"Yes," Billy Bush '94 confirms from his corner office at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center, "as captain of the lacrosse team I did run naked except for snow boots through Miller Library. But I paid the fine!" Not every network television correspondent warrants introduction by way of his most famous college exploit, but in Bush's case it couldn't be more appropriate.
Behind his desk: a band leader's helmet, an American flag, a pair of boxing gloves and one prosthetic leg. ("You never know when you'll need that extra leg," he says.) On his desk: a mirror with "I'm better looking than O'Brien" written on it in marker. Spilling off his window ledge: photos of Bush arm-in-arm with every celebrity imaginable,Robin Williams, Christina Aguilera, Steven Spielberg, Adam Sandler. And J. Lo, of course.
Suffice it to say, it's difficult to imagine Bush ever not having fun. Between his million-dollar smile, irrepressible energy and booming, circus-barker voice, it's easier to imagine him raising hell on the lacrosse field than doing anything as sensible and restrained as forging a career.
But you don't get as far in the entertainment business as Bush has without working hard. Though he may be one of the most animated, extroverted guys you'll ever meet,The New York Times described him as "cocksure but affable . . . capable of conjuring instant bonhomie",he also has, as his post-Colby career path attests, the savvy and gumption to match. In 1995, he was a lonely bachelor spinning oldies in rural New England. Six years later he was named East Coast correspondent for NBC's popular entertainment news show, Access Hollywood.
Bush first took to the airwaves as an undergraduate DJ on WMHB at Colby. "I'd like to thank, distinctly, Walter in Winslow for listening. He may have been my only listener," Bush said, laughing. "But really, that's when I got the bug, and just in time. It was my senior year, and I realized I could do this for a living." His international studies major ("Let's just say I wasn't a great student; my dad and I liked to joke that I was on the dean's other list") wasn't immediately applied to his career track. After graduation he moved to Guilford, N.H., and began selling ads for a small oldies station to support his $6-an-hour on-air gig. It was far from glamorous, or even all that much fun, but, he said, "being there further cemented that this was what I wanted to do." Soon he asked to take over the afternoon drive show. Management obliged and Bush was off and running.
Two months later Bush made a tape of his show and sent it around the radio circuit. TK, a classic rock station in Washington, D.C., snapped it up. He moved to D.C. and set up shop. After only 13 weeks hosting the TK day show, Bush won the Washington Air Award for best new talent in the market and was hired by Z104, a start-up Top 40 station, to be its drive-time host,the most coveted slot in broadcasting.