by Gary DEEB
Since establishing itself 3 years ago as Western New Yorks premier TV-radio
organization, the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers have dedicated themselves to shining the
spotlight on the past and present greatness of the local broadcast industry. The group
also has founded the Western New York Broadcasting Hall of Fame which honors the
spectacular accomplishments of the men and women who made Buffalo a TV-radio hot spot for
Last years Hall of Fame Night at the Tralfamadore Café was a watershed event for the Pioneers. The extravaganza attracted a sold-out house of more than 400 and featured the final performing appearance by Buffalo Bob Smith. The icon of early television was inducted into the Hall of Fame, then dazzled the SRO crowd with a string of songs, sing-alongs and anecdotes about the glory days of Howdy Doody.
It was an unforgettable evening for everybody lucky enough to be there, said Don Angelo, president of the Pioneers and local sales manager for WGRZ-TV (Channel 2). To see Bob Smith on stage at the age of 80 and performing with the enthusiasm of a kidit was an awesome thing to witness.
Bob Smith passed away 2 months later in a hospital near his home in Flat Rock, N.C.
Last years Hall of Fame Night also was highlighted by the inductions of a group of living legends, including Irv Weinstein, Van Miller, Tom Jolls, Rick Azar, John Otto and Ernie Warlick. In addition, the late Channel 4 news-and-sports personality Chuck Healy and the late Lone Ranger creator Fran Striker were inducted posthumously.
The Broadcast Pioneers steadfastly have adhered to very stringent criteria regarding Hall of Fame honorees. Only the absolute cream of the crop gets chosenand only after a series of lengthy deliberations by the organizations officers and board, with input from the groups 160 members.
The following are the broadcasters who have been selected for induction into the Western New York Broadcasting Hall of Fame this yearthe class of 1999to be honored at the annual gala on Tuesday evening May 18, again at the Tralf:
J. MICHAEL COLLINS
This years Hall of Fame Night arrives as the Buffalo Broadcast
Pioneers enter the final stages of earmarking a physical location for their Hall of Fame
& Museum. Led by Don Angelo and chairman Al Anscombe, the group is scouting sites,
mostly in downtown Buffalo, aimed at obtaining a property before the end of this year.
The Pioneers and their Hall of Fame began life in November 1995 in a conference room at the headquarters of Tops Markets on Main Street in Williamsville. Angelo and Anscombe brought together a group of broadcasters intent on preserving Buffalos illustrious TV-radio heritage. At that initial session were Herb Flemming, then an executive with Tops, and broadcasters John Zach, Jim Fagan, Jack Sharpe, Al Wallack, Steve Mitchell and Dan McBride.
Bob Wells, one of our greatest Buffalo broadcasters, had died just recently, Angelo recalled, and Danny McBride told us that Bobs widow had offered to let him have a lot of Bobs material before she moved to Florida. So Danny had gone over there and, to his surprise and shock, there was this fabulous wealth of memorabiliaphotos of Bob with Elvis and Sinatra and Tony Bennett and other big namesjust a wonderful collection of broadcast artifacts from the long career of Bob Wells. So Danny crammed as much as possible into his car and then he brought a lot of it to our meeting.
Then Al Anscombe brought out a scrapbook loaded with great old pictures from his days as a manager and owner at WKBW Radio and Channel 7. We took one look at this treasure trove and said, Geelets form some kind of club to celebrate this stuff and put it into the public domain. Al mentioned a national group called the Broadcasters Foundation, of which hes a member, and before long the whole thing snowballed into the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers, which formally became a local chapter of that national foundation.
Besides the annual Hall of Fame festivities each May the Pioneers publish three newsletters annually; organization treasurer Martin Biniasz creates a collectible calendar each year which is sold at local bookshops; and the group is developing a mentor program to support and encourage the next generation of Buffalo broadcasters.
And so now we focus on a site for our Hall of Fame & Museum, Angelo said. The most viable probability is working with the City of Buffalo on locating a piece of downtown property that we can acquire, perhaps in exchange for the payment of back taxes, and then raise enough donations to renovate and secure the building and create a genuine museum facility.
Wed like to take a dead building and transform it into a live one.
THE ORIGINATORS: Gathered near the Ellicott
Square Building in the summer of 1996.
Gary Deeb is a longtime media critic and commentator in Buffalo and Chicago. He is a board member of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers.
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