Expressing appreciation for a voice Tribute: The Broadcasting Institute of Baltimore dedicates a classroom to Bill LeFevre, who for more than half a century has been a mainstay of the local airwaves.

On the Air

July 14, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Apologies to those who tuned in to WLG-AM (1360, 1330 in Havre de Grace) at 6 p.m. yesterday expecting to hear all about old Baltimore during "Startalk" with Walter Bright.

I goofed. The show airs 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Saturdays. Sorry.

You may remember Bill LeFevre as the tall guy with the Marine haircut, thick glasses and deep, melodious voice who would read the news on WBFF, Channel 45. Or as the host of WMAR, Channel 2's "Big Movie of the Week."

If you were an Orioles fan back in 1966, you may remember Bill LeFevre as the public address announcer at Memorial Stadium -- the man who announced that Frank Robinson's home run off Luis Tiant was the first ever hit completely out of the ballpark. Or maybe you knew him as the announcer at Clippers hockey or Bullets basketball games.


If you've been listening around these parts over the past 30 years, you remember Bill LeFevre.

Steps are being taken to ensure such memories linger. Beginning Friday, every student who attends the Broadcasting Institute of Baltimore will know about LeFevre, if not as a teacher (he's been an instructor there since the school's inception, although illness has kept him away for much of the last year), then as the man whose name is engraved on a plaque on their classroom door.

"They told me today that they're going to dedicate a classroom to me," LeFevre, 75, said Wednesday from his home near York, Pa. "That's fine with me, although kind of unexpected."

Well, it shouldn't be. And one suspects it won't be the last honor to come his way. For more than 50 years, LeFevre has been a mainstay of Baltimore's airwaves, first as an announcer and sports director on WFBR radio, later as a movie host and reporter on WMAR.

And in 1971, he was among the group of men who got Baltimore's WBFF, Channel 45, off the ground, serving as program director, on-air news reader and -- again -- movie host.

In his spare time, he helped launch the Broadcasting Institute of Baltimore, a 27-year-old school whose alumni include Baltimore police spokesman Sam Ringgold, WMAR's Jamie Costello and Sarah Fleischer of 98-Rock.

"When you see a student of yours on TV or on the air, there's a little ping there," LeFevre says.

A ping? Of what? Pride? Envy?

"Maybe both," he says with a laugh.

Bill LeFevre must be pinging plenty these days, as the men and women he taught at the institute continue making their mark on local airwaves. For a quarter-century, its founder says, he was the school's most visible asset.

"Frequently, in the beginning, when people would call, they would ask me point-blank, 'Who are you?' " remembers John Jeppi Jr., who opened the institute in 1969 and persuaded his friend to serve as its first faculty member. "I would say, 'You know, Bill LeFevre is director of the school,' and they would say, 'Oh, Bill LeFevre, sure.' "

Friday at the Harford Road building, Jeppi will preside over ceremonies as the institute's main classroom is dedicated to LeFevre. It's the least he can do, Jeppi says, for the man who made the institute possible.

"We were having dinner out at [former Oriole pitcher] Milt Pappas' restaurant, on Mount Royal, when I told him about it and asked him if he'd be willing to help out. I owe a great deal to him for letting me use his name."

LeFevre will have none of such hero worship, but admits he's glad to see his legacy will live on.

"I've had a lot of good feelings in my time, and this is one of them," he says. "This one especially, because it's something that will last. At least I hope it will."

The bad boy's return

He's back. Which means, I suspect, that folks in at least one part of town won't be listening to WBAL-AM (1090) afternoons this week.

Brian Wilson, bad-boy DJ, Dundalk basher, author and one-time co-king of the Baltimore airwaves, goes back on the air tomorrow, filling in for the vacationing Ron Smith through Friday.

Wilson, who was fired abruptly from his morning DJ slot on WOCT-FM (104.3) in November, has a history in Baltimore radio. For much of the late 1970s and early 1980s, he and his partner, Don O'Brien, were hosts of the area's highest-rated morning show. More recently, he headed up his own talk show on WCBM-AM (680) until WOCT hired him last August.

Three months later, he was off the air -- much to the delight of Dundalk residents who had grown tired of his constant put-downs of their community.

Will they be spared his wrath on WBAL next week? Tune in daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to find out.

The good old days

For a reminder of what Baltimore entertainment was like in the old days, when movie palaces like the Hippodrome, the Mayfair and the Town reigned, and big band music -- often broadcast live from local studios and other venues -- dominated the radio waves, check out "Startalk" with Walter Bright, Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WLG-AM (1360, 1330 in Havre de Grace).

Do more than check it out, Bright urges. Call in. The show'sname actually cuts two ways:

"The people who call in and tell me about the past are stars as well," the 29-year-old Brooklyn Park native explains. "There's only so much I can learn out of a book, and I want them to tell me about what Baltimore was like. I love to listen to the past."

"There are stars who came through Baltimore that I never thought would have come here," he adds. "Baltimore used to be a big part of the hustle and bustle of the entertainment world."

Beginning Saturday, Bright is expanding Startalk's scope to include an occasional guest. He'll kick off the new format with an over-the-phone visit from comedian Pat Cooper.

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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