Category Archives: wpvi

Bill Webber Passes

Philadelphia radio and television legend Bill Webber passed away this weekend. He was scheduled for heart surgery but died before it could be done. He was 80.

Webber was a fixture on the Philadelphia media scene for over five decades, and never retired. He was a radio disc jockey, television pioneer, talk show host, kids show host, telethon emcee, announcer, nice guy, a giant of a man, and an industry legend. He served for years as an officer in the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1999. He worked in many, if not most of the media outlets in the Philadelphia area.

That would be enough, but on a personal level, I feel like I’ve lost a part of my childhood. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bill Webber doubled as Wee Willie Webber on local channel 17 on weekday afternoons as the host of their children’s programming. Bill Webber was the face that greeted me when I got home from school and filled in the commercial breaks during such life-shaping TV shows like “Speed Racer” and “Ultraman.”

That might sound silly, but when I met the man in person years later – thinner, older and sporting a goatee – Mr. Webber was thrilled to hear that he was remembered so fondly and insisted that I, then a grown man, call him Wee Willie and even imitated Ultraman’s Spacium Ray gesture at me as he walked away. A nice man, and a very cool man. He will be missed by many.

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Al Alberts Dead at 87

Al Alberts, local Philadelphia icon and founding member of the Four Aces, is dead today at the age of 87 of kidney failure. His child talent showcase ran on WPVI channel 6 for over three decades and was frequently the landing field for many local dance studios, fledgling singers and little comedians.

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Dave Roberts and Action News

I was directed to watch 6ABC’s local Philadelphia news at 11 tonight by a message on their Facebook:

Action News turn to 6abc right now! Dave’s gonna make the big announcement!

Now aside from the fact that such grammar from a news outlet would have made my Journalism professor choke on his Almond Joy, the announcement was that longtime on-air announcer Dave Roberts was retiring. He’s been with Channel 6 since the late seventies and has always been a friendly informative source for news and entertainment whether he was doing the news, weather, magazine shows or holiday parades. His final day will be December 11th so we’ll get one more Thanksgiving Day parade out of him. Dave will most certainly be missed.

What bugged me was that this was the first full episode of “Action News” I’ve watched in well over a decade. I know I’ve blogged on this before but I’m still shocked at how truly bad local news has become.

“Action News” used to be the local newscast in the 1970s. The witty and hip interaction (pun unintended) between the late Jim O’Brien and his cohorts invited viewers in to this television family. In hindsight, perhaps the much-missed O’Brien was the glue that held everything together for the newscast. He was never truly replaced by anyone his equal. Everyone after was just obviously trying to be him.

The broadcast I watched tonight barely spent five minutes on hard news but spent more than that on a special report about cougars. Then the weather was overshadowed by a longer story about what might be coming this winter. This is news? After all that I could have just clicked over to the station’s website to get the news on Dave’s retirement, and not suffered through this mess. But maybe that’s the point. Between the internet and the various 24/7 cable news outlets, local news is dead.

Good luck, Dave, maybe you’re getting out before it’s too late.

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Gary Papa 1954-2009

After a long battle with cancer, local news and sports anchor Gary Papa has passed away.

He joined the Action News on-air staff as a sportscaster in 1981 and was promoted to sports director nine years later.

Papa was also the host of “Prime Time” which he took over from the late Jim O’Brien.

He was beloved in the Philadelphia area and will be missed.

View more here.