MINNEAPOLIS — Eleanor Mondale, the vivacious daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale who carved out her own reputation as an entertainment reporter, radio show host and gossip magnet, has died at her home in Minnesota. She was 51.
Mondale family spokeswoman Lynda Pedersen said she died Saturday. She had been diagnosed with brain cancer years earlier.
Mondale had been off the air at WCCO-AM in Minneapolis since March 19, 2009, when she announced that her brain cancer had returned a second time. She had surgery to remove the tumor Aug. 12, 2009, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a posting on her CaringBridge website declared the surgery a success.
Mondale, the middle of three children born to Walter and Joan Mondale, stumped for her father in his failed campaign to unseat President Ronald Reagan in 1984. She also made calls in 2002 in her father’s last campaign, when the former vice president took the ballot slot of Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash just days before the election.
A striking blonde known on the party circuit when she was younger, Eleanor Mondale also attracted gossip. Her dalliance with the late rock musician Warren Zevon was detailed in “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon,” a posthumous biography published by Zevon’s ex-wife in 2007.
In 1998, CBS News reported that Mondale was one of four women Monica Lewinsky expressed resentment toward in taped conversations because of attention President Bill Clinton paid to them. (Mondale issued a statement saying her relationship with the president and his wife, Hillary, was “purely a friendship.”)
Mondale started as an aspiring actress, with bit parts in TV’s “Three’s Company” and “Dynasty.” She got her start in broadcasting as an entertainment reporter at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis in 1989, but left after only eight months when a Twin Cities magazine was about to publish an article called, “Walter and Joan’s Wild Child.” The Star Tribune reported that Mondale denied she was forced out.
In the article, Mondale was quoted as saying “I like to get wild. But it’s not murder, and I don’t do drugs.”
After stints at Minneapolis radio station WLOL-FM, on cable television at E! Entertainment and ESPN and network TV on CBS’ “This Morning,” she returned to Minnesota in 2006 to co-host a weekday morning show on WCCO-AM with Susie Jones.
In 2005, Mondale was diagnosed with brain cancer after she suffered two seizures during a camping trip. The tumor nearly disappeared after Mondale had chemotherapy and radiation, but her cancer returned in 2008. She underwent surgery that time and was able to return to WCCO but eventually had to take disability leave to treat the recurrence.
Mondale was married three times: to Chicago Bears offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, to fellow DJ Greg Thunder and to Twin Cities rock musician Chan Poling of The Suburbs. Mondale and Poling married in 2005, shortly after her cancer was diagnosed, and lived on a farm near Prior Lake in the southern Twin Cities.