When he was growing up in Iowa -- playing football and de-tasseling corn and such -- Mark Steines probably never guessed what was coming up. These days, he's a TV star, doing a home show, working with John DeLorean's ex-wife, doing July interviews about Christmas. That's show business; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
As a big Iowa kid -- a football star, no less -- Mark
Steines followed a logical route. He played college ball, did some
sportscasting and married a Miss America; you’d kind of expect him to.
Then came the surprises. He hosts a home show for the
Hallmark Channel … and does Christmas interviews in July … and mixes with people
whose lives have gone way beyond Iowa.
That includes Cristina Ferrare, a former movie star who is his
“Home & Family” co-host. “We were driving down the street one day and she
pointed to a hotel and said, ‘That’s the place,’” Steines recalled. It was the
historic spot where her then-husband, John DeLorean, was arrested on cocaine
He was freed due to entrapment, but his car company folded.
So did his marriage; now Ferrare is married to Tony Thomopoulos, the former ABC
This is not the sort of frame-of-reference Steines grew up
with. He recalls someone asking him the toughest job he’d ever had: “It was
de-tasseling corn. A lot of people have never heard of that.”
It’s an Iowa thing. Steines grew up in Dubuque, was an
all-state linebacker (at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds) and had a football scholarship
to Northern Iowa. Already interested in photography, he majored in radio and TV
and became a news cameraman for a station in Waterloo, Iowa.
Then came the quirk: “My career is based on mistaken
identity,” Steines said with a laugh.
He was shooting footage at the 1988 Republican convention, he
said, when people kept mistaking him for Tom Cruise. An offbeat feature had him
doing bartender tricks, in the style of Cruise’s “Cocktail.”
That got noticed and on-camera jobs followed – sportscaster
in Springfield, Mo., reporter for a Los Angeles station, occasional ESPN
reports. In 1995, his life transformed doubly – he married Leanza Cornett, who
was Miss America 1993 (they have two sons and separated late year) and he
started work at “Entertainment Tonight” as substitute host, then weekend host,
then regular co-host.
Steines left the “ET” job after 17 years and three million
air miles. He was promptly offered something more settled: “Home & Family”
has a permanent set that’s like an actual house; there, he and Ferrare talk to
stars and to experts in cooking, crafts, design, gardening and more.
The hosts don’t have to be experts, but it helps to know
something. Steines said he’s had construction jobs and he used to help his dad
around the house and yard. “I’m passing that down to my sons,” he said … or, at
least, trying to in a culture of hired lawn-and-garden people.
The show also has room for whimsy. This week, Hallmark has
Christmas movies at night and a “Christmas in July” theme to “Home &
Family.” That’s logical in Los Angeles, where December and July kind of look
alike; in Iowa, you can tell them apart.
“Home & Family,” 10 a.m. weekdays, Hallmark
Channel; previous episode reruns at noon.
This week, that includes interviews about
Christmas plans and about previous Christmas movies. Those movies follow the
show, at 2 p.m.; they continue until 10 p.m. (through Thursday); on Friday, July
11, they continue all night and then all day Saturday.