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The Flip Side of Tom Bergeron

Tom Bergeron 1981 (c) copyright

Who knew back in 1981 that local radio DJ Tom Bergeron would blossom into a prime time TV host? Actually, it was pretty likely. He had the drive, the talent and the business sense to make it. Back in 1981 Bergeron talked about his early days and future aspirations to two high school reporters.




AFV and "Dancing" Host Was Seacoast NH DJ

TV-host Tom Bergeron was always flip. He honed his irreverent patter while flipping records on a Seacoast radio station. In 1981 Bergeron was the happy-go-lucky DJ at WHEB AM/FM in Portsmouth, NH. He talked frankly with two journalism students from Exeter High School prior to his evening broadcast. Born in 1955, Bergeron went on from radio to host Granite State Challenge, a PBS TV game show on NH Public Television. He worked his way through WBZ radio and TV in Boston and almost landed the spot as host of Good Morning America. Today, the mature 50-something Bergeron has been seen hosting, among other top shows, America’s Funniest Home Videos, the Miss America Pageant, Hollywood Squares and Dancing with the Stars. His dozens of TV appearances include spots on the View, with Tony Danza and Howard Stern, on Mad TV, Entertainment Tonight, Larry King Live, and even two episodes as an alien on Star Trek Enterprise. Portions of the following article originally appeared in the Exeter High School students newspaper. -- JDR

Tom Bergeron publicity photo

October 1981

High school was "a four year blur" for the boy who had "a craving to win elections". Tom Bergeron was editor of his high school newspaper and president of the student council at Haverhill High School in Massachusetts.

"I tried to steer the student newspaper toward more pertinent information instead of the usual gossip and bull," said Bergeron, now 27. When he expressed an interest in journalism, Bergeron’s teacher, who was also a newsman at the local WHAV radio station, set up an interview with the station manager. He was hired on the spot.

"When I got out of high school, I kept my job at the station," Bergeron says. "I didn’t see the use of going to college to learn about how to get a job in broadcasting when I already had a job in broadcasting. I regret not going, from a social standpoint, but I think it was a career-wise move."



While working at WHAV Bergeron took night classes at Northern Essex University. There he received his first mime and theater training. Those who hear Bergeron nightly on the radio may not know the extent of his theatrical training. Escaping briefly from radio, Bergeron traveled to New York. There he performed a half-monologue half-mime nightclub show. Not yet ready to become part of the "Big Apple" he returned to New England.

Tom Bergeron publicity pic ABC TVThe next stop for Bergeron upon returning was Celebration Mime Theatre in South Paris, Maine. He got extensive training from the famous mime Tony Montanaro. He then started at WHEB in Portsmouth, NH in the 7 pm to 12 am slot, taking the place of Norm Thibeau. Here the basic Tom Bergeron-style was born.

His radio format is relaxed, to say the least. Bergernon places phone calls over the world to talk to interesting people on-air. He sees his show as a performance, not just throwing records on the turntable. Every night the DJ goes on the air and has to give the impression that he is constantly having a good time. Between 10:30 to 11:30 pm, he runs into the fourth hour slump. This is where the acting really comes out, he says.

As a promotion for WHEB, the radio crew produced "The Great Radio Show". The show, a collection of skits and comedy routines, was presented at Theatre-by-the-Sea, an intimate grassroots stage originally set up in an old grain warehouse on the waterfront in Portsmouth, NH.

Tom Bergeron publicity pic ABCMonday Night Live came next. Bergeron and morning DJ Bill McDermod campaigned for jobs on the popular TV show Saturday Night Live. Their self-promotional campaign promised, if hired, that they would revive the show’s sagging ratings. Fans made phone calls, sported buttons and a launched a letter-writing campaign to bring the boys to Hollywood.

It didn’t fly, but it was here that Bergeron saw the potential for a one-man show. During a vacation from radio, he wrote, directed and starred in "For one Night Only, All Week Long". The four-day variety show marathon also ran at Theatre by the Sea where host Bergeron mimed, sang, presented comic skits and flirted with some serious acting. His guest performers included singer Randa McNamara, musicians Ebaucher and Hyde and the Kitchen Sink Mime Theatre.

Asked if he has more hidden talents, Bergon said, "I’ve got some talents that can’t be legally exhibited."

"I had a strong year at Theatre by the Sea, Bergeron says. "I’d like to go somewhere else, do something else. My next step would be a move into the television environment, maybe doing an interview-style program in which I’d also be able to perform."

In conclusion Bergeron says, "I’m responsible for what I am and what I want to be. I’m not trying to live by another’s standards."

Written by Keith Nelson and JP Smith. Originally published in the Exeter High School Talon, October 1981, J. Dennis Robinson advisor/editor. Update copyright © 2007 by All rights reserved. 

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