It takes only moments in the blended Hitchcock-Francis household to realize that Tara Hitchcock, the perky host of KTVK-TV’s “Good Morning Arizona,” doesn’t fake her 6 a.m. energy.
This is an around-the-clock personality trait. Even at our 4 p.m. interview, she swings open the front door with gusto and a smile — no doubt her signature greeting for TV and home guests alike.
“Hi! I’m Tara!”
That, of course, is obvious — if by nothing more than her booming, talkshow-host voice that mirrors her booming disposition. This slim and stylish woman is every bit as put together as her on-air personality, with blond hair and trendy clothes that bring to mind thoughts of a less neurotic Kathie Lee Gifford or a hyper Katie Couric.
A 1993 graduate of Boston College and — just a semester later — a master’s graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, this Texas native started her broadcasting career at an ABC affiliate station in Beaumont, Texas, before moving to Phoenix in 1996. In June, she’ll have been the recognizable face of the Valley’s morning news on Channel 3 for 10 years.
Her drive is apparent, whether on or off camera. With a radiance most people take 10 cups of coffee to achieve, this newlywed (and new stepmom to two teens and a 10-yearold) doesn’t seem to slow down for anything.
She sits. “My husband has a flat!”
She’s up, grabs the phone to call and check on him.
Sits again. “Want some water?”
Up. “Oh! Don’t touch the dog! She’s the stinkiest dog ever!”
I haven’t said a word yet, but it’s OK. With more than a decade of interviewing under her belt, this TV veteran isn’t used to being on the other side of the interview.
The reason for today’s visit is to get a glimpse into the place Hitchcock retreats to when she’s not in front of the camera.
“This home is larger than anything I ever thought I’d live in,” she says. Before moving into husband Kenn Francis’ central Scottsdale house after their 2004 marriage, she lived in a modest Ahwatukee Foothills townhouse that, she coos, “I loooved,” despite its lack of furnishings.
“Everything I owned, furniturewise, I got from my grandma or friends,” she says. “I just couldn’t justify buying furniture until I had a house.”
The self-proclaimed garage sale fan says she never wanted a “pretentious” home. So moving into this twostory house — built a decade ago by an Arizona State University professor to model a French chalet he saw on one of his travels abroad — took some getting used to.
Dropping her voice, Hitchcock seems almost ashamed to confess her first thoughts upon seeing the sprawling home filled with antique furniture and non-kid-proof fabrics.
“It felt like a museum,” she says.
With three rambunctious stepchildren under her wing, Hitchcock says she was surprised by how much the home didn’t seem to fit the family’s personalities. Prone to spontaneous wrestling matches and post-dinner pillow fights after she moved in, Hitchcock had the idea to add on a room devoted to just that.
“The kids would play in the basement all day, and I’d tell Kenn that we didn’t even know they were here. I like to see them and hear them.”
So, taking what was once a shallow arboretum off the back of the house, Hitchcock and Francis, with the help of Phoenix interior designer Martin Kuban, created a spacious and sunny family room with 10-foot-high vaulted ceilings and furniture, says Hitchcock, that you feel comfortable eating and drinking around.
Though she was born in Pennsylvania, Hitchcock spent the majority of her life in Texas, moving there with her family at age 10. So it’s no surprise that though this down-home girl likes things casual, she also likes them big.
“We call them the Yao Ming couches,” says Hitchcock of the two enormous custom-made sofas facing each other in the center of the room. Seventeen-year-old stepdaughter Alex estimates, “You can fit, like, 20 people on them, at least.”
“The big couches reflect the family,” says Hitchcock. The family likes to gather on them at night to watch “24” and “My Name Is Earl.”
In the middle of the room, an antique door was transformed into an ornate and sprawling coffee table.
“It’s at least several hundred years old,” says Francis.
“Doesn’t this have a story behind it, too?” asks Hitchcock, holding up a large box next to the couch.
“Yes, it was used an old Asian altar of some sort,” flubs her husband before breaking into a smile. “I don’t know,” he admits with a laugh.
At that moment, a wrestling match breaks out on the couches between Hitchcock and the boys, resulting in pillows to the head and one child upside down with the aforementioned “stinky dog” licking his feet.
The photographer snaps away.
“This is going to be on the front page of the paper for sure,” says Hitchcock, laughing.