Requiescat in Pace Van Miller

 Buffalo Broadcasting Legend Van Miller Photo Courtesy Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Broadcasting Legend Van Miller Photo Courtesy Buffalo Bills

This weekend it was announced that another Buffalo broadcasting legend had died. Van Miller had worked at WBEN/WIVB-TV for over 4 decades. A local boy from Dunkirk, NY, he was a sportscaster’s sportscaster. Yet, it’s unfair to limit his talents solely to sports for, like many of his peers in the 50’s and 60’s, Van did everything including hosting a game show for area high-schoolers called “It’s Academic”.

It was through sports, though, that Van truly gained his fame. He had done everything in sports broadcasting from bowling shows and college play by play to becoming forever known as the “Voice of the Bills”.

I highlight that quote because some years ago, for no specific reason, I was at a local cemetery and talking with one of the managers there. He told me that when Van Miller died, Van had arranged that his tombstone would read: “Voice of The Bills”.

As it should.

Save for a few years where the Bills changed radio stations (at a time where radio station competition forbade using an announcer from a rival station), Van Miller was the radio voice of the Buffalo Bills. Beginning in 1960 when the Bills became a team, through two AFL Championships and 4 failed Super Bowl attempts, Van was the team’s uncontested radio voice until he retired from the Bills radio booth in 2003 (the longest tenured team radio voice in NFL history). All this is offered with no disrespect to our very fine current radio voice, John Murphy, who seamlessly worked along side Van as a color analyst during Bills games for many years.

As you can imagine with such a storied career, there were accolades and honors for Van Miller by the score, most of which are likely better reported elsewhere. To note just one significant testimonial, none other than the late Steve Sabol of NFL Films recognized Van as one of the best football play-by-play analysts in the history of the game. Here’s quick look (and listen) at Van’s remarkable career.

Van’s passing got me thinking about my one public interaction with him and what a great wit Van was. Van was always part MC, part comedian and part broadcaster – a perfect and winning combination. I’d like to tell you our podium work together on this one night was recorded someplace other than my brain but it wasn’t. It was the early 90’s, the Internet wasn’t quite the Internet yet and cell phone only made phone calls.

Some of you of a younger age are now staring blankly at the screen right now in astonishment but I’ll press on anyway.

I was working as Assistant General Manager of the Buffalo Blizzard of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). Our indoor soccer team was very involved in the community and especially youth soccer. So we would often participate in events and I was “the face” of a few of them.

My recollection of this particular event was what I believe was called the “News 4 Scholar Athlete” program, presented by Channel 4 (where Van was Sports Director) and sponsored in part by the Buffalo Blizzard (hence my involvement).

Part of my job that night was to join Van at the podium during a dinner at a local restaurant to honor some of the nominated athletes and present the award to the overall winner (I think that’s right but this is a story, not a deposition).

What you’d want me to tell you here would be the specifics of what I recall was mutually witty repartee between Van and myself at the podium. I’d love to.

As usual, however, when improvising I rarely recall what I said (cause at such a time my brain is intensely focused on immediately listening and coming up with the next line, not so much on retention). Nor do I remember what Van said. What I do remember was the laughs we got.

And by we, if you were scoring at home, it was 60/40 in favor of Van. I’d have been happy if it was 90/10 (Van) just to have had the experience of very briefly working with him.

It was a joyous moment for me working with a fellow broadcaster, albeit a vastly more experienced one who had long ago perfected his comedic timing but was also willing to share the rhythm and fun of the presentation with someone else who could (kinda) keep up. It wasn’t planned but it flowed and for me it felt great. As you can imagine (as least I can) I doubt it left Van with as memorable an impression and I’m OK with that.

Anyone who saw Van perform outside of a studio or a broadcast booth at one of these kinds of functions (especially when he was honored into so many Halls of Fame) enjoyed watching a great performer from an era where you needed to be a performer to make it in radio and TV broadcasting. That versatility is sorely missing from many of today’s up and coming broadcast performers (especially on TV) where a tele-prompter is more of a crutch than a tool.

Van’s been out of the spotlight for many years but this city, his city, has never forgotten him. And with their remembrance comes a smile. And deep appreciation.

the vo-bb…10 years later

 The Voice-Over Bulletin Board

The Voice-Over Bulletin Board


I realized this evening that I forgot an important professional and personal anniversary in February of this year.

For ten years I have been a member and participant in the Voice-Over Bulletin Board, The VO-BB.

There have been so many bulletin boards for the voice-over industry over these past ten years and many have burned off into the ether. But not Deirdre (D.B.) Cooper’s VO-BB.

It is unclear to me which is more important about this special internet place, wherein mostly words with links about the voice-over profession and the people who practice it are posted. Is its purpose more as a place of learning or as a community?

A case could be made for both.

So many educational nuggets on so many facets of the voice-over industry and it’s practitioners are contained within its virtual walls that if a PhD could be given for the study of voice-over, the VO-BB would be the industry’s Library of Congress.

But upon reflection (and yes, I am a person who reflects on such things) I think the VO-BB as a place of community is the site’s true hallmark. Beyond the business benefits of being virtually connected with these people (referrals and the like — as it is with most businesses, people prefer to do business with friends), there is a sense of camaraderie, of team and of belonging – of people who get me and what I do. After all, it’s their business too.

Some years ago, when there were more boards like this, a few people called those of us on the VO-BB “clicky”. That really was never true because, almost universally, everyone on the VO-BB always tried to welcome and acknowledge new members when they announced themselves. I think what those few “clicky accusers” were trying to say was that there was a great familiarity among the regulars on the VO-BB, sometimes, inadvertently, posting and “conversing” in a knowing shorthand. We all just followed D.B.’s rules (still do) and play and learn from there.

There may be a few folks who don’t realize that without the VO-BB, there might not have ever been a FaffCon. Without that epic voice-over convergence, many hundreds (if not more) voice talents might not have ever enjoyed the immeasurable benefits that this revered event brings to past attendees everyday.

We VO-BB members have done much voice-over work together. Heck, when Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions used to have his holiday party, we’d have pre and post party VO-BB get togethers. There are even more stories beyond these two quick examples, but you get the idea.

And friends. So many real-world friends. An abundance of riches for which I am humbled and grateful beyond words.

Thank you Deirdre and all my friends on the VO-BB for…everything.

If you haven’t yet joined us, come on in. As Mickey once sang: “Hey, there! Hi, there! Ho, there! You’re as welcome as can be!”

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audio’connell in minneapolis-st. paul…airport

 Voice-Over Talents Peter Bishop and Peter K. O'Connell enjoy a beverage inside one of the many bars at MSP

Voice-Over Talents Peter Bishop and Peter K. O’Connell enjoy a beverage inside one of the many bars at MSP

Two Peters walk into a bar…would be the start of the joke if in fact it weren’t a true story.

Here’s the story: I was flying into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). As I was taxing to the gate, I see a Facebook post from my friend and fellow voice-over talent Peter Bishop which made reference to the fact that he was at MSP to catch a plane home.

Other friends of mine have posted that they are at an airport I’m landing at and I come to find they’ve already taken off or they are in a terminal two miles away and we won’t be able to connect. Not this time!

Peter’s connecting flight was long delayed, so we got to have a nice visit. Not only is his voice-over business thriving but he also serves as a very active director on WoVo.

 Voice Talent Peter K. O'Connell watching the Minnesota Twins play the Baltimore Orioles at Target Field (the Twins won)

Voice Talent Peter K. O’Connell watching the Minnesota Twins play the Baltimore Orioles at Target Field (the Twins won)

Unfortunately, Mr. Bishop could not blow off his flight and join me at the Twins game (Twins beat the Orioles) but it was great to see him nonetheless.

audio’connell in burlington, vermont

Burlington, VT based female voice-over talent Mary Catherine Jones welcomes visiting Buffalo, NY based voice talent Peter K. O'Connell to Vermont

Burlington, VT based female voice-over talent Mary Catherine Jones welcomes visiting Buffalo, NY based voice talent Peter K. O’Connell to Vermont

As you know, I was recently in Vermont. Burlington, VT to be specific and Vermont was my 34th state that I have stayed over night in to reach my goal of spending at least one overnight in each of the 50 United States.

And as with all these journeys, I try and connect with local voice-over talents. First it’s fun to visit with people who work in my industry and second, it’s nice to know at least one person in a town full of strangers.

Normally, I post about these visits right away and was planning to after the Vermont trip, except my blog broke and just got fixed today. So now I am playing catch up.

I found out on this trip that “Reliability Has a Voice” (and yes that tagline / slogan is now trademarked by Mary Catherine Jones).

Fellow Faffer and long time Burlington resident Mary Catherine Jones was so great about sharing her wonderful town with me. We met for lunch at a swell spot and she told me all about her voice-over career, the New England voice-over market as well as her husband and two great children.

She even told me she previously had tried to start a voice-over meet-up but that it didn’t come together. So let me put all the Vermont VO’s on notice – connect with Mary Catherine, who is super bright (Ivy League – unheard of in VO 😉 ) and really nice. Get your Vermont Voice-Over meet up group going like we have in Buffalo and you’ll be really glad you did.

Thank you Mary Catherine for sharing Burlington with me. It’s a really nice spot and I hope to get there again someday.

16 more states to go

usa-space

My challenge to stay over night in all 50 states continues!

Remember, the rule is you cannot just drive through the state, you have to have stayed over night.

So this month, I stayed overnight in Vermont (woot!) so now I am only 16 states away from my goal!

I have officially visited these states in my life:

1. Arizona
2. Arkansas
3. California
4. Colorado
5. Connecticut
6. Florida
7. Georgia
8. Illinois
9. Iowa
10. Kansas
12. Louisiana
12. Maine
13. Massachusetts
14. Maryland
15. Michigan
16. Minnesota
17. Missouri
18. Nebraska
19. Nevada
20. New Jersey
21. New York
22. North Carolina
23. Ohio
24. Pennsylvania
25. South Carolina
26. South Dakota
27. Tennessee
28. Texas
29. Utah
30. Vermont!!!
31. Virginia
32. Washington
33. West Virginia
34. Wisconsin

Thus, I am left with these states still to visit:

35. Alabama
36. Alaska
37. Delaware
38. Hawaii
39. Idaho
40. Indiana
41. Kentucky
42. Mississippi
43. Montana
44. New Hampshire
45. New Mexico
46. North Dakota
47. Oklahoma
48. Oregon
49. Rhode Island
50. Wyoming

It’s good to have goals :)

MEDIA RELEASE – O’Connell Loans Voice To Hudson Heritage FCU For Radio Spots

audioconnell Media Release 2015550px

MIDDLETOWN, NEW YORK, June 7, 2015 – – Male Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell was secured by Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union for a new radio campaign promoting their Home Equity Loan, Mortgage and Auto Loan programs. Celebrating their 75 Anniversary in 2015, Hudson Heritage FCU has twelve New York State branches in Orange, Ulster, or Dutchess counties including offices in Goshen, Harriman, Middletown, Montgomery, New Paltz, Newburgh, Pine Bush, Port Jervis and Washingtonville.

LISTEN TO A SAMPLE HERE

About Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union

For 75 years, Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union has been more than just banking. Hudson Heritage FCU exists solely to empower and support the financial growth of its members and their communities. Hudson Heritage FCU offers all of the full services that a big bank does, like checking, savings, loans, online banking and more. However, Hudson Heritage FCU doesn’t pay shareholders. Money is put back in the form of lower rates, member dividends, jobs, community support, financial literacy and philanthropy. Since 1940, Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union has been helping members achieve their goals as well as manage and grow their finances.

Serving New York State’s Orange, Ulster, or Dutchess counties, Hudson Heritage is a not-for-profit cooperative association. Member accounts are fully insured up to $250,000 by the NCUA.

About Peter K. O’Connell

America’s Friendly, Neighborhood Voice-Over Talent, Peter K. O’Connell, has worked with a wide variety of companies from around the world in addition to this most recent project for Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union. Some of Peter’s clients include General Electric, Kraft Foods, PBS Television Network, Shell Oil, Pitney Bowes, Western Union, Bacardi Rum, Highlights HIGH FIVE Magazine, Deloitte Canada, Rich Products, U.S. Army, Starz Cable Television Network, BlueCross BlueShield, SunSetter Awnings, Time Warner Cable, Harlequin Enterprises and Darien Lake Theme Park.

Described as a natural born storyteller, Peter K. O’Connell’s voice-over productions have been heard globally in radio and TV commercials, medical narrations, television infomercials, political commercial voice-overs, TV network promos, e-learning narration projects (computer-based training, internet-based training and web-based training), PSA’s, message on-hold, as well as other video and media productions. Peter owns audio’connell Voice Over Talent, a division of O’Connell Communications, LLC and can be reached via audioconnell.com.

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