Buffalo Broadcasters 9th Annual Hall of Fame Inductions

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Originally appeared in Living Prime Time Magazine

Sep-Cover copyBelieve it or not, a job in broadcasting is not too much different that any other job. We all punch a clock, putting in our 8 or 9 hours a day… and hope we’ve accomplished something at the end of it all. Most of us talk into a camera or microphone without much recognition or many accolades; many never fully comprehending the impact that we’ve had on so many. That’s where the Buffalo Broadcasters come in.

The Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame event is not only a chance to mark for history the great achievements and pop cultural impact of some the Queen City’s favorite Radio and TV contributors… It’s also a chance to let the best of the best know how much they are appreciated by both their industry and the public.

I was once in the home of the late Jack Mahl, who spent 50 years on Buffalo Radio and Television. The only sign of that incredible run as a broadcaster was his proudly displayed Hall of Fame Award, an award the 6-foot-eight Mahl nearly broke down in tears accepting. One of this year’s honorees wrote, “Buffalo Bob Smith, Irv Weinstein, Joey Reynolds, and now me. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.” Not dreaming, only taking your rightful place among Buffalo’s Greatest.

After nearly a decade honoring nearly 60 people with induction into our Hall of Fame, we relish that we’re able to celebrate the history of Radio and Television, and at the same time, say Job Well Done to those who richly deserve it… Those who have told us the news that has impacted our lives, told us what the score was, told us whether to grab an umbrella, and even played a little music to make that long car trip to Auntie’s house a little more enjoyable.

Rich Kellman
Rich Kellman

For 31 years (and ticking), Rich Kellman has maintained the bar for not only journalistic excellence, but also for humanity, sensitivity, and empathy in reporting.

Kellman’s long list of professional awards includes Emmys, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and Associated Press Awards in Individual, Investigative, and Feature Reporting. He’s also met Popes and Presidents. While those professional milestones alone would likely make Rich a candidate worthy of the Hall of Fame, it’s his knack to connect with people, and his sheer joy in telling their stories that makes him that much more special.

Since 1974, Rich has been the constant Channel 2, and no matter the cast around him, has always left viewers with the feeling “Someone in that little box really cares for me.” And the best part about Rich Kellman is… That he really does.

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.

Billy & Reggie Keaton  2005 Golden Age Award
Billy & Reggie Keaton
2005 Golden Age Award

Like many of radio’s pioneers, Billy Keaton‘s foray into the medium came in the pre-war days when he adapted his Vaudeville routine into the highly popular “Stuff and Nonsense” program on WGR Radio. His success turned a temporary Buffalo assignment permanent. After the war, Billy’s wife Reggie joined the act, and the two hosted the “Mr. and Mrs. Show” for a decade.

While the Keatons’ voices were familiar throughout the ’40s and ’50s, their faces were soon popular as well. As a long time WGR Radio fan favorite, Billy was the natural choice to welcome the first viewers to WGR-TV in 1954. Billy and Reggie also hosted several Cable TV talk shows through the years, leaving a legacy of 55 years of entertaining Western New York. Billy Keaton passed away in 1976, Reggie 19 years later in 1995.

It takes more than just a pretty face or golden voice to put on a radio or television program, and with the Behind the Scenes Award, the BBP celebrates the folks who are the guts of any broadcast: The directors, producers, photographers, writers, engineers… All the often nameless, faceless people on “the other side of the glass.”

Al Lafler 2005 Behind the Scenes Award
Al Lafler
2005 Behind the Scenes Award

Several generations of Buffalonians grew up with the rock’n roll music and fun of WKBW Radio. From 1958 to 1988, one man had his hand on the rudder of the production sound that allowed KB to stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Al Lafler‘s interest in radio began when he served in World War II as a Navy sonar man. After a few years around the dial, Al knocked on the door at KB and was hired on the spot. He spent then next thirty years as an engineer and production man at the station.

It was partially his credo, “Good enough isn’t good enough,” that gave KB such a great sound over the years… But it was also his warmth and kindness that allowed him to enforce that credo without ruffling the sometimes delicate sensibilities of some of Buffalo’s biggest radio stars. It all made for a backbone that allowed the stations personalities shine even brighter.

The Goodyear Award is named in honor of George Goodyear, the Buffalo philanthropist who co-founded WGR-TV, and is awarded each year to those in Broadcasting’s front office who have made a career of advancing the ideals of the BBP.

Bill McKibben  2005 Goodyear Award
Bill McKibben
2005 Goodyear Award

Bill McKibben spent a career as a trailblazer. As General Manager at WGR Radio in the mid 60’s, he helped develop the city’s first news/talk format, a quarter century before talk would revolutionize AM Radio. When he and some investors purchased WEBR Radio in the 70s, they put Buffalo’s First Oldies Format on the air… Again a decade before a full-time Oldies became widely accepted.

Between assignments at WGR and WEBR, McKibben modernized the WBEN properties… Both Radio and Channel 4. While the Buffalo Evening News had been a pioneer in putting the stations on the air, they hadn’t done much by the mid-60’s to compete in the market. McKibben brought in viewer and listener research, and helped turn around a franchise that was on the precipice of abyss. It was Bill’s idea, for example, to move Chuck Healy to the news desk from sports, which helped ratings soar.

Known as a tough management negotiator despite having grown up in a union home, most who worked with Bill agree that he always made every attempt to hire the best, and then let them do their job unfettered.

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.

Paul Maguire  2005 Buffalo Bob Smith Award
Paul Maguire
2005 Buffalo Bob Smith Award

Since 1964, when he was traded to the Bills, Paul Maguire has been a Buffalonian. Since his retirement from football in 1970, Maguire has used his suburban Buffalo home as the home base for a sports broadcasting career that is incredible if only based on its 35 year longevity.

The fact that he never softens the edges, added to his feistiness and humor have always meant that his Color Commentary has certainly offers more “color” than any other Analyst in football. A “lunch bucket” player and a “lunch bucket” broadcaster has made “lunch bucket” Buffalo proud to call him “One of us” for over 40 years.

Jim Santella
Jim Santella

A smart, interesting friend on the radio. In that regard, Jim Santella is like many other great disc jockeys over the years… He’s someone who has transcended the microphone and speaker to make the listener feel like they were having a real conversation.

What continues to set Jim apart is his soft-spoken approach mixed with a strong, yet somehow universally appealing, sense of social awareness. As the voice and leader of Progressive radio in Buffalo for parts of three decades at stations like WYSL-FM, WPHD-FM, WGRQ-FM, WZIR-FM, and WUWU-FM, Santella lead the rebellion against playlist conformity and management meddling. It more than once forced him up or down the dial, but people followed.

Agree with him or not; like the music or not, a certain magnetism draws you in to a Santella broadcast. It was a style that helped shape, and continues to shape, the sound of FM radio in Buffalo.

We always welcome new members to the Buffalo Broadcasters. 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 $30, 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 to general public at $50 per person, and $40 for members. Send your ticket order or membership request with payment to:
The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers
5672 Main Street
Williamsville, NY 14221

Steve Cichon is a Past President of the Buffalo Broadcasters, and currently serves on the group’s Board of Directors. He’s also a news anchor and reporter for WBEN Radio, and is webmaster at staffannouncer.com, a website celebrating broadcasting history.

Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers: 7th Annual Hall of Fame Inductions

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This article was published in Living Prime Time Magazine.

may03Every May for the past six years, the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers gather to celebrate the history and future of Buffalo Broadcasting.

We honor the great broadcasters of the past… Those for whom we have the fondest memories, and the mere mention of their names help us hearken back to a place where time has helped to round the harsh edges. They are the faces and voices that brought us news of wars beginning and ending, plants opening and closing, people being born and dying, and, all the music and sounds associated with those events in our minds.

It’s also our mission to celebrate those in television and radio today who keep the spirit of the media alive. It takes a special person to shine above the numerous television, radio, and internet choices of this day and age, and those who shine today are tomorrow’s fond memories.

The broadcasters who bring and have brought sounds and pictures into our living rooms, into our cars, and under our pillows (when we should have been sleeping!) are really just as much a part of events as the memories themselves. The following are this year’s best of the best… The 2003 Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame inductees.

 

beach.jpg (10242 bytes)Sandy BEACH

Beach has made a career of straddling the line of the conservative tastes of Buffalo, and has never let office or city hall politics get in the way of a good show. It’s that desire for great radio, no matter the cost, that has allowed Sandy to be a Buffalo radio fixture for 35 years with only a few interruptions.

Sandy came to WKBW from Hartford in 1968. Within 6 years, according to a 1972 interview, 2002 BBP Hall of Famer Jeff Kaye said that Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”

His quick wit and infectious laugh have been a part of Western New York ever since at KB, WNYS, Majic 102, and now afternoon drive on WBEN.

A native of Lunenberg, Massachusetts (hence his long time sign off, “Good Night Lunenberg….Wherever you are”), Sandy’s made his impact for over a third of a century in Buffalo radio as a jock, in programming, and now in as a talker, and always as a wise-guy friend just a dial twist away.

 

Tim Russert headshotTim RUSSERT

2003 Buffalo Bob Smith Award

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.

This year we honor the host of Meet the Press, NBC’s Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief, and South Buffalo native Tim Russert. A lawyer by trade, the Canisius High School grad worked in the Senate and in Governor Mario Cuomo’s office before joining NBC as a producer in 1984. He joined the NBC News air staff in 1990, and has been a fixture ever since. As one of the nation’s leading political analysts, Russert has been the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, and we celebrate him because through it all, he’s never forgotten the Queen City.

 

carolCarol JASEN

She’s the smart, beautiful, authoritative and street savvy woman all women would love to be… and all men would love to marry. Combined with the sense and skill of a good newswoman, her career as a news anchor was a homerun. Voted Buffalo’s Sexiest Woman too many years in a row to count, Carol transcended both television and news to become the unofficial Queen of Buffalo while anchoring the news on Channel 4 for 23 years. Her appeal as a newscaster and person is on many different levels…

Carol Crissey came to Buffalo from Harrisburg, PA in 1979, originally paired with John Beard at the anchor desk. Carol anchored the news at noon, 5, 6, and 11, with the likes of Beard, Bob Koop, Rich Newberg, and Kevin O’Connell until she “retired” to New Mexico last year.

 

webbHarry WEBB

2003 Golden Age Award

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.
Harry Webb came to Buffalo from Schenectady as a classic music announcer on the new WBEN-FM. At the same time, the Evening News was starting a television station. Webb was Channel 4’s first newscaster, when the broadcast days began at 12 noon, and involved reading the latest edition of the Buffalo Evening News to an audience of several hundred.

By the time Webb retired from newscasting in 1972, he had seen and been a part of the change of television from an avant garde indulgence of a few wealthy families to the modern global apparatus and definitive of disseminator information it is today. Webb recently passed away after several years of retirement in East Aurora.

 

leviteLarry LEVITE

2003 Goodyear Award

The Goodyear Award is named in honor of George Goodyear, the Buffalo philanthropist who co-founded WGR-TV, and is awarded each year to those in Broadcasting’s front office who have made a career of advancing the ideals of the BBP.

Larry Levite spent the 1970’s moving up and down Buffalo’s radio dial breathing new life (and ratings!) into stations like WYSL, WPHD, and WEBR.

When, in 1978, federal regulations forced the Buffalo Evening News to sell off its radio and television stations, Levite formed Algonquin Broadcasting to fill the void, and purchased WBEN AM/FM. Larry continued the tradition of the News stations by bringing in top quality talent in all facets of broadcasting, and did so through the deregulation of the broadcasting industry, until selling the stations in the mid 90s.

whalenTom WHALEN

2003 Behind the Scenes Award

It takes more than just a pretty face or golden voice to put on a radio or television program, and with the Behind the Scenes Award, the BBP celebrates the folks who are the guts of any broadcast: The directors, producers, photographers, writers, engineers… All the often nameless, faceless people on “the other side of the glass.”

For nearly thirty years, Tom Whalen was the man playing the records and turning the dials for “Yours truly Buehly” on WBEN Radio. Whalen served in the Army Air Corps during World War II on the communications staff, and joined WBEN in 1947.

Soon after, he grew into Clint Buehlman’s right hand man, and remained there until Clint’s retirement in 1977. Part of the reason Buehlman’s show sounded like he was talking to each person individually, is because he was talking to Tom individually about the weather, Tom’s kids… Your AM-MC said often that Tom “was the nicest man he knew,” and it came across in Clint’s warm chats with Tom. Whalen retired in 1983 leaving a 36 year legacy as one of radio’s nice guys, making one of Buffalo’s greatest radio personalities comfortable, and thereby making you comfortable every morning.

 

We always welcome new members to the BBP. 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 $40 per person. Send your ticket order or membership request with payment to: The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers; 5672 Main Street; Williamsville, New York 14221.