By Steve Cichonsteve@buffalostories.com@stevebuffalo
The essence of Buffalo Stories is defining and celebrating the people, places, and things that make Buffalo… Buffalo.
That’s Buffalo’s pop culture heritage-– and that’s what you’ll find as you scroll through these stories or search the collected works of one of WNY’s most prolific pop culture historians of the last decade for something specific…
Bills Safety Jordan Poyer and sportswriter Jerry Sullivan have been going back and forth for a couple of weeks now… But there’s nothing new under the sun.
I recorded this 1997 postgame exchange between Jerry and Bruce Smith at the WBEN studios on Elmwood Avenue from a live feed coming from Rich Stadium.
With the static from our wireless microphones, it’s hard to hear exactly what Jerry is asking Bruce, but most of Bruce’s response is pretty clear. “You a punk ass motherfucker once you get (interference),” said Bruce, to the laughter of the assembled reporters, photographers and players.
“I know you’re going to say it,” said Bruce. “I know you ain’t gonna stop.” The first clear words we hear from Sullivan on the tape are, “(something) stop being an asshole…”
To which Smith replied, “Oh, I’m the asshole! I’m the asshole! Oh yeah,” before turning to another reporter and calmly telling him, “Go ahead, man.”
That year, I produced Bills games on the radio. For years, we’d run the postgame show without a delay. My timing or the exact order of events might be off, but I think we started running a delay on the player press conferences after Thurman Thomas stormed away from the podium microphone one time yelling something close to, “half of you ain’t ever put on a jockstrap,” but with the word “fuck” worked in there somehow.
I think I have that audio somewhere, but I couldn’t find it today.
Anyway, that running live on the radio earned me a strongly-worded note from my boss about trying to make sure to avoid those sorts of words going out on the air if possible.
When this Bruce Smith interview aired live, I was able to “dump” out of delay—so the WBEN audience never heard Bruce Smith call Jerry Sullivan a “punk-ass motherfucker” on the radio. The problem was, with the 1970s technology we were using at the time, there was no way for me to hit dump a second time so quickly and avoid allowing Jerry and Bruce calling each other assholes on the radio.
Back in those days, while there were relatively few ways to hear or see full press conferences, it just so happened one of the local tv stations—I don’t remember whether it was 2, 4, or 7—aired this press conference live on its post-game show.
The complete exchange between Bruce and Jerry was aired live on TV and talked about for weeks on sports radio talk shows on WBEN and WGR—as well as in letters to the sports editor as published every week in the Sunday News.
For more than 140 years, Erie County has held prisoners on Delaware Avenue between Eagle and Church streets.
The Erie County Jail was built in 1877 with room for 200 prisoners. It was connected by an underground passage with what was then Buffalo City Hall (and is now old County Hall and the County courthouse).
The current holding center building was built on the spot in 1938.
I don’t remember exactly how it started on the air, but I know that back in the early/mid-90s, when I was the producer of One-On-One Sports with Chris “The Bulldog” Parker on WBEN, I was buying up as many obscure albums as I could from Salvation Army and AMVETS thrift shops—including polka albums with interesting cover art of great song titles.
At some point, with me going through these albums, Chris must have said—we should have a Friday Night Polka—so we did.
The show closed with a polka every Friday night, and we
eventually had a good rotation of songs about drinking and about Buffalo.
Heard here for the first time in more than 20 years—a medley
of the Friday Night Polkas from WBEN’s One-On-One Sports with the Bulldog.
We’d only play a minute or so from each selection at 10:59pm to close out the show—these are the minute long clips we’d play.
Chris and I really enjoyed the music– but we’d get side eye from the lovely call screeners Monica and Rose (which is really how most of the show went most nights anyway.)
On this track:
“Bulldog Talking Sports” theme
Bulldog welcomes you to a Friday night, 1996
Ice Cubes & Beer, Ray Budzilek & The Boys
Buffalo Polka, Krew Brothers Orchestra
No Beer in Heaven, Li’l Wally
Bartender Polka, Walter Solek
Meister Brau Polka, Li’l Wally
Why don’t you people give the ball scores?— from a complaining voicemail
The Bulldog theme is taken from an aircheck… and you can hear the ancient WBEN delay system folding back on itself as the theme music plays.
One of my personal all-time favorite moments in music came when the late, great Tony Krupski of the Krew Brothers played the Buffalo Polka on demand– and grinned from ear-to-ear when I sang along with him, knowing all the words because of this great Friday night tradition in Buffalo radio.
I saw news on Facebook today that Manny Ciulla has died.
Manny’s on Seneca Street was the kind of institution we need more of… run by the kind of man we need more of.
After my ol’man’s bar closed, Manny’s was the only ginmill where dad’d feel comfortable, because Mr. Manny was more than just a guy who pushed drinks over the bar– he cared about his customers and the people of the Seneca Street community like family.
“Mrs. Manny” made great pizzas and burgers, but Manny’s was a clearly a tavern. Still, when I’d stop in as a 12 or 13 year old and ordered a Birch Beer at the bar, there was nothing untoward about it– and I know Mr. Manny loved it, and he’d talk to me like he talked to my dad or my uncles.
I can’t imagine there’s anyone who knew Mr. Manny who didn’t love him. Just like Tony Scaccia at Tony the Barber and Gerry Maciuba at The Paperback Trading Post, Manny was one of those Seneca Street shopkeepers who made Seneca Street– where both grandmas lived– feel like home to a kid who moved seven times before sixth grade.
WBEN signed on the air September 8, 1930—90 years ago today.
The station’s birthday is important to me because the station
has played such an important role in my life as a listener, employee, and now
alumni of the station.
I first walked into the station as a 15-year-old intern, and
would spend the next five years working my way up through the producer ranks up
to what was the highest profile producer job in radio—producer of Buffalo Bills
Football with Van Miller and John Murphy. I also met and worked alongside the
woman who’d become my wife during those days on Elmwood Avenue.
Five years later, I returned to the station, this time in
the newsroom—and over the next decade I worked my way up to news director.
Through all my years in media, I always took special
pleasure in being able to share my passion for Buffalo and Buffalo Broadcasting
with the listeners of WBEN, and the station’s birthday, I’ve dipped into the
archives to share some of the stories I wrote and produced about WBEN and the
people we all listened to at 930am.
WBEN’s longest serving announcer
The 90th anniversary of WBEN’s first sign-on brings to mind
many of the stable and authoritative voices which have unflappably informed
Buffalo over those decades at 930am.
The longest tenured of those voices remains a daily fixture.
From her early days of airborne traffic reporting from the
Skyview 930 helicopter to the last two decades as morning drive host, Susan
Rose has been a steady, unwavering, and professional voice on WBEN and a clear
connection to the great news voices of generations past.
Rose is not your typical “radio star.” She’s never
wanted to be. It’s exactly that which makes her a fit in the pantheon of WBEN
“A superb anchor,” wrote Buffalo News critic
Anthony Violanti. “Reads the news with journalistic style and skill.”
After graduating from Buffalo State College and starting her
radio news career at Lockport’s WLVL, Rose joined WBEN in 1985.
Her blue-collar approach to journalism combined with 35
years of continuous, daily broadcasting on the station puts her in the same
rarified company as past WBEN greats, many of whom she regularly worked with
across the decades.
Mark Leitner and Ed Little were WBEN stalwarts and frequent
Rose co-anchors through the 80s and 90s.
The legendary Lou Douglas was at WBEN for 30 years before
retiring, overlapping a couple years with Rose.
After three decades at WKBW, John Zach spent another 18 years at WBEN, including 16 years co-anchoring “Buffalo’s Early News” with Rose.
While she doesn’t have that booming voice— once considered
the most important hallmark of the then all-male radio news profession— Rose’s
even and reliable presence has been featured on the station longer than any
broadcaster, including Clint Buehlman, who hosted mornings at WBEN for 34
Perhaps that’s part of the secret why Rose’s approach and
sound is still as upbeat and fresh as the day she walked through the studio
doors 35 years ago.
She doesn’t project her personality into the news. Through
her career—rather than stand out in front— she has allowed her writing,
editing, news judgement, and steady on-air presence to support the team.
It’s even fair to say Rose avoids the spotlight— but it’s
also fair to say when crisis strikes in Buffalo, there aren’t many voices on
the airwaves today which bring credibility and calm like hers can.
A recent WBEN bio said “it was always her dream job to
work for the number one news station in Buffalo.”
Today’s Marv Levy’s 95th birthday, and I was reminded by Greg Bauch on Twitter about a tape editing prank I did 25+ years ago.
Marv left a message for Howard Simon on the WBEN Sports voicemail along the lines of… “Hi Howard, it’s Marv Levy with the Bills, please give me a call back at 648-1800. Thanks.”
I edited out the “Howard” and left that on dozens of other people’s voicemails and answering machines. At least one friend forwarded it on to other people’s voicemails as well.
Listen to the actual message below:
The editing isn’t perfect, but it was also done before the days of digital editing. This was done with a grease pencil, a razor blade and Scotch tape– which, if I do say so myself, makes it even more incredible.
It took months to phase in the use of three-digit area code 716 for direct dialing across all of the Buffalo area, but quietly, a switch was flipped on Sept. 29, 1960 — and telephone users in Buffalo, Akron, Alden, Amherst, Boston, parts of Cheektowaga, Derby, East Aurora, Eden, Holland, Lackawanna, North Collins, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, Wanakah, West Seneca and Williamsville were all able to use direct dial service for long-distance calls.
Until that date, Western New Yorkers had to call the operator to be connected long distance.
Folks in Angola, Clarence, Grand Island, Hamburg and Lancaster had to wait a few more weeks, but soon, they too, were officially part of the “716.”
As a part of the move to direct dialing, the old exchange names for phone numbers were replaced with numbers. In Buffalo, the Amherst exchange became TF-2, and eventually 832. Grant became TT-4, eventually 884. Evergreen in Tonawanda became NX-4, which a few years later evolved into 694.
This list, as printed in the Courier-Express, was clipped and left near phones for years.
In November 1960, the work was complete.
“Through the wizardry of electronic marvels, the 244,000 customers of the New York Telephone Co. in the Buffalo area will be able their own long-distance telephone numbers starting precisely at 2:01 AM Sunday,” reported The News a few days before the final switch.
Our identity as members of the 716 tie into that day, when people gushed about the jet-age ability to simply pick up the phone and call any of the 60 million phones in the U.S. and Canada without the help of any other human beings.