Amid the wreckage, Sunshine found an old video camera with a working battery, handed it to Melissa,” and went outside and just talked and talked,” producing such compelling footage that CBS picked it up nationally. WFOR reprised it in its recent Andrew anniversary special.
Sunshine rebuilt the house as a “bunker,” with state-of-the-art hurricane protection that earned him “a little bit of a discount on hurricane insurance.”
Then, in a bid to lower costs, Citizens, the state’s windstorm insurer, “changed the inspection criteria [and] my rates, like everybody else, have gone up $1,200, $1,400 in the past two years,” Sunshine said.
He is not happy about this, and as he’s talking about it, in a WFOR conference room, Sunshine’s face begins to flush.
And that, says longtime colleague, anchor Elliot Rodriguez, signals how Sunshine has stayed connected to his audience.
“He has survived because he’s somebody we can all relate to,” Rodriguez said. “An average guy.”
Yes, he wags his finger, “and your mother said ‘it’s not polite to point’.” Yes, he gets worked up and “passionate,” says Rodriguez, but that’s why viewers relate.
“There’s a little bit of all of us in Al Sunshine,” he said. “We really understand why he’s upset.”
But Sunshine isn’t just emotion; he knows his stuff, Rodriguez said.
“I wouldn’t buy a washing machine, a TV or a car without him.’’
Special education teacher Deborah Sunshine’s wifely version of same: “He thinks he’s an expert on everything.’’
WFOR is “very fortunate to have Al Sunshine as a member of our CBS4 news team,” said Adam Levy, vice president/general manager of WFOR-TV/CBS4 and WBFS/myTV33. “His decades of experience in this market and the major stories that he’s covered throughout the years parallel the evolution of South Florida and make him an incredible asset to our entire organization.”
Sunshine says he learned what he knows from real life, “covering consumer stories and financial stories and having a house in South Florida, a mortgage, insurance, paying the bills, having a wife who’s working to help pay the bills, raising two kids. I have a real good baseline consumer education into economics and finance.’’
That includes learning the hard way, by falling for a prepaid health-club membership scam back in the ‘70s.
That industry isn’t much better now, he says, but the one that seems to have learned its lesson is the auto sector.
“Some of the rampant scams that we saw 20 years ago, with women especially, with local and state regulations that came in, has been controlled a little bit better.’’
Movers have also moved to clean up their acts after “some South Florida organizers went to jail.’’
He was born Alvin Foster Sunshine in Chicago, but “Al prefers Al,” he says, referring to himself in the third person, as he often does.
He was an only child whose father, the late Herb Sunshine, held a 1930s-era patent on an early Epiphone amplifier that enabled the development of the electric guitar.