"She was an interesting, gifted, flawed person," says brother
The last time Greg Chubbuck saw his sister, Christine, was at their mother’s house for Sunday night dinner.
“In retrospect there was an uncomfortable calm about her,” recalls Greg. “She was more resolved than she usually was about everything. At the time, I didn’t see that.”
The following day, Monday, July 15, 1974, the 29-year-old broadcast journalist shot herself in the head on live television during her civic affairs show, Suncoast Digest. She died 15 hours later at a Sarasota hospital.
Now, 40-years later, Chubbuck’s tragic tale is being explored in two films that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last month: Christine, which delves into the up-and-coming reporter’s final days, and Kate Plays Christine, a pseudo documentary on Chubbuck’s life.
“My family adored my sister,” says Greg. “She was an interesting, gifted, flawed person.”
He adds: “She was flawed from the time she was a little girl. Emotionally flawed in many ways.”
Greg says his sister struggled with bipolar disorder, a condition that was not remedied despite their parents spending nearly $1 million over 20 years searching for a treatment to “help Chrissie find peace.”
For more on Christine Chubbuck’s shocking on-air suicide in 1974, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday
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‘She Had a Lot of Things She was Exceptionally Good At’
Christine, her older brother Tim and younger brother Greg, were raised in the posh suburb of Hudson, Ohio, about a half-hour from Akron. The only daughter of salesman, George, and housewife Peg, Christine, who stood 5’11 at the age of 13, was a bright student who “used to make up words for things that didn t have a word,” recalls Greg. “She just loved language.”
A nationally ranked kayaker by the age of 16, she had a flair for puppetry and acting, landing the lead role in a play by the University of North Carolina’s summer acting program.
“She managed to be the lead in the summer play and won outstanding acting,” says Greg. “And never once ever acted in a play again. She had a lot of things that she was exceptionally good at and once she showed she could do it she lost interest and went on to the next thing. ”
She was a “marvelous person and had this great sort of dry wit about her and a bit of a sharp tongue,” says Greg. But he adds, “She never felt like she fit in and in a sense she never did.”
‘She Never Felt Like She Was Good Enough and She Was Constantly Doubting Herself’
Despite her personal demons, Christine attended Ohio State University and graduated from Boston University with a degree in broadcasting. She attended a summer NYU film workshop, and worked at public TV stations in Pittsburgh and Canton, Ohio. At 21, she began dating a man in his early 30s, but her father disapproved, and the relationship was short lived.
“Chrissie then literally quickly came to Florida and sort of restarted her life,” says Greg. “She never really had another boyfriend after that.”
It was in Florida where she got her big break as a reporter and host of WXLT-TV’s Suncoast Digest.
“She was an ambitious reporter, good at her job, and liked by co-workers,” recalls former WXLT reporter Craig Sager.
“She was a unique person,” remembers friend Pauline Lunin. “She was different. It was the 70s and we were into folk things and the earth colors and she dressed in a bright way. I thought she was very talented.”
News director Gordon Galbraith recalls the quirky side of Christine: “Christine had a bizarre sense of humor,” he says. “She was 29 years-old and she had no problem admitting she was a virgin. So one afternoon we were doing a mock newscast and because she had no qualms about being virginal at 29 she named herself ‘Pristine Buttocks.’ ‘I am Pristine Buttocks and here is the news.'”
Greg says despite Christine’s success at work, “She never felt like she was good enough and she was constantly doubting herself. And I mean morosely doubting herself.”
“My mom would try to help her and I would do what I could do, my grandparents would do what they could,” he adds.
“And she would come out of it and she would be better, and we would think with all the outside help with the professionals, maybe this would be the time she would get her wind and be fine. But it just never really happened completely for her. It is a really sad tragic circumstance.”
On that Sunday, the day before she died, Greg says Christine was playing with puppets with his young daughter. After she shot herself, coworkers discovered that the bag she used to hide the .38 caliber pistol also contained two of her handmade puppets.
“She had her puppets around and she had them with her on the day she shot herself on the show,” says Greg. “It was very eerie.”