Initiative hasn’t done badly at all by Bill Borea. In fact, “Get behind yourself and push” would suit him as a mantra. In fact, the host of the cablecast show Spectator (MTN—channel 17), an hour of politics, social issues, and the arts now finishing up its 16th year, might have the most eclectic resume of any TV personality in town.
He never studied television journalism, but, drawing on determination and years in the entertainment business, Borea established a self-styled presence. One that, judging from his eight-year tenure on the show, going from guest to co-host to sitting front and center, works quite well for the viewing audience. He’s also worked hard to generate an eclectic list of guests that has included Mayor R. T. Rybak, Adnan “The Sheik” Al-Kaissy (WWF wrestling star and former health education minister in Saddam Hussein’s administration), and Gary Hines of the Sounds of Blackness. As well as a slew of community folk ranging from Ron Edwards, Clyde Bellecourt, and Natalie Johnson Lee to musician Isaac Russell, activist Titilayo Bediako, and physical trainer Ed Sharkey, who has worked with pro wrestlers Jesse Ventura, The Road Warriors, and Rick Rude.
“I also enjoy having on anyone who is truly passionate about something,” says Borea. “Anything. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’re talking about. If they really care, then, I care. And whoever is watching cares.”
In 1985, after earning a University of Minnesota B.A. in psychology with a political science minor, Borea took a job at Olympia Gym as a trainer (he still takes on personal clients). Opportunity knocked in 1988, when, after rehabbing a knee-injury, he took fitness to an extreme and wound up winning heavyweight, body-building titles as Mr. Natural Minnesota and Mr. Natural Nissan Hard Body.
Friends from the gym egged him on to try pro wrestling, so he did. Along the line, he met promoter Ray Whebbe, who gave him a quite a bit of work in the ring, including matches throughout the Midwest and a tour of Japan. By the time he left the ring in 2002, he’d wrestled more than 500 bouts.
In 1997, right after the filming of The Naked Man, Whebbe was hosting Spectator with a sports format and invited Borea to appear on the show. Several times. Borea recalls, “I followed politics like Ray followed sports. So, when I [became co-host], it just seemed a natural extension to expand the scope.”
This led to Whebbe bringing in current co-host, community activist Booker Hodges. Borea notes, “We’re a little under representative on the [political] right, since Ray’s passing [in 2003]. But we do have producer-director Richard Dashud, who’s a Republican.”
He adds, “I’m appreciative that Richard would give Booker and myself and many others in the community the chance to [express] our beliefs, even when he doesn’t agree with them.”
Hodges, who ignited a firestorm of controversy last spring with his criticism of City Council Member Don Samuels, says he’s a big fan of Borea’s. “I really enjoy co-hosting Spectator with Bill, because he’s a white man who gets it. And when he doesn’t get it, he is willing to at least try to get it.”
That could be because Borea grew up knowing what it’s like to be in the minority. On his grade-school bus route, he recalls, “It was me and two other white kids. And I ended up having to fight for a seat on the bus everyday.”
He’s also been up against what he perceived as Minneapolis Police Department profiling. “White people outside the privilege classes get hassled, too. They get treated unfairly by cops,” he says, recalled an incident last summer. “I’m walking down the street in my [North Minneapolis] neighborhood and the squad car pulls up. They’re looking for some big white guy with cut-off jeans-shorts and a bandana. Who doesn’t that fit? But they pull up, slap the cuffs on and put me in the backseat.”
Comfortable In Front of the Camera
With Spectator as his main outlet for exposure, Borea branches out from there, digging up entertainment work that affords a heightened profile and helps foot the mortgage. He’s acted on the Minneapolis stage in Gianni Sent Me (Gianni’s Dinner Theatre) and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, on television in Discovery Channel’s Next Exit and KTCA’s Tape’s Rolling and in a handful of Minnesota-produced films: Planet Fall and Terror Report (now in post-production) for Car School Films, Hallow (Duberry Productions), The Donnelly Process (Two Moon Productions), for which he also served as stunt coordinator (Borea’s certified by the American Society of Fight Directors as an actor-combatant) and Mulligan (Vandy Productions), which he co-wrote.
Bill’s bread and butter is directing security at The Seville, a downtown Minneapolis gentleman’s club. Lifelong physical training, including martial arts expertise [Tae Kwon Do brown belt] and a hulking physique, of course, qualifies him for the job so far as ejecting the occasional problem patron. He prefers, though, to adopt a head-things-off-at-the-pass attitude, “If myself or one of my guys can get in front of a situation, if we can pre-empt trouble by just talking, it works out best for everyone. And gives the guest a chance to save himself some embarrassment.”
Considering how many pseudonyms he’s used one might figure Borea either has an identity crisis or is running from the law. He wrestled as good guy Billy Blaze and as the heel William Best and, for his writing credits, goes by his birth name, William Edmund Reau III. By any of them, Borea adheres to one abiding tenet: success through self-determination. As he puts it, “Nobody’s gonna do it for you, but you.”