North Forkers toast their beloved ‘host’ Doug Geed, who championed ‘The East End’ for decades

Addressing a crowd gathered Saturday evening to celebrate his more than 30-year career at News 12, Doug Geed shared that his affinity for the East End stretches back several decades — and roughly 50 miles — to his childhood home in Syosset, where his father kept a garden.

“To me it was huge, but it probably wasn’t that big,” he said, recalling the rows of corn, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers scattered “all over” the garden. “We bought bags of chicken manure, threw them in the back of the 1963 Chevy station wagon,” Mr. Geed recalled. “And I’m the youngest of four boys, I’m sitting in the back next to the chicken manure.

“But then we would also take drives to the East End, and I know my dad would go clamming out in Orient,” he said. “And then we’d stop at a farmstead and get a whole bunch of corn. And we’d come home and the next few days were wonderful. We’re eating all this fresh produce … we’re eating clam fritters and my mom made clam chowder. And those memories, I guess, I don’t know, they stuck to my mind. But I think about that, that’s like the late ‘60s. Someone can still do that today, and that’s amazing.”

That enduring love of the East End and its cherished traditions has guided Mr. Geed throughout his 37-year run as a trusted News 12 anchorman. It also served as inspiration for “The East End,” the program he developed and hosted to shine a spotlight on the people and businesses that have come to define the region.

More than 100 of the folks Mr. Geed has covered — and in many cases, befriended — over his long career gathered at Duck Walk Vineyards in Southold Saturday evening for a “semi-retirement” party in his honor. 

Although his final episode of  “The East End” will air in December, Mr. Geed and his family aren’t done supporting the local community: $10,000 raised at the party will be donated to the Long Island Farm Bureau and the LCW Passion for Agriculture Fund, which jointly award grants to burgeoning farmers in honor of Lyle C. Wells, an 11th-generation Riverhead farmer who died in a 2018 workplace accident. 

“For many years, Doug has been a very interested party in covering agricultural issues,” said Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “Over the years, he’s done interviews on different stories with me regarding the economy, crops that are growing, the growing season, the weather, you name it.

“Doug always tried to understand the plight of agriculture and the farming community when issues arose,” Mr. Carpenter continued. “And people learned to trust Doug, because they could have a good conversation with him, he allowed the farmers to open up and tell their whole story.”

Some 15 years before he championed the East End on camera, Mr. Geed began his journalism career in radio. The day he arrived at WALK/97.5 FM’s Patchogue studio for his first job interview — fresh out of the University of Missouri’s journalism school — set him on the road not only to Long Island’s farmland and wine country, but towards love, marriage and fatherhood. 

“He was very steadfast, and it was very charming to be courted,” his wife, Christine Geed recalled of their time working together at the radio station. “[He was] a little old-fashioned in his approach, and I loved it. But it took us a little while to get there; I made him work for it … He’d sit at my desk and have lunch and every time we took a break, he’d come out and chat.”

Like Ms. Geed, many of Saturday’s attendees said that once they found themselves in Mr. Geed’s orbit, he locked them into his gravitational pull, from his colleagues at News 12, to lifelong friends, including his college dorm mate, Bill Overturf, who became his first cameraman on a video assignment — and who Mr. Geed called his “brother” at Saturday’s party.

“Immediately we became very good friends; who knew that 43 years later we would still be friends,” Mr. Overturf said. “But we stayed close all that time. I was his best man for his wedding. When he met his wife … I remember him writing me letters, how he fell in love with her almost instantaneously.

“He’s just such a genuine guy; he truly cares about everybody that he comes in contact with,” he continued. “He will invest in people and he trusts people … he’s just a very generous guy.”

Friends and colleagues also recalled his keen sense of humor, and notoriously deadpan delivery.

“Viewers might not quite know what a dry sense of humor he has,” said Michael DelGiudice, who worked as a News 12 cameraman for nearly four decades and is known to Mr. Geed’s kids as Uncle Mike. “He will deliver a line with a straight face and you go ‘Oh, you’re kidding!’ ”

Mr. DelGiudice also noted that he was even more impressed by the tight ship Mr. Geed ran when filming a segment. He planned each day, left plenty of time for editing and even spare moments for the news team to grab a bite. His organizational skills, paired with his good-humor, engendered as sense of calm even in the most stressful situations. Mr. DelGiudice remembered a particular story about a new cameraman stressing the crew would be late to a press conference. He practically begged Mr. Geed to phone someone at the scene to ensure they were not running late.

“Finally, at one point, Doug picks up the phone and [the cameraman] says to himself, ‘Oh, thank God, he’s calling, at least we’ll know how late we are,’ ” Mr. DelGiudice recalled. “The next thing out of Doug’s mouth is ‘Yes, excuse me, can you please tell me your flavors of the day?’ [The cameraman] almost drives off the road. Doug needed TCBY before they got to the location, and he’s like, ‘Do you want anything?’ ”

Those not in the news business who found themselves speaking into Mr. Geed’s microphone found him just as calming. Christina Padrazo, who opened The Treatery sweet shop in Jamesport last fall, said she grew up watching Mr. Geed’s program. As her cupcake side-hustle grew more popular in the years preceding her brick-and-mortar business, she said Mr. Geed frequently asked around about “the cupcake girl” and checked in on her.

“I had gotten a personal text from him; I was wicked taken aback,” Ms. Padrazo recalled of her interview with Mr. Geed when her store finally opened.. “It was easy to interview with him because it was super wholesome … [After the episode aired] we were getting 100 people a day on the weekends for probably six weeks straight … Every single person was like, ‘I saw the Doug Geed special’ and people were driving from all over Long Island. I feel like he really captured what we were doing because the people remembered what I said.”

“ ‘The East End’ show, I feel that’s like a child to me,” Mr. Geed said in a telephone interview Monday. “It was just a concept in my mind and we did that pilot episode, and it was instantly embraced and it just grew to what it is today. I’m passionate about that and I hope it continues to be a success for a long time.”

Although Mr. Geed will no longer host, the program he created will continue with new hosts Erin Colton and Joe Arena.

As for what’s next in his career, even Mr. Geed cannot report that sure-to-be front-page story just yet.

“Offers are being made,” he teased. “I just really don’t know. You know, after 37 years, I just kind of want to hang out for a little bit and catch my breath.”

His wife shares the sentiment.

“As much as there’s probably a million things I’d love to see Doug do, one of the things that I would like him to do is take a minute to breathe, play catch up with himself and remember his passions and his loves and his desires,” Ms. Geed said. “His journalistic career has been a very large part of that and for him to be not be doing that for a while is going to be interesting.”

Just as East Enders ponder Mr. Geed’s future, he will surely keep an eye on theirs. His program shined a positive light on an area that has blossomed into a vibrant business and tourist attraction — for better or worse. Just as he hears feedback from businesses he’s boosted on his program, he’s heard concerns about the traffic and rising prices that have accompanied the North Fork’s surge in popularity.

“I would love to see an overnight stay that’s less than $500 in summer, that would be nice,” he said. “I understand that has rapidly and dramatically changed, and that’s sad, because the North Fork was always a place for like the blue-collar, middle-class people to go.

“The last couple of years of the show, when those prices did go crazy … I almost felt guilty, because I knew there’s so many people, middle-class people in Nassau and western Suffolk, writing all this down, and then the prices are just way beyond what they could afford. That always made me a little sad, but it’s just the changing times … If I had a magic wand, it would be to make the North Fork more affordable for the average guy. It’s unrealistic that’s going to happen. But my dream is, you know, just preserve, preserve, preserve. Keep those farms there and those vineyards.”