Geraldo Rivera

Who: The owner of the most famous mustache on cable news, Geraldo is the drama-loving tabloid journalist who currently hosts Geraldo at Large on Fox News.

Backstory: The son of a Jewish waitress and a Puerto Rican dishwasher, Rivera attended Brooklyn Law and practiced the legal profession very briefly in the late '60s before landing at WABC. He made his first headlines with his 1972 exposé on abuses at the Willowbrook School, a home for the mentally retarded. Following a stint on Good Morning America, he became one of the original anchors on 20/20, but ended up losing the job in 1985 after clashing with network head Roone Arledge. His career floundered until 1987, when he landed his own tabloid talk show, Geraldo, in which he explored pressing national issues like teen lesbianism and Satanism. By the mid-90s, though, he'd returned to reporting, negotiating a six-year, $30 million contract with NBC. In 2001 Geraldo headed to Fox to serve as a war correspondent and the host of Geraldo At Large. The show was canceled in January 2007 because of poor ratings. But it miraculously rose from the dead a month later, and can now be seen on the weekends on Fox News.

Drama: Rivera loves the spotlight and for three decades, he's done whatever he's had to do to get it. In 1986, millions watched him embarrass himself when he promised to reveal the contents of Al Capone's secret vault as part of a live TV special; all he ended up finding was some trash and few empty gin bottles. In 1988, a very memorable on-air rumble with some neo-Nazis left him with a broken nose after he was hit with a chair.

His taste for controversy followed him when he moved to cable: In 2001, while reporting from Afghanistan, Rivera alleged he'd been in the midst of a friendly fire incident; it later turned out he'd been over 300 miles away from the scene at the time. And in 2003, he was roundly criticized for disclosing details of an ongoing U.S. military operation while reporting from an Iraqi base camp. He later called the incident "total bullshit" and a "non-story"—although the U.S. military didn't seem to agree and kicked him out of the country.

In print: He's written several books, the most famous of which is his 1991 autobiography Exposing Myself, in which he claimed to have slept with more than 1,000 women, including Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, and Chris Evert. For her part, Midler has called him "a slimeball" and says he pushed her into her bathroom and groped her while he was high on drugs.

Soundbite: "Bill Moyers can do a story about a dog taking a leak on a tree and everybody says how eloquent it was. I could do an interview with Jesus Christ and they'd complain I was too soft on him."

Personal: Rivera is a serial husband-he's been married five times in four decades. In 1965, he married Linda Coblentz. After they divorced, he married Edith Vonnegut (daughter of late author Kurt) in 1971. He ditched Vonnegut the following year, marrying Sherryl Raymond. And in 1987, he married C.C. Dyer before splitting up with her in 2000. In 2003, he went down the aisle for a fifth time, marrying one of his employees, Erica Levy, who is 32 years his junior. Rivera and Levy have a daughter, Solita, born in 2005. He has four other children from his previous marriages—Gabriel, Cruz, Isabella and Simone.

Habitat: Rivera lives in a three-house compound in Riverside, New Jersey. The decor of the main house is said to resemble the interior of a submarine, while the second house is stocked with artifacts from Rivera's international travels. He keeps two 1954 Jaguars at his New Jersey home and owns a boat, Belle (named for his daughter), moored on the Hudson River. He also owns a federally-protected island off the coast of Puerto Rico. (For environmental purposes, Rivera's residence is a three-story "floating home," powered by generators and docked next to the island.) He also has a summer estate in Marion, Mass. (it's near Cape Cod) that features a helipad.

True story: Although his father's last name was "Rivera," his mother actually put down the less Hispanic-sounding "Riviera" on his birth certificate. She also gave him the first name "Gerald," not "Geraldo." He adopted the Spanish version of his first name in the late '60s, after the news director at WABC reportedly decided a more ethnic-sounding name would be a plus.



Vital Stats


Full Name: Gerald Michael Rivera
Date of Birth: 07/04/1943
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, NY
Undergrad: University of Arizona
Graduate: Brooklyn Law School
Residence(s): Riverside, NJ; Marion, MA; Puerto Rico
Filed Under: Media

[Photo via Getty]