Pioneer announcer and journalist Lou Douglas has died. He was 85.
The Korean War vet came to WBEN-AM/FM/TV in 1957 and his unflappable, smart, level-headed approach to news anchoring and interviewing was part of the fabric of the station for 30 years. Douglas was considered by most as the dean of broadcast journalists.
In his early years as a junior announcer at The Buffalo Evening News stations, television still played second fiddle to AM radio. Many of his early assignments were on Channel 4, including regular 6pm walks from WBEN’s Statler studios to The Buffalo Evening News’ building near the foot of Main Street. There, he’d read the 6 o’clock news as prepared by The News’ staff, broadcast–as was announced at the beginning of each newscast– “From the Editorial Floor of the Buffalo Evening News.”
Douglas would continue to appear as a reporter, host, and announcer on TV through the 1970s, but he is best remembered for his work at WBEN Radio.
It was his voice that anchored coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Buffalo in 1962. He broadcast from inside the prison complex during the Attica uprising. Living in Kenmore, his home was closest to the WBEN’s Elmwood Avenue studios– which meant extended duty for Lou during the Blizzard of 1977.
He always sounded even-keeled on the air, and was the same way in the newsroom, where he was remembered for reading the Wall Street Journal and never being afraid to pick up the phone to calmly make the most outlandish and seemingly impossible interview requests for his afternoon and evening interview spots.
In spanning three decades, Douglas really had two separate careers; one as a staff announcer, and one as a journalist. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the people you saw on Channel 4 and heard on WBEN were announcers– and only announcers. Union rules dictated that they could not and would not write their own news scripts or conduct news interviews or gather information.
By the mid-1970s, those rules had changed, and most of the “announcers” who had been bringing Buffalo news and weather since the ’40s and ’50s were gone. Not Douglas, though– his abilities as a staff announcer complimented his ability to gather the news, interview the newsmakers, and write his own newscasts.
He retired from WBEN in 1987, and spent a brief period at WWKB Radio a few years later before retiring for good.
In 2010, I spoke to Lou about his days in radio, and the possibility of the Statler building facing the wrecking ball. This interview wasn’t meant for broadcast, but is wonderful none the less. That interview, along with some career highlights, are listed for playback below. Please feel free to use any of the audio or photos in the celebration of Lou’s life in any media.
Steve with Lou Douglas, 2010:
WBEN’s Election 85 coverage: Kevin Keenan, Lou Douglas, Brian Meyer, Mark Hamrick, and John Murphy
WBEN News with Lou Douglas, 1973. Attica uprising, will Mayor Sedita resign?
WBEN News with Lou Douglas, January 1977. The Blizzard of ’77.
WBEN’s Coverage of JFK’s Visit to Buffalo, 1962. Lou Douglas live from Niagara Square.
It’s nearly inconceivable to me, but it was twenty years ago today. The letter that started my career at WBEN.
Update, April 20, 2018: marks the start of my 25th year in radio, and I’m so happy that it’s at WECK… what we do there feels a lot like the old full-service radio I grew up with… good music, straight forward news, and happy on the radio.As a 15 year old high school sophomore, I would have been happy getting a job at Tops.
But neither Tops nor Bells would hire someone under 16. My birthday wouldn’t come until the end of summer. I needed something to do for the vacation.
I’d been earning money for years already. Helping out at a used book shop. Helping a farmer down the street pick potatoes. Cleaning up cigarette butts and cutting curly fries at a nearby hot dog stand.
I liked working and I liked earning money.
But radio? Why not, I guess I thought.
I had always loved radio, and for the few years my dad’s job took us to Massachusetts, I had a friend whose dad worked in radio. We used to go to work with him when he was the Saturday morning jock on a big station in Boston.
As an 8 year old, my first real taste of living a life in radio came when I had to be ready for Mr. Bob to pick me up at 5am to head into WHDH. No problem. Loved every minute of it.
On those Saturday mornings, My friend Jarin and I would “do production” for the “station” we ran in his basement, made up of real, but cast-away decades-old radio equipment.
When my family moved back to Buffalo, and Jarin’s moved to Maryland, he gave me some of the castaway equipment, and I built a “radio station” of my own in my bedroom.
We’d each “do shows” on cassette and mail them back and forth to one another.
I was 7 or 8 years into that “radio career” when, during my “job search,” I was struck with an idea.
I have no idea from whence the thought of an internship came, but I loved radio, and wanted to work in radio, and that’s what I set out to do.
I opened the phone book, and called every radio station listed, asking for the station manager’s name.
When I say every radio station, I mean every single one. Buffalo. Springville. Lockport. Niagara Falls. Batavia. I just wanted to get in. Anywhere.
With those names in hand, I knew to whom I should address the letters I was about to write on our Tandy 1000EX computer. The one with 256k of memory.
It was quite a few 29 cent stamps.
The letter I wrote had to have been a classic 10th grader essay on my love for radio, and my knowledge of radio equipment, with, of course, some big words thrown in for good measure (because that’s how I’ve rolled for years now.)
So, somewhere between 15 and 20 of these letters went out. And I waited.
At the mail box everyday, I’m sure I looked like Ralphie looking for that Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.
If you think about that scene in a Christmas Story, when Ralphie excitedly says “My ring!!” and runs in the house, syrupy violin music comes in to set the scene.
In my mind, that same hokey musical accompaniment plays when I opened the mailbox to find that gleaming white WBEN stationery staring at me, with my own name typewritten on the front.
It was providence. The station I listened to, the station I loved, was the only station to respond. At all. The only letter I got.
Its really almost unfathomable.
Think of some bad sitcom where a kid has a dream about pitching for the Yankees.
The focus is soft and fuzzy around the edges.
The kid’s sitting on the bench when Billy Martin, wearing a blue hat (but without a Yankees emblem) points at him and hands him the ball.
But, instead of the Yankees manager saying, “You’re in, kid!” in a dream, I got the real deal.
There really couldn’t have been anything better than getting a letter from Kevin Keenan inviting me to WBEN. And there was that letter, right there in my hands.
I’ll never forget that first day. Kevin looked like a 1993 radio newsman from central casting; white shirt, tie, suspenders.
We talked about WBEN, and I can’t imagine how hilarious it was to have a 15 year old know your programming inside out, talking about how my alarm clock was set for 6:23am, so I could wake up to the Osgood File.
He loved that I had called “Ask the Mayor” only a few days before, and had talked to him and Mayor Griffin about one of the big issues of the day: The debate over whether Jay Leno or David Letterman should replace Johnny Carson.
I showed him I knew how to put up a reel of tape, and how to bulk erase a cart.
On the tour around the station, I met sports man Rick Maloney, and sat in to watch a Craig Nigrelli/Helen Tederous newscast.
I was floored when Kevin offered me the chance to intern during the summer.
What a summer of triple bus transfers from Orchard Park to North Buffalo… And my dad acting as my radio chauffeur.
Eight or nine hour days, every day, all summer. I learned from everyone I met. Busted my hump with a smile. Loved every minute of it.
When I went to help set up WBEN’s remote at the Fair, Kevin gave me a WBEN t-shirt. I had earned it, and I loved it. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud to receive anything.
As I headed back to school, now a well-heeled Orchard Park High School junior, I was offered a weekend board operator job. Best of Limbaugh on Sundays.
Screw Tops. I was pulling in my $4.25 an hour working in radio. My heart is racing right now, thinking about the pride and satisfaction I felt.
I was living the Doogie Howser dream. And it’s continued from there.
That day in Kevin Keenan’s office 20 years ago today was my last job interview.
I’ve been tremendously blessed to have had so many mentors who’ve looked out for me, taught me their secrets, looked out for me, and allowed me to coattail along on their rides.
I feel a lot like a kid who went to bed waiting for one of those radio stations to respond to my letter, and woke up News Director at the radio station I really hoped would answer.
Everything I know about broadcasting, about radio, about TV, about journalism: I was taught either by direct instruction or by example from the tremendous people I’ve worked with at WBEN, Channel 4, and the Empire Sports Network.
I’d love to write about a few of the people, but it just wouldn;t be fair, because the list really has hundreds of names on it. I’m not sure how or why I’ve been so blessed, so lucky, to have so many amazing, talented people take an interest in my life and my career.
There’s not a single task I do every day that doesn’t carry along with it the embedded lessons of those people who’ve taken me in as an apprentice and son.
I’m like an orphan that was raised by the community. So much of any success I’ve had is because so many people own a piece of my success, but it couldn’t have happened without each on of them.
Twenty years of incredible luck and love. I’m not sure it’s fair that one person should be so blessed… But for two full decades now, I’ve been indescribably thankful, and mindful to never waste even a little bit of it.
I spent this 4th of July morning trying to figure out how to hang this classic WBS/Ward Beck Systems audio console from the wall of my garage, where it’s lived for most of the last 11 years or so. This was WBEN’s newsbooth board from the time of the 1974 remodel of the WBEN Radio studios until 2000, when WBEN moved to Amherst.
Over on Facebook, in posting this blog, I’d love to come up with a comprehensive list of the great WBEN personalities and newspeople who’ve regularly sat at this board. Just in the time I worked there from 1993-98, there was Kevin Keenan, Mark Leitner, Susan Rose, Tim Wenger, George Richert, Claudine Ewing, Kathleen Donovan, Brian Meyer, Mark Webster, Mike McKay, Howard Simon, Rick Maloney, Dave Kerner, Kevin Sylvester, Marty Biniasz, Joe Sviatko, Dave Debo, Michael Mroziak, my wife Monica Huxley, and of course Ed Little, who made the final WBEN broadcast from the Elmwood studios sitting at that board (See 1980s photo of Ed at the board below.)
Before my time there, great broadcasters like Jack Ogilvie, Jim McLaughlin, Lou Douglas, Virgil Booth, Fran Lucca, Marty Gleason, Stan Barron, Mark Hamrick, and a one-time WBEN radio newsman named John Murphy.
There are dozens that haven’t leapt to my mind, but believe me, this boat anchor has some history.
I got it from a friend… who bought it from a guy who garbage picked it (or maybe stole it?) when WBEN left its Elmwood Avenue studios for Corporate Parkway in 2000. The friend had hoped to use it in recording his band, but the truth is, the thing barely worked when it was in service. When he realized it was little more than a momento, he called me and I put it in my garage.
It’s been in the back of the garage, on the floor behind the snow blower and infamous Pepsi machine. It deserves better than that. And I got to thinking, that if there is some place better than my garage wall where it can be displayed, it should be.
I’m asking for ideas that you can help make happen. Where can we put this piece of Buffalo’s broadcast history for all to enjoy? To hang from the wall, you’d need a space four feet wide by 5 feet long. (Less than that, but I forget to measure.)
If we can find a legit public place, willing to hang it like the artwork it is… I’ll fix it so the lights light, the VU meters move, and maybe even the small cue speakers could play a loop of an old Clint Buehlman broadcast which people up close would be able to hear (optional). I would also work out any signage of addition display items that need to accompnay the piece.
It’s more than history… Its a cool retro art piece, really. I’m willing to permenantly or temporarily loan it to an appropriate place that wants to display it. It’ll be cool in my garage, but again, it really deserves better. Any takers?
By Steve Cichon | firstname.lastname@example.org | @stevebuffalo
People base their opinions on any given subject on the amount of information they know about that subject. Sometimes the knowledge is vast; sometimes not so much.
Over the last few days, I have found myself correcting factual or legal errors in people’s angry conversations and Facebook posts about the James Corasanti trial and verdict. In doing so, I’ve been accused of trying to stand up for Corasanti, of trying to encourage people to physically go after Corasanti, of making excuses for the jury, and of trying to encourage hatred towards jurors. A reporter is usually satisfied that he’s doing his job when he gets criticism from all sides.
At the end of one such volley on Facebook, I wrote something along the lines of “that I’m merely offering facts I know to be true from the courtroom, to try to make what some people are having a hard time understanding a little more understandable.”
Someone then asked if I understand. “Understand what,” I asked. Understand, he said, why the jury voted the way it did.
I don’t understand, but I think I might have a better insight than most. Over the last year and a half, I’ve sat through two big trials gavel-to-gavel (Muzzammil Hassan’s beheading trial and Riccardo McCray’s City Grill murder rampage), and sat through good portions of the Corasanti hearings and trial as well.
Covering and listening to a trial as a reporter isn’t all that different from listening to a trial as a juror.
I can tell you that sitting through a trial, you’re trying to keep track of dozens of different lines of questioning and trails of evidence, much of it presented and described in terminology and verbiage that is completely foreign. For legal reasons, it’s often presented in a way that is often painfully tedious.
It’s not Law and Order. Most testimony is boring and can quite often be confusing; especially when something refers back to something that happened days before, or uses unfamiliar jargon.
But that’s where it gets much easier for the media. Kinda like a jury gets to do at the end, we get to go into the hallway during the breaks, and discuss among ourselves what we just heard, and how to understand it. Quite often, we grab a lawyer walking by and ask him or her what this word means, or whether we understand something right.
On one occasion during the Corasanti trial, two defense lawyers whose names you’d recognize, gave us reporters completely different versions of what a single legal term meant. Even the lawyers can get a little confused.
I personally reported on the radio at least 3 times in the days and hours leading up to the Corasanti verdict that I was confused by something that went on in the court room. I ran right out of the courtroom to report on something said in “legalese” that was difficult to follow and synthesize, even with the help of my fellow reporters.
Jurors have it worse. At least journalists can talk it through with one another several times a day. Jurors have to suffer through their misunderstanding or desire to clarify a point or even just seek reassurance that they heard something properly. Jurors are not allowed to talk about a case to anyone, period, until deliberations begin.
Most of us can’t even get through an episode of Law and Order without asking our spouses if “that was the guy from earlier who did that…”
So after a month, with all the questions you might have swimming in your head, you are given two hours worth of legal instructions with so many parsed words and phrases put together in a way that satisfies the law, but not necessarily satisfies the understanding of every day people. In fact, for me, the explanations of the laws often obfuscate my understanding the law.
Having sat through a few trials, I know how the process is going to work, and I have my seatbelt fastened, and I still have a hard time keeping up with understanding the laws as the judge reads them. If you get caught on a bit and try to think it through, you miss the next bit. I can ask Claudine Ewing or Pete Gallivan in the hall. A juror adds it to a list of dozens of things he’s not clear on.
My point is, I can see how every day people who are jurors can walk into a deliberation completely dazed. All this incredible and contradictory information that your been hearing for a month. Where do you begin? I think for most people, you begin by listening to the guy with the biggest mouth, and see where that takes you. There was one juror who seemed more agitated that the rest, and I’ll bet he was among the first to do some talking.
Until you’ve sat through a month long trial, you can’t understand what it’s like. I’ve sat through a couple of humdingers, and I won’t pretend to understand what its like to be a juror on a case like this one.
And of course, if the defense has a pulse, there is always doubt. The difference between some doubt and a reasonable doubt is explained by the judge, but its legal language that isn’t in every day soeak, and it’s a few paragraphs in a few hours of legal explanations.
Every time the judge lets the jury off for lunch or a 5 minute break or to go home for the night, the instruction is always “don’t talk to anyone about the case; keep an open mind.” It’s not “use your gut, and don’t forget your common sense.”
Now if you’ve made it this far, you might be saying, what, was Cichon’s mother on the jury? No. I’m not making excuses for the jury, and I would guess that some jurors on the Corasanti trial or any of the others that I’ve covered might be angry with me for calling them confused. I’m not calling any juror confused.
I’m merely saying that it’s not an easy job being a juror, and I’m not really sure how fair it is to ask someone to be a juror in a month long trial like this one.
In my heart, having sat through some of the trial as a reporter, I know how I would have voted. However, if my seat was moved 10 feet to the left into the jury box, I know I wouldn’t have had the same grasp of the material presented. And given that, I certainly can’t say for sure how I would have voted.
Just unearthed! Recordings of entire days of WBEN Radio… Unheard since the days they were broadcast over 35 years ago! Names like Clint Buehlman, Van Miller and the NBA Buffalo Braves! Read on!
So where did these tapes come from? In 1995, Lin Television performed a massive cleanout of the 2077 Elmwood Avenue building they had just purchased as a part of their buying WIVB-TV.
Among the “treasures” I found dumpster diving, was a box of Reel-to-Rel tapes that appeared to be WBEN Radio Logger tapes from the early 70s. Many of the reels were blank… But even those with the audio intact were nearly useless… The tapes were recorded at 15/32 IPS. That is very slow, and at the time the tapes were rescued, the only way to hear the tapes properly involved about 4 hours of work for an hour of final product. For 13 years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to play these tapes back… And now… thanks to a new reel deck.. and some new digital audio editing programs, viola!
The audio quality is not the best… Its warbly sometimes… And it jumps quite a bit… And These logger tapes were in the Engineering Shop because there were problems with the recording…. But what is really amazing. Imagine your grandparents listening to WBEN all day… That’s what you get here. Things were slow to change at WBEN. Clint Buehlman’s Show in 1973 was not really all that different from the show in 1953. Van Miller is in great voice and cadence calling Buffalo Braves basketball. As far as I know, these are the only complete recordings of Braves basketball in tact.
Below, you’ll find exactly what and who is on these tapes… and some brief cuts from each.
One of the most often asked questions to this website is, “What was the name of Clint Buehlman’s theme song?” The answer is, there were dozens of light airy instrumentals that were used to open each hour of the Buehlman show, after newsman Jack Ogilvie introduced Your AM-MC after each newscast. Listen below for several such opens, along with other snippets from the Buehly.
Buffalo Braves Basketball
Another of those popular questions is Do you have any Braves Games? Apparently, the answer has been yes for quite a long time… only they’ve been stuck on tapes I couldn’t play. But now, I have at least three Braves games in their entirety.
Braves vs Lakers: December 19, 1973
Kareem Abdul Jabbar visits Memorial Auditorium
Braves vs Bucks: February 2, 1973
Wilt Chamberlain visits Memorial Auditorium
Some Highlights from WBEN Friday December 28, 1973
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!