Ernie Manouse is a Houston broadcasting legend. If you’ve ever listened to Houston Public Media, either on radio or television, you’ve likely seen or heard him. Whether he is giving you the latest news updates on COVID-19 or asking for support from “viewers like you,” Manouse has left an indelible and historic mark on Houston’s media landscape.
The Emmy Award winner moved to Houston in 1996 after he was hired to host WeekNight Edition on what was then called Houston PBS. He did that for six years. That program evolved into the WeekDAY news features program.
“It was a magazine-style show. We had segments and cooked and played and had guests. I think I may have been the first openly gay man on television in Houston. I am not sure, but I don’t think there was another one before me,” he says.
Indeed, Manouse has always been out and proud in the Houston LGBTQ community. Friends in Chicago, where Manouse worked before moving to Texas, expressed concerns about him moving to the “buckle” of the Bible Belt, as they described it. Manouse was undeterred.
“Houston is a live-and-let-live kind of city. For me, back then and today, I don’t think being gay ever defined who I was—or at least I don’t think it did. I wasn’t just that gay guy on television. I don’t think I have ever felt anything negative come my way. The station certainly never shared with me if they had received negative commentary. Being gay doesn’t define me as an individual; it enriches who I am,” says Manouse.
These days, Manouse is still an executive producer and host at Houston Public Media, but his role is also changing. Lately he can be heard on the radio at 88.7-FM, fielding questions from listeners during Houston Matters: Special Edition. The program airs weekdays at 3 p.m., and is currently providing updates and Q&A interviews on COVID-19 in the Greater Houston area.
Manouse is working on expanding the program to possibly last beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Although he has spent a large part of his career in front of the camera for shows like InnerViews with Ernie Manouse and Manor of Speaking (the Downton Abbey after-show), Manouse is enjoying the freedom of being unseen behind the radio microphone.
“I have a whole beard now that I have grown out during quarantine. I kind of like it. It’s one of the benefits of being on radio,” he jokes.
That is not to say that Manouse will no longer appear on our small screens. Most recently, he hosted the annual Houston Public Media Spelling Bee, a favorite among public-television viewers that garnered Manouse one of his many Emmys in 2009.
Houston Public Media is currently expanding into a multimedia platform that Manouse is playing a large role in crafting. The station, like Manouse, is becoming multifaceted as it adds podcasts and other Internet features to its radio and television schedule.
Regarding his current projects, Manouse says, “Every time I think that [the last thing I did] was my big, final act, something else drops onto my plate. After InnerViews, I thought that was it. Then we had the After Party. Now we have these new projects that we are working on. It’s really exciting.”
As open as Manouse is about sharing his life with Houston and the world, there are still limits. When we asked what his age was, he played coy.
“I don’t tell anyone my age. There is a range of ages. The New York Times wanted to quote my age in a story once, but when it went to print they couldn’t ever get a solid confirmation, so they just didn’t list it. I figured if the New York Times couldn’t find it, why share it now?”
You can find the ageless Ernie Manouse on Twitter and Instagram @ernieontv, and on his Facebook fan page. For information on the myriad projects Manouse is either producing or featured in, visit houstonpublicmedia.org.