Elane Stein to sign off after 35 years on city radio Veteran leaving: WBAL-AM interviewer plans to move to Santa Fe, N.M., and turn 'a new page' in life.

On the Air

April 21, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Baltimore loses another long-time radio voice this week.

Elane Stein, a fixture on Baltimore's airwaves for more than three decades, will broadcast the last of her radio spots over WBAL-AM (1090) at 11: 30 a.m. Friday.

After that, it's off to Santa Fe, N.M., where she plans to take advantage of the town's burgeoning cultural scene. She also plans to have little -- if anything -- to do with radio there, other than as a listener.

"I don't like to use that word 'retire,' because I don't ever consider myself retired," she says. "My mother was 83 years old, and she was still doing volunteer work. I certainly will find myself some volunteer work.

"I received this lovely card the other day: 'Best wishes as you begin a new page of your life story.' I think that was a wonderful phrase.

"But in Santa Fe," she adds with a laugh radio listeners have come to know, "what I will be doing is unpacking boxes for some time."

Ms. Stein, who politely, but firmly, declines to reveal her age, started on Baltimore radio in 1961, working as the music director at WCBM-AM (680). She came to WBAL 21 years ago, where she holds the position of public service director and broadcasts her short interview program three times daily (at 9: 30 a.m., 10: 30 a.m. and 11: 30 a.m.).

The Baltimore native and graduate of Forest Park High School is confident she could remain on radio many more years, but is just as certain the time has come to move on and try something else.

"I think the time to go is when things are going good," Ms. Stein explains, "not when people are lying around saying, 'When is she going to leave?' "

One group who certainly has not been been asking that is her long-time sponsors. Many listeners no doubt identify Ms. Stein more with those businesses -- Mid-State Savings & Loan, Wells Liquors, the Elizabeth Conley Agency, Alex Cooper -- than with her interviews.

It's those sponsors, however, who will ensure her voice doesn't become totally foreign to Baltimore listeners. "It's very flattering that many of my sponsors still want me to do commercials for them," she says, adding she'll be happy to comply.

What she won't be doing anymore are the interviews she has enjoyed so much with celebrities of great and small renown. Those are now officially in the past; just last week, she sat down, went through her old tapes and decided to throw them all away.

"I would need to have a special moving company for all those tapes," she says, noting it took a week just to go through them all. "I just can't see myself ever sitting down and listening to old tapes."

Since Ms. Stein announced a few weeks ago that she was leaving, the phone calls and accolades have kept coming. WJZ, Channel 13, aired a tribute to her at the end of its most recent edition of "Square-Off," where she's been a panelist 14 years. People keep saying how brave she is to be setting off to a new town and new life -- which she says is overdoing it. "It didn't occur to me that it takes nerves or guts," she explains.

And Friday, she'll leave the air after three shows with Don Walls, a film and theater critic she's been working with for more than 25 years.

"He wants to spend the time reminiscing," she says, unsure if that's the way to go. "I'm not that crazy about reminiscing."

Asked how she'd like to be remembered, Ms. Stein at first hesitates. It's not an area she's thought much about.

"I really don't know," she says finally. "One thing everybody knows, and that is that I tell the truth -- about everything except my age."

The great ships

Apologies to all the ship lovers who read this column (and judging by the phone calls, there are more than a few). I goofed last week.

"Floating Palaces," the A&E network's two-part look at the people and ships that crossed the Atlantic during the 19th and 20th centuries, airs tonight and tomorrow.

Part 1, about the thousands of immigrant ships that brought new citizens to these shores in the 19th century, airs from 8 to 10 tonight. Part 2, about the huge luxury liners that dominated the Atlantic's golden age, airs from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow.

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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