Woog’s World Remembering ‘good guy’ Ed Baer
Ed Baer told everyone, “We’ll have to have lunch sometime.” I must have heard it 100 times.
We never had lunch. In fact, I did not meet Ed until long after he made that offer.
But no one who ever heard it blamed Ed. It was his longtime signoff as a WMCA disc jockey. It was typical Ed Baer: warm, homey, loving. It was radio, sure, but you always knew Ed said it with a smile. That smile traveled over the airwaves, as clear and as strong as his voice and his “lunch” line.
My association with Ed Baer came through tinny transistor and car radios. He was a WMCA “Good Guy” when that radio station was battling WABC for supremacy in the mega-New York market.
WMCA — just 5,000 watts — was the underdog. WABC was 10 times more powerful. But I preferred the “Good Guys” to the “All Americans.” WMCA DJs like B. Mitchel Reid and Gary Stevens had more of an edge (except for WABC’s scathingly funny Dan Ingram). Wherever I went in the mid- and late 1960s, WMCA was there.
Ed was the guy who did the fill-in shifts. He was steady, reliable — a real pro. Whenever he was on, he ended his “Ed Baer Affair” with that line: “We’ll have to have lunch sometime.”
Growing up, I never knew that we actually could have had lunch. I had no idea that Ed Baer lived only a couple of miles from me, right here in Westport.
Or that he was a Class of 1954 Staples High School graduate.
Ed’s parents moved to Westport in 1945. He was 9 years old. His father opened a candy store and soda fountain at Desi’s Corner, across from the train station. Ed worked there during high school. CBS newsman Douglas Edwards — a Weston resident — was a regular customer.
Ed discovered broadcasting at the University of Connecticut. When his father had a heart attack, Ed transferred to the University of Bridgeport. Win Elliot — a legendary New York Rangers broadcaster, and fellow Westporter — gave Ed’s career an early boost. He was hired by Bridgeport station WICC.
Ed served at Fort Dix, then got a job at 50,000-watt KRAK in Sacramento. When his father died, he returned home. Dan Ingram — who had worked with Ed at WICC — helped him land a job at Dan’s WABC’s rival, WMCA.
The rest is history. Ed was there as the station moved from Paul Anka and Bobby Darin to the Stones, Supremes and Doors. He was in the broadcast booth when the Beatles played at She Stadium. And he was there when FM knocked AM stations out of the rock ‘n’ roll ballpark. WMCA became all-talk. Today it’s a Christian station.
Ed spent the next 40-plus years at a variety of stations, playing all kinds of formats. He was a country DJ at WHN. At WYNY, it was adult hits. He played everything at WHUD, a popular station in northern Westchester. He went back to his rock roots at oldies station WCBS-FM.
Most recently — changing easily with the times — Ed Baer was heard nationwide, on Sirius Satellite Radio. He hosted a weekday morning show featuring songs from the 1950s and 1960s. On weekends, he played country music.
Like I said, as a teenager I never knew Ed was a neighbor. But one summer evening, in the 1980s or 1990s, I noticed a big car parked at Compo’s South Beach. The license plate read: “EDBAER.”
An older-looking couple sat nearby. I went up to the man — a big guy, relaxing in a folding chair — and asked, “Are you Ed Baer, the disc jockey?”
“I am!” he said, in a voice I’d known seemingly forever. “Who are you?”
I introduced myself, and said I was a longtime fan. He knew my name, and invited me to sit down. We had a great conversation. I learned a lot about my former favorite radio station. And about what it was like to grow up in Westport, a couple of decades before I did.
I ran into Ed several times after that. I saw him at a Town Hall screening of “The High School That Rocked,” Fred Cantor’s documentary about the many concerts Staples sponsored that included an interview with him.
I spent a fascinating afternoon at his home off Wilton Road (on “Baer Trail”) two years ago, when his grandsons helped him sell his astonishing record collection. We sat in his home studio, as he told story after story of his life and career.
Ed Baer died last week, from complications of pneumonia. He was 82 years old.
He was not just a “Good Guy” — he was a great guy. I’m one of millions of fans who thank him for decades of entertainment and enjoyment.
Even if we never had lunch.