In 1952 Gene Rayburn left WNEW to pursue a career in Television. WNEW needed a new partner and interviewed over 300 people for the coveted position. Aspiring reporter Gene Klavan applied for the position thinking it was a temporary career decision; a detour from his pursuit of a television career. Gene embarked on a career with WNEW for a mere 24 years in the morning spot.
In the first few weeks, Klavan brought a new level of craziness to the show “Anything Goes”. Dee Finch was the straight man, Klavan was the comedian. Station manager Bernice Judi had to tone down Gene’s rapid fire style. According to Klavan: Ms. Judi coached him “You don’t have to do every accent….. You don’t have to do every impression…. take it easy, coast a little bit”.
For the next fifteen years, Klavan and Finch changed the face of morning radio for commuters and families. New Yorkers were presented a new radio experience. Children getting ready for school could listen with their parents while eating their breakfast cereal. Commuters on the parkways could reduce the burden of New York traffic with a little humor. Vaudevillian in style, this format was copied by radio stations across the country.
For the next fifteen years, the partnership flourished. Klavan commented on Dee Finch in 1984: “He was spectacular. He was more than a straight man. People say a straight man, but he had a marvelous sense of humor. A great voice and a fetching laugh. I mean if he laughed even I couldn’t help it, I would break up, basically he was a really good actor. He adlibbed, we never prepared anything, even though I used to hope we would sometimes. He had a great understanding of what we were doing. We were two minds without any.”
Dee Finch retired from WNEW and radio in 1968.
Gene Klavan went solo and left WNEW in 1977. Klavan wrote a biography in 1964 “We Die at Dawn,” that largely focused on the morning show. He followed it up in 1972 with “Turn that damned thing off”, a book about the news media industry. In 1977 he moved to 710 WOR for an afternoon slot and left radio altogether in 1980. He later became a commentator at WCBS-TV in New York, a host for the AMC channel, and a columnist for Newsday.
Klavan’s sons, Andrew Klavan and Laurence Klavan, are best-selling authors and screenwriters
Klavan’s thoughts on early days of WNEW under Bernice Judis management:
“We always looked as handsome as we could. Judis used to say we’re appealing to women and we have to look sexy.”
Listen to Gene and Dee “Anything Goes” promos from 1962: