Archives For wilkes barre

I’m not sure where to begin on this one.

Yunno what? Let’s start at the beginning. It was August 1, 2007. I was living in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Everything was new: the city (a college town that was slow to evolve because of local traditions), the state (running the gamut from the bad: ‘Wait, the state runs the liquor stores and I can’t buy a six-pack at the gas station?’ to the good: ‘Sheetz! Wawa!’) and of course the job.

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I field, followed by “Who was your favorite celebrity to interview?” and “Which celebrity was a jerk?” is, “Why would you move to Wilkes-Barre for a Top 40 radio show?”

First, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metro is a top 80 market for radio and top 50 for television. Second, the cost of living is low. Third, there’s a venue in the area to host almost any size show. Fourth, you’re pretty close to both New York and Philadelphia.

And so in the summer of 2007, a kid fresh out of Syracuse University with a fake tan, curly afro and questionable soul patch packed up his Kia Rav 4 and drove with his father to Wilkes-Barre. My Dad bought me new furniture and helped me find a studio apartment in downtown (excuse me, Center City) Wilkes-Barre, right by a new movie theater that the locals seemed pretty excited about.

I could have never imagined what would transpire over the following 10 years, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Look, 10 years at any company let alone the first one you work for out of college, is a long time. But 10 years at the same media company… on the same radio station? That’s practically an eternity.

So a few weeks ago, I returned to Scranton and spent a weekend celebrating the accomplishment: a decade on 97.1/95.7 BHT and 10 years with Cumulus Media.

It’s been an incredible journey. Here’s to it not ending anytime soon.


As the great philosopher Michael Gary Scott once stated, “Ain’t no party, like a Scranton party.”

And with that, let me tell you about my whirlwind weekend in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I’ve had the honor of hosting a radio show on WBHT-FM for almost 10 years now. It was my first gig out of high school. And it let my career to places I never could have imagined (especially starting in Scranton, Pennsylvania). And last weekend, a new era of the station launched with its rebrand as “97.1/95.7 BHT” – a new name to reflect the 95.7 WBHD simulcast that covers the northern part of the market.

Straight off an all-nighter, I hopped aboard an 8:30 am bus out of Port Authority that didn’t get in to downtown Wilkes Barre until noon. I grabbed a venti Starbucks, headed to my hotel and grabbed a quick mile run on a treadmill. A hair, makeup and wardrobe change later I was out the door to my next stop: the radio station. I had to meet some new staffers, see a few familiar faces and prep for my return to WBRE-TV’s “PA Live.”

For years I checked in to the NBC affiliate’s lifestyle show with “The Ralphie Report,” a weekly recap of entertainment stories I was covering. It had been a while since I was on the show but the crew welcomed me back with open arms. I talked about the upcoming rebrand and promoted the big party later in the evening at The Woodlands.

The party lasted well in to the night, but I had to keep the train on the rails: a busy Saturday awaited me. In the span of a day I made four different stops, including PNC Field where I threw out the first pitch for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game.


We ended the work day at La Tolteca, a Mexican restaurant that satisfied my Cinco de Mayo (Seis?) guac and marg cravings.

Following a quick visit to Mohegan Sun Pocono, I retired back to my room. Thankfully Sunday was a bit chiller: brunch, a bus back to the city and a nice 5.6 mile run in Central Park as the sun set on yet another eventful weekend.

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I certainly didn’t need another confirmation, but that Michael Scott sure hit the nail on the head.

I spent all of last week silent on Facebook, which no one probably noticed for a number of reasons: I was active on other social networks, I was still frequently in touch with family and friends and of course I was on live on the radio every weeknight.

To me, it felt weird. Last weekend I returned to Syracuse to catch the Orange (don’t get me started on the tournament snub) beat Georgia Tech and attend the annual WJPZ reunion dinner. On Monday I joined my friends on TV at “Chasing News” to talk about my Vinny Guadagnino interview. Wednesday I made the trek down to Brooklyn to watch the Orange lose in the first round of the ACC Tournament (and probably cement that aforementioned snub). And of course, I spent the week counting down the days until my trip to Las Vegas Tuesday, which yes I know might not even happen now with this pending blizzard.

But guess what? None of it mattered this week.

Saturday I was leaving the bookstore inside the Schine Student Center on SU’s campus when I looked down to see a new text notification on my BlackBerry. It was from a coworker with a link to an article on Billboard’s website.

My former colleague, Tommy Page, was found dead in an apparent suicide. I immediately felt numb.

I first met Tommy in May of 2009. I lived in Wilkes Barre, and was as Tommy would later refer to me, “a baby DJ.” At the time, Page was working A&R at Warner Bros. Records. He was so excited about his new act, a boy-band called V-Factory, that he decided to personally bring them by the studio for an interview.

Tommy and I hit it off right away, but to be honest a lot of it was more circumstantial; I think he immediately took a liking to me or at least gave me the benefit of the doubt because he was close with my Program Director at the time, A.J. He also was a bit fan of 97 BHT, particularly the station’s position in the market as the younger, hipper pop station that wasn’t afraid to lean rhythmic or electronic (example: WBHT broke Lady Gaga in the metro when other stations across the country declared that “Just Dance” was “too dance-y” – whatever that jargon means).

And of course, Tommy loved Northeastern Pennsylvania. He raved about his vacation home in East Stroudsburg, and also had recently purchased a fixer-upper in Jim Thorpe.

Tommy and I would spend 2010 through 2014 crossing paths at various events, either in New York or out in Los Angeles. I remember my first GRAMMYs; I attended Billboard’s after-party at The London in West Hollywood. Tommy was its publisher at the time, and immediately left his conversation when he saw me just to come over and say hello. That meant a lot.

Then in 2015, he joined our company as a Senior Vice President of Brand Partnerships. I enjoyed this because not only would I see Tommy in our building occasionally, but I’d get to work with him at some of our signature backstage broadcast events, including the Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards in addition to the aforementioned GRAMMYs.

The weekend after our first BBMAs working together in Vegas, Tommy and I both headed down the shore to Point Pleasant for 95.5 PLJ’s Summer Kick-Off. We sat down at the client party and talked about where the company was moving before he tasked me to help write a spec promo for an upcoming event we were working on called “Malibu Mansion Live.”

I’ll never forget, while music played and people partook in the open bar, Tommy and I sat alone in a corner of the room and wrote the script; Tommy throwing out ideas followed by me feverishly typing away on my BlackBerry and reading lines out loud to see what if any changes he wanted.

After a few more revisions, that promo was eventually voiced, produced and presented to company executives and our marketing department. The following November, Tommy and I were in Malibu for the two-night promotion that featured country singer Cam (who he sang “Happy Birthday” to while I walked out with a makeshift cake/candle for her), Nick Jonas, Tori Kelly and Fall Out Boy.

As the second, successful night winded down, Tommy pulled me aside.

“Remember when we first started talking about this and we wrote that promo in Point Pleasant?” he asked. “The whole thing came to life. It was like you and I wrote a hit record together.”

Of course, it was Tommy and his team that did all of the hard work. But coming from a guy who scored a number one hit in 1990 with the single, “I’ll Be Your Everything,” that compliment really struck a chord with me.

That was a unique trait of Tommy’s; working with others and making them feel like they belonged. It’s one of the reasons he was adored by so many, and certainly it’s one of the reasons why I and many others will miss him.

I walked out of my apartment on the Upper West Side to a SUV that had driven from Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Melissa, who works for the casino’s PR department and Angela “Big Ang” Raiola traveled from Uncasville to pick me up. We were headed to Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, a property that Mohegan manages. The casino booked the “Mob Wives” star for a series of “Reality Check” events, and I was tapped to host the question-and-answer sessions in Atlantic City as well as Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes Barre.

When I hopped in to the car, I immediately noticed one person missing: Ang. She had walked across the street to my bodega for a pack of cigarettes. On the way back, a few fans stopped her for photos, and she happily obliged.

“So you live around here?” she asked me once we hit the road. I mentioned that I had been at my apartment for at the time, a little over a year. “Nice neighborhood. A lot of good brunch spots.”

There are many things I’ll never forget about that weekend; hearing Ang, in that trademark Staten Island drawl of hers, offer up Yelp-like reviews of the brunch options on the Upper West Side is certainly one of them.

Another was during the trip down I-95 to AC when we diverted to a rest stop for food. I wasn’t too hungry so I just grabbed a coffee; Ang wanted to hit up Auntie Anne’s. We finished our purchases and head back in to the car. Ang bought pretzel dippers with sauce. And if you know me and my eating habits, you know they usually don’t involve pretzel dippers, with or without the sauce.

“Honey you want one?” asked Ang. I politely declined. I could tell that she was a little annoyed but we continued making small talk.

She asked two more times before finally offering up a look that is all-too-familiar to fans of her show.

“No, really. Have one.”

Before I could respond the pretzels were right in front of my face.

If you’re like me and you grew up in an Italian-American household, you’re probably having flashbacks and rightfully so. Ang was a tough but loving mother from Staten Island; not one to mince words and always making sure those around her were taken care of.
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And like any good Italian mother, if she offered food, you’d better accept.

Despite our pit stop, we arrived in Atlantic City with time to spare, so we headed over to the outlets that are a stone’s throw from the boardwalk. Yes, I went shopping with Ang. She was looking for clothes to buy her grandkids (always taking care of others); I was just happy to spot H&M.

Being out in public with Ang was an experience in itself. It didn’t matter whether it was a bar, nightclub, store or open-air shopping center: the woman always became the center of attention regardless if she was seeking it or not. Not only did everyone know who Ang was, but everyone felt like they knew Ang. She was as authentic as they come, especially for reality TV, and that’s what endeared her to so many fans.

“Ooh look at you! You made out!” she exclaimed when she saw the amount of clothes that I purchased. Of course, Ang had accumulated a few bags herself.

The event in Atlantic City went well and the next day we took off for Wilkes Barre. Another part of the weekend that’s unforgettable: Ang was always on time. She enjoyed herself, but she knew that we were there to work too.

The trip from AC to Northeastern Pennsylvania was a long one. Traffic on a side road the driver took was brutal, and by that point in the weekend, Ang had grown a bit tired. We made it to Mohegan Sun Pocono just in time for the appearance and of course, it was the best of the weekend. Ang was in great spirits on stage, trading barbs with me and the crowd while sipping on an alcoholic beverage; it was Cinco de Mayo after all.

“I’m not here for a long time; I’m here for a good time,” she said during our chat at MS Pocono, one of the last quotes she offered up before we wrapped.

I surely won’t forget that either. She truly was one-of-a-kind and someone who lived life on her terms. Ang – thanks for the memories, and the pretzel dippers.

My summer weekend travels continued with a two-city trip. Following an all-nighter to update this blog, I hopped on a Saturday morning bus from New York to Scranton, Pa. My friend and colleague Danny picked me up, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Starbucks, and then chilled at his apartment for a few hours. On the docket for Saturday? Mohegan Sun Pocono’s Oktoberfest; a three-day, annual event in Northeastern Pennsylvania that features music, food and about every Oktoberfest and Pumpkin beer you can think of.

What I’m saying is, I was in Heaven.


This was before I took a sip of Susquehanna Pumpkin Ale, my first of well, a couple beverages.

ANYWAYS – the awful weather in NEPA on Saturday did not affect us in the least bit. My friends and I had a great night, which ended with a few hands of Black Jack and some Domino’s to-go.

I slept a little Saturday night, then caught a 7:20 a.m. ride out of Scranton to Atlantic City, N.J. The Martz bus dropped me right off at Resorts Casino for my second destination of the weekend. After a bit of contemplation, I decided it would be fun to “Do AC” for the Miss America competition, which was co-produced by my friends in dick clark productions.


I checked in to my room, ran 3 miles on the Boardwalk and changed in to my Bills shirt before catching some football (and a nice Bills win!) at a local sports bar. My plan was to then make my way to the local baseball field where a seafood festival was taking place. Instead, a torrential downpour forced me to call an audible, and an Uber. I suited up, called another Uber and made my way to Boardwalk Hall.
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My original plan was to attend with Danny but due to work obligations he bailed. The fine folks at dcp hooked up a credential, so I decided to join my Cumulus cohort Erika Grace Powell on the red carpet and assist with her evening.


EGP killed it!


After the carpet wrapped, we headed inside the Hall to catch the pageant. I had judged at the state level for Miss USA, but had never attended a national event. There were so many great moments – between Vanessa Williams, the talent portion of the competition and the addition of celebrity judges and music curator Nick Jonas (who I said hello to earlier on the red carpet). And the energy inside the building only amplified the fun.


Following Miss Georgia’s crowning, we headed in to the press area for the post-show press conference. Betty Cantrell was there, along with Williams and the other judges.


And as the song went, after the show it was the after-party. There I ran in to Williams on the dance floor and told her that I also attended Syracuse University. We exchanged a solid high-five.

Another Black Jack donation and trip to Dunkin’ Donuts inside Resorts Casino later and it was back on a bus following my second all-nighter in three evenings. It’s not like a full day, including TV and the radio show, awaited me in New York.

Oh.

Trust me, I’m NOT complaining.


97 BHT, Atlantic Records, The Mall At Steamtown, and F.Y.E. proudly presented Matchbox Twenty front man and Grammy award winner Rob Thomas, with an intimate, acoustic performance at the 97 BHT studios.

No pun intended, but it is no surprise to the band Daughtry that the first two singles off of Leave This Town were co-written by Nickelback front man Chad Kroeger.

“Soon as we made the decision to put those on the record, we looked at it and goes, ‘That’ll probably be the first two singles,’” said lead singer Chris Daughtry, who sat down with me before performing at Wachovia Arena. “They’re great songs and we agree that they fit the bill.”

The group led off the sophomore LP with the single, “No Surprise”, followed by the latest, “Life After You.” Daughtry played the new track at both the American Music Awards and the halftime show of the Cowboys/Raiders game on Thanksgiving.

Download the mp3



Speaking of tracks co-written by the Idol alum – Daughtry also wrote a track for American Idol champ Kris Allen. Although previously reported that it would not make Allen’s final LP, Chris confirmed that the song will be included on the Wal-Mart exclusive version of self-titled album.

“It’s called ‘Send Me All Your Angels’ and it’s a great song,” remarked Daughtry. “At the end of the day, there’s songs on our record that didn’t make it either that we were bummed out about. We had 70 songs to weed through.”


Tickets on sale now!

Better late than never for We The Kings – who finished recording the new LP, Smile Kid about two weeks after expected.

Last time I chatted with WTK front man Travis Clark, the band was on the eve of releasing “Heaven Can Wait” to radio stations across the country. With The Ralphie Radio Show receiving the track a day early, I asked Travis when we could expect an LP. He originally noted that the band hoped to finish work on it before October. I reconnected with him and guitarist Hunter Thomsen on Tuesday, October 13.

Download the mp3


Check out the performance here.


“Last night I finished the last vocal for it,” said Clark. “So it was a little delayed, but it was worth it, because it’s perfect now.”

Clark is also relieved the band finished recording it before embarking on its current tour with All Time Low, Hey Monday, and The Friday Night Boys. We The Kings will release the sophomore LP on December 8.


97 BHT Presented Warner Bros. Recording Artist Jason Derulo, featuring his hit song, “Whatcha Say”, live inside Club HD at The Woodlands, Plains – Rte. 315 – on Thursday, October 8! Thank you for coming out!

Powered by The Woodlands, Warner Bros. Records, & The Only Radio Station in NEPA Playing “Whatcha Say” – 97 BHT!