There were the Steak ’n’ Shake cravings, a freelance newspaper article extolling the merits of $6.99 stretch undergarments and a phase that involved dyeing her well-known blond locks an uncharacteristic dark brunette.
The way Carole Sullivan tells it, we missed a colorful period of her life during the 12 months the 34-year-old former “Channel 3 Today” anchor spent living in Kalamazoo, Mich. “My parents thought I had gone Goth,” Sullivan says of her drastic hair-dye decision. “I was painting my nails brown. It was hilarious.”
But the biggest change to Sullivan’s life arrived weighing 8 pounds. Patrick John Sullivan — Carole and her husband Mike’s first child — was born last October.
“When I found the right person to marry, I decided I couldn’t wait to have kids,” she says. “I never felt the biological clock ticking. But once I got married, it was racing.”
Sullivan and her husband married in July 2005, but the couple spent much of their first year as newlyweds in a commuter relationship. (Mike Sullivan was working as offensive line coach for Western Michigan University’s football team, following his stint as an assistant under former Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis.) Then, in May 2006, Sullivan — six months pregnant at the time — signed off television to join her husband.
“I was sad to leave, but I embraced Kalamazoo,” she says. “I know it sounds silly, but I really got into living in a small town.”
She also enjoyed the last months of her pregnancy in a place where everyone didn’t recognize her. “That was the great thing, not to have people watch that process,” says the 5-foot-2-inch Sullivan, who says she was relieved viewers wouldn’t see the pounds she packed on with ninth-month cravings for Steak ’n’ Shake milk shakes. Her only appearance on the media scene was a humorous article she penned for the Detroit Free Press praising stretchy Hanes-brand underwear.
Following Patrick’s arrival, Sullivan says she wasn’t prepared for how long it took her to “feel normal” again. During this time, she dyed her hair “borderline black” on a whim. “Mike came home from work and said, ‘I read about this stuff happening. You have a baby, and you just change it all up,’ ” Sullivan recalls with glee.
Then, last February, the Browns contacted Mike about an offensive line coach position with the team. Sullivan says it was completely unexpected.
“In the world of football and coaching, you can’t map out where you’re going to go next,” she says.
When Sullivan informed WKYC president and general manager Brooke Spectorsky she was returning, he invited her to come back to the station in a capacity that fit her schedule. In May, she began working two days a week as a reporter.
Yet Sullivan says she doesn’t pine for her old morning anchor chair. “I miss the people, but I don’t miss the hours,” she says. “Waking up at 1:30 in the morning five days a week can be very taxing. And everything you do has to be massaged and rearranged so you have enough energy to head into the next day.”
She’s also rediscovering the satisfaction of reporting the news, the challenge of “telling stories in a different way.” For her, the arrangement is a great situation for a new mom.
“Some people see the anchor desk as the be all and end all,” she says. “But it isn’t always the goal.”