne State University.
Many of his nominators cited Eliot as a present-day hero in ways that count, caring for his beloved bride, Annette, after she suffered a disabling stroke.
His affable weather broadcasting remains his legacy. “Sonny has truly done it all—and he’s not done yet,” Homberg says.