By Steve Cichon
This story was published in Forever Young magazine
The Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame swells its ranks by 5 once again this September, and in this, our lucky 13th year, we have finally begun to catch up. When the Buffalo Broadcasters began this process in 1997, we had 75 years worth of Western New York commercial broadcasting talent to consider.
Now, after dozens and dozens of inductees from the earliest days of radio and television, peppered with many of the more modern superstars along the way, the pendulum has swung. We are at a point now where we can honor broadcasters who’ve made their impact in the last quarter century, while still honoring those greats who have passed on to the announce booth in the sky. Each of the broadcasters tapped for induction this year have been active during the last 18 years, and all but one within the last few.
One of the missions of the Buffalo Broadcasters is to celebrate great broadcasting past and present. We are proud that The Hall of Fame Class of 2009 celebrates some of both.
Marie Rice- A respected, straight street reporter at Channel 4 for an entire generation, Marie came on at WBEN-TV in 1977 as the woman in the vaunted station’s on-air news stable.
It was soon after her sign-on in Buffalo that the story perhaps best suited to her brand of straight-laced compassionate journalism began to unfold; it was one she’d continue to report on until she left WIVB in 2004. Marie Rice was one of the earliest journalists on the scene at Love Canal; at a time when home owners there just wanted to know what the ooze in their basements was. She hopes, she says, that through her reporting she was able to make a difference. It’s all a part of public service; giving a voice to the voiceless.
The Ohio Native says everyone is blessed with a gift, and she counts her husky, commanding voice as hers. And while the tonal quality of that familiar voice struck the proper mood in reporting from murder trials and city hall scandals, before working in television news in Buffalo and Albany, Marie was known as “Misty,” as one of the country’s first female disc jockeys at an all-jazz station in Pittsburgh.
Pat Feldballe- The name would leave most wondering, but the smooth, consistent voice is one you’re unable to escape in Buffalo. From Channel 2’s promo pieces, to Valu Home Centers to Paddock Chevrolet, on on-hold messages, to the national Time/Life commercials, for a quarter century, Pat ihas been Western New York’s go-to independent voice-over king.
In 1970s you’d have heard him at WBUF, WGR, WGRQ, and WUWU playing rock’n roll, and hosting a magazine program (and working with Terry Gross) at WBFO. Pat eventually got the point when he’d show up for his jock shift and find a handful of production orders taped to the console for him to do. Figuring it was his destiny, he did a stint as a radio production director, but quickly decided, in 1982, that he could do production on his own. He hasn’t looked back.
In an industry where many production guys will try to sell clients on the latest and greatest gadget, Feldballe’s used the same microphone since 1986. It’s a part of all his success. “I’m the most consistent guy I know, I always sound the same, and I take pride in making sure reads time out,” says Pat. Just showing up and doing the work, doing it well, and making it easy for whoever’s using his work. “I just hung out the shingle 27 years ago, and here I am.”
Fred Klestine- Like most Lackawanna boys in the 1940s, Fred worked at the steel mill once he got out of school. But his bellowing voice and friendly, mellow personality helped him land a job as the morning man on WWOL Radio in the 1950s.
Whether at WWOL, WBNY, or during his decade at KB Radio during its 1960s Top 40 prime, Klestine always did what he could to share his love of jazz with his audience. He knew the music, and knew many of the performers personally. Klestine was a natural for the jazz-centric WADV-FM in the 70s, and worked at WBUF through the 80s.
To those who listened, he was a calm, straight-laced elder statesman type with a deep melodic voice. Off the air, he was a coffee-swilling funnyman. Longtime co-workers like Dan Neaverth and Sandy Beach count him not only as one of the funniest people each one has ever known, but as a great friend. Klestine was 68 when he died in 1992.
Randy Michaels- Randy Michaels became Randy Michaels in Buffalo. Literally. He made the most of federal deregulation in broadcasting in the mid 90s, and became Arguably the most powerful man in radio. He oversaw and led in the acquisition of over 1,000 radio stations as the President of Jaycor Broadcasting, and later Clear Channel Communications.
Michaels started his career as an engineer and on air talent at the SUNY Fredonia campus station in the early 70’s. After an on-the-spot tryout at the Erie County Fair, he quickly moved to commercial radio at Taft-owned WGR and WGR-FM, where he took the pseudonym by which he’s still known today. Working in programming and as the nighttime disc jockey on WGR, Michaels soon left Buffalo for national programming assignments, moving his way up the food chain, eventually running the 1,200 Clear Channel Communications stations.
Michaels is now in Chicago at the top of the Tribune Company, which is the nation’s third largest newspaper publisher, and whose 23 television stations reach 80% of US households.
Don Polec- From 1977-1982, when Irv Weinstein smiled wryly and growled… And finally… at an Eyewitness Newscast, it was Don Polec’s time to shine; bringing the offbeat and, well, goofy to the airwaves.
A native of Buffalo’s Riverside section, Polec tried radio at WKBW, but found it wasn’t quite for him. After two years of managing a handful of different Burger King restaurants around the Western New York, Polec looked for work as a videographer. He sending Irv a resume that listed experience as an “urban sheep herder” and “professional vagrant.” He was on the air, with that same sort of silliness, almost immediately thereafter.
Polec left Buffalo in 1982 for Philadelphia, where Action News featured antics his Western New York fans would recognize in “Don Polec’s World” reports until earlier this year. Polec’s Buffalo brand of zany-yet-artful reports were also featured on the national stage when he was a Good Morning America correspondent in the late 80s and early 90s.
The Buffalo Broadcasters are also celebrating several Golden anniversaries this year. WNED-TV, WBFO-FM, and WGRF-FM are each celebrating 50 years of broadcasting over the airwaves of Western New York.
For details on attending the Hall of Fame Ceremony, Tuesday September 22, 2009, at the WNED-TV studios; or for more information on the past inductees of the Buffalo Broadcast Hall of Fame, please visit www.buffalobroadcasters.com.
Steve Cichon is a news anchor at WBEN Radio, and a director and past President of the Buffalo Broadcasters. He’s also the webmaster at www.staffannouncer.com, a website devoted to Buffalo radio, TV, and pop culture history.