By Steve Cichon
This story was published in Forever Young Magazine
Buffalo’s history as a great TV and Radio market goes back to even the days before Radio and TV, when the finest vaudeville acts always counted on Buffalo as a vaunted stop along the circuit. The actors, singers and comedians all knew that the people of The Queen City of the Lakes were very critical, but always appreciative of a good show.
Fast forward 70 years, and the finest Radio and TV personalities know Buffalo is such a great stop along the way, that many limited engagements are held over as Western New York becomes a permanent home.
Now in our second decade, the Buffalo Broadcasters celebrate the finest of those holdovers, as well as our homegrown radio and television personalities with the annual Hall of Fame Ceremony. With the inductees of the 11th Hall of Fame Ceremony, the number of Hall of Famers reaches 70.
From those who made the leap from vaudeville to radio and TV like Bill & Mildred Miller and “Buffalo” Bob Smith, to today’s personalities of the satellite age, The Niagara Frontier has long been, and will long continue to be, the home of great broadcasting worthy of our celebration.
Susan Banks: Since arriving on local televisions in 1977, Susan Banks has proven herself able to not only bring us the news in a dignified and authoritative manner, but also able to hold her own with the quick-witted minds of Irv Weinstein and Keith Radford on the anchor desk. Susan has always brought the perfect balance of dignity, warmth, and camaraderie to the anchor’s chair; a balancing act that becomes more difficult as the line between news and entertainment blurs. She spent 20 years in two stints at WKBW-TV, from 1977-81, and from 1990-2006, with stops in Boston, WGRZ-TV, and Houston in between.
Kevin O’Connell: Born not far from the spotlight as the son of the City Comptroller of Buffalo, Kevin first stepped into the glow while still in high school as a Rock’n Roll DJ at WYSL Radio in the mid-60s. From there, Kevin grabbed his records and headed for the Channel 4 weather desk, where he gave us Weather with a Beat, as well as Disco Step-By-Step. Los Angeles beckoned in the early 80’s, and though stationed on the left coast, Kevin could still be seen here daily as the host of the NBC network gameshow GO! After returning to Buffalo at WIVB-TV’s News Desk, Kevin has weathered the last 14 years at the Storm Team 2 Weather Center, as WGRZ-TV’s Top Weather Anchor.
Dick Rifenburg: In today’s world of broadcasting, rarely does one individual shift from sports to news to music, let alone at one station, let alone on one shift. But that’s exactly what “Rife” did working for WBEN-AM/FM/TV from 1951-1978. He was a Michigan All-American end, and played a year with the Detroit Lions before landing at WBEN. From Bills Broadcasts, to ski reports, to 17 years worth of “Breakfast At—“ programs live from various local restaurants, to being the Night Owl’s friend on the WBEN-AM All Night Show, for 27 years, Rife did it all. Our Golden Age Award Winner passed away in 1994.
Don Criqui: Be it along side Frank Gifford, Bob Trumpy, or Steve Tasker, sports fans nationwide will immediately recognize the voice that has been synonymous with NFL football since the mid-60’s… That of Don Criqui. But growing up in Kenmore, the now nationally famous sportscaster first learned something about the games he’d soon be bringing to millions by listening to local play-by-play on WGR, WBEN, and WKBW, especially Bill Mazer calling Canisius Basketball. As the 2007 winner of the Buffalo Bob Smith Award, Criqui emulates one of the city’s great ambassadors by making the city proud he’s one of us.
Mike Mombrea, Sr: 32 years a cameraman for Channel 4, it was through Mike’s viewfinder that Western New York witnessed the Attica Prison uprising, the installation of Pope John Paul II, and somewhere north of one million feet of newsfilm capturing the day to day happenings of Western New York. He was a true pioneer, one of the original TV photojournalists, taking to the streets in the mid-50’s with a wind-up black-and-white camera and no trail to follow as to how news was supposed to be shot. Mike is the recipient of the 2007 Behind the Scenes Award.
Ron Rice: 30 years of sales and management excellence gives Ron Rice the credentials for the 2007 George Goodyear Award. After 5 years of pounding the pavement in sales for WBEN Radio, he became Sales Manager, a position from which he was able to up the stations—and his own—involvement in the community. But by his own admission, Ron’s career was highlighted by 18 years at WHTT. By 1994, Rice had captained Oldies 104 to America’s top rated Oldies station… only by beating out over 700 other such spots along the dial.
The Buffalo Broadcasters Association 11th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony will be held for the third straight year at the WNED Studios, Downtown Buffalo. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for Ticket information.