For three decades, Huel Perkins graced the TV screens in homes across the region as an anchor for Fox 2 Detroit. The Louisiana native quickly became a familiar face and trusted source for local news when he arrived at the network by way of St. Louis in 1989. Throughout his career, Perkins anchored various Fox 2 newscasts between noon and 11 p.m., reporting on everything from the events of 9/11 and the trials of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to Detroit’s bankruptcy and, in recent years, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In late March, Perkins and fellow anchor Monica Gayle bade a tearful farewell to viewers before embarking on a new chapter: retirement. But the 67-year-old adopted Detroiter reassures locals that he’s not going anywhere.
“This is my home,” Perkins says during a Zoom call from his Troy home in early April. “I’ve been here 32 years, and I’m actively involved in the community and will remain involved in the community. So, although I won’t be working on TV, you’re gonna see me around.”
Now in retirement, Perkins looks forward to attending tennis tournaments around the world with his wife, Priscilla; playing golf; and writing music and playing his electric piano. Here, we get to know a bit more about the man behind the broadcasts.
My personal style is … Eclectic, colorful, and somewhat traditional. I like to bring together a wide range of things. My favorite designers are Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Rocky Chugani — who works out of Los Angeles and has made several suits for me — and Larry Alebiosu, who owns [Southfield-based men’s clothing store] Fashion International. In fact, Larry and I have collaborated on designing a coat. … [It] is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And I want to do more of that as well. Although I like traditional styles, I also like to be creative, to experiment. I like to blend cultures. The Western culture, the Eastern culture. Traditional garb of Africa with modern garb of urban New York. Traditional styles from India combined with the styles of Western businessmen.
On painter and designer Dominic Pangborn: Dominic Pangborn became one of my favorite designers as well. He was a local guy. [Fellow Fox 2 Detroit broadcaster] Charlie Langton and I discovered him 20-some years ago, and we started wearing his ties almost exclusively for a while. He designs so many things, and he just happened to branch into ties. And I also have one of his paintings. [Dominic and I] hang out, party together; he appeared on [Fox 2 Detroit show] Let It Rip on occasion. He’s phenomenal.
My home decor style is … Again, eclectic. I’ve got Pangborn, Richard Mayhew (which is probably my most prized piece of art). I have photographs of Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks. I have a room devoted to African art as well. It’s home; every room has its own personality. And the dining room has a sort of Asian-American feel.
My favorite music: First of all, Motown; I grew up on Motown. When I moved here, I was in heaven because I got a chance to go to the Motown Museum. It’s holy music. Motown was the soundtrack of my life. And getting to go there; getting to meet some of the stars that I used to listen to; getting to meet [Esther] Gordy Edwards, Berry [Gordy’s] sister, who founded the museum; getting to go down into the studio, the basement studio where some of the greatest hits in the world were made [and] sit at the same piano that Stevie Wonder played, that Smokey [Robinson] played — to be in that shrine of American music was just so wonderful for me. I’m [also] a big Stephen Sondheim fan. When I think of music and writing meaningful lyrics and melodies, [I think of] Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach, Smokey Robinson. I mean, these are some amazing writers.
A good read: I’m a nonfiction guy. I love biographies. I love the autobiography of former [Detroit] Mayor Coleman A. Young, called Hard Stuff. I quote him frequently. And one of my favorite quotes is this: “My God is an impatient God. He wants me to pray every day. But after I pray, he wants me to get up off my knees and do something with my life.”
My summer plans: We love to go to Belle Isle. We have a friend with a boat — we’ll probably go boating with him. And lots of tennis and lots of golf. I love to golf all over the region. I’m terrible, but every new hole is a challenge. Every new swing is the hope of a hole-in-one.
On storytelling: Read, read, read, read, read. And don’t just read biographies but also read fiction. Learn how to tell a story; learn what makes people interested and what moves them. My wife is a much more voracious reader than I am in terms of novels. I’m a newspaper guy; I love books, biographies, and history. But by the same token, I love a good story. And I think that’s so important. If you can tell a good story, it touches people in a way that simply a recitation of facts can never do. When you engage their imaginations, you can engage their hearts, their attention, and change them with the information you give them.