Sunday, June 25, 2017

The LuLac Edition #3542, June 25th, 2017


(all photos: LuLac archives)
L.A. Tarone lost his courageous battle with cancer last night at the Guardian Skilled Nursing Facility in Nanticoke. First diagnosed with lung cancer in November of 2015, Tarone has been fighting this affliction with every ounce of strength in his body.
On this warm Sunday summer evening, his body just gave out. But not before he sought treatments at Fox Chase, and vowed he would win this. When he first received the news, he told me that the first weekend for him was hell. Holed up in his house, he felt frustration and disbelief. But then he said that he needed to work. He wanted to work through this. So for 18 months, L.A. Tarone got up every day and went to work. He was doing the thing he loved the most, talking on the radio.
When Tarone first worked weekends at WILK, he was offered a weekend gig on a Sunday which he relished with gusto. I was doing a Friday afternoon show with him at his main job back then, News Director at WYLN TV 35 in Hazleton. After a year or two, Tarone said he was offered a night time talk show at the station replacing syndicated Andy Dean. I was thrilled, he was apprehensive. Tarone said he wanted to do it but was afraid nighttime talk in this region would be unsuccessful given how most people plant themselves in front of the TV for night time recreation. I reminded him of the old WBAX where a talk show called “Speak Up” was all the rage. That was broadcast from 10 p.m. to 1a.m. and hosted by the late Jones Evans. I reminded him that with his “ahem”, interesting way of looking at things, he’d have people turning off that TV and listening to him. Turned out he took the job and I was right. And I never let him forget it!
During his time at WILK, Tarone became one of the most popular talk show hosts in the history of local radio. The phone lines were frequently jammed and L.A. agreed, screamed, yelled, disagreed and cajoled his callers, in some cases all at the same time. I’d be a guest on his show and we’d scream and yell and then during the commercials talk about sports. The last time I was on the air with him was his Christmas show of 2016 where he played terrific holiday tunes of years gone by. We chatted about Holiday music as well as his health. He then asked, “When are you going to stop calling my President names?” I said, “2017 was a new year and I would try”. I did, I really did.
I heard Tarone on Good Friday and he was talking about the religious observance of the day. He shared with listeners stories about his family’s religious leanings and how some incidents impacted him. I was happy to hear him sound in great spirits. That was L.A., the consummate professional. I was told today on the way out of the facility that he was in constant pain in his back and side but soldiered on.
The staff at WILK visited him at Fox Chase and brought thousands of cards, and envelopes which included car magazines and snacks. When he came to Nanticoke, I had the opportunity to visit him before he passed on. One Friday afternoon, I brought him snacks as well as a poster of Kate Upton. I pulled it out and showed it to him. He waved it off and said, “What do ya want me to do with that?” I told him, I’d hang it up or take it back if he didn’t like it. “He looked at it again and said with a sigh of resignation, “leave it”. That afternoon we sat on the back patio at the old St. Stan’s orphanage and nursing home. I gave him the history of the building and we spoke of baseball, music and then sports in general. He was as sharp as ever and filled in the blanks when I was trying to think of an obscure incident or stat. We talked about one of the great Philadelphia deejays, Dr. Don Rose. Tarone recounted how when Rose had cancer his listeners rallied around him. I replied, “Just like your listeners are doing for you!” He smiled and said, “There’s a lot of stuff, I don’t know where I’ll put it when I get out of here”. I told him he’d find a way.
Then there was silence until he said, “You going to admit you were wrong about the President”. I started to give him an answer but then the doors swung open and we were ushered back into his room.
Sunday we watched baseball as he ate fruit pieces. He told me that he yearned to get back on the air, that he could do the show from his room if he had the equipment. I agreed. I’m not sure he bought it.
This weekend I saw him, and L.A. was on another journey. As I sat there watching him sleep, I thought of my own trip with him.
Like many things Tarone and I disputed, it should come as no surprise that we disagreed on how we met. L.A. said we met in the early 80s when as station manager at WRKC FM, the King’s College station, he drafted me to do a Friday night show. I did it and it was great.
However, my story is different. When I was working at WVIA FM and TV, one day in 1978 a fresh faced kid from Hazleton came in to the FM side and wanted a tour. We were looking for volunteers and this guy was interested in broadcasting. After showing him the Automation unit he’d be running (at the time WVIA FM only had live news and George Graham’s “Mixed Bag”) he asked if he’d be talking on the radio. I told him no. “Not even the weather?” he asked. “Nope”, I replied, “It’s taped.” He told me he was going to start at King’s and I said this job would be perfect for him since he could do all his homework and term papers here while he babysat the automation unit. He thanked me and I never heard from him again until that phone call in 1980.
Tarone was a Station Manager at WRKC and worked very well in making it a leader in college radio in this area. He lived on Jackson Street as a student and was well known in the local music and band scene. As a matter of fact he has a CD of songs called The River Street Rumble, The RST Anthology which I am proud to own.
After college, Tarone worked at old WSCR in Scranton. When it morphed into Q13 and was run by former WARM legend Bob Woody, Tarone cut his teeth on news and on the air. Starting in 1990, Tarone was News Director as well and hosted a daily controversial issues talk show. He also did street reporting, anchoring and was the Program Director at this station which he flipped from a full service Adult Contemporary station to news/talk.
For 11 years he was a news reporter for the Hazleton Standard Speaker, primarily covering Government and Politics as well as writing columns on politics, sports and music. I dare say if they asked L.A. to write a column on Band-Aids, he’s research it and jump at the chance.
I became reacquainted with him when I’d see him do Editorials on WYLN TV 35. “I know that guy, I thought”. Little did I realize how well I’d get to know him. After the newspaper, (where he was Union rep) he went on to become news director of WYLN TV 35 in Hazleton in 2008. He served there until 2013 when he went to WILK. It was at WYLN TV 35 that he and I reconnected. After WYOU TV ended their interactive news, Tarone asked me to work on Election Night coverage. Shortly thereafter, he asked if I’d do Topic A with him. Topic A was a daily show he did on TV. It was a precursor of his radio show. Every Friday he and I would take polar opposite positions on issues. It was the most fun I ever had in broadcasting.
L.A. Also wrote a book that should be used in the Hazleton Area Schools. It was called “We Were Here Once," a history of Northeastern PA in general, and Hazleton, PA specifically. It is a not-always-pleasant look at, as the subtitle says, "successes, mistakes and calamities in Hazleton history."
Tarone also appeared on PCN, The Pennsylvania Cable Network on “Pa Books” but also was invited to be a panelist on their prestigious “Journalists’ Roundtable” program.
In addition to all of this, he served as a co-host of a daily sports program "The Game Plan," the local sports talk show on WHBS-FM on the now defunct Sports Hub.
That was LA. Tarone’s multimedia public body of work. As I sat with him, my thoughts wandered away from this tremendous body of work by my good friend. There was a public side, but a private side too. L.A. helped raised a niece and a nephew. He helped anyone who wanted a start in the business or needed a project promoted. Personally, when we’d work in some of those Hazleton winters, L.A. would be certain I’d get in and out of the station safely. He was loud and brash in public, and kind, gentle and caring in private.
Today I returned essentially to say goodbye. The time for the fight was over. He was surrounded by some members of the WILK staff, (Nancy Kman, Karyl Zubris, Jake Rattle and Roll and his mom and dad, Fast Freddy, Bob and Paula Reynolds and Jim Doherty) his family, aunt and uncle, cousins, and friends. Sue Henry and Mike Moran who were the pillars of the L.A. Tarone Support team were there when he passed on. Thanks to the persistence of our good friend and fervent L.A. Tarone listener, Kathleen Smith, a minister and his wife prayed with L.A. and his family in the morning. In the afternoon, a priest from St. Faustina’s gave him the Last Rites of the church.
On one of the days I visited him, I broached the subject that this thing (the hospital stay) could go south, he scowled at me and said, “It won’t.”
I thought about that today driving home from his room. How do you sum up the life of L.A. Tarone, the public figure, the private man?
He got his share of criticism, but he never whined. He carved out a career in an unflinching and uncompromising way. He took risks and was nicer to some people than they deserved. Tarone was a complicated guy.
I struggled with this one but I think I found the right quote from the right man. It was from a Republican of course. I’d get no scowl on this one from L.A. Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
All of us who knew and loved L.A. were honored to be part of the triumphs and the losses of his life. In my estimation, the wins heavily outweighed the losses – except for this defeat by this insidious disease. We’ll miss him and remember him for as long as we are alive. He was the stuff of broadcast legends. And he was a good friend.
L.A. Tarone died at 7pm June 25th. He was 58. 


  L.A. taking Topic A on the road with former Congressman Kanjorsksi. 

"You be nice to Barletta" L.A. warned before the interview. "I'm always nice to Lou" I said. You judge.  

 One of the first Election Nights with WYLN TV 35 with L.A. From left to right Don Pachance, Joe Zoba, Kim Zorbay and the man himself. That night L.A. had the end seat because he kept running out to get the returns. 

Tarone had a half hour commentary show on WYLN TV.  It ran once a week but was repeated several times. 

Show prep for "Topic A" was us yelling at each other. Director Joe Maggio seemed to calm us down. 
 This was a memorable photo at the Coal Street Rink. Karel Zubris (center) actually got L.A. on skates on the rink. He did very well. Tom Grace from the Pens hosted the station.

This was around 2010, spring primary night with L.A. Lisa and Joe on The Late Edition set. 

At some point during our "Topic A" show, there would be an outburst of joy. Or something. 

One of my most prized items of clothing is a WYLN TV 35 windbreaker he somehow scrounged for me. He offered me a heavier parka but I told him I needed something for the rain. Every time  I wore it, I'd email him and I'd get, "You could've had the damn parka!" Here I am in that rain slicker just before he was diagnosed.

 L.A. would buy a lot of his clothes in various venues. I never asked where.  He claimed this one came from a Russian Czar, said was the guy's smoking jacket.
I'm told this one got a "say what?" from station management. I think it was the caption not the coat.  
You think these are pinstripes? Plane stripes maybe. "It's a classic" he says. 
He even dressed colorfully for radio! 

He even influenced me. A bit. A little bit. 
 "You have a job interview today?" I asked when they took this photo of a toned down ensemble. 
But this was my favorite.
L.A. never strayed away from his WRKC FM roots. Here he is at Father Tom Carten's Radio Home Visitor's 40th anniversary event. Dressed to what he considered "a casual affair" he hangs with Shivaun O'Donnell and Patrick Fadden. 
L.A. was a work, work, work type of guy but on this night, Twig, Pat and I got him out for  bite at the Hollywood Diner.
L.A. and I doing a remote for WYLN TV surrounded by one of the things he loved most, vehicles. 


You can check out our "Topic A"  shows on my You Tube Channel but here are two of my favorites. 

In this episode, L.A. was doing the weather and pretty much everything else.

On a Good Friday, we had a debate on Wine Kiosks. Turned out I was the Conservative. 

We'll talk again! 


At 9:43 AM, Blogger Mcgyver said...

Great remembrance!

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A wonderful tribute to a very good man and no comments?
Then let me be the first.
Bravo Mr. Yonki, what a wonderful bit of writing about Mr Tarone, a man you obviously cared for. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your friend

At 10:10 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...

A wonderful tribute to a very good man and no comments?


It's odd. Not many comments but the second largest spike I had for 2017. Thanks for posting and especially thank to all for reading Monday the 26th.

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of us (his friends) are still processing his passing.
Too young, too soon.
My words are stuck at my elbow.
You did a fine job Yonk.

At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The drive home seems to take a bit longer.

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I think it strikes a good balance between the good and bad times. Every time I read something, I learn he did something else I did not know, or worked somewhere else. LA seemed to have 500 different jobs over time, and sometimes a few at once. He was obviously put here for a reason, and did a lot of good. A life well lived.

I skimmed the opening the other day, but it was so late I did not finish. I came back today rested a bit better, so this makes more sense now.

I love LA so much and will always remember him. People like this do not come around very often, and the pleasure of knowing him was all mine.

As LA's RST song goes, he lived the way he was meant to, he got the world All Kranked Up! RIP my friend. We'll talk again.


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