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Creating her own paradise

From Downs case to beating cancer, Anne Jaeger takes bold approach to life REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Despite her incredibly busy life as a Portland TV newswoman, Anne Jaeger always has time to stop and smell the flowers in her backyard.


When it comes to good causes in Lake Oswego, you can count on Anne Jaeger.

As an Oregon media star over four decades, she is in great demand. Jaeger is a beautiful and funny blonde, a crackerjack crime reporter, the TV hostess with the mostest and a goddess of gardening.

But most of all Jaeger is a good Lake Oswego girl.

One of Jaeger’s biggest fans is her Studio 6 co-host Hayley Platt, another resident of Lake Oswego. In a cut-throat business, Jaeger became Platt’s mentor.

“I had never co-hosted a LIVE television show before and had so much to learn,” Platt says. “What I appreciated most about working with Anne was how she shared her TV wisdom and advice but never suggested hers was the best way because she had so much experience.”

There is so much Platt admires about Jaeger, but when asked what she admires most, she says, “her originality, her candor, and her ability to laugh at herself.”

To such praise Jaeger provides a quick self-deprecating wisecrack, just like one of those newspaper gals in the 1930s movies. She is very entertaining, even outrageous, bold but also humble. She has been known to face down a challenge even when bullets are being fired at her.

All of these things have made Jaeger very, very popular in Oregon for nearly 40 years.

“I do emcee jobs all over the state,” she says, “which happens when you work in the media like I do. I’m always surprised to find that I’m still relevant.”

The public always sees the outgoing and gregarious aspect of Jaeger’s personality; yet she is also introverted and contemplative.

“I need a lot of time to think,” Jaeger says.

What she should think about is writing a memoir about her amazing life.

Such a book would have some super chapters. Like struggling on the road with her family and encountering the Manson Family along the way. Finding out she was a natural born journalist and becoming involved in one of the most famous crime stories in Oregon history. Moving on to television, riding a ratings wave and having almost too much fun. Going the opposite way at another station and experiencing the downside of media journalism. Becoming an Emmy-award winning gardening guru for the Portland area. Becoming a mother. And surviving cancer.

Jaeger has also lived in Lake Oswego for 26 years and has created a beautiful, radiant garden that reflects her entire life.

First, Anne Bradley Jaeger had to survive childhood. Her brush with mortality came when she was just 10 years old and her family was driving through the beautiful country around Santa Barbara, and they came upon a hippie commune that called itself the Manson Family. Yes, that Manson Family. The Charles Manson Family. The first night was quite friendly, as Jaeger’s dad, Ken Bradley, shot the breeze around the campfire with Charlie, who strummed his guitar and sang the song he was hoping would make him a pop music star.

“Dad liked unusual people,” notes Jaeger. Dad hit the jackpot with Manson.

Meanwhile, little Anne quickly bonded with one of the hippie girls and showed wisdom beyond her years. They went on a walk and the Mansonette asked the little girl how much money her family had. Not much, the little girl says, and plainly added that her family was struggling. The Manson girl stopped sizing up Jaeger as a robbery prospect and started talking about her sad life.

“I started asking her questions,” Jaeger says. “She says she could never go home again, and I tried to talk her into going home. I told her I would give her a dime to make a phone call.”

While this touching encounter was going on, Manson and her dad almost got into a fight.

“Manson asked my father if he and his family could use the bathroom on our trailer, and dad says no,” Jaeger says. “Manson told dad, ‘If I want it, I’ll take it.’ Dad says, ‘The hell you will.’ Dad wouldn’t back down.”

Because Jaeger’s father showed no fear, Manson later says he decided not to kill him.

“He says dad was the only one who wasn’t afraid of him,” Jaeger says. “Manson said he only hurt people who were afraid of him.”

With her life off to such an interesting start, Jaeger couldn’t help but have a rousing future. Although her high school career was a bit of a snooze. The highlight was playing on Sunset High School’s first girls basketball team.

“Wow, were we bad!” Jaeger says. “I was voted most inspirational player.”

She remained inspirational but soon experienced much more successful. TV journalism proved to be the right path for a young woman with brains, looks and the ability to write really fast. Her choice seemed prescient when she soon encountered the biggest story of her career in 1983.

On the surface Diane Downs seemed to be just a young wife and mom of three children. As it turned out, she shot three of those children, killed one of them, and became one of the most notorious murderesses in Oregon history. The press went wild with the Downs story, and Jaeger proved to be the best reporter in the pack. She even helped the great American crime writer Ann Rule with research on the case, and the two formed a warm friendship that has lasted to this day.

However, the friendship got off to a rocky start at the Downs trial when Jaeger demanded that Rule’s daughter get out of her seat in the courtroom. But Jaeger soon won Rule’s friendship and also her admiration.

“Ann’s interview with Diane was the best one of all,” Rule says. “It’s the one that other shows used.”

Jaeger’s interview with Downs won her an award from the Society of Professional Journalists and got her featured on the ABC news program “20/20.”

“I asked Diane to talk to me, and she was hungry for attention,” Jaeger says. “I almost got her to admit a lie. A flash of fear went across her face.”

Jaeger got so much startling information from Downs that when she attended Downs’ murder trial she got the surprise of her life.

“When I walked into the courtroom everyone turned around and looked at me,” Jaeger says. “They were so surprised to learn that much about Diane Downs.”

From then on it was the media life for Anne Jaeger, although there were some lowlights. Like the reporter she had totally overshadowed on the Downs case saying of her, “She’s as dumb as a fence post. And she’s a blonde.”

Then there was the time she went to the home of a suspect in the Tonya Harding case and was peppered with gunshots by the suspect’s grandmother. “It made me really mad,” Jaeger says. There was moving to a Portland TV station where the ratings sank to the bottom due to a producer in the grip of alcoholism.

“It was a disaster,” Jaeger says. “One day there were 17 scripts missing.”

There was another award, too, but one Jaeger by no means wanted. In a poll taken by a radio station she was voted the best looking newscaster in Eugene. This came in an era when female TV reporters were struggling mightily to gain respect, and there was a wide belief that the prettier you were, the dumber you were.

But the good far outweighed the bad. Like Jaeger promoting an ugly tie contest because of the monstrosity worn by her weather man sidekick Jim Donovan. “Send in those ugly ties!” Jaeger told her viewers, and she received boxes of them.

Today, Portland people know Jaeger as the great gardener. She initially got a garden reporting job because there weren’t enough reporters. At this point Jaeger was no gardening expert.

“There were blackberries growing 20 feet tall in my backyard,” Jaeger says.

From this unpromising start, Jaeger became a Master Gardener and the media’s favorite gardening reporter, and her greatest creation is in the backyard of her Lake Oswego home. It goes to support the axiom, “Good things happen for those who work incredibly hard.”

Jaeger can now bask in the beauty of her garden and have the perfect setting for her deep thinking.

“Someday I would like to write a memoir,” she says. “But my life is too full right now.” For more about Anne Jaeger go to GardenGal.TV .

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.

REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Even on rainy days the work never stops for Anne Jaeger. She went from having a backyard filled with blackberry plants to being a gardening goddess.

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