La Verne Magazine
La Vernes Own Eyewitness
by Amanda Stutevoss
photography by Liz Lucsko
After receiving word that his 5 p.m. sports segment will be cancelled by breaking
news in the Elizabeth Smart case, KABC sports anchor Rob Fukuzaki scans the
sports section for Fuks Follies bloopers. The 1988 University
of La Verne Communications Department alumnus has become a news celebrity face
on Channel 7s Eyewitness News.
It is 4 p.m., and Rob Fukuzaki has just pulled past the security gates into
the KABC Channel 7 lot in Glendale. Fukuzaki steps out of his black Lexus SC430
sports car wearing a modest polo shirt, jeans and new blue Nike Shox shoes.
His hands are full: a chicken Caesar salad from Koo Koo Roo in one hand and
briefcase in the other. Fukuzaki waves his security key over the sensor at the
front door. He breezes through the hectic newsroom and quickly finds his way
to his desk. It is decorated with old copies of Sports Illustrated, and Tommy
Lasorda, Bobby Grich and Elgin Baylor bobble heads. Without hesitation, he turns
on his computer and begins his night as the weeknight sports anchor for the
Not bad for a modest kid from Hawaii. I am extremely fortunate to be
in the position Im in and to have been able to experience things that
I have, he says humbly. And thats putting it lightly. Not many University
of La Verne graduates can say that they have stood beside Shaquille ONeal,
interviewed Michael Jordan or exchanged golf tips with Tiger Woods. But for
Fukuzaki, it is just another day on the joba job that uprooted him from
his Hawaiian comfort zone and thrust him into the spotlight of the No. 2 news
market in the nation. It is an adjustment that Fukuzaki admits took a toll on
his sanity. At the beginning, the stress was almost physically painful,
but after you get your footing, and you are balanced, you know that you can
actually do it, he says.
Fukuzaki, the only child of parents Ann and Wil Fukuzaki, was born on the
Fourth of July in Torrance, Calif., but was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, where
his family relocated when he was 3 years old. Fukuzaki, who claims he was a
shy child, had a spark of interest in sports early in life. He admits, however,
that his interest in sports was different from other children his age. I
was a weird kid, Fukuzaki says. I wasnt the type of kid who
would always go out and play sports with other kids. If there were a game on,
I would be listening to it on the radio or watching it on television, or I would
follow the stats of my favorite players in the newspaper. I was really influenced
by sports early.
Fukuzaki attended the small private Mid-Pacific Institute High School in Honolulu,
and after several college recruiting meetings held at his school, he decided
to stick with the small learning atmosphere. The University of La Verne fit
the mold exactly. I didnt want to go to a big university,
he says. You tend to get lost in the crowd. Many factors went into
his decision. He wanted a smaller school with a good broadcasting program, and
he wanted a place where he could hone his talents as a baseball player. After
carefully reviewing his options, Fukuzaki decided to leave Honolulu to attend
Pursuing a radio and television double major kept him busy. As a freshman,
he was a member of the Leopard baseball team, playing shortstop. However, a
shoulder injury from his senior year at Mid-Pacific kept him on the bench most
of the season. In his sophomore year, he decided that his injury was preventing
him from playing baseball to his full potential. He hung up his glove and took
to the sidelines permanently. However, he never wanted to leave the field completely
and decided to explore other venues in baseball. One venue he had in mind: the
press box. My injury was a blessing in disguise, he recollects.
The injury allowed him to take a seat in La Vernes Ben Hines Field as
an announcer for KULV.
Being the competitive person that he is, Fukuzaki made a point to make people
at ULV notice his announcing talents. And like every other endeavor in his career,
he was successful. His talents were awarded with the ULV Communications Department
Broadcaster of the Year award in 1986, 1987 and 1988, a consecutive three-year
record that he still holds today. Rob just seemed from the very beginning
to have a very natural talent, says Mike Laponis, ULV professor of communications.
In my senior year, Mike Laponis once jokingly said to me, You know,
a lot of people will be happy that you are leaving. I have just always
been driven; I guess that is what has helped me get to where I am now,
Like many students, Fukuzaki left La Verne and Southern California to return
home after graduation, not knowing what the career world had in store for him.
However, his experiences at ULV and the Communications Department gave him a
one-up on the competition. Fukuzakis involvement in KULV, where he served
as program director, provided training that would fair well in the world outside
of ULV. When I look back to my roots and my days at KULV, he pauses,
those days were fun.
Soon after arriving in Hawaii, Fukuzaki began looking for a job in the communications
field. After sending demo tapes to various television and radio stations, he
finally received one positive reply and started a job at the Top 40 radio station
92 KXPW as an on-air personality. Working odd hour shifts (midnight to 4 a.m.
on Saturdays), he learned the ropes of radio quickly. It was through his experiences
at KULV and KXPW that gave him a strong love and appreciation for radio, he
says. In radio you are a one-man band. Its like youre working,
but its therapeutic at the same time. Still, Fukuzaki knew that
his true career love was television. He soon received word from KITV in Hawaii
that there was an opening as a sports reporter and fill-in anchor. He took the
job at KITV, an ABC affiliate, and also worked full time at 92 X.
It was the spring of 1994 when he first heard about an opening at KABC. An
acquaintance from Hawaii called and told him about it. Although he was reluctant
to send in tapes because of the fierce competition, he did, and it paid off.
Nearly 300 applicants applied for the sportscasting position. After a nearly
four month process of sending demo reels and specified newscast tapes, the 300
candidates were narrowed to five, which included Fukuzaki.
In August of 1994, KABC decided it wanted to fly him to Los Angeles for an
interview. A nervous Fukuzaki accepted the invitation. He met with news director
Cheryl Fair, an interview that he remembers only as a blur. I dont
even know what I was saying, he admits, laughing. For all I knew,
I was stumbling through the interview. I came away thinking that I blew it.
Fukuzaki did nothing of the sort. After another trip to Los Angeles, he was
offered the job. Right when they offered the job to me, I remember the
weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, and I just said, Wow,
Despite the relief of finally receiving the job, he still felt the pressure
build. Fukuzaki remembers the transition as difficult and overwhelming moving
from a No. 70 market to the No. 2 market in the nation. I wouldnt
recommend moving so fast. I went through two of the most stressful years of
my life, he admits. But obviously you cant turn it down if
it is offered to you.The transition of moving from Hawaii to living in
Los Angeles was difficult for Fukuzaki. That, on top of the pressure of proving
himself as a sportscaster, was challenging, not to mention the obvious: He is
Asian in a competitive, predominately Caucasian profession.
The Many Men Inside the Man: The Japanese Sportscaster
He was born to second-generation Japanese parents. Coming from a Hawaiian
culture, where there are many Asians on the air compared to the Los Angeles
melting pot, was intimidating. One of my concerns was that people would
think that I was hired just because I am Asian, he confesses. I
didnt want people to think that I was the token Asian at the station who
doesnt know what he is talking about. He is one of two Asian broadcasters
on KABC, the other being weekday anchor David Ono. Fukuzaki was the first male
Japanese-American television anchor ever in the city of Los Angeles; a fact
that he admits is impressive. I felt that even though I had obstacles
to overcome, all I had to do was do what I know how to do, and eventually I
would be fine. And that is how it turned out.
Six years ago, Fukuzaki wanted to give back to his community of viewers the
best way he knew how. His answer: The Rob Fukuzaki Foundation, a non-profit
organization that has many different approaches to help at risk or disadvantaged
youth. It serves as a program that mentors through sports internships, sports
clinics, sports leagues and scholarship programs. Supporting kids is the
best part, he says. You cant help everybody, but I think that
if we can help even a few, we are doing our part.Although Fukuzaki does
not consider himself a celebrity, he does have some advantages in the sports
world. Because of his public image, he is able to get pro-athletes to come and
help him with the clinics.
And then there is his private life that is sometimes in the public spotlight.
The handsome Fukuzaki was featured recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show as an
eligible bachelor. While the show highlighted the 10 most eligible bachelors
in television news, Fukuzaki swears his selection was a fluke. I was one
of the very few eligible bachelors at the station, he explains, shaking
his head in embarrassment. I am sure they would have picked someone else.
However, Fukuzaki admits that he is not single by choice, like some men in the
limelight. I want to get married, he says. My grandmas are
ready and waiting.
With his ever-growing success, it is hard to imagine that Rob Fukuzaki would
ever leave the television screen, even with the uncertainties of his profession.
But one thing will remain constant in his life, and that is the stability and
modesty that he has been able to keep amidst the lights of the Hollywood sign.
I am just enjoying what I do now and worrying about everything else later,