08/03/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
Giving a visitor a tour of his two-bedroom house in Los Angeles, Steve Kmetko catches his 6-month-old Yorkshire terrier in the act of making a damp spot under the dining room table. "No, no, Frankie!" Kmetko shouts. Glaring reproachfully at the Yorkie, the cable TV anchorman pauses for a moment. "The little one hasn't quite learned everything yet," he says, cleaning the mess. "This is not a common occurrence."
Nor is the sight of Kmetko losing his cool. Since joining cable's E! Entertainment Television in 1994 as an anchor of E! News Daily, a half-hour daily wrap-up of everything from Pamela Anderson
Lee's breast implants to Quentin Tarantino's hissy fits, Kmetko, 45, has become one of Hollywood's most visible celebrity chroniclers. (The show airs twice a day and is the network's third highest-rated program.) His interviews are marked by his close attention to detail—like making sure that his chats with Barbra Streisand and Sylvester Stallone were shot only from the stars' favorite sides. "Steve does his homework better than anyone," says E! Daily coanchor Gina St. John. "He has a way of making an actor feel at ease." Adds Today show newscaster Ann Curry, who worked with Kmetko in the '80s: "Entertainment was his true love. This is exactly right for him."
So, he would say, is his four-year relationship with four-time Olympic gold-medal diver Greg Louganis, 38, whom he met in 1994 on a flight from New York City to L.A. "We started talking, and I really didn't know that much about him," Kmetko recalls. "I was like, 'How many medals did you win?' " They began dating soon after. "Greg laughs at my [jokes]. That's all I ask for," adds Kmetko. "On the rare occasion that I go in the pool, I ask him to turn so I can jump feet first holding my nose without being embarrassed."
Kmetko's Hollywood life contrasts markedly with his Jefferson Park, Ill., upbringing as the youngest of five children of father Andrew, 81, a baptist minister, and mother Alice, 79, a homemaker. "No movies, no drinking, no dancing," says Kmetko of his childhood. "The TV was my sibling." He entered Chicago's Columbia College in 1971, working some truly odd jobs on the side—including a stint as a sewer pipe salesman—but dropped, out before graduating. Though he was close to his parents, they did not want to hear about his sexual orientation. "I've attempted to broach the subject," says Kmetko, "but my father said, 'Steve, there was a time when people's private lives were private, let's keep it that way.' " To this day, it is a sensitive topic.
In 1977, after abandoning his pipe dreams, Kmetko convinced a TV station in Rhinelander, Wis., where he was vacationing, to let him audition. "A friend said they would hire anyone," he says, "and they did!" Just days later, the 24-year-old Kmetko was miked-up as the station's sports reporter. Working his way up through small city markets, in 1982 he reached the broadcast big leagues at L.A.'s KCBS, where his Hollywood savvy led him to the entertainment beat. But in 1993, KCBS dumped Kmetko because of his hefty contract. "You can't help but go, 'Why don't they like me?' " he says of his firing. He remained unemployed for 12 months until he landed the anchor spot on E! after an acquaintance suggested him for the job. "He gets respect from the stars," says John Rieber, an E! vice president. "Sly Stallone lights up when he sees Steve."
And while he covers Hollywood energetically, he rarely circulates in its social circles, preferring instead to study French at home or e-mail old friends. (He and Louganis have no plans to live together.) Indeed, his detached eye isn't blinded by the glitterati. "I can't sit there and talk to the latest Baywatch babe and take it seriously," he says, laughing. "It's not like I have a real job."
Ken Baker and Deanna Kizis in Los Angeles