Legendary radio voices find memories on the dial
Newington (AP) - Modern-day satellite radio and televisions that pause and fast forward through commercials; these contrivances aside - the discussion at Paradise Pizza on East Street on a recent night was about a much slower, simpler time in broadcasting.
The Newington Kiwanis assembled a variety of newscasters, TV and radio personalities both young and old, for a nostalgic stroll into the old days for the club's monthly public forum.
The evening's most esteemed guests were "A Bunch of Old Broadcasters" - folks who spent many years in the business and who meet at Hartford's legendary Arch Street Tavern monthly to revel in the old days.
The group spent the evening sharing memories of local airway icons like Mitch Betters, Bob Steele, Bob Ellsworth, Ben Hawthorne, Una King, Ivor Hugh, Dick Bertel, Arnold Dean, Charlie Parker and others.
Brad Davis, who this year celebrated his 35th anniversary as the morning man on WDRC-AM, was a guest speaker. Davis recalled the day he was hired by WTIC as a young man, igniting a flurry of laughter across the room.
"I walked into the set and said, 'I don't know anything about the teleprompter or microphones,"' said Davis, rehashing his reaction to a commercial for "Friend's Beans' during which he told the man who would soon be his boss that his grandmother used the brand to make her signature hot dogs once a week, a quirky move that ended up earning him his position with WTIC.
Davis' commentary led into that of former Channel 30 News anchor and WTIC-AM (1080) broadcaster Bill Hennessy, who was 22 when he was first hired by the station.
Hennessy, who co-emceed the event with Steve Parker (the son of the late-great Charlie Parker of WDRC) offered the media professionals in the room some wise advice about an industry he had far-reaching history in:
"If you are honest and tell the truth and are loyal to your sponsors and your audience, you'll succeed."
Hennessy went on in his career to win an Emmy for his investigative prowess in a refugee story, citing "passion, inspiration and hope" as three qualities any radio personality should possess when addressing their listeners.
Although Arnold Dean came sauntering in a few minutes late, it didn't forestall the enthusiastic applause that broke out as soon as the large group saw the familiar figure in television and radio for almost 65 years arrive. Dean founded WTIC SportsTalk in 1976 and went on to talk with favorites like Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.
When Dean was handed the microphone at Monday night's program, he shared his memories of interviewing all the big band greats, like Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, and chronicled moments from an unforgettable Red Sox game in 1977.
But one of the Rocky Hill resident's more notable interviews was with former White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Many of the guests who attended the evening knew each other, but hadn't been in touch in years. Program Chairman Al Cohen, a long-time Kiwanis member, was happy to see old friend Ivor Hugh, who was music director at WCCC (AM) for over 10 years starting in the early "'50s and also known for his "Good Evenin' Good Music' program on WJMJ.
"One of my greatest joys is having listeners make requests," said Hugh, who just celebrated his 85th birthday.
"In all my years of broadcasting, the thing I loved most about radio is it's so personal," he added. "You're in the car and the person you're listening to becomes your friend. I don't think any new technology can take that away."
Phil Callan, a former broadcaster with WMMW-AM, WRCQ-AM and WDRC-FM, was another guest speaker.
"I had a lot of fun in radio. I like to tell people I never made a lot of money but I never got up in the morning dreading going to work," he remarked.
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