On The Passing Of Steve Fredericks

Steve Fredericks died this weekend. Pancreatic cancer. That is not the way I want to go.

Steve Fredericks played a large part in my life, which makes it strange this is the first time I’m mentioning him in the blog.

Back in 1969 I was officially a student, but really just living in a dorm and enjoying Boston. Steve was a liberal talk show host on WMEX.

Imagine WKRP brought to life. That was WMEX!

The station was owned and run by Mac Richmond, possibly the oddest man to ever own a station. He knew the price of everything and watched every penny. Really, every penny!

The station facility reflected Mac’s thriftiness. 111 Broadway was the Mac of buildings! It was foolishly designed by California architects who forgot Boston had winter. During one January you could see your breath.

There was a non-working water fountain in the talk studio. Rather than repair it Mac had a sign made proclaiming its inoperability!

At 1510 kHz WMEX was high up on the AM dial with a poor signal that covered little of the market. After dark you would often hear out-of-town stations overriding WMEX on monitors inside the building! Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

Fredericks worked in a studio designed for talk with its own entrance to Broadway in Boston’s “Combat Zone.” On the door was lettered “Steve Fredericks and,” then an obviously skipped line followed by, “Auditorium.” There was originally another host who shared the room. When he left Mac decided to save money and kept “and” for the next guy.

There never was a next guy.

Fredericks was in his late 20s or early 30s when I met him. He had curly hair, a bushy porn mustache and what I now realize was a Philadelphia accent.

He had a beautiful young girlfriend, Brenda, who later became one in a string of wives. Back then I had the hots for Brenda.

It was the late 60s. America was sharply divided between hawks and doves. There was always someone to battle on-air and Fredericks was a good battler.

At the time I thought he was great. Actually, I idolized him.

Along with my friend Howard Lapides (whose son was bar mitzvahed last weekend in Los Angeles) and my secret friend in the San Fernando Valley I was a “producer.” For $1.60 an hour we screened calls and escorted visitors in and out of the studio.

It was my first paying job in the business and I relished it.

Fredericks sometimes told the story of being pleasured by a woman, under the desk, while he was on the air. As the story went Steve was telling a caller the war in Vietnam was “immoral” as he reached bliss. He would stretch out the word “i-m-m-o-r-a-l” for effect.

Was it true? Who knows. Back then I believed it. That’s when it counted.

Steve’s real name was Steven Frederick Oxman. The three of us knew that. It was our secret which we quickly spread to anyone who’d listen. It was our radio bona fides.

$1.60 an hour jobs were meant to be short term. It wasn’t long before I moved away and lost touch with Steve. I caught up again a decade later when he was arrested.

Steve was now a sports talk show host back home in Philly at WIP. He was arrested in North Philadelphia after buying $5 of heroin!

I called him. As I remember my side of the conversation went…

“Steve, I understand some people get in strange places with drugs and I feel bad for you, but $5 worth? Really? You were busted for $5 worth?”

He told me the story. The details have faded, but it wasn’t like a cop writing you up for 65 when you were doing 80. Steve was really busted for $5 worth of smack.

As far as I know he got straight and drugs were now a distant memory.

It’s because of my work for Steve Fredericks that I got to hang out at a radio station. It’s where I really wanted to be. Thank you, Steve.

He was a smart guy. He was a good radio guy.

He had more talent than career. That’s a shame.

When Steve smiled and tugged a little on his ‘stache you could believe the under the desk story. Every word.

15 Responses to “On The Passing Of Steve Fredericks”

  1. Susie says:

    What a beautiful tribute Geoff to an old friend. Makes me sad I’ll never know him and I’m sure others will feel the same way. I’m sure he had many stories to tell. RIP Steve.

  2. Chris says:

    Steve-o is and always will be a true Philly legend.
    The last of the best of…

  3. Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing a very unique and very personal story. Did your path ever cross with Steve during his early WCAU days (while you were on WPEN)? I recall his early evening sports-talk show on 1210 while I was working “down the shore.” It was required listening as I drove up the Atlantic City Expressway toward the Vet.

  4. Susa K says:

    Thanks for sharing this amazing story with us. The animals look so happy and healthy. I have a friend that works for this shelter and is one of the hardest most dedicated people I have ever met. If you want a happy and healthy pet you should visit this shelter. The video was amazing and I still have a smile on my face. Thank you for sharing this personal story with us. :)

  5. Bob says:

    I think everyone has a person that had an effect on their life.

  6. Maureen says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. You brought back memories long tucked away in the back of my mind. I don’t exactly remember Steve but WMEX and The Combat Zone I do! I grew up on the North Shore and moved to Boston on “The Hill” when I was 18 the summer of ’70 and thought I had grown up!! I loved it all and sometimes wish for a time machine if only for a brief visit again. I’m sorry you lost a mentor. RIP Steve Fredericks.

  7. James says:

    I remember Steve’s WMEX Boston show vividly. He was on the air in the late 1960s and he was smart, hip and completely plugged in. He articulately made his points. He was against the Vietnam war at a time when most AM talk hosts were waving the flag.
    He interviewed John Lennon with the skill of any rock journalist.

    WMEX was legendary in Boston. It was a highly-directional station going mostly north from their coastal transmitter location, and tough to get in just about every other direction, especially at night. And yes, they were stuck right between two 50,000 watt flamethrowers on 1500 (Washington) and 1520 (Buffalo) so at night their signal was hit on both sides.

    But they were always one of the most popular stations in the region.

    Why?

    Mac Richmond, although a genuine whack job, knew talent. Among the rock jocks that passed through the halls were Arnie Ginsburg, Larry Lujack, Charlie Tuna, J.J. Jeffries, Jack Gale, Ed Hider, Larry Justice, Dick Summer, Jack Armstrong and Bud Ballou to mention only a few.

    They went talk after 10 PM with first Jerry Williams, and later Steve Fredericks, followed by Larry Glick overnight. Wow.

    Steve was a real pro. Should have followed Williams, Glick and Justice to WBZ, but he returned to Philly where he was probably better off.

    Like I said, a real pro.

  8. David says:

    I remember Steve fondly. As I remember, he first appeared on Boston radio as the host of a sports show & then transitioned to political talk which he was quite accomplished at. It was a loss for Boston when he returned to Phil. Tried to contact him several years ago, but sadly not able to.
    Sorry to hear of his passing.

  9. al lawrence says:

    i remember steve in boston when i was 20, along with jerry williams, larry glick and paul benzaquin. i was young, not very politically savvy at that time, liberal as all young people were then. i listened to them all not for the politics, but to be entertained. later, listening to gene burns, i became a registered Libertarian (thankfully). now very conservative, as i now know how the world works. god speed, steve, jerry, paul, larry and david brudnoy

  10. I believe that blank space after “and” was originally filled by “Jerry Williams.” I believe Steve’s show followed Jerry’s.

  11. John Maguire says:

    Hi Geoff,

    In a moment of nostalgia, I searched Google with Steve’s name and thus got the news. I am saddened to learn of his passing. I had read about Larry’s passing a few years ago. I live in the San Francisco Bay area so this news rarely reaches this side of the country.

    I was one of your predecessors at WMEX. The pay was $1.25 at the time when I was the “Producer” of the Steve Fredericks Show from 1965-1966. It was also my first job in broadcasting.

    I primarily worked Steve’s shift, however, I prepped Larry for the transition at 1 AM. I got to know them both well. Larry used to call me Sydney or Syd on the air. However, it was an amazing opportunity doing the background work at WMEX.

    Max was a tyrant. Unforgiving and intrusive. I learned how to type by taking pages of dictation from him on the phone which was delivered to Steve for reading on the air. Steve would read it and toss it in the trash. Then I got the brunt from Max because he thought I didn’t deliver the copy. But he never fired me. I left after a dispute over the low pay while I was prepping “Best Of” taped shows for broadcast while Steve or Larry was on vacation.

  12. Dave says:

    I HATE being forced to use someone else’s thing to merely make a remark to another, so trying just to see if this will work. Thank you.

  13. Dave says:

    So old, so happy I can actually talk, or yell at, someone without some 27-year old trillionaire making me use his/her stuff. OK, Steve Fredericks. EYE remember him on WBZ in, yes, late 1963, which had a tower in Western MA to boost the signal. Please don’t tell me I’m senile; I remember. What I remember most is his famous “..You Jerk!! What a Jerk!!”. Then he would hang up. I learned a lot then and after, particularly: they control the audio, they control the video, so don’t bother calling up a talk host and expecting an even playing field. Jerry Williams was brilliant but foamed at the mouth regularly, was very pleasant during my one brief call.
    BJ under the desk. I got a better one. Went to a Boston night school for broadcasting for several months 40+ years ago. Most instructors worked at WMEX. Park Square, Boston, tip of the Combat Zone. Well, those who remember remember the wrap-around huge windows in that flat-iron building thing. You know, watch the DJ or announcer from the street. Funniest story follows.
    Late,late one bitterly cold night, minutes after the bars closed by law, big flabby young guy comes up, stands at window, stares at our instructor while he is announcing the news. Calmly pulls his wang out, begins urinating on the window. Heat plus cold, giant crack goes up the window. Guy is drunkenly laughing like a maniac. Our very professional, well-known teacher said this was the only time in his career he began laughing, had to interrupt his newscast! How’s that for funny?
    Another funny one was turning on WBCN in, I think, early 1970 and hearing nothing but bird sounds. You know, like they set the mike up in the Westford Avian Santuary or something. Many, many minutes later, the then-common “..be cool, be cool man” voice comes on – WBCN studios were then also near Park Square, over Flashe’s restaurant – and whispers to us: “…Like, we’re like so sorry for the interruption. There’s a very drunk, very angry man who snuck up the stairs and got into our studio, and we’re trying to reason with him in a holistic or something way”. Memory Lane. Adios.

  14. Dave says:

    testing to see if this works, since yesterday it was rejected. Long enough?

  15. Dave says:

    This is good, not a big deal. Simply, my prior remarks may indicate senility, but I think I meant WEZE, not WMEX. Thanx.+

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