It was Spring of 2000, I was working my first professional radio gig, interning over at CFMB 1280 AM for a professional wrestling show. The bright eyed, pudgy faced Johnny Bertolo, known as ‘Johnny Daminga’ on the ‘In the Ring’ radio show would embark on a journey to the unknown.
It was my first taste of REAL radio, the BIG time (remember, this was my first gig). Growing up, I envisioned myself being the play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Canadiens. I would create my own radio shows using my parents old Sony boom-box and cassettes, press the record button, and let it roll. I mimicked my style after Dick Irvin, tell a story and the people will listen. I believed my internship over at CFMB was a step in the right direction.
I was right.
During my stay over at the ole 1280, I remember showing up early to the station one night before ‘In the Ring’ would hit the air. Upon my arrival, one of my former colleagues told me I was in for a treat. I had no idea what he was talking about. Like most 16-year olds, I was self-absorbed into my own life and antics that I rarely took the time to look at the world around me.
Just as the hours of Friday night bled into early Saturday morning, a figure emerged from the radio booth. I could sense an aura around this man. Wearing a light-blue buttoned-down shirt with a black tie, he wasn’t a big man I noticed that there wasn’t anything physically dominant about this man, just how he carried himself, brimming with confidence, yet fatigued after a long night. My colleague spoke with the man for a few moments before calling me over. “Johnny Bertolo…meet Ted Tevan.”
I was standing face-to-face with the iconic Ted Tevan, and I had no idea who he was. I was shocked, speechless, I was without speech.
At the time, I only knew of Ted Tevan through stories from my older cousins, Dino and DiegoMazzone and my good friend, Larry Shapiro. They grew up listening to Mr. Tevan and of course were enthralled by his, shall we say, ‘unique’ radio style of temple-massaging, machine gunning and pot-stirring. The stories trickled down to yours truly but I never had a chance to truly appreciate him.
My encounter with the man changed that. After a long day at the office, I could tell that Mr. Tevan was looking for the fist ‘Atlas Taxi’ out of there. But he stuck around for a few moments to offer some friendly professional advice.
“How old are you Johnny?” Mr. Tevan bellowed in his signature raspy, baritone voice.
“Si..Six…Sixteen”, I sheepishly replied.
“Remember kid” he continued, “…in this business, it’s not ‘what’ you know, it’s ‘who’ you know.”
And that was it.
He made his way to his locker, collected his personal effects and out-the-backdoor he went.
Circa 11-years later I realize how important those words were. A thought had crossed my mind just as I started writing this piece. Maybe, just maybe he was not TOTALLY comfortable with his sports acumen, but that didn’t matter. He took the time out of a long day to utter those words to me. For that, I am truly grateful. Love him, hate him, respect him or not, Mr. Tevan was the spark that lit the fire for modern-day radio in Montreal.
Callers wanted to be him, the ‘broads’ wanted to be around him, the up-and-comers wanted to learn from him.
I recently returned to the Team 990, and was very proud to work on the Ted Tevan tribute show, part of Mitch Melnick’s, ‘Melnick in the Afternoon’ (you can hear segments of the tribute show by clicking here). Fans, followers, professional and personal friends came out in droves to share a story, a laugh and a few cries. The likes of Mitch Garber who repeatedly referred to Mr. Tevan as ‘bombastic’, Montreal-radio icon Aaron Rand who shared a story of Ted Tevan’s savvy dealings in radio advertisement, Radio historian and writer Earl Zukerman, Writer and Film Producer Bill Brownstein, former Montreal Canadien Dickie Moore, Ron Fournier and Bill Lee all took part.
It was radio done right, the way Mr. Tevan would have wanted it and I am proud to have been apart of it.
Mr. Tevan, I hardly knew Ye, but your legacy lives on through our contemporary sports broadcasting heroes and I hope to champion those values when the time is right.
Thank you and “God rest ye, merry gentleman.”