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September 06, 1985 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-09-06

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Unfortunately, the team's gim-
mick didn't work in Detroit. According
to Specs, WJR's J.P. McCarthy was too
much of a powerhouse. Adds Specs,
"We were out of our element. We did
our best and it didn't measure up to
what was needed."
Luckily, Specs, now out of a job
and the father of four, was called back
by his alma mater station in Cleve-
land, but only stayed six months. He
missed his family and came back to
Detroit in 1969, however no job offers
were waiting. "It was tough because it
was the first time in my whole life that
I've ever really been out of a job and I
did it to myself."
The fear of, being a 50-year-old
disc jockey disturbed him, as did being
out of a job, and he looked for a radio
station to buy. He couldn't find inves-
tors, but he didn't give up. Besides, he
says, there are many other aspects of
the business that he could pursue:
management, promotion, sales.
It was then that opportunity
knocked. Former WXYZ disc jockey
Johnny Randall had told him that a
former fellow d.j., Lee Alan, was about
to sell his broadcasting school, which
in 1969 amounted to one studio located
in Redford Township, Mich. Randall
told him he had nothing to lose and to
check it out. At first Specs was skepti-
cal. But Randall was persistent. Specs
told his wife, Ceil, and she also said
"what have you got to lose?" He met
Alan, negotiated, and subsequently
bought the school.
The school, now housed in a
Southfield office building, has its own
all-news and music stations, studios,
classrooms and a full-time teaching
staff. Last year, the school racked up a
90 percent placement figure. Some of
radio's local disc jockeys and producers
as well as cable television personnel
can attribute their success to their
training at the school.
As the school reaps pride in its
graduates, so do the graduates feel
about Specs. Steve Kretzmer of Oak
Park, a recent graduate, remembers
Specs "as being a real gentleman.
There's an excellent rapport between
him and the students."
Gene Maxwell, who attended the
school about 12 years ago and now
holds the 10 a.m.-3 p.m. slot on
WNIC-AM, has fond memories of
Specs. "What is great about Specs is
that he's always there," rather than
being an absentee owner. Maxwell
said he was impressed by the "wealth
of knowledge" Specs had about the
business and "was very good at what
he was trying to do," pass along that
knowledge to his students.
Maxwell recalled that he related
well to the students and that he was a
"good communicator."
His employees also recognize the
good relationship he has with his
students. Dick Kernen, director of
public and industrial relations,
attributed this to a "fatherly element
to his personality." Tom Profit, di-
rector of student affairs concurs. "He

genuinely cares about people who
work for him, sometimes a little too
much. Almost like a father. To me
that's a big deal."
Ernie Zinger, an instructor in
radio and TV at the school, finds Specs'
sense of humor a plus.
His wife says his sentimental na-
ture about family in particular is his
most outstanding quality. Ask him
about his four children, Shelly, Marty,
Alisa, Jonathan, and his four
grandchildren and you'll have to run
and get an umbrella as tears of pride
and joy well up in his eyes. '
In addition to his family devo-
tions, Specs is a traditional Jew. He is
a past president of Cong. Shomrey
Emunah and his children attended
Hebrew day schools. According to his
wife, he is a strong supporter of De-
troit's Akiva and Hillel Day Schools
and the Yeshivath Beth Yehudah. He

works behind the scenes for Machon
L'Torah, the Cleveland Hebrew
Academy, the Holocaust Memorial
Center, Bar-Ilan University and the
Lubavitch movement, among others.
He has made facilities at the school
available to Rabbi Yitschak Kagan of
the Lubavitcher Center to tape his
weekly rad i o program.
Undaunted by a physical disabil-
ity caused by a bout with polio as a
youth, Specs travels through the halls
of his school, not necessarily to super-
vise, but to get to know his students.
He may pop in on a student who may
be having his or her first stint in front
of the microphone at one of the school's
radio stations just to see how he or she
is doing..He may offer a helping hand.
He greets all his employees by name
and makes an effort to learn the names
of his students. He teaches perform-
ance development, and in the first or

"When I was on the air . ..
never really wanted to be a disc
jockey. When I went into the
business I wanted ownership,
management, that kind of thing."

Friday, September 6, 1985 49

second week of school will know his
students by name.
Specs didn't start out to be a disc
jockey. He had other plans.
"When I was on the air, and this
sounds dumb, but I never really
wanted to be a disc jockey. When I
went into the business I wanted own-
ership, management, that kind of
thing," but he adds, "very few of us
start out doing what he or she wants.
You always meet a bend in the road
and you get lost. You take the left in-
stead of the right and find that's not
bad either.
Specs keeps a low profile s — pur-
posely. He recalled that during his disc
jockey days in Cleveland he had to
make more than 100 personal appear-
ances per year. In addition, he had to
answer his own fan mail. He enjoyed
the limelight then, but today, would
rather let the school speak for itself. In
his personal life, he counts a pharma-
cist, dentist and people in professions
away from radio among his close asso-
ciates. For diversion, he likes to get
involved in a poker game with friends
from the synagogue.
"I like privacy. I always was a pri-
vate person . . . The two names (Specs
Howard and "Jerry" Liebman) have
helped me a great deal. I think it's an
outgrowth of that when I realize that I
could be Jerry Liebman and go home
and to my synagogue and be a family
person. And Specs Howard was that
(radio) side of it. It just worked out
He's also a storyteller, and a favo-
rite is how he got his radio name. Ob-
viously, it had to do with the ever-
present glasses, but there's more.
"As a disc jockey 'Jerry Liebman'
didn't seem to fit what they (manage-
ment) wanted . . . They went out to a
four-martini lunch and came back and
were ecstatic. They found my name
and it was the best thing that hap-
pened in the whole Westinghouse
chain and they told me and I told my
wife, and neither one of us believed it.
And that's how I got my name."
How he became a d.j. with a reg-
ular- slot is better still. He recalls that
when the Cleveland station was
changing formats, all of the eight
house jocks were told to submit audi-
tion tapes. Most balked, but Specs
gave it a try. He landed the 10 a.m.-2
p.m. spot and enjoyed a successful stint
there. Two years later he was told how
he got the show.
Management had listened to his
tape, much as they would listen to a
party record, he recalled. He said the
management found nothing right with
the tape, bad selections of songs, step-
ping over intros and the like. "They
said anyone who had such guts and
nerve to turn that in• deserved a
chance." And it was a chance well
Outside the school, he shies away,
from people in the field. But he'll never
let go of his love of broadcasting. "I
love the business and want to stay in
it." D.

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