I gave someone a little online job advice tonight. I don’t think it was well received. That’s fine. It made me think back to the way I got into the business. I’m sure I’ve told parts of this story, but never all at once.
I loved radio. I wanted to be a disk jockey and that’s what I became. I wanted to be one so much I foolishly dropped out of college during the height of Vietnam!
I lucked out with a good lottery number and was never called.
My friend Howard Lapides was responsible for me hearing about a weekend job at WSAR. I made minimum wage, around $2.50 an hour!
Radio was different then. I don’t think I can explain this to people in their 20s and 30s. There were larger-than-life personalities. People listened to the radio at home or when the family was together in the car. There was no real competing media!
I worked around-the-country in radio. I went from Fall River, MA to West Palm Beach, FL to Charlotte, Cleveland, Phoenix and Philadelphia. Eleven years in one sentence!
When I was on in Philadelphia the local TV stations provided minimal news and info in the morning–just a few minutes every half hour between seven and nine AM. Drivetime was the only daypart where radio had more audience than TV. Mornings in Philadelphia was my favorite radio job.
When the station I was on imploded I was left at a crossroads. I did some part time work then landed full time at an awful top-40 station. We sounded OK on-the-air, but the equipment was terrible and the integrity of the operation suspect. I needed out.
I had done little bits and pieces in front of a camera–minimal stuff. I put together a tape with everything I’d ever done. There was a PBS fundraiser, Popeye’s 50th Birthday Party (An “oto” which I hosted on WKBS Channel 48), a cheesy commercial I’d done and my audition for Evening Magazine on KYW in Philadelphia.
Getting the tape from KYW was critical. I’m not sure how I even convinced them to let me have it. I wish I remembered the EP’s name so I could thank her. She didn’t hire me, but she gave me the magic ticket I could show others.
On the tape I introduced a Richard Hart piece about folks who drove the length of the Americas. I brought a prop. It was a borrowed Jeep.
The EP liked it, but was scared it was a little too good to be true considering I had zero experience. I understand her angst. I would have learned quickly, but she couldn’t know that. Her worry was I was really an actor who’d memorized my part and wouldn’t be able to do the improv necessary in the field.
That tape got me two offers. One was from West Virginia. Though it’s “Almost Heaven” it scared me. I said, “No.”
Instead I accepted an offer from Buffalo to host PM Magazine. Thanks Farrell and Vicky.
PM was an on-location show. My job was to intro packages produced by other people. Every week or two I produced a story.
I’m a good producer now. I wasn’t then.
Four wheel drive vehicles weren’t readily available in the early 80s. Instead we traveled in a two wheel drive Dodge Van through the horrific weather of Buffalo and Western New York! Buffalo’s saving grace is its lack of hills.
Hosting PM Magazine/Buffalo was an interesting job. I have been to Niagara Falls more than most people you know. I have gone to Canada for Chinese food. I have changed clothes in tiny bathrooms everywhere and lost all sense of modesty.
One season on our last show before Christmas break we taped a series of “ins-and-outs” at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base. We were using a parked helicopter as a prop.
It was windy and cold and my lips froze! I couldn’t bend them to properly form words. I have never been colder in my life. Brutal.
After a few years I realized outdoors wasn’t for me and wangled my way into weekend weather. I did both PM and weather for a while. It was great for me, but upset my PM bosses who started shooting without me.
At first I knew nothing about weather. I did realize it had lots of upside potential. I set out to learn as much as I could. Later I went back to school for six semesters and became a meteorologist. Now I have the AMS Broadcast Seal of Approval.
We came to Connecticut in the spring of 1984. It was going to be another stopping point on my trip to wherever. It didn’t turn out that way. There was no reason to leave.
People tell me all the time it looks like I enjoy my job. I do. After all these years I still like being on TV.
I like being an entertainer, but my goal is to leave you with actionable information on the weather.
My hope is I’ve figured out where the line between entertainment and information lies. It’s in a different place every night. I try to be appropriate.
I hear from a lot more of you since going to FoxCT. It’s funny how some of what I do which resonates most with viewers (including my science pieces) are things I was discouraged from doing in the past.
When the whole tumult came this past winter I considered leaving local TV. I think I could have. Helaine pointed out there was still plenty of shows still in me. She was right.