Courtesy of: The Mining Journal
By Renee Prusi, Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE - Jason Cameron wishes he had the time to get back to the Upper Peninsula for a visit.
But as host of two popular shows on the DIY Network, Cameron is quite busy.
He's using the skills he learned while living in the U.P. to become a star in the do-it-yourself television genre. He also has exercised his acting chops since moving to the New York City area a decade ago.
Cameron was born in Toledo, Ohio, and moved to the U.P. with his family as a 10-year-old.
"I grew up in Republic and went to the Republic-Michigamme School," he said in a telephone interview. "I spent a lot of time in Ishpeming and as I got older, transported myself to Marquette."
A 1988 graduate of R-M High School, Cameron earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Northern Michigan University.
"They had a good program at NMU and that's what I wanted to do at the time," Cameron said. "I would be a state trooper if I was not doing what I am now. One of my good friends, Brett Rosten, is a state trooper now."
He has fond memories of growing up in the rural U.P.
"I remember (RM) was such a small school. I think there were 22 kids in my class," he said. "But it was great. I miss the U.P.
"When you grow up there, you appreciate it when you are away. If you love the outdoors, the U.P. is a great place to be," Cameron said. "It's a wonderful place for getting to know the outdoors."
Cameron also had an interest in entertainment, doing some local commercials and serving as the TV spokesman for 41 Lumber for a time.
"I went back and forth to New York a few times," he said. "But if you really want to be in the business, you have to either settle on the East Coast or the West Coast."
Coming from a small-town background, NYC was quite a change.
"You have to adapt coming from a small community to a large, diverse community," he said. "And you have to learn to take rejection. I try to explain that all the time to kids interested in the reality home improvement TV genre. There's a lot of rejection involved."
Still, Cameron encourages youngsters in the U.P. to pursue their dreams.
"I try to impart to people not to cut themselves off from other opportunities," he said. "I could have easily said it wasn't worth it. But you have to take opportunities when they arise... You have to put yourself out there."
Doing just that landed Cameron a great opportunity in television.
A licensed home improvement contractor who was a finish carpenter starting in his youth in the U.P., Cameron was pursuing work in the entertainment field.
"I was close to signing a contract with 'Guiding Light' when the opportunity to do 'While You Were Out' (on The Learning Channel) came up. It was a no-brainer for me," he said. "Nothing against soaps, but those are long hours stuck in a studio. Instead, I had a chance to work in the home improvement television field just when it was picking up."
Now when he goes on casting calls, Cameron finds actors who are taking shop classes.
"They are trying to break into the the home improvement category," he said.
Cameron hosts "Desperate Landscapes" and "Man Caves" for the DIY Network, which is available on Charter Cable 107. The latter show includes co-host Tony "Goose" Siragusa, a longtime NFL player who is a sideline reporter for Fox Sports.
"The Goose? We are like brothers but he's a pain in the (butt)," Cameron laughed. "He screams, he sleeps and he eats. He's perfect for 'Man Caves.' He's a big kid."
Does Cameron hold out hope one of his shows might film in the U.P.?
"I would love that but I don't make those decisions," he said. "I know that would be real tough logistically with all the equipment we need."
He truly enjoys what he does.
"DIY has been good to me," he said.
Cameron and his wife, Maryanne - a "New York City girl" -live in Hoboken N.J., in a renovated condominium. While he doesn't have family left living in the Upper Peninsula, he does still have many friends in the area, Cameron said.
In addition to his home improvement shows, Cameron has modeled for many magazines and has had small roles on "Sex and the City," "Guiding Light" and "All My Children."
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