“E! News”' Steve Kmetko Says It 'Bothers' Him When Reporters Aren't as 'Wrapped Up' in Pop Culture as He Is (Exclusive)

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Kmetko tells PEOPLE why he's a little bothered when reporters aren't fully versed in pop culture and why he's glad to be back with his podcast

<p>Michael Tullberg/Getty</p> Steve Kmetko in 2007.

Michael Tullberg/Getty

Steve Kmetko in 2007.

Former E! News Live anchor Steve Kmetko is a little bothered when reporters get pop culture facts wrong.

During the ‘90s and early aughts, the veteran journalist co-hosted E!'s signature program with Jules Asner, scoring interviews with entertainment's brightest stars, including Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, CherGeorge Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, MadonnaJulia Roberts and Robin Williams. So it’s no surprise that when reporters aren’t on their game, Kmetko, 71, notices.

“I get a little upset from time to time when I see somebody on the air, and they don't know what they're talking about,” he tells PEOPLE, recalling a newscast in which a reporter discussed the iconic song “Over the Rainbow,” sung by Judy Garland. "There was a woman who was talking about the song, how it was a terrific song. … But then she said, ‘From 1938.’ And I was screaming at the TV, ‘1939! Not '38. '39!’ Like, the greatest year in the history of movies!"

Related: E! News' Steve Kmetko Disappeared from Hollywood After He Was Fired in 2002 — Here's What Happened

<p>Chris Weeks/Getty</p> Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Kmetko in Santa Barbara, California in 2000.

Chris Weeks/Getty

Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Kmetko in Santa Barbara, California in 2000.

The journalist is currently putting his encyclopedic pop culture knowledge to excellent use while hosting the weekly podcast Still Here Hollywood, in which Kmetko does what he does best, flexing his interviewing skills to explore the lives and careers of actors including Eric McCormack, Steven Weber, Jerry O'Connell, Peri Gilpin, Joely Fisher, Eric Roberts and Breckin Meyer.

“The people who have come to sit down and talk with me have been just terrific,” he says. “It’s nice to see those people. They come in and they're very complimentary and tell me it's good to see me back.”

After more than two decades of his career working in broadcast journalism, Kmetko was fired from E! News Live in 2002. While renegotiating his contract with the network, the reporter wrote on a third-party website, “To the viewers out there, if you like my work and want to see me continue, I’d appreciate you writing to management and saying, ‘We like Steve.’”

Soon after that comment, the network let him go. His abrupt departure from E! News Live left viewers wondering what happened.

Related: How John Ritter's Widow Helped Reunite Him with Suzanne Somers Before His Death

<p>J. Vespa/WireImage</p> Jules Asner and Steve Kmetko at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002.

J. Vespa/WireImage

Jules Asner and Steve Kmetko at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002.

“It's like having the rug pulled out from under you, to use a cliché, to just be shown the door,” he explains, adding, “I was not ready to leave E!. I loved working there. They sent me all over the world. I worked with people I liked. It was a great platform for me, and I had a good time. And I was simply not ready, the way it all came down.”

In the years that followed, Kmetko moved back to his native Chicago to look after his parents. (His dad died at 92 and his mom at 98.)

To help pass the time, he worked at an Apple store for three years, which was somewhat of a surreal experience. “I wasn't the best salesperson, that's for sure,” he admits. “You know what they used me for a lot? They used me to answer the phone, because they got a lot of good feedback on that. When I turn my TV voice on, it commands a certain respect, if I do say so myself.”

When Still Here Hollywood creator approached Kmetko over lunch about possibly hosting a podcast, Kmetko leaped at the chance, although he acknowledges there is a learning curve.

Related: The Love Boat’s Jill Whelan Recalls Drastic Weight Loss After 'Some Crazy Doctor' Put Her on a Diet of 400 Calories a Day

<p>CBS via Getty</p> Steve Kmetko in 1990.

CBS via Getty

Steve Kmetko in 1990.

“I didn't know one thing about doing podcasts,” he says, adding, “I left Hollywood in 2012. I don't even think there were words such as ‘algorithm’ or ‘podcast' [then]. ... I'm having a little difficulty, but I think I'm conquering it."

"When you used to go on junkets and talk to stars, you had maybe three minutes to talk to them about a movie or a television show, and that was it unless you were with a bigger entity like E! or CBS, [where] we would get 15 minutes," he continues. "So, sitting down and talking to someone for 30 minutes or 45 minutes, even an hour, that's a different set of muscles that I'm using.”

Looking back on his career, Kmetko has relatively few regrets. Although he was fired earlier on while working as a reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. for being gay (he publicly came out at age 46), he’s proud to have been one of the few "visible” gay men working in entertainment then in the ‘90s and serving as an inspiration to others.

Broadway.com editor in chief Paul Wontorek, another openly gay man, paid tribute to Kmetko in an Instagram post on April 2, calling it a "fan video."

Related: Clueless' Breckin Meyer Remembers Late Costar Brittany Murphy: 'Wish I Could See What She Would Have Done Now’

<p>CBS via Getty</p> Steve Kmetko in 'Zoolander.'

CBS via Getty

Steve Kmetko in 'Zoolander.'

“Steve Kmetko was the number one Hollywood reporter on my mind, and I’m pretty sure in everyone’s mind. He was tall, blonde and handsome and seemingly friends with everyone on the red carpet. All the big stars knew he was,” Wonterek said in the Instagram video. “I looked up to him … You know I see myself in him in some ways.”

Kmetko openly dated Greg Louganis from 1998 to 2000. The couple appeared together at E! events, with the Olympic diver tagging along once for the Venice Film Festival. “He was a great guy. We enjoyed each other's company. Our time came and went, and it wasn't particularly difficult,” he admits.

Kmetko, now single, has been sober for eight years — a choice that enables him to think "more clearly" — and still lives with his two dogs in Chicago, renting out a room in his condo to a friend.

If there's anything he could have done differently, it would be changing the way he handled a past relationship.

"I made the ... dumb mistake, of walking away from someone who I was mad about, madly in love with," he acknowledges. "For some reason, I always thought I'd find somebody better. But that was just stupid on my part. I 'fess up to my mistakes when I make them ... Drinking is another one, but fortunately I think I've got a handle on that."

Thinking about his podcast and his return to entertainment journalism, Kmetko wells up with emotion over the enthusiastic response he’s received.

“It's been touching, and I sometimes have a hard time believing that all these people remember who I am,” he says, adding, “I’ve been really overwhelmed.”

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Still Here Hollywood is available to stream on platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

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