Tag Archives: “Born to Explore”

Richard Wiese Explores The Presidency

Richard Wiese was born to explore.

Traveling to all 7 continents, he’s tagged jaguars in the Yucatan jungles, led expeditions to the Northern Territory of Australia, and joined the largest medical expedition ever conducted on Mt. Everest.

He achieved the first ascent of an unclimbed mountain in Alaska, discovered 29 new life forms on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and cross-country skied to the North Pole.

“Born to Explore” is also the name of the award-winning PBS television series, which also aired on ABC for 5 seasons. It’s produced on Main Street in Westport — and Wiese, a Weston resident, is host and executive producer.

Richard Wiese in Borneo, with a wild orangutan.

The Explorers Club is right up Wiese’s alley. Since 1904 the New York-based organization has promoted scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space. Club members have been first to the North Pole, South Pole, the summit of Mount Everest, the deepest point in the ocean, and the surface of the moon.

So it’s natural that Wiese was elected 44th president of the Explorers Club.

It’s his second stint at the helm. He also served from 2002 to 2006.

“In my lifetime, science and nature have never been more under siege,” Wiese says.

“Our world needs scientists and explorers more than ever before. I am proud to say that since 1904, the Explorers Club has stood for innovation, conservation and the value of different cultures. Our members make a difference, and I am honored to serve as its next president.”

Wiese’s honors include an Emmy, a Genesis Award, an AP Folio Award, and the Walter Cronkite Award for contributions to journalism and exploration.

Rescue Dogs And Cheetahs, Rescue You And Me

Two years ago, “06880” featured Junior, the Wonder Dog.

The story described his abuse, rescue by the Connecticut Humane Society, and subsequent adoption by Westporters Jim and Laura Pendergast.

But at the couple’s summer home in Maine, Junior suffered a stroke. His rear legs were paralyzed.

The Pendergasts committed to water and physical therapy, plus acupuncture, twice a week.

Junior was slow to heal. So the couple purchased a wheelchair.

The dog fought and cried. Finally — thanks to treats and sheer determination — Junior walked.

Today he runs on the beach, plays with other dogs, even swims.

Junior the Wonder Dog.

Junior the Wonder Dog.

The “06880” story highlighted Junior’s star turn on “Born to Explore.” That’s the Saturday morning ABC TV series that offers inspiring stories from around the world.

Born to Explore” has Westport roots too. In a small warren of 2nd-floor offices next to Bobby Q’s, Richard Wiese and a tiny staff produce 26 episodes a year. The entire series is  planned, organized and edited right on Main Street.

A world map inspires Richard Wiese in his Westport office.

A world map inspires Richard Wiese in his Westport office.

But this story isn’t really about Junior. Nor is it about “Born to Explore.”

It’s about Laura Pendergast — Junior’s owner — and her work with other animals.

With a nod toward Jim Fowler, former host of “Wild Kingdom.” He’s friends with Wiese, and has visited “Born to Explore”‘s office.

Fowler will be back in Westport on Tuesday, May 3 (7 p.m., Terrain). The Emmy Award winner will be honored at a fundraiser to support animal welfare. Wiese serves as emcee.

All of the proceeds benefit 3 groups. Two are local: PAWS and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

The 3rd is global: the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Dr. Laurie Marker — founder and executive director of the Namibia-based group — will be honored at Terrain too, for her ground-breaking work.

Dr. Laurie Marker and friend.

Dr. Laurie Marker and friend.

The fundraising event — called “Rescue You Rescue Me” — includes wine and hors d’oeuvres; a fashion show by Anthropologie; live music; live and silent auctions, and private discounted Terrain shopping. Westport’s own Cynthia Gibb — who has rescued many animals — will model.

This story has meandered, from Junior the Wonder Dog and Richard Wiese to stray dogs, cheetahs and “Wild Kingdom.”

That’s not unusual. There’s a big world out there to explore.

But when you come right down to it, we’re all connected.

(For more information on the “Rescue You Rescue Me” event, click here. To order tickets, click here.)

NOTE: If you’d like to see Junior, the Wonder Dog’s TV episode, it’s on Netflix. Search for “Born to Explore, It’s a Dog’s Life.”

Planning the event: Front row (from left): Julie Loparo, Sara Burke, Laura Curley Pendergast, Sue Smith. Rear: Marita Driscoll. Dogs: Violet and Rico.

Planning the event (from left): Julie Loparo, Sara Burke, Marita Driscoll, Laura Curley Pendergast, Sue Smith. Dogs: Violet and Rico.

Richard Wiese: Truly Born To Explore

Richard Wiese has eaten rotten shark in Iceland. (“It’s putrid — the worst food I’ve ever had.”)

He’s gone to sea with the only commercial fisherwoman in Chile. (“She was so subdued at first. Out on the water, she turned into Meryl Streep.”)

He’s slopped through dung-filled dye pits in Morocco. (“Places no one would go.”)

He’s traveled all over the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. With a tiny crew — 2 cameramen, a sound guy and a producer — he films astonishing stories of unheralded people and places.

After each trip — up to a half dozen a year — Wiese heads home to Westport. There — in a small warren of offices on the 2nd floor next to Bobby Q’s restaurant — he and a staff of 4 turn the footage into 26 annual episodes of “Born to Explore.” The fascinating Saturday morning TV show is entering its 5th season on ABC.

A world map inspires Richard Wiese in his Westport office.

A world map inspires Richard Wiese in his Westport office.

Most Westporters have no idea that the show is planned, organized and edited right here in Westport.

Those who do may not realize how successful it is. “Born to Explore” has been nominated for 11 Daytime Emmys. According to Wiese, only Ellen DeGeneres has more for syndicated shows.

And she’s got more folks doing her hair than Wiese has trotting the globe.

“Born to Explore” is an apt title. Wiese’s father — a Pan Am pilot — was the 1st man to solo the Pacific Ocean in a plane.

Wiese himself climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his father at 11 years old. In 2002 he became the youngest president ever of the Explorers Club. He’s been on the go — cross country skiing to the North Pole, living with pygmies in Uganda and aboriginals in Australia, even helping discover 202 forms of new life in the 1st microbial survey of New York’s Central Park — after graduating from Brown University.

Richard Wiese first climbed Kilimanjaro at age 11. He's been back, as this poster in his office attests.

Richard Wiese first climbed Kilimanjaro at age 11. He’s been back, as this poster in his office attests.

“Born to Explore” followed the publication of Wiese’s guidebook of the same name. He’d watched a lot of “exploring” TV shows. They all seemed sensationalized, or “lacking authenticity.” His goal was to show not only scenery and convey discovery, but to offer an understanding of the rich diversity of people around the world.

Litton Entertainment was looking for exactly that kind of programming. A strong partnership was formed (though Wiese retains full editorial control).

Since “Born to Explore” debuted, Wiese says, the cultural component has grown even more important. “We think we’re helping change perceptions of the Arab world, Africa” and other misunderstood places, he notes.

Last fall, during a Turkish crisis with Syria, Wiese was filming in Turkey. “The people were so warm and non-threatening,” he says. In Africa, he met a wonderfully intelligent 11-year-old Zulu girl. Wiese would “put her against anyone at Staples High School.”

With 3 young children at home in Weston, Wiese says, his shows also reflect “an appreciation for mothers everywhere.”

Richard Wiese respects everyone -- and connects with people everywhere. This photo was taken in South Africa.

Richard Wiese respects everyone — and connects with people everywhere. This photo was taken in South Africa.

“Born to Explore” is filmed from Belize to Botswana, Iceland to Indonesia. But many of the ideas are generated at 42 Main Street, simply by looking at a large map of the world.

Another idea came from Jim Fowler, of “Wild Kingdom,” “Today” and “Tonight” show fame. Visiting the Westport office, he suggested a show about the northernmost alligator on the planet.

Developing an idea is one thing. Then comes the hard part: finding guides, getting permits, figuring out how to reach interior Africa or South America.

Handling horses in snow is one of Richard Wiese's many talents.

Handling horses in snow is one of Richard Wiese’s many talents.

But Wiese and his staff are creative — before and during each shoot. There is no script. “We make on-the-spot decisions, and proceed,” Wiese says with pride.

The approach works. “We see the world in such a different way than if we were tourists,” he explains. “We meet such salt-of-the-earth people.”

They may not speak a common language. But Wiese, his crew and the men, women and children they film communicate through food, music, art and nature. “If you share a meal with someone, you understand them,” he says.

On most exploring shows, Wiese says, “the host is a superhero who survives everything. Well, that person doesn’t exist.” Although Wiese comes close to being superhuman.

So what’s it like — after traveling the world — to come back to Westport?

Wiese — who grew up across the Sound, on Long Island — loves it. “Life is about seeing the world, wherever you are.”

One of his favorite spots — anywhere — is Compo Cove. The other night, he and his son fished in Sherwood Mill Pond.

Sounds as if — like his father and grandfather — the young boy is born to explore.

"Born to Explore," on a Moroccan sand dune.

“Born to Explore,” on a Moroccan sand dune.

 

Junior The Wonder Dog Ready For TV Debut

If your Saturday morning routine involves planting the kids in front of TV cartoons, this weekend you might consider a different show.

At 11 a.m. tune in to “Born to Explore,” the ABC series that explores intriguing stories around the world. Then stop what you’re doing, sit down and watch it yourself.

This Saturday’s show features Junior, a very inspiring dog.

With Westport tags.

Junior the Wonder Dog.

Junior the Wonder Dog.

Junior was abused, before being rescued by the Connecticut Humane Society, then adopted by Westporters Jim and Laura Pendergast.

Three years ago, at the couple’s summer home in Maine, Junior suffered a stroke. His rear legs were paralyzed.

The Pendergasts committed to water and physical therapy, plus acupuncture, twice a week.

Yet Junior was slow to heal. So the couple purchased a wheelchair.

“We trained him little by little. He really fought us at first and would cry and cry and cry, but with treats and sheer determination, we got him to be able to walk with it,” Laura Pendergast told the Scarborough Leader.

 Today Junior runs on the beach, plays with other dogs, even swims.

Junior romps with the Pendergasts.

Junior romps with the Pendergasts.

“It’s an inspirational story about him not giving up on himself. He really got himself in a situation where he can live a happy and free life,” Laura Pendergast said.

The show was filmed last summer in Maine.

“A lot of people who regularly walk their dogs know Junior, but it seems like we always run into someone who doesn’t know him and who want to ask questions and meet him,” Jim says. “He is a real rock star.”

On Saturday, he — and the Pendergasts — rock a national audience.