Podcast: Bergeron Returns to WHAV Studio Where Career Began; Reflects on Meeting His Idols

Tom Bergeron takes his seat in the very studio at 30 How St., Haverhill, where his career launched in 1972. (WHAV News photograph.)

(Additional photographs below.)

Transcript: WHAV’s recent move back to its original building in downtown Haverhill has brought back pleasant memories for many people, including Tom Bergeron, who made his way back to the very studio where he began his broadcasting career in 1972, while still attending Haverhill High School.

Bergeron, who in the meantime has hosted “Hollywood Squares,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Dancing with the Stars,” among other shows, sat down with me and his former WHAV co-worker Tim Coco. He was asked if his move to Hollywood was, in part, a way to meet some of his childhood idols that included William Shatner, Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner.

“You know it worked out that way. It really did. Shatner and I have a film project now with Village Roadshow that we are hoping to shoot this year, and being over at Dick Van Dyke’s house or lunching with Carl Reiner, there’s never a time during all of these years that I’ve know these guys and, sadly Carl is no longer with us, where I didn’t pinch myself cause you never—I don’t think unless you’re a megalomaniac—you never lose that younger version of yourself. Lois and I went, after I hosted the Fourth of July show for PBS a few years ago, we went down to Kentucky to hang out with Shatner and his wife. They have a place and horses there. Lois and Liz were in our rental car and I was riding shotgun in Bill’s truck, and he drives like a crazy person. I thought ‘this is how it’s going to end. It’s going to be Captain Kirk and reality host die in truck accident,’ but even then, we were talking about life, the universe and everything. Or, when he went up in the Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos penis rocket, and the liftoff was delayed by a day. So, I texted him and said ‘I’m not going to exhale until you get out of the capsule and land safely,’ and I got back, in all caps, ‘ME NEITHER.’”

Bergeron also talked about his Star Trek experiences, made possible by Whoopi Goldberg, producer in the center square on Hollywood Squares.

“On the show ‘Star Trek Enterprise,’ which lasted for four years on UPN, I think, or one of those short lived networks, but I was doing Hollywood Squares and Whoopi was doing a cameo in ‘Star Trek Nemesis,’ which had the Patrick Stewart crew. It was their last film. She was shooting the cameo at Paramount, because we did Hollywood Squares at Television City, and I was going to be in town. So, I said ‘Would you mind if I came over and visited?’ She got me a drive on and I get there and the whole cast is shooting this Alaskan wedding reception scene on a sound stage. During that meal break Rick Berman, who was the head of the franchise at the time, invited Whoopi to go look at the sets for Star Trek Enterprise which had just debuted a few months earlier on UPN, and his kids watched ‘America’s Funniest Videos.’ He said, ‘Tom if you want to come along too.’ Whoopi was still in her Guinan outfit which was the character she played on ‘Star Trek the Next Generation.’ We go over there, walking through different sets and I’m going ‘Oh Whoopi, this is where the Suliban come back from the 24th century and they mess with the warp coil and, and.’ Rick goes, ‘Oh, you watch the show?’ I said, ‘Yeah I like it. It’s a prequel. It’s a sequel. It’s like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of Star Trek.’ He said, ‘You want to be on it?’ I went, ‘Ah yeah! He turns to Whoopi and says ‘Can he act?’ and Whoopi, who had only seen me ad lib hosting Squares went, ‘Oh, he’s good.’ So, he said ‘We’ll write you into an episode a few months down the road.’ I thought it would be exactly that, a Klingon in the background grunting or something. I showed up for the wardrobe check and I get the word that I’m in the whole opening piece and I play D’Marr, this trader of exotic alien goods and it’s a dinner scene in the captain’s quarter. I was in four and a half hours in prosthetic makeup, but it was such fun, such a good time. And Scott Bakula was so welcoming and whole crew was really nice. When they were canceled, I happened to be on the Paramount lot for something else and I stopped in to say hi to Rick and he said, ‘Hey, we’re having some of the sort of extended family back for the final episode. Do you want to do a little cameo thing?’ I said sure! He said, ‘It won’t be as big as the other one.’ I said ‘Oh no that’s fine.’ I show up and all this prosthetics and a different alien look, and say ‘This is great!’ I start to get up out of the chair and they say, ‘Wait, we haven’t put the breathing device on yet.’ I said, ‘The what?’ They said, ‘The alien breathing device’ which was another big plastic prosthetic piece that covered everything except my left eye. I thought ‘Ah…fiddlesticks!’ That’s not what I said. I cleaned it up. So, I get on the set, and LeVar Burton was directing that episode and he said ‘Tom, was it really worth it?’ All you could see was my left eye, and I had to loop all the dialogue in New York a couple of weeks later because I was muffled. If you type in Google ‘Tom Bergeron Star Trek,’ there will be two pictures and you’ll be able to tell which one was the one I couldn’t see crap out of.”

Does William Shatner joke about Star Trek with you?

“Not really because he doesn’t talk much about it. Jonathan Frakes is another friend of mine, and he was Riker on the Next Generation. We’ve had long conversations. He’s wonderful about trusting me with all the spoilers for the Picard series and Discovery and things like that because he directs a number of the episodes every season too. But, Bill and I have rarely talked about Trek and I’ve known him now for about 10 or 15 years now.”

There’s also a story about Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy, Dick Van Dyke and Tom Bergeron.

“One of the times I went over to the house we did dueling Stans. Dick knew Stan Laurel personally and spoke at his funeral. Stan Laurel apparently said, ‘If anybody does my life story, Dickie, I want it to be you.’ They were very close. I said to him at one point, when I was on the set of “The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited,” which was sort of the reunion show that Carl Reiner assembled back in 2004. During one of their meal breaks, I was sitting, talking with Dick about how he met Stan Laurel, and all that, and he had the excitement of it happening almost yesterday. I said ‘Dick, you have to know that for me, that’s what this is.’ So yeah, it’s been cool.”

And, on his return to WHAV in the original building at 30 How St., where his broadcasting career began, Coco asked about the memories

“It’s funny about the things you remember. I remember ‘Karelis Jewelers time is 9 a.m. K-A-R-E-L-I-S. Karelis. Karelis Jewelers Haverhill.’ Every half hour, you’d have to do the same thing.” Tim Coco adds “We have a recording of you saying ‘Hudson’s the store of fashion where your dollar buys more.’ Remember that?” Bergeron responds “Oh yeah. When Ralph Hall, who was the newsman, when I did the morning show, we had the birth report at 9:05, I think, and the way we do that was ‘Now’s it’s time for the birth report’ You hear (slapping sound and baby crying) and then Ralph would start reading names. I said ‘You know, we should do the other end too. We should do the obituaries with beep, beep, beep beeeeeeeeeep.’ He didn’t think that was a good idea.”

As for the current day WHAV back in the original building at 30 How St.

“For those of you, I’ll try to describe the treats that are available here, if you ever find yourself stumbling into WHAV…Don’t come for the food. I don’t know how much you talk about it with the listeners, but to be back in the actual building on How Street in Haverhill is such a treat because this is where I spent years starting my career, waiting for my face to clear up. And, it has. Thank God.”

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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