Everyone knows KDKA morning radio host Larry Richert
As Larry Richert and John Mowod strolled toward the historic Colloseum in Rome, their reverie about the ancient structure was pierced from behind by shouts of “Larry!”
Thousands of miles from home, Richert, a long-time presence on Pittsburgh radio and television, found that he was no stranger even on an Italian thoroughfare. In this case, visiting priests from Duquesne University had spotted him.
Such moments are not isolated, says Mowod, his writing and business partner and the “Mowod-on-Movies” reviewer on the KDKA Morning News Show (1020 AM), co-hosted by Richert and John Shumway.
“Similar things have happened to us in Hollywood and New York City,” he says. “Larry is known all over the world.”
In the “world” of Pittsburgh, that certainly is the case.
“He is the quintessential voice and face of Pittsburgh,” says Michael Young, senior vice president and Pittsburgh market manager for CBS Radio Pittsburgh. “Whether you are a superstar athlete, a long-time politician, the CEO of a major corporation based in Pittsburgh, or just an average Joe, you know Larry, and he'll always make you smile.”
In addition to quarterbacking the radio show from 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays on a station that reaches 38 states and parts of Canada, Richert seems to be everywhere at once. He serves as a master of ceremonies at more than 100 benefits annually and even has charities named after him.
“There are so many people doing great things for others in need. It's hard to say no,” says Richert, 53. “I enjoy people, so it is a very comfortable place for me to be . I love this city. The people are like nowhere else.”
He is spokesman for many prominent area businesses, narrates the Steelers highlights for NFL films, and, this fall, will be the new public address announcer at Heinz Field for Steelers games.
“I am really looking forward to that, and I have the utmost respect for the Rooney family,” Richert says. “Faith, family and football, I get that!”
Long radio history
Richert is a native of Millvale who grew up in McCandless. He now lives in Pine with his wife Cindy, sister of Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, and their three children.
The North Allegheny High School graduate's first professional radio job in Pittsburgh was at WDSY (now Y-108) in 1979. He started while a student at Clarion College, graduating in December 1981.
He was on WTAE Radio and its sister, WHTX-FM (now KISS-FM) for almost six years, from 1983 to 1988. He narrated his first Steelers' highlight film in the mid-80s and produced Pitt football games for four seasons in the second half of the 1980s.
In 1989, KDKA-TV asked if he would be interested in hosting a morning television show that would be like radio on TV, plus he would be given his program on KDKA Radio following the John Cigna show.
“The rest is history,” Richert says.
His “Wake Up With Larry Richert” program aired on KDKA-TV at 6:30 a.m. from January 1989 through June 1990, and then transitioned into a two-hour news program, where he was first paired with Shumway.
He is proud of the KDKA-TV “On-The-Job” segments that he once reported, learning, he says, that no matter what kind of work people do, they take pride in it.
Moving to drive time
Richert was announced as John Cigna's replacement on the KDKA Morning News Show four days before 9/11.
His first guest was Bishop Donald Wuerl for a reflection on tested faith. Richert appreciates the opportunity to interview people from all walks of life.
“From talking to the president of the United States to the woman who witnessed a pot-bellied pig running down the Parkway West, every day is different,” he says.
”My role is like a traffic cop. We roll through a lot of information and elements. It's about keeping the show on-time and making sure we cover the bases.”
Richert accomplishes that function exceedingly well, says Nick Kratsas, the show's producer.
“We run a very tight schedule, to the point that even 10 seconds of mismanaged time could throw the entire show off,” he says. “He is an amazing leader, making everyone feel as important to the show as he is.”
Kratsas believes Richert has been able to stay in broadcasting for such a longtime because he has evolved with the industry, taking on a variety of jobs — including music DJ, television host and reporter. He has been on KDKA Radio and TV for 23 years, and at times, was full-time on both.
“Live TV and radio is the best,” Richert says. “There is a game day adrenaline that gets your attention.”
In addition to his radio and TV work, he and Mowod co-wrote the original screenplay and helped produce the feature film “Amazing Racer” (originally called “Shannon's Rainbow). Filmed in the Pittsburgh area, the movie is about a girl recovering from emotional trauma after the death of her father by caring for a horse and finding the mother she never knew she had.
The film, which stars Louis Gossett Jr., Eric Roberts, Julianne Michelle, Daryl Hannah, Claire Forlani, Charles Durning and Jason Gedrick, was well-received at the Cannes Film Festival in May. A deal is expected to be in place soon for domestic release. (View the trailer at www.amazingracerthemovie.com.)
“Everybody knows how funny Larry is, but I learned writing with him, how intelligent he really is,” says Mowod.
Richert, a weather anchor for 10 years with KDKA-TV, jokes that he was typecast with a small part in the film playing a weatherman.
‘The ultimate host'
Richert's on-air partner Shumway praises Richert as “the ultimate host” on and off the air. “He has a sincere way of making people feel welcome and engaged.”
His humor is spontaneous and he has no problem being self-deprecating, he says.
“His stories about growing up here, his Catholic upbringing, his librarian mom, career car-salesman dad and host of Millvale relatives, especially Aunt Sis, are all characters in the story that is Larry,” Shumway says.
Richert, returns the praise. “John works extremely hard and he really knows news. We don't miss much with him watching the world,” he says. A dedicated staff makes going to work everyday fun, Richert says.
Veteran on-air staffer Rob Pratte lauds Richert as “pure class ... and the ultimate team player.”
Richert's attributes — equal parts educator and entertainer — play perfectly on radio, which is why he excels at it, says program director Jim Graci. “Nothing tops reality and sincerity. Larry shines in both of those categories,” Graci says.
It's about “being yourself, a kind voice in the darkness,” Richert says. That's why radio, he believes, even in this “high-tech, give-it-to-me-now society,” still has a place.
“In spite of all the innovations, you are still only speaking to one person at a time,” he says. “It's even more intimate in a world that increasingly is less verbal.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.