Longtime News Anchors DivorcingJOHN McELHENNY , Associated Press
Dec. 14, 1999 4:35 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) _ Chet and Nat are splitting up, and people who don't even know them feel just terrible about it.
Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson, husband-and-wife co-anchors who have been a fixture on Boston television for 27 years, have announced they will remain partners on the air, but not in marriage.
``It caught me by surprise,'' said Mark Tulipano, a transit police officer working near Quincy Market. ``They were more like an icon together. You just thought that marriage would last if any one would.''
Astute viewers noticed possible signs of off-air trouble months ago. It seems Ms. Jacobson returned from a 15-week summer sabbatical and appeared on the air without her wedding ring.
The split became public Monday with a statement from the couple. Then the general manager of WCVB, Paul La Camera, shared the news with viewers at the end of the 6 p.m. broadcast.
Although they vowed their split would not affect their on-air chemistry, some viewers who grew up watching the pair _ who have been married for 24 years and are known locally simply as ``Chet and Nat'' _ weren't so sure.
``Can you say `Chet' without saying `Chet and Nat?''' asked Jay Murphy, a construction worker from Quincy. ``I think Chet's on the outs.''
The split was a hot topic of conversation Tuesday. It was played on the front pages of The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. Radio disc jockeys ventured guesses on whether Chet or Nat was to blame.
Curtis, 60, and Ms. Jacobson, 56, shared the local news spotlight for decades, both on- and off-camera.
Curtis joined Channel 5 as a reporter and anchor in 1968. Ms. Jacobson joined four years later and was quickly promoted to anchor.
They briefly shared the anchor desk before marrying in 1975 _ the second marriage for both. Ms. Jacobson, whose maiden name was Salatich, kept the last name of her first husband because, she once said, the station was concerned viewers would identify them as ``Mr. and Mrs. News.''
The birth in 1981 of the couple's only child, Lindsay, led the station's newscast. Since then, they have been the station's most visible public personalities, co-anchoring such events as the Boston Marathon and the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon to fight muscular dystrophy.
``They're kind of like a royal couple here,'' said Denise Maniscalco, a candy store owner from Chelmsford. ``I was shocked, saddened really, when I heard.''
Curtis and Ms. Jacobson have co-anchored WCVB's 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts since 1982. The station has been No. 1 in the ratings in the 6 p.m. slot for the past two years but has lost the top spot at 11 p.m. to WHDH.
In a statement, Curtis and Ms. Jacobson declined to say whether they would seek a divorce. ``We remain best friends, and care deeply for one another,'' they said.
Curtis and Ms. Jacobson are in the third year of a five-year joint contract that pays them a combined $1.2 million per year, according to the Herald. WCVB would not confirm that.
WCVB spokeswoman Caroline Waddel said there would be no change in Curtis and Ms. Jacobson's work assignments.
Some viewers said they will be watching the news more closely in the coming weeks for any on-air friction.
``People will definitely watch,'' said Dave Brown, a caterer who said he had a crush on Ms. Jacobson while growing up in Lynn. ``They'll want to see how they act toward each other, and how long they can hide it.''
Said Russell Murphy, a copy service deliveryman: ``It's like a soap opera in the news _ a news opera.''