This is an update to a page that was one of the first to appear on staffannouncer.com in 2005. I’ve added about 12 hours of Norm Nathan audio for the world to enjoy… It’s a great way to spend a night when you can’t fall asleep.
“Just trying to leave the world a little sillier than I found it… thank you, jusssdarn much.”
That was Norm’s motto, and his show certainly helped make that come true. Known as a jazz lover with a corn-ball sense of humor on Boston Radio from the 1940’s through the 1990’s, Norm’s largest stage came in the mid-1980’s when he joined Boston’s WBZ– a station that reaches over 68 states, 81 provinces, and 4 planets with it’s 50,000 watt signal.
Always trying to “keep it light,” his weekend all-night talkshow on WBZ never had a real driving topic and never touched on the hot button issues that were the thrust behind other shows.
With no politics or real social issues talked about, every call was taken with a smile on his face, and some of the best times were when he’d come on to octogenarian women or when a gullible listener would be escorted down the road of Norm’s imagination.
He once convinced a listener, complaining about what kids are taught in school these days, that kids were being taught that a man named Sydney Goldfarb discovered America after rowing here from Europe in a kayak made out of paper mache. (Hear the call below!)
He was also gracious. As someone who grew up in awe of him and his show, I once called the station, and asked if I could stop by. Not only did he say yes, but he put me on the air (on BZ?!?!!?) for a half hour. As a 16 year old kid, I was in heaven.
The Ultimate NORM NATHAN Collection!
More than 12 hours of Norm Nathan radio goodness from the mid-60s through the mid-90s… From stations WHDH, WRKO, and WBZ.
Originally available as an mp3 CD, now hours and hours of Norm are here on demand!
Thanks to all those who have sent in pictures…
The latest submissions are at the top. We still need YOUR pictures!
Do you have a photo or two? E-mail it to me… or get me the picture
and I’ll scan it and get the original back to you… and I’ll post it here to share with everyone!
Thanks to those who’ve shared their photos so far:
Tom Langmyer, Tony Caligiuri, Candy Acierno, Tim Wenger, Pete Weber, Tom Kelly
UPDATED: February 21, 2005
A bunch of folks have sent in their memories , bios, and anecdotes to be included here. For questions or submissions… Drop me an E-mail!
Name: Steve Cichon
Years at WBEN: 1993-98, 2003-present
I was 15 when I started as an intern at WBEN, and was working full time hours by the time I was a senior in high school. I remember my first tour of duty at BEN like most people remember high school.
I was the youngest guy in there, by nearly a decade. One of my best friends was the oldest guy there… By probably two decades. While I admit I probably wouldn’t want to work with Ed Little in a busy newsroom, I’m grateful for the time spent with him as a board op. After each newscast, We’d walk down to the basement on Elmwood for a cup of coffee, and Ed would never let me buy.(You can buy when we have STEAK!, he’d say.)
The thing I’d like people to remember about Ed is this.. I went out to lunch with Ed pretty regularly until he died, and I don’t think I ever heard him say a bad thing about anyone. EVER. I knew him for years before I knew he flew bombing runs over Japan in WWII. He put his head down, and got the job done… without any of the Bull hockey that usually gets in the way in this business. Where’ve I been?
After spending a few years and Channel 4, and producing and programming at WNSA, I’m back at WBEN as a news anchor. I also married fellow WBEN alum Monica Huxley in 2001.
Bob Wood 3/9/05
The log I inherited, with no spotsets at all. “Just do what you feel like doing when you feel like it.” (I changed that pretty quickly.) Hearing Burl Ives into Jefferson Starship into Lisa Minnelli, on my first visit. (I fixed THAT too.) Being one of the first in the country to hire Larry King overnight (via syndication.) Genius Dave May’s first snow closing computer in the USA. Followed by our own music scheduling computer – for WBEN! Trying to win over Clint and failing repeatedly. “Fixing Rock 102 in 30 minutes: “Who changes the tapes – or should I say, doesn’t – “the AM jocks” – ” not any longer, they don’t!”
I remember Tom Langmeyer’s dad calling me and saying whatever you did to my son you turned him into a man this summer. Maybe it was giving Tom responsibility, which he clearly deserved, mastered, and look how he’s thrived! (They say I always had an ear/eye for talent.) Maybe it was a girlfriend.
Jeff Kaye’s pregame show and its AWESOME produced replay on the week before. Speaking with John Facenda (then the voice of the NFL) to arrange promos – turned out he lived only a half mile from where I grew up and was GOD to me. SO sweet, too.
Stan Barron doing a game with a broken leg. Seeing him toward the end in the hospital. I brought him Larry Levite’s stogie just so he’d feel “at home.” Stan would sometimes sit in the studio watching TV, with an earplug UNDER his headphones, tuned to something else.
Kevin O’Connell reporting from the copter with me sitting alongside at Run For Your Life one Sunday morning – there was virtually nothing to see except a few runners below. He does an amazing three minutes. When finished I ask, “How did you do that?” He says, “That’s what I do.”
Howard Lapides doing The Bills postgame. HUGELY talented, and with John The Pearl Demerle they had a powerful interactive show that played listeners like puppets to express the real heart and soul of the game that just ended.
Linda Pellegrino, after her TV began, “the secret – it’s not hard. If you make it hard it is.”
Larry Levite, a mensch. A real caring man. A man-boy. He gave me as much autonomy as you could have. He threw the biggest parties, rented as many hotel rooms as needed so everyone would not drive under the influence. He cared about all his people. He’d say, “I want you to give away Ten Thousand dollars tomorrow.” He’d ask, “why do we play music?” He’d provoke, coddle, inspire, find new boundaries and always try for better and more. Once, when we had a bad episode with a major out of control talent in his office (really bad, and I thought I was going to be beaten with a wielded baseball bat, literally) after the storm passed, just sat with him in his office, trying to recover, and unexpectedly I found myself breaking out crying – I must have had an adrenaline thing happen – I was so embarrassed and couldn’t stop. Finally Larry asks what should we do, and I say, if he’s still here let’s go moon him, WHICH WE DID, from the hall. It was our way of defusing the situation. For us and the temporary nut case.
I saw Rick Jenrette (spelling?) call a game from a black and white 9 inch monitor of the TV broadcast when he missed a flight due to snow. Didn’t miss a call.
I saw Lacy go toe to toe with Stan Roberts and Danny Neaverth at an Art Museum award show and equal or better their best. I hired him from Erie and I still remember sitting by a motel pool listening to him on a trip to uncover new talent. Lacy’s REAL good… smooth and naturally funny.
I wrote a memo back then that everyone should treasure these, as they would become the “Good Old Days” of their career, and I think for many, they were.
We had awesome news and services, a full slate of sports, major, major talent, a great guy to work for, incredible facilities… great pride. I somehow knew this would be the high mark in so many ways.
I still have my souvenir goalpost section from The Day The Dolphins Drowned.
And Fred, aka ROCK 102, just sat and made money. A monster in two countries… a signal to die for. My refuge for music. A nail in the coffin for the once great WKBW.
To anyone from the day (my day) 1978 -1984… it was an honor to work with you.
Fill-in for Stan Barron (83-84) on Free Form Sports; Buffalo Bills Game Analyst (1983); Bills Pre/Post-Game Host (1984-88); Buffalo Bison PBP (1985-88); One-on-One Sports fill-in (1985-88)
A Favorite WBEN Story or two:
1) The December Monday night Mark Hamrick was leisurely walking down the hall, having just returned from the basement, munching on chips. This was at 8:58 pm. John Demerle and I asked him: are you ready for your 9 o’clock newscast? He replied: “What happened to Monday Night Football?” We told him — “That ended last week!”
The look of horror on his face, the exclamation of “Holy Shit!” and his scramble to the newsroom, pulling wire copy and carts to the news booth…and his flawless newscast (with the exception of the 8 o’clock temperature he used) were an incredible performance under pressure.
2) The night in 1986, I’m in Des Moines with the Bisons at Sec Taylor Stadium with the threatening Midwestern Weather. My lone connection to the outside world was John Demerle. All of a sudden, the temperature drops and I think I see the Wicked Witch of the West pedalling a bicycle across the sky. WBEN listeners hear the Iowa Cubs’ official scorer banging his fist on the storm door of the visiting broadcast booth: “Damnit, Pete, get off the roof, here it comes!” I quickly told the listeners: “This captain is not going down with the ship,” and disconnected. Later, from the safety of a cinderblock building, I called in to report on everyone’s safety.
What you’ve been up to since WBEN… Sports Director, WGR (1988 – 93); Buffalo Bills Game Analyst (1990); Bills Pre/Post Host (1991-93); Buffalo Bison PBP (1989 – 95); Buffalo Sabres PBP (1995 – 97); Empire Sports Network (1990 – 98); Nashville Predators PBP (1998 – Present)
Helen Tederous 2/05
I only worked for BEN for a little over a year from the spring/summer of 92 to the late summer of 93 it was really fun.
Kevin OConnell 2/05
Steve: I was there in the late 70s/early 80s……We had the opportunity to interview the Beach Boys, Manilow,Dick Clark,etc……I was doing the mid-day Show 12:30-3pm right after Newsday Show…then I would do the evening weather on Channel 4 and the Disco Step by Step Show on the weekends….pretty full day and week…I think that’s why I was so skinny…..left for LA in ’82…and BEN was my last home before that….Kevin
Bill McKibben 2/05
I joined the BEN stations in June of 1965 as “Assistant to the
President” (AHK). My original deal to take over for Bob Thompson
when he retired (Bob’s idea) was derailed by my association with
Kirk, so I moved over to run just radio after two years of running
both under Bob’s wing.
I have also written separate pieces on some of the people I worked
with including an expanded piece on AHK. I am still working on Bob
Thompson who was the real giant at the stations. He did more by far
to shape the WBEN stations than any other individual, and for my
money is the most influential individual in Buffalo Broadcast History.
I will share some pictures with you when I get a moment. I am
grateful that I am up to my ears in meaningful work half way through
my 76th year. My wife says I’ve cut down to half days, 12 hours is
Are there any plans to celebrate the 75th at this point? I have
always said the station was a gift for my first birthday, I was born in
1929, the station as you know in 1930.
Monica Wilson 2/05
First go round was 88-90, i believe -did mornings with Mark Leitner the last year….
started here as News Director July 2001
Kathleen Donovan 2/05
I worked at WBEN as a part-time weekend anchor from 1990 to 1995 and then full-time anchor/reporter from 1995-2000.
I am currently a public relations coordinator for CUTCO Cutlery in Olean, NY.
I have many fond memories of working at WBEN. One that I will always remember is when I signed off from a story saying, live from the newsroom, Brian Meyer, Newstalk 930 WBEN. What had happened is I was doing the story live from the newsroom and had just been talking to Brian just before I went on. Why I called myself Brian Meyer Ill never know what was I thinking? Brian and I still laugh over that one today.
Tom Kelly 2/05
Hello Steve: Thanks for your e-mail. I loved working at WBEN. I was only there for four years… maybe a bit longer. To be sure a very small part of WBEN’s grand history. I was only 23 when I went to work at BEN. What a learning experience! I took over the late midday spot when Kevin O’Connell went to KNBC. Such a pleasure to work with Ed Little, Dave May, Lacy and Mindy. What a great crew. I’ve been at WBIG in Washington DC since ’93. OK – I’m babbling. I’ve only time to add some pictures to your archive… I will do so under separate cover – since the server is lethargic tonight. Sorry for cluttering your mailbox…
Tom also sent along several pics . Theyre on the picture page.
Mark Hamrick 2/05
My former colleague Pete Weber alerted me to your web site. Congratulations for having done a tremendous job compiling so much material. In this photo, I’m pictured alongside Dave May. I worked at ‘BEN for about 18 months, during 1985 and ’86. I had worked for several years at WEBR Newsradio 1970 before that. My job at ‘BEN was afternoon traffic copter and news with Murph on One on One sports. It was a great place to work, and I keep in touch with Murph, Pete W. as well as Kevin Keenan.
I left to work for AP Radio in Dallas, where I was for one year, and then transferred to the Washington operation, where I’ve been since. I married the former Jeanne Golanka, who worked weekends at ‘BEN, her full time job back then was PR for the Sabres.
I also do a lot of volunteer work for the National Press Club, where I’m Vice Chair of the Board of Governors.
Thanks for helping to relive some pleasant memories.
Cherie Messore 2/05
Hi Steve – Tom Kelly forwarded your email to me. I’m a WBEN alum. I was assistant to the program director from 1983-1985. I have photos I can send you, too!
Please keep me informed about any parties of reunions.
Also, there’s a photo on your site of Kaye Lapping and Eileen Tobias and a third woman. The mystery woman worked in traffic or billing and her name is Ona and I can’t remember her last name. Candy Acierno and Denise Burt (if they still work at WBEN) would remember her.
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
Jennifer L. Randazzo 2/05
Years at WBEN: 6 1/2
Positions Held: Intern, Producer, Local Sales Assistant, Call Screener
SInce WBEN: I continue to work as National Sales Assistant/Assistant Paid Programming COordinator at Sinclair (WB49)
Joe Sviatko 2/05
When I left WBEN I took a job at Dean Witter as I attempted to change careers. From Dean Witter I took a job at a bank in Baltimore.. to where we moved in January 2000. Left the bank in April 2001 and went to work as a PIO for a State agency here in Maryland. Left the State in April 2003 for a PIO job with Baltimore’s State’s Attorney (in NY you call them District Attorney.) I have been a spokesman here in Baltimore ever since for the State’s Attorney’s Office.
An aside.. I have been OUT of radio now for the same amount of time I was IN radio.. SEVEN years. Amazing… Ellen and I are still happily married and we have three children: Joseph IV (Joey) age 3, Matthew age 2, Zachary age 3 months.
More from Joe 3/9/05:
Here are two favorite stories.. At one of the February “Christmas” parties I walked into the Men’s room
and Van Miller was standing in the middle of the bathroom with his pants around his knees making sure
his shirt was tucked in correctly, he told me. Sure he would not remember, if you know what I mean. That same night he visibly “checked out” Ellen with an exaggerated up and down motion of his head. That was the night Ellen became a WOMAN. 🙂
Ellen came to the station one night and met Mike Mroziak for the first time.. he proceeded to tell this complete stranger all his love life woes. 🙂
I loved listening to Mark Leitner make the cop calls in the morning.. typical conversation.. “Good morning Trooper, Mark Leitner, WBEN Radio News. Anything exctiting happen overnight. No? So, how are you this morning? How is Marge? And your kids? You don’t say?? First grade? My, they grow up quick. Have you seen Fred lately? I saw him a month or two ago……….” Another favorite.. the Mark Leitner cold season wrap with the cold open” “A-choo. This is Mark Leitner…..” And of course, that :30 wrap would have about 15 actualities in it…..
MaryJane Lynch-Wieleba 2/05
WBEN 1986-still here (I think I’m a lifer)
traffic director for WBEN/WGR/WWKB
There have too many stories over the years to pick a favorite. So many
people have come and gone and so many are still here. Remember Bill
Lacy’s annual dropping of the pants at the holiday parties. The
impromtu shrimp and champagne parties because we had great books. Or
the parties to drown our sorrows because we didn’t. I grew up here,
got married, had my kids, made friends for life. WBEN is more than a
station its a family.
Years at WBEN: 1978-1979
Position(s) Held: Production assistant, board op, some on-air work.
A Favorite WBEN Story/Experience: You have it!
What you’ve been up to since WBEN: Left WBEN in 1979 for college. After school, worked at WGR as airborne traffic reporter & PD, also on-air at WTAE Pittburgh. Also worked at WNEW New York, WSYR/WYYY Syracuse (Operations Director). Have been at KMOX St. Louis since 1992. Currently VP/GM of KMOX St. Louis & VP-News/Talk Stations Group, Infinity Broadcasting.
An Update from Tom 3/9/05:
I guess you can change the “what I’m doing now” thing for me as I’m now the VP/General Manager at WGN Radio in Chicago.
More from Tom:
Steve—Thank you very much for the email making me aware of your great site, celebrating the history of WBEN! It’s really great! I’ll will dig up a photo as well and have some other photos you might not have that I will email to you. (Tom sent a BUNCH on photos Theyre on the photos page.)
WBEN was the first Radio/TV I had ever visited. I was 7-years old. My dad and I were involved in the YMCA’s “Indian Guide” program and we toured the “WBEN Stations” on Elmwood Avenue. I saw Virgil Booth, Van Miller, Ken Phillips, John Corbett, Steven Rowan. They were STARS! I saw the studio that housed Clint Buehlman’s “Arthur Mometer,” the piano and a xylophone on which Buehlman would play the NFT bus theme. And on the wall of that studio, there it was!! “Traffic Central!!” Really just a map on the wall. No matter to me, it was great! I was in awe, hooked on radio and I developed a passion for the kind of radio station WBEN was. I liked WKBW, WGR, WYSL, CHUM, CFTR, WLS and WABC. At the same time, CFRB, KMOX, WGN, WJR and WBEN represented something I really appreciated. Nearly 35 years after that tour, a love for radio, which was born at WBEN, still burns. I still hold WBEN in very high esteem. Buffalo is my hometown, and I am very proud to say I worked there (and also proud to have worked at WGR after college).
I started at WBEN (the first station to actually PAY me) in 1978, when I was 17. At first, it was an internship under Bob Wood that turned into a board-op job just a couple of weeks later. I worked evenings, overnights, weekends and babysat Rock 102’s “Fred” as well. Within a month, I was allowed to do basic things on WBEN’s air, such as weather, time, announcements, promos, etc. Bob Wood would critique my tapes weekly. It was a generous thing. He was busy with people who were a lot more important than me. I have never forgotten it.
It was a very interesting time to be at WBEN (during a recovery from upheaval). Before the News sold the station in the late 70s, they took the idea of “younging up” the station too far, too fast. The station dumped long-time, loved personalities and replaced them with “hipper” personalities – Jay Fredericks, Chris Tyler, etc. I will never forget hearing the disc-jockeyish back sell….. “From the album Aja, that’s Peg from Steely Dan on Ninety-Three BEEE–EEEEE–ENNNNN!!” The approach reminded me of a teenage kid taking his father to the mall and outfitting him at “Chess King” so he could have the coolest dad on the block. It just doesn’t work. It just made things worse. Yes, Clint Buehlman was ready for retirement at that time (the stress of the Blizzard of `77 didn’t help things for him), but he was also a loved, legendary part of life in Western New York. He wasn’t happy about “being forced out” and it was no secret to the listeners. Even as a 15-year old kid, I knew this was wrong.
When Larry Levite and his group bought the station, Levite and his team did a superb job at giving Buffalo back the WBEN they expected and more, without taking it back to something that was no longer relevant. He brought back Stan Barron and others. Bob Wood rebuilt the station through a VERY creative approach to content, production and imaging and he added talent to fit the need to appeal to younger demos, while respecting the station’s rich heritage. The Bills returned to WBEN from WKBW and Van Miller was back behind the mike. Levite put up a helicopter for the first time for WBEN (WGR and WEBR had previously been the stations with helicopter traffic). Dave May and Debbie Stamp took to the sky. The station offered the respect due to Clint Buehlman and many listeners by bringing him back to host Sunday mornings on WBEN, while Jeff Kaye was absolutely the right guy for morning drive Monday-Friday! The station was everywhere. There was a beautiful new remote studio for the station and WBEN was on a roll!
I worked many hours at WBEN and pulled long weekend shifts. I often worked from Saturday afternoon at 2pm, straight though until Sunday morning at 9:30. The work consisted of recording public affairs shows, changing the FM automation tapes, doing production and working for Stan Barron on his show (I remember all those forms from Buffalo Raceway!). Then at midnight, I jumped behind the board for the overnight and morning programming before leaving at 9:30 am the next day. I then turned over the controls to Tom Whelan (who was Clint Buehlman’s longtime “operator”).
One Sunday morning at 6:30, I finally nodded off in “AMMCR” during the recorded “City Mission” program. There was dead-air for 2 minutes after the tape ran out before I was awakened by a panicked newsman, Rick Pfieffer. I felt terribly embarrassed about it. It was a 19½ hour shift yet I still felt like I really let the station down!
I was just a kid when I worked at WBEN and a few people there who were just a few years older than me (also trying to work their way up), didn’t seem to appreciate having a “kid” work there. At the same time, the “established” people were wonderful and taught me a lot! Bob Wood, Jim McLaughlin, Jack Mindy, Tom Whelan, Mike Whelan, Pam Legge, Kevin Gordon, Lou Douglas, Roger Christian, Tom Van Nortwick, Wendy Stahlka, Stan Barron, Phil Chordas, Linda Pellegrino, Mike Binis, Dave May, Dave Dibic, Bob Russo, Kay Lapping, Eileen Tobias, Bob Smith and Mark Leitner were just a few of the great people I learned from. There were many others too!
Larry Levite, the President/GM, was incredibly gracious. He even knew who I was, and made it a point to make me feel comfortable. It was apparent that he respected his managers and the staff. He wasn’t pretentious or wrapped in symbols of power. In fact, I remember going to the station’s holiday party in 1978 at Mulligan’s on Hertel Avenue. I was a kid not old enough to drink (even when the drinking age was 18). People drank A LOT in the 70’s and I could have felt really left out, but Larry Levite, Dave May, the other engineers, Bob Russo and others made me feel welcome and part of the team.
I left Buffalo in 1986. I live in St. Louis with my wife and two children, yet I still buy all of my suits at Riverside Men’s Shop. I do it because my dad and Stan Barron did. In fact, Mr. Barron’s picture still hangs on the wall at Riverside. That is how deep roots go between Buffalonians and WBEN.
Today, WBEN has great personalities and an excellent news department. John Zach, Susan Rose, Tom Bauerle and Sandy Beach are “Buffalo.” That’s why WBEN remains so successful.
Happy 75th Anniversary to WBEN!
Steve-Thanks for letting me ramble and remember my radio roots! If you want to use any or all of the above in any way, please feel free to do so. Comes from the heart. I’ll send some pics to you! Good Luck Steve….. Let’s stay in touch. This made my day!
Ed Tucholka 2/05
Please dont overlook my Dad ..
He was Ed Tucholka, WEBR, WHLD and WBEN.
He was known variously as Uncle Ed, “Tuch”, First Voice of the Niagara Frontier and Ed Tucholka.
Ed retired in September 1995 at 80 years old, took ill in December and died the first week of January 1996. Broadcasting was his life, and when it ended…
He played radio broadcaster as a young boy, started as a boy chorister, first job was at a local department store (“Sattlers – 998 Broadway”) announcing specials.
Ed Landed a DJ job in the late 1930s at WEBR radio: Did a piece called the “Noon Day Review”, where he highlighted a local GI every day at noon (re: where he was and what he was doing for the war effort).
Late 1940s and early 1950s he was “Uncle Ed” of Uncle Ed’s Children’s hour.
He interviewed many celebs, but was never in awe of any of them; taught radio broadcasting through Junior Achievement and the YMCA; interacted with many local talents (ie: Irv Weinstein). He lived for his listeners; declined a nomination to the Buffalo Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame (he said “let the young fellas have that”). He was a true radio pioneer.
Timothy P. Tucholka
Thanks to Jack MINDY for a few photo IDs.
Eileen Tobias 2/05
Candy Acierno sent me the web page etc., of WBEN people over the years. What a wonderful idea and how great it looks.
I started at WBEN in 1973 and retired at Entercom in June, 2002. When Larry Levite bought the station in 1978 I became his Ex. Assistant for 18 years until he sold in 1996. Stayed on a few years in the sales office at 2077 Elmwood, worked 1 yr. at the Hyatt when stations merged with WGR, etc. and was at Entercom in Amherst for about 2-1/2 yrs. until 2002.
Incidentally I now work p/t at CH. 4 in the receptionist position (can’t get media out of me!!).
Do hope Brian has the get-together again this year as Ron (my husband) and I would like to attend, he has known many of these people over the years.
Incidentally, under the Alumni photos the one of me and Kaye Lapping (who passed away last February, a wonderful lady) the other gal in the photo is Oda Hanners who was Traffic Manager for many years, and now lives in Ft. Myers. Florida. Hope this helps
Again, great you did this. Yes, I also think kindly of Ed Little a real gentleman.
Hope to see you soon,
Jim Kelley 2/05
Wow what a fabulous site.
I don’t have any pics (that I can find anyway), but I have a
slew of memories working with John Murphy (who gave me a chance at radio
with Hockey Night in Buffalo), Howard and Chris and even Dave Kerner.
Meeting Stan Baron and working in the same arenas with Van Miller was a big
deal to a kid from South Buffalo as I progressed through the Buffalo Sports
scene. Any success I’ve ever had in broadcasting is a result of those early
days at WBEN with John Demerle and you behind the glass and Murph and his successors. WBEN is where people gave me a chance. It was a time of innocence and fun and I loved it every bit as much as writing.
Eileen Buckey 2/05
I worked at WBEN from 1989-1991 as a reporter/anchor. Best memory — Ed
Little coming in around 3pm for his shift, taking off his suit jacket like
“Mr. Rogers”, and putting on his baby blue cardigan sweater, then he would
gather wire copy and head over to the national desk to write his leads and
cart up CBS drive-time packages!!
See you in the field!
“Buffalo Anchorman” is a tribute to Buffalo television in the 70s and early 80s as inspired by the recent hit movie The Anchorman. Big hair, flashy suits, and plenty of loud colors makes for a decade we all wish we could forget.
In a picture that looks like it could have been taken on the set of Anchorman, Carol Crissey (later Jasen) poses with the suave Channel 4 anchorman John Beard. Beard joined Channel 4 in 1977, as the station began to move away from it’s ultra-conservative WBEN-TV/ Buffalo Evening News roots.
The dominant news staff of the 70s was the Eyewitness News Team…. Irv, Rick, and Tom. Don Postles rode shotgun at the anchordesk with Irv starting around 1978, and was there throughout the 80s.
Though perpetually at the bottom of the ratings wars, a smarmy anchor with balls of steel brought WGR-TV to the top of the heap for a time in the mid 70s… Ron Hunter. Hunter moved from Buffalo to Chicago, where some say its possible that his cheesy and insecure demeanor could have been part of the basis for Anchorman (one of the writers grew up in Chicagoland.)
WKBW’s Investigative Reporter John Pauly makes an urgent call. Pauly later worked for WGRZ-TV as well in the same role.
The man who perfected Weather with a Beat, Kevin O’Connell, is seen here tending a fire in a Channel 4 pub shot. He was Channel 4’s weatherman in the late 70s before leaving for Los Angeles. He returned to Buffalo in 1990 as a news anchor at Channel 4. He eventually made his way to Channel 2, where he remains as Chief Weather Anchor.
Don Paul and Mike Cejka are still your News 4 Weather team. Both were at Channel 4 by the early 80s. By the time they arrived, innovations like “Weather with a Beat” had gone by the wayside.
A popular Disc Jockey in Buffalo since the 50s, Danny moved fannies to Channel 7 as the noon Weather Outside man.
Mothers hide your tubas. He did weather, He did sports, he worked an inordinate number of puns and plays on words into both. His name: Warren “Clip” Smith.
While WBEN Radio’s Bill Lacy and Tom Kelly weren’t regular TV personalities per se, they were right down the hall from the Channel 4 Studios and pitched in quite a bit. Lacy was the promotional voice of Channel 4 for more 15 years, and Tom Kelly hosted movies, as well as on-air giveaways sponsored by a supermarket during CBS’s mid-morning game shows.
Jon Summers also made the leap from the WBEN Radio hallways to TV. At the time of this early 80s photo, he was the morning jock at Rock 102 (WBEN-FM). After years as the announcer on AM Buffalo, he was recently made an official co-host.
The precursor to AM Buffalo was Dialing for Dollars, in the 70s hosted by Dave Thomas and Nolan Johannes, with, of course, “Johnny & Jimmy”– Johnny Banaszak and Jimmy Edwin— providing musical accompaniment.
Susan Banks came to Channel 7 in 1977. After a short time in Boston, and a few years at News Center 2, she returned to Eyewitness News in 1990. She is now a lead co-anchor at 7-News.
For a time in the mid 70s, Stan Roberts hosted the morning show on WGR55, as well as the weather on WGR-TV.
Stephen Rowan, left, was a part of several failed re-births for Channel 4 in the 70s. He came to WBEN-TV from CBS, replacing Chuck Healy at the news desk. The station was feeling the heat from 7 and 2, and changed the names and faces, but not the monotonous news delivery. Mike Mombrea, Sr, is the cameraman in the photo, and a member of the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Irv & Don, c.1980.
Look at the jacket/hair/tie combo on Uncle Van. The classic leisure suit was probably from Kleinhans, for whom Van was a spokesperson for many years.
Bob Koop brought his cool, professional delivery and incredible writing skill to Buffalo from Salt Lake City in 1981. He co-anchored with Carol Jasen on Channel 4 until he was stricken with the effects of Leukemia in 1992. After several brief comebacks, Koop died New Years Day 1995.
Wadi Sawabini was a working man’s reporter, and got to the soul of every story during his days at News 4.
AM Buffalo with Cindy Abbott and Brian Kahle. Are co-hosts these days allowed to be so close… Ever?. Note Kahle is sans the ‘stache.
A later shot of a mustachioed Kahle.
Ted Darling called Sabres Games on WGR-TV and WKBW-TV for the entire decade of the 1970s.
When Ted was on TV, Rick Jeanneret was calling the games on WGR Radio. For the 2004-05 season, Rick is once again calling the games on WGR Radio, as well as on the Empire Sports Network.
Television stations felt the need to tackle “difficult issues” with special reports in the 1970s. Here is an ad for one on Channel 4. The name of the show? VD.
Maria Genero, Rich Newberg, and Brian Blessing were the News 4 Weekend Staff for a good part of the 80s.
The NewsCenter 2 Team of Molly McCoy, Rich Kellman, Ed Kilgore, and Barry Lillis
The News Four Team of the late 70’s. Top row: Gary Gunther, Larry Hunter, Marie Rice, Allen Costantini. Middle Row: Kevin O’Connell, Carol Crissey (Jasen), John Beard, Van Miller. Bottom Row: Brian Blessing, Sandy White, Rich Newberg, Suzi Makai (Thanks to many friends on the net for the IDs, including Mike Cunningham, who took the pic in the first place!)
The Eyewitness News Team was always well promoted, and never afraid to take shots at themselves.. Take, for example, these “fan letters” to Irv Weinstein.
Breaker, breaker… Ken Philips was the main weather anchor on WBEN in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Frank Benny was Channel 2’s weatherman in the 60’s and 70’s.
Clean Dan Neaverth with not so clean Don Rickles.
Van Miller, seen here in at the Aud, was not only Channel 4’s lead sports anchor, he also called NBA Braves games, NFL Bills games, NCAA Niagara Basketball games, and hosted Its Academic. After Chuck Healy retired, he also took over Beat the Champ.
As he was so busy, Van was rarely at his desk. Here is a rare shot of him there, no doubt making a call to Liberty Cab to make sure he gets the winning puck for the 11 o’clock Big Board Sports.
Don Polec, the King of the Kicker, was a Burger King manager when he sent a tape to Channel 7. Since leaving Buffalo, he’s been in Philadelphia TV.
After being a contributor to a local PM Magazine show in Connecticut, Mike Randall landed the job of The Eyewitness Jester in the mid 80’s. He’s now the main weather anchor at Channel 7.
No fluff here, Dunkirk Native Allen Costantini is a newsman’s news man, and was so at Channel 4 in the late 70’s.
This is Election 71 on WBEN-TV Channel 4. Grim faces, NPR-like delivery. Both John Corbett, second from right, and Steve Rowan, right, were from the old school. Also, Ray Finch, seated, left; and Larry Hunter, standing.
By 1977, WBEN-TV had been sold off by the Buffalo Evening News, and the call letters were changed to WIVB-TV, and the grim faces had turned to smiles.
John Beard was a part of the News 4 team from 1977 through 1981. He is now at Fox News in Los Angeles.
The constant in Buffalo TV News from the mid 60’s to the late 80’s was IRV, RICK & TOM.
Irv, c. 1980
Dave Thomas was the Host of Rocketship 7, Dialing for Dollars, and filled various news capacities over the years at Channel 7. Now going by the airname Dave Roberts, he’s been giving Philadelphians their weather for the past quarter century.
Commander Tom Jolls was the last of Channel 7’s “big three” to retire. He left WKBW-TV in 2001.
Rick Azar, Eyewitness Sports. Retired from WKBW-TV in 1989. He was the announcer who signed the station on the air in 1958.
Don Postles has spent time at all three stations in the Buffalo market, the first anchor/reporter to hold that honor. For the past 10 years, he has been at Channel 4.
This story was published in Living Prime Time magazine
The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to collect and maintain the articles and stories of the great history of radio and television on the Niagara Frontier, as well celebrate those who embody the great spirit broadcasting today and into the future.
Once a year, we like to take the opportunity to celebrate the lives and careers of those men and women of broadcasting who, through their superlative efforts, have left an indelible mark not only on the history of Buffalo Broadcasting; but on the lives of those who watched and listened as well. For the seventh of our eight years, we will convene at the newly remodeled Tralfamadore Café for The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame Night, Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 6:00pm.
Enshrined in our Hall of Fame are the broadcasters who make us proud to work in the wake of their legacy. They’ve all contributed something special to Western New York. Just like periods of history are noted by Kings and Popes, you might be able to trace your memory by who was on your radio as you woke up and went to school or work… Or who hosted the cartoons when you got home from school or read the news on TV as you went to bed. Hopefully the mere mention of some of the names below will help conjure some of those memories.
The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers was founded in 1995, and we still have a lot of catching up to do. The Golden Age Award is reserved for the pioneers in the truest sense of the word: Those who did it first, the people who had no pattern to follow, no lead blocker. These folks blazed the trail, and set an example for future generations to follow.
If you ever heard Stan Barron, you’re standards are likely a bit higher in sports broadcasting. Stan came to Buffalo in 1952, and spent a decade at WKBW Radio and television, as a play-by-play man on radio, and serving as WKBW-TV’s first sports director. Stan is perhaps most remembered, though, for his time at WBEN Radio, where he was half of the Stan and Van team calling Bills Football for 14 years. It was also at WBEN that he, with out the aid of a producer for most of the shows run, ran Free Form Sports, a show that might have the Bills quarterback on one minute, then switch to an 11 year old Little League pitcher who threw a perfect game.
Upon Stan’s death in 1984, then WBEN disc jockey Tom Kelly commented that the first thing he heard on Buffalo radio as he drove into town was a gravely voice reading youth soccer scores on WBEN. He didn’t understand that night but he soon did. Stan Barron wasn’t a sports announcer; he was a beloved institution who enjoyed, understood, and celebrated sports and athletes at every level.
AHK(as he referred to himself) or Mr. Kirchhofer (as everyone else referred to him) was the man in charge of WBEN Radio before there was a WBEN Radio. His influence was key in the News’ purchase of the station in 1930. From 1927 until his retirement in 1967, Mr. Kirchhofer ran and expanded a News Empire that included the Buffalo Evening News, and added WBEN Radio in 1930, in 1936 added WEBR Radio (then a News property), WBEN-FM in 1946, and WBEN-TV in 1948.
Despite his founding of four broadcast outlets, Kirchhofer was first and foremost a newspaper man. After joining the Buffalo Evening News in 1915, he opened the News’ Washington Bureau, and became a familiar figure to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, all the while being Buffalo’s eyes and ears in the nation’s capital. Realizing the potential for radio beyond selling newspapers, Kirchhofer developed a staff of radio writers and newsmen for WBEN and put the station on top to stay for decades. The Evening News Stations were always ahead of the curve for not only Buffalo, but helped put Buffalo in the media avant-garde for the nation. The FM and television stations developed under Kirchhofer were not only Buffalo’s first, but among the first in the nation.
The staunch conservative content and dry delivery at the News Stations that survived well into the 1970s was a direct result of Kirchhofer’s editorial style. His approach made the News Stations “The Stations of Record” for generations.
Despite a decades long career in radio, television, and on the stage, Mike Mearian might best be known to the thousands of children who grew up watching him on Channel 4 in the 50s and 60s as the guy with Buttons. Mearian filled the imaginations of kids with thoughts of far off places as the host of Children’s Theatre on WBEN-TV, as well as the voice of Buttons the puppet.
After winning three purple hearts in World War II combat, Mearian started in radio in a small Texas town in 1947. He eventually made his way to Buffalo, and after stints as the morning man at KB Radio and Kenmore’s WXRA, Merian spent the next 14 years at WBEN Radio and TV. Perhaps best remembered for those of a certain age for his work with children’s programming, older folks will remember his live Statler Hilton Lunch Club shows and his evening comedy show on WBEN Radio.
Mearian values his time in Buffalo as a time where talented people were given free reign to make good radio and television without interference from above. You may have recognized Mike over the years in commercials, on soap operas, even on Law & Order as a judge… and wondered, “what ever happened to Buttons?” Not to worry, since leaving Buffalo in 1966, Mearian has lived in the Big Apple with his wife and the puppet friend brought alive here in Buffalo.
Ba-Dum-Bum! That vocalized rimshot crashes quite easily (and often!) from the lips of Buffalo’s beloved self-fashioned Corny DJ… For parts of seven decades, Stan Roberts has been on the radio making us laugh… and groan. From the time of his arrival at WKBW Radio in the early 60s, through his days at WGR, WBUF and WBEN, Stan has made a career of not taking himself too seriously. And so long as you were laughing, or at least smiling (no matter with him or at him) he figures his job well done.
For all of the lampshades Stan has worn on his head in TV commercials, he’s also been a part of many of Buffalo’s most exciting times. Thousands of Sabres fans still cherish the Memorable Sabres Highlights record Stan voiced in commemoration of the 1975 Stanley Cup year. Thousands of Bills fans ignored his warnings to “Stay off the Field” as they tore down Rich Stadium goalposts at the beginning of the Bills Superbowl run. Stan also helped organize Light Up Buffalo… inspiring some of the most stunning night time photos ever taken of Downtown Buffalo. He’s also made his mark in radio sales, as one of Buffalo Radio’s top billing salesmen of the past quarter century.
But most importantly, from his time as a teen DJ in Asbury Park, NJ in the late 40’s; to his role as one of Buffalo’s senior radio salesmen, Stan Roberts has always had the gift to make us smile whether we want to or not.
Buffalo Bob Smith began his broadcasting career in his hometown of Buffalo, but of course gained worldwide fame as the human friend of America’s favorite puppet, Howdy Doody. Despite his international celebrity, Bob never forgot his hometown, and even adopted it as a part of his name. Each year The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers honor a broadcaster who has made his or her mark away from the Niagara Frontier, but is a Buffalonian at heart.
After growing up on Buffalo’s East Side and attending Canisius High School, Mark Russell became interested in comedy during a hitch in the Marine Corps. It was while in the Marines he began performing in clubs around the Virginia base at which he was stationed. Influenced by the likes of Mort Sahl and Tom Lehrer, Russell’s act had become increasing political by the time he landed at the Shoreham Hotel. There, Russell spent 20 years entertaining and skewering the men leading the nation.
He also met a few fellow Buffalonians — WNED executives – who offered to produce a PBS special starring Russell.
Nearly 30 years later, Russell still returns to Western New York to spend part of the summer and to star in those specials, on a street named Mark Russell Way by the City of Buffalo in his honor.
The quarter century Don Yearke spent as an award-Winning videographer and Chief Photographer at Channel 4 is the basis for which he has been awarded the Behind The Scenes Award. But his work as a camera man is only the second half the story.
After signing on Buffalo’s WNIA Radio as the first Tommy Thomas in 1956 and spending time at Radio Tokyo as a soldier stationed in Japan, Don made his way to KB Radio in 1958. There he started as Dick Biondi’s newsman, and, eventually, became KB’s overnight Rock Jock, where his show could be heard in Maryland, Michigan, and Sweden. As Don Keller, the Farm Feller, he delivered agricultural news to the Niagara Frontier on WKBW Radio every morning, and on WKBW-TV on Saturday mornings. As his role at Channel 7 grew, Don became Buffalo’s first modern street reporter, both gathering news and interviews, and then presenting them himself on camera.
It was in the Channel 7 newsroom that News Director Hal Youngblood sent reporter Don Keller to a fire, and told him to point the camera at the flame. Since that first assignment as a camera man with a black and white Bell Howell wind up, Yearke’s pictures have brought the world to our living rooms. From Popes and Presidents, to the Blizzard of ’77, to Superbowls, Don’s eyes have provided our vision of the news of the day. Since his retirement as WIVB-TV’s Chief Photographer in 1999, Yearke has continued to work as a free lance videographer.
We always welcome new members to the BBP, broadcasters and fans of broadcasting alike. It’s our mission to preserve and promote Western New York’s rich TV and radio history, and to salute and bring attention to quality broadcasting of today. Membership is $25, and anyone with a passion for broadcasting can join as a member. It’s just as easy to join us in celebrating this year’s honorees. Tickets to our Hall of Fame event are available for to general public at $50 per person. Send your ticket order or membership request with payment to: The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers; 5672 Main Street; Williamsville, New York 14221.
Steve Cichon is President of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers.