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Dick Bertel

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Name  Dick Bertel

Dick Bertel httpsiytimgcomvioqJyEursnGwhqdefaultjpg

Full Name  Richard Bertelmann
Born  January 6, 1931 (age 92) (1931-01-06) The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Education  New York University, B.A., 1952 (broadcasting)
Occupation  TV newscaster, presenter, Radio & TV personality

March 26 1989 nbc radio newscast anchored by dick bertel

Richard Bertelmann, professionally known as Dick Bertel, is a retired American radio and television personality and broadcasting executive who is best known for his work locally in Hartford, Connecticut, nationally on the NBC and Mutual Broadcasting System radio networks, and internationally for the Voice of America. He remains engaged with the profession to the present day.


Jfk assass 50th anniv wtic hartford conn ray dunaway dick bertel scott gray et al

Early life

Bertel was born on January 6, 1931 at Bronx Maternity Hospital on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx borough of New York, New York to Meta Katherina "Martha / Mattie" (Delvanthal) Bertelmann (1899-1986), the daughter of German immigrants, and Heinrich "Henry" Bertelmann (1895-1953) who emigrated to the United States from Hemmoor, Germany in 1909, disembarking from the steamship President Lincoln at Ellis Island. (He was naturalized in 1933.) Their only other child was Richard's older brother Henry John "Harry" Bertelmann (1921-2011).

Martha claimed that as Richard first learned to talk, he would frequently babble a version of "W-E-A-F New York," the hourly legal identification of one of the most prominent stations in New York City at that time. During his early childhood, family and friends called him "Richie." While growing up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, he attended Public School 87 and P.S. 68.

Henry and Martha legally separated in 1936 and were officially divorced in 1939. In 1940, Martha married James Morton "Jim" Latz (1894-1950), a draftsman and veteran of World War I, who by this time had already become Richie's primary father figure. The family moved to nearby Darien, Conn. in Fairfield County in 1944.

Before meeting his new classmates at Hollow Tree Ridge Junior High School (Middlesex Middle School today), he decided to introduce himself as "Dick" rather than "Richie." From this point forward, he would always be known socially as "Dick."

After one year at Hollow Tree Ridge, he attended Darien High School as a member of the Class of 1948. In 1947, he was elected Homecoming King.

Career Begins at Fairfield County, Conn. Radio Stations

During the years 1948 - 1955, Bertel's career began at Fairfield County radio stations in the New York suburbs surrounding Darien and strung along the Boston Post Road corridor. Three forces shaped the American broadcasting industry as Bertel gathered his early experience with it.

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lifted its wartime ban on issuing licenses, causing new stations to proliferate across the United States, especially in small cities and towns.
  • The explosive growth of commercial television was causing the radio networks to reduce their programming. This in turn increased the need for local stations to produce their own shows. In addition, TV was creating new job opportunities for broadcasters.
  • Despite their superior audio fidelity, FM stations were struggling to find audiences. In 1945, existing FM stations had been rendered obsolete when the FCC reassigned their portion of the spectrum (then between 42 and 50 MHz) to VHF television stations. Meanwhile, postwar consumers were more interested in purchasing television sets than radios with receivers that could be tuned to the new FM band (the current 88 to 108 MHz). This limited the interest of most operators in seeking FM licenses and increased the risk of investing in innovative FM programming, thus compounding the problem of low consumer interest in buying radios with FM receivers. As a result of this cycle, AM stations would continue to dominate radio listening for the next three decades.
  • WNLK in Norwalk

    In April 1948, shortly before graduating from high school, Bertel requested a tour of WNLK, a new daytime-only radio station being built in neighboring Norwalk, Conn., and was offered an unpaid position. Initially writing and announcing news from his school, within a few months he was hosting The Hi Teen Show, a weekly Saturday morning program featuring local amateur singers, a band, and sketches performed by teenagers.

    To accommodate his work at WGCH (described below), in 1949 WNLK moved his shift to Sunday. When the station was granted a full-time license in the summer of that year, he was placed on the WNLK payroll.

    Bertel also performed with and announced for the Community Radio Workshop, a group of local hobbyist actors who produced a program on WNLK called The Mystery Theater of the Air and who also appeared in community stage productions. In 1950, WNLK broadcast a supernatural drama called "The House of Retribution" which Bertel wrote for the show.

    He remained at WNLK until 1951 when he accepted a Sunday shift at WNAB in Bridgeport (described below).

    New York University

    From September 1948 to June 1952 he concurrently commuted from Darien to Manhattan on the New Haven Railroad to earn a degree in broadcasting from New York University (NYU). One of his instructors there was Brad Phillips who had just started what would become a forty-four year career as a news anchor on WINS Radio in New York. (On Election Night in 1948 Phillips would stay on the air for twenty-three straight hours covering the surprising results of the presidential race between President Harry S. Truman and Governor Thomas E. Dewey.)

    WGCH (FM) in Greenwich

    In the Fall of 1948, testing began on a new New York television station, WOR-TV (WWOR today). While attempting to tune in a test pattern, Bertel instead found an unrelated audio broadcast. It was a test of an experimental FM station in Greenwich, Conn., WGCH (WFOX today), which due to a harmonic could be heard on the audio carrier of channel 9. Bertel responded to an announcer's invitation to listeners to call the station to report reception. Within a couple of weeks he decided to use that telephone conversation as a reason to visit the station and introduce himself. During that visit, he offered to volunteer as an announcer.

    By January 1949, he was hosting The Teen Turntable on WGCH on Saturday afternoons, working for free to gain experience just as he was presently doing at WNLK. After hosting The Hi Teen Show on WNLK in the morning, he would take a bus to Greenwich carrying a case of his personal collection of 78 RPM records for use on his WGCH show. Within weeks, WGCH offered him an announcing shift on Thursday and Friday afternoons and all day Saturday as well as $18 per week, making this his first paid position. On Saturday nights he hosted a listener call-in show called Request Party and co-hosted Jazz Cavalcade with a local record collector, Bill Gray. On Sundays he hosted a music show called Rhythm and Song.

    In the Summer of 1949, Bertel was made the acting program director at WGCH, covering for program director Jack Hines during his hospitalization for pneumonia and the recovery that followed.

    In 1950, Bertel hosted a Christmas broadcast featuring music conducted by Erich Kunzel, then a student at Greenwich High School, who would become known as the "Prince of Pops" during an illustrious career leading the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

    Bertel continued to work at WGCH until he graduated from NYU in 1952. By that time, however, struggling to find an audience and advertisers on the FM band, WGCH was only broadcasting for 3 1/2 hours per day. At the end of that year, it ceased operations altogether.

    WNAB in Bridgeport

    While continuing his work at WGCH, in 1951 Bertel left WNLK to begin working Sundays at WNAB (WCUM today), the ABC affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn., where a friend he had made at WNLK, Bill Edwardsen, was now the chief announcer. (Edwardsen would become a fixture in the Albany - Schenectady - Troy, N.Y. market, primarily on WGY Radio and WRGB Television.)

    When he graduated from NYU in 1952, he was hired for the daily night shift, his first full-time position. Although he would continue to host The Saturday Night Dance Party, soon he was moved to the midday shift and was appointed to be the continuity director, writing all of the commercial copy for the station. He left WNAB in 1954 to work for WSTC (described below).

    On Sunday nights, WNAB broadcast live performances of big bands appearing at the Ritz Ballroom in Bridgeport. Bertel participated as an announcer, receiving his first professional experience working with celebrities. In this capacity, he interviewed famous musicians including Billy May, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Spivak, Lou Monte, Don Cornell, Ralph Flanagan, and Steve Lawrence.

    WSTC in Stamford

    When Bertel and his family first moved to Darien in 1944, he began listening to WSRR in Stamford, an affiliate of NBC's Blue Network [which would become the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in 1945]. Intrigued that this radio station was broadcasting within a few miles of his new home, Bertel and one of his Hollow Tree Ridge Junior High School classmates visited the station and asked for a tour. The announcer on duty graciously showed them the operation and allowed them to stand silently in the studio while he conducted a record show. Bertel resolved then that he would one day come to work for that station which would change its call letters to WSTC in 1946.

    In 1954, WSTC hired him for the night shift, delivering the eleven o'clock newscast and conducting station breaks around network shows such as The Lone Ranger. Other members of the staff included Scott Vincent (who would become a staff announcer for ABC), Jerry Damon (who would become a staff announcer for NBC), and Dee Caruso (who would become a TV writer and producer for Get Smart, The Monkees, and The Smothers Brothers Show).

    Up until now, he had been using his name "Dick Bertelmann" on WNLK, WGCH, and WNAB. Other announcers at WSTC used stage names so he decided it was time to coin one for himself. At WSTC he started calling himself "Dick Richards."

    One night in September 1954, one of Bertel's colleagues conceived a plan for them to meet women working as nurses in residence at Stamford Hospital. He would call a dormitory on the hospital's campus under the pretense of being a producer seeking requests for records to be played on The Dick Richards Show, then ask the nurse on the phone if she and her friends would like to meet Dick Richards and his coworkers at a pizzeria. That led to Bertel's courtship with Jean Thies, a native of Dunkirk / Fredonia, N.Y., and their marriage in November 1955.

    Move to Hartford, Conn.

    Engaged to be married and contemplating how to best position his career to support a family, Bertel decided in 1955 that he needed to move to a new, larger market. In 1955, the Bridgeport - Stamford - Norwalk market ranked 31st in the U.S. Although not small, it was over-shadowed by nearby New York, the largest market in the country, and the powerhouse stations that operated there. Looking seventy-five miles away to Connecticut's capital city, Bertel resolved that he would find a new job in the Hartford - New Britain market, then ranked 27th nationally.

    Situated nearly equidistant between New York and the Boston, Mass. - Manchester, N.H. market (then ranked 6th in the U.S.) and yet completely independent of both, Hartford offered the opportunity to build a reputation that could easily be transferred to a major market at a later time. A highly affluent and particularly well-educated area, it was also an important test market for advertisers and therefore a richly profitable location for broadcasters. Plus it was the home of WTIC Radio, one of the most prestigious broadcast operations in the country.

    WGTH Radio

    In July 1955, Bertel visited most of the major radio stations in Hartford including WTIC. In the early autumn, he accepted a job at WGTH Radio (WPOP today).

    His first assignments included weekend work. On Saturdays he hosted a live children's talent show from the Brown Thomson department store in Hartford. On Sundays when the station would carry local foreign language programming, he would run the equipment for those amateur hosts.

    In December he played the master of ceremonies for The Christmas Carol Sing, an event organized by The Hartford Times newspaper, and announced the program on WGTH. A tradition for many years, more than ten thousand people would gather outside the Hartford Times Building to join a choir singing Christmas carols and other holiday songs.

    Turnover was rampant at WGTH. As a result, within weeks Bertel, who was still using the "Dick Richards" air-name that he had created for himself at WSTC in Stamford, had become the senior announcer. As such, he hosted The Uprising, the daily morning show. At midday he co-hosted Luncheon with Dottie and Dick with the station's women's director, Dottie Coleman, who usually referred to him as "Richard" on the program.

    Besides the regional Yankee Network, WGTH was both an ABC and a Mutual affiliate. When the Mutual network comedy team Bob and Ray broadcast their show nationally from the Hartford State Armory, Bertel performed as their announcer. Similarly when the Mutual news commentator Cedric Foster (the former manager of WTHT, a predecessor to WGTH) broadcast his network show from WGTH, Bertel read his intro and several public service announcements.

    WTIC Radio

    In April 1956, Bertel learned that there was an opening on the WTIC announcing staff. He called the chief announcer and auditions manager, Fred Wade, and asked for an interview. During his first audition, Bertel shared Studio F (which looked more like a living room than a radio studio) with Ross Miller, “Ross the Musical Boss,” the host of Juke Box Jingles [sic], who was asked to read the same scripts as Bertel to contrast his delivery. They worked together again a couple of weeks later in Studio C, a small audience participation room, when Wade asked Bertel to return to audition for the program manager, Leonard J. Patricelli. At the end of that visit, Bertel was introduced to Paul W. Morency, the president and general manager of WTIC. They hired him shortly thereafter.

    Becoming "Dick Bertel"

    There was one condition on his employment, however: He could no longer call himself “Dick Richards.” WTIC wanted to avoid any confusion with another announcer, Floyd Richards, who had been on the staff since 1943. Because “Bertelmann” (pronounced like “TURTLE-min”) sounds muddled, Wade proposed that he call himself “Bertel” (pronounced like “burr-TELL”) instead. Although he would always use Bertelmann in his private life, he would forevermore be known professionally as “Dick Bertel."

    Staff Announcer

    Bertel’s first day of work at WTIC was May 13, 1956. Besides Ross Miller, Floyd Richards, and Fred Wade, he joined an announcing staff that included Ed Anderson, Frank Atwood, Jean Colbert, Bruce Kern, Paul Lucas, Bernard "Bunny" Mullins, Bob Steele, and Bob Tyrol. Over Bertel's twenty-one year tenure other staff announcers would include Bill Clede, Bill Corsair, Brad Davis, Arnold Dean, George Ehrlich, Bob Ellsworth, Joe Girand, Bill Hanson, Bill Hennessey, Bill Henry, Art Johnson, Lani Jurev, George Malcolm-Smith, Lou Palmer, Norm Peters, Ray Rice, Robert E. Smith, John Stevens, Al Terzi, Jim Thompson, Doug Webster, Dana Whalen, and Jerry Williams.

    One of his first assignments was to serve as the announcer for Medley Time, a program of live organ music played by Hal Kolb.

    As a staff announcer he read commercials, issued station breaks, moderated shows, and delivered newscasts. Like many of the other major stations during this era, "change of voice" was an essential component of WTIC's sound. In a typical example, after the NBC chimes concluded a network show, one announcer would identify the station and read a commercial, another would introduce the local newscaster, and a third announcer would present the news.

    The Golden Age of Radio

    Bertel created The Golden Age of Radio, a monthly radio program featuring interviews with radio actors, writers, musicians, producers and engineers from the early days of radio. It was first broadcast in April 1970 and continued until 1977, a total of 89 shows, all of which can be found on the Internet today. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, The Golden Age of Radio interviews were frequently incorporated into The Big Broadcast, a weekly compilation of recordings from radio's golden age on WAMU in Washington, D.C., the public radio station owned and operated by American University, which was then hosted by Ed Walker.

    WTIC-TV, Channel 3

    From its founding in 1957 until it was sold in 1974, Bertel anchored newscasts and hosted public affairs shows on WTIC-TV, Channel 3 (WFSB today).

    WKSS Radio

    From 1978 to 1984, Bertel managed WKSS, a "beautiful music" radio station in Hartford. He was also the host of the morning show, Good Morning, New England.

    Voice of America

    In 1984, Bertel moved to the Washington, D.C. area where he became the executive producer for the Voice of America. From 1991 to 1993, Bertel worked for two years in Munich, Germany managing affiliate relations for VOA Europe, the Voice of America's pop music service aimed at European listeners. Returning to Washington, he created Talk to America, an international call-in show.

    WTOP Radio

    From 1986 to 1989, Bertel worked as an anchor on the all-news radio station in Washington, D.C., WTOP.

    NBC and Mutual Broadcasting System

    From 1988 to 1991, Bertel worked as an anchor on NBC Radio Network and the Mutual Broadcasting System, both owned and operated by Westwood One.


    Having recently retired from Voice of America, Bertel now resides in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. He regularly volunteers to help non-native speakers of English achieve conversational competency.


    Dick Bertel Wikipedia