Kevin O’Connell makes Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon

Kevin O’Connell

A Buffalo legend hung up his sweater vest after a quarter of a century last night.

Kevin O’Connell is certainly one of the people that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

“I’m not saying goodbye, just, ‘I’ll see you down the road,'” said O’Connell in a recorded message which aired during Channel 2’s 6pm newscast. He’s been the weather anchor on that show and the station’s lead weather personality for 25 years.

But Buffalo’s known O’Connell a lot longer than that. His media career started as a teen disc jockey at WYSL in the mid-60s, he eventually was the station’s program director.

He eventually made his way to WBEN Radio, where he hosted middays on the radio and was Channel 4’s main weather man during the Blizzard of 1977.

Among the innovations he brought to the Channel 4 weathercast was “Weather with A Beat.” He also hosted Channel 4’s “Disco Step-By-Step” show from Club 747 on Genesee Street.

In the recorded “goodbye” piece, O’Connell said that it was his final appearance on Channel 2, and that he wasn’t retiring, but that he did want viewers to know what he’s truly appreciated in his time at WGRZ-TV.

“Thank you very, very much for your loyalty and your viewership, and your comments both good and constructive,” O’Connell said. “The thing I think I’m most proud of– the millions of dollars that we were able to raise for charity. Not the Emmys or the Golden Mic awards, or the Edward R Murrow plaques, it’s the difference that we made together in our community.”

O’Connell is a 2007 inductee in the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Oct. 22, 1974: WYSL DJ Kevin O’Connell gets a promotion

He’s been known for decades as the grandfatherly weatherman on Channel 2.  But before that, Kevin O’Connell was a news anchor on Channel 4, and even before that, he made “Weather with a (disco) beat” a part of WBEN-TV weather forecasts in the 1970s.

Aside from the decade he spent in Los Angeles as a local TV weatherman and national game show host, O’Connell has spent most of the last 50 years on Buffalo airwaves.

Before joining the staff at Channel 4, the son of Buffalo’s city comptroller had worked around Buffalo’s radio dial as a rock’n’roll personality on stations such as WYSL, WEBR and WBEN. Forty years ago today, the ’70s mop-headed O’Connell was promoted to program supervisor at 1400 AM, where he was also playing the hits as a disc jockey.


Buffalo in the ’60s: The Gorskis and O’Connells; generations in the Buffalo limelight

Buffalo in the ’90s: Channel 2 anchors Laurie Lisowski and Rich Kellman

By Steve Cichon

Through the 1980s and ’90s, there were dozens of featured news anchors on Channel 2, but two of the most popular remain Rich Kellman and Laurie Lisowski. They were paired on the anchor desk at 5 p.m. in 1990.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

While Channel 2 was nearly wall-to-wall in the third-place news basement during Rich Kellman’s 32 years at the station, he was always a bright spot as ownership and other on air faces changed.

A reporter’s reporter with a slew of Emmy statues weighing down his mantle, Kellman’s strengths have always been in showing empathy without being sappy, being sensitive while still getting answers, and just being a human, friendly person in a medium where that can’t be taken for granted.

In her seven years at WGRZ, Lisowski was paired with no fewer than five co-anchors. She came to Channel 2 in 1989 after weekend duty at Channel 7, and within a year was replacing Alison Rosati as the station’s primary female anchor, on the desk for the 5 p.m. news with Kellman and the 11 p.m. news with Don Postles.

News critic Jeff Simon called her short-lived pairing with Nick Clooney as good as the best in Buffalo TV news history.  The father of George and brother of Rosemary, Clooney was only in Buffalo for four months in 1994 before he left for a job with cable TV’s American Movie Classics channel. Lisowski also worked alongside Ed Caldwell and Marty Aarons taking turns reading the WGRZ TelePrompTer.

Since leaving the anchor chair in 1996, Lisowski has appeared as a spokesperson for a handful of local businesses — but most visibly for Frey Electric, her husband’s family company.