J. Michael Collins
J. Michael Collins spent nearly 40 years at the helm of WNED-TV (Channel 17), mostly as president and chief executive officer, until his 1998 retirement. His relentless jawboning, both on the air and behind the scenes, boosted Channel 17 into household-w ord status throughout Western New York and nearby Canada. He’s nationally known as one of public TV’s most prodigious fundraisers and marketers. Collins engineered the station’s move to Horizons Plaza near the Waterfront. He also presided over the purch ase of WEBR AM-FM and the establishment of WNEQ-TV (Channel 23).
Jack Eno was the epitome of the soothing elegance and friendly community spirit of WEBR across almost four decades at that classic radio station. A crackerjack personality, quizmaster, newsman, drama director and program chief, he was one of local broadca sting’s most versatile performers and managers. Fresh out of school, Eno started in 1935 as WEBR’s "Olde Towne Crier," then lent his personal magic to every program he touched, including "Listen While You Lunch," "The Musical Food Basket," "Tel-o-Test," "Musical Showcase" and "The German Jamboree. "Under his distinctive direction, WEBR became "The Sound of the City" throughout the 1960s. Eno still was working daily at WEBR when he died in 1975 at age 62.
Starting her career at Channel 4 in 1950 while still a student at Amherst Central High School, Doris Jones scored many landmark accomplishments: Buffalo’s first female TV newscaster (at Channel 2 in the 1960s); Buffalo’s first weatherwoman (at Channel 59 in 1953); Buffalo’s first female TV staff announcer (at Channel 2 in the ‘60s); and host of Buffalo TV’s first audience-participation show ("For the Ladies" at Channel 7 in 1959). Doris also performed more than 10,000 commercials, many of them live, bet ween 1950 and 1972, and appeared coast-to-coast for dozens of national advertisers. In a stunning body of work, she also hosted everything from game shows and public affairs to musical specials and "Romper Room" through the 1950s, ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Fred Keller, a director, playwright, actor, writer and producer, was enormously successful along those lines at WBEN Radio beginning in 1942. But it wasn’t until 1948, when he helped sign-on WBEN-TV (Channel 4), that he elevated his career to near-sacred ground. As program director and artistic guiding light behind Channel 4’s first 14 years of super-success, he shepherded virtually all local on-air content, ruling with the proverbial iron hand and rarely making a decision that wasn’t creatively splendid. Keller’s overwhelming load of local live programming was notable for artistic merit, community service and respect for the audience. Still heard on many commercial voiceovers, he performed a guest-shot on the NBC Saturday night drama series "The Pretender."
Bill Mazer is one of the finest broadcasters America ever has produced. He was the Pied Piper of Buffalo Bison baseball during the glory days of Offermann Stadium, his popularity on a par with that of fabled slugger Luke Easter. From his 1947 Buffalo arr ival through his 1964 departure for nationwide fame, he was one of our most visible and audible broadcasters, with Bison baseball, Bison hockey, Niagara basketball and a jaunty, thrilling, seat-of-the-pants sportscast at 11:15 nightly on WGR-TV (Channel 2 ). He set a gold standard for Buffalo broadcast excellence. His melodious voice was an advertisers’ favorite here. His sign-off slogan: "So long- it’s been a pleasure." He still hosts a popular weekday 5:30-to-10 a.m. show on WEVD Radio in New York.
Joey Reynolds is the South Buffalo boy who became one of America’s all-time rock radio superstars at WKBW in the early 1960s. He’s generally acknowledged to have been radio’s first "shock jock," about 25 years before the term was coined, peppering his ni ghtly KB laughfest with audacious observations and the sort of balls-out humor that might make Don Rickles cringe. His nightly 6:55 "changeover crosstalk" with Dan Neaverth became must-listening, and he and Neaverth scored a hit record with "Rats in My R oom." Reynolds later luxuriated successfully in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia as a radio jock, TV personality, showbiz producer and music impresario. He still goes coast-to-coast nightly with his New York-based overnight radio talk show on 100 stations (including Buffalo’s WGR).
Jack Sharpe is the man who transformed traffic reporting into a nationwide broadcast staple. His long, path-finding career at WEBR Radio began in 1952 and was deftly grounded in news, sports, information and public service, but was spectacularly keynoted by his launching of the area’s first Trafficopter, a Bell 47G-2, in 1959. He was the nation’s second airborne traffic reporter (the first, at Chicago’s WGN-AM, crashed to his death that same year.) Nicknamed "The Eye in the Sky," Sharpe was a catch-phrase artist himself, christening the "Humboldt Hourglass" and coining the term "gapers’ block." He triggered many other TV and radio stations across the U.S. to use helicopters to cover news on a regular basis. After retiring from the chopper in 1974, Sharpe went on to a successful political career.
Distinguished Broadcaster Award
Fran Lucca has fashioned an awe-inspiring 60-year career in Buffalo media, most notably as a news producer, writer and reporter at WBEN AM-FM-TV for 23 years and as a reporter and documentary producer at WNED-TV (Channel 17) for 14 years. Lucca’s splendid work, both on-air and behind the scenes, at Channels 4 and 17 earned him a mantel-ful of awards, topped by three International Film & TV Festival gold prizes. He remains active with Fran Lucca Enterprises, a video production firm.
Carl Spavento’s friendly, soothing voice was heard each day on Buffalo radio for 50 consecutive years. As if that on-air achievement weren’t enough, he also distinguished himself as the boss of several of Buffalo’s most elegant radio outlets. He was chi ef announcer and station manager of WBNY-AM, and general manager of WBNY-FM and WBUF-FM. Still later, he returned to his newscasting roots at WYSL, WPHD-FM, "the new WBUF" and WFXZ-FM. Spavento retired at age 73 in 1992, wrapping up a career loaded with superlative accomplishments.)