Talk Of The Town: Goldberg To Fill A Vacuum In Radio (November 18, 1990)

Miami Herald November 18, 1990
Author/Byline: Bill Cosford Herald Columnist
Edition: Final
Section: Amusements
Page: 1I

On Tuesday night, WIOD radio is going to try to make a star out of Hank Goldberg, and remember, you heard it here first: A star will be born. If I were a betting man, Goldberg-to-star would be an odds-on-favorite.

In fact, if Goldberg plays it right, he’s 3-5 to become the next Larry King. No, I don’t mean he’ll run up a pile of markers on the ponies, declare bankruptcy and leave town — though Goldberg does, by the evidence of his public utterance, spend his share of time at the track. Nor do I mean that Goldberg could wind up lobbing softball questions at talk-show guests; given his style, that seems unlikely. But Goldberg as talk host has for some time now been a great idea waiting to happen.

Goldberg’s show will be 8 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Friday until the end of football season, when he’ll add Monday nights. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s because you’re not a sports fan. Goldberg already talks sports — on television (WTVJ- Channel 4, as a commentator) and on radio (WIOD as the color/ analyst on Dolphin broadcasts and the weeknightly Sportstalk program, which runs 6-8). He’s a good “color” guy and he’s first-rate at taking calls on sports.

It’s interesting that WIOD (610 AM) would be the station that would figure out that Goldberg is a personality with big- time potential beyond sports. There are those who regard the station as a kind of frontier outpost these days — the “last bastion of English-language talk” — and there’s something to that idea.

The recent format change at all-talk WNWS, which had offered a daylong schedule of “issue-related” talk shows, left WIOD alone to do talk full time. Did we say format change? More like an unconditional surrender — WNWS now plays “memory” music as WMRZ.

Other stations still have talk shows, but the days of the South Florida “radio wars,” when there was so much talk on rival stations that the principal topic on many occasions was bash- the-competition, are over.

So, it would seem, is the kind of “issue” talk that WNWS was doing, and that King still does nationally. He has become a major celebrity and a prize-winner despite his tendency to cozy up to guests, regardless how controversial, and despite a quality in his voice under stress that can best be described as wormlike. You can actually hear him squirm.

Not so, Goldberg, which is why this should be fun.

Goldberg is the one who projects that sense of expertise; they’ve known this on Channel 4 for a while now, and on the Sunday late-night Sports Extra program, where, when they need an authoritative final word on the Dolphins or Hurricanes, they turn to Hank. He always has an answer, and whether it’s right or not, it always sounds good.

This is no small thing. King’s biggest weakness is that after you’ve listened to him a while, you can tell when he’s blowing smoke, making it up as he goes along. Goldberg always sounds as if he knows, for two reasons: He usually does; and, when he doesn’t, he’s not afraid to admit it.

No softballs, either — shortly after Jimmy the Greek lost his job on CBS for delivering his surpassingly ignorant theories on African-American athletic prowess, Goldberg had him on the air and grilled him — even though, as Goldberg admitted, they have been friends for years. (Goldberg actually used to work for the Greek.)

King got his big break as a sports guy, too (on WIOD, also, as a matter of fact). But unlike King at the outset, Goldberg already has a wider base. He can talk about more things. He knows more than King did back when. And like King, Goldberg is a gifted raconteur, and well-connected.

Most of all, he just sounds good. Radio is funny that way. It’s as demanding of a certain voice “temperature” as TV is of a cool demeanor, and Goldberg’s voice is right there — you want to hear what he’s saying.

Which WIOD is certainly counting on. Because it’s not just that the station is the last all-talk outlet in English-language radio. It’s that even WIOD doesn’t have much conventional talk left.

The daytime “personality” lineup of Mike Reineri (5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.), Neil Rogers (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Rick & Suds (2 to 6 p.m.), can go weeks without considering a “topic.” That’s not what they’re about, having abandoned discussions of current events and home-repair techniques to WNWS — at least until the doddering demographic brought WNWS down.

Reineri has done his shtick for years, announcing birthdays and making cornball jokes during morning drive, and his audience is large and rock-solid. Neil Rogers, of course, is a local phenom. While at WKAT, WNWS and WINZ, he did topics; then he announced the death of topical talk — very prescient — and shifted to the melange of sports chatter, caller-baiting and comedy bits that he does in the midday shift at WIOD.

Rick and Suds, who used to be an FM music-radio morning team, now do an increasingly unpredictable afternoon-drive that walks close to the edge and sometimes peers down into the abyss.

None of it is “talk” in the conventional sense, because “talk” is dead. Right?

Now comes Goldberg at Night (that’s the name of the show, too), beginning Tuesday at 8, right after Sportstalk. In the early rounds, Goldberg is likely to stick close to sports while he learns who’s out there. He’ll open up, though, and the sooner the better. One of the imponderables about English-speaking South Florida is its apparent unconcern, its increasing blitheness, in the face of civic friction, environmental stress and plain old annoyances such as I-95 and the Miami City Commission. (Spanish-language talk radio is still booming; South Florida Cubans are still political, still mad as hell, and not at all disposed to take it any more.)

But the audience for English-language talk? Have they all died off or just gotten tired, as Rogers says? The guess here is that they’re still out there, waiting for a new voice.

Wait’s over. You read it here first.

Copyright (c) 1990 The Miami Herald

Happy Hank Goldberg

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