Being an ABC owned radio station brought several network stars to KQV to broadcast their programs.
Howard K. Smith and I chatted several times as he sat in my office waiting for studio time to begin his radio broadcast to the nation. We both began our career as newspaper reporters, Howard in Louisiana and me a dozen years later in Nebraska. His radio broadcast in the era preceding television, from the front lines in World War II, earned him a trusting relationship with Americans of the 1940’s. But most would remember him for being moderator of the very first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. “Nixon was far more qualified to be president” he said, in commenting on the election that brought “Camelot” instead to the white house.
From time to time Howard Cosell traveled to Pittsburgh covering a major sporting event.
“Rookie, let’s get this show on the road” he’d bellow rolling through the radio station as if he owned it. Always reminding of his vastly superior knowledge, his nasal articulation on virtually any subject elevated Howard to as much a celebrity status as those he reported on. A young Cassius Clay, known as the “Louisville Lip” did much to elevate Cosell’s star as their verbal sparring hyped the early fights of the man who would become “the greatest” – Muhammad Ali. Howard was Ali’s chief defender after the world champ was stripped of his title for refusing to enter military service.
I remember Howard Cosell for a new word he introduced to my vocabulary. Relaxing for a few minutes following one of his ABC radio network broadcast, I kidded him when I marveled in jest at his ability to seemingly have a view about everything…“is their anything you don’t know Howard”…. taking a deep breathe as though giving thought, he replied, “No, I doubt there is”. Adding, “Chutzpah has a lot to do with it…Rookie”. “coots-bah?” I quizzed, “how do you spell that”? Shaking his head in disbelief of my limitations Howard spelled – “c-h-u-t-z-p-a-h”, telling me to “look it up”. I couldn’t find it in the dictionary, but my Jewish pal in the KQV sales department Ed Lubin explained “self confidence” as being chutzpah.
More than a dozen years would pass before I again saw Howard. Securing seats for the 1981 Las Vegas Herns-Leonard championship fight was a coup itself. My buddy Neil Bogart telephoned at the last minute saying he would be unable to attend and supplied me with ring side seats in the circus like atmosphere that brought out a celebrity packed crowd. I was delighted to find myself separated by just three seats from Cosell. In the dozen or more years since our last meeting, Howard had become one of the worlds most recognized personalities, swamped by even celebrity fans. I sat quietly before I decided just prior to the start of the fight, to reintroduce myself. No longer with a crew cut, but with shoulder length hair, I could tell Howard probably didn’t recognize me. Howard was cordial, saying he was glad to see me, but his words were unusually hesitant, leading me to surmise he really had not remembered me. Returning to my seat for the fight, I noticed Howard glancing in my direction, as if trying to recall me from his diary of memories. But it was not until the fight had ended that Howard stood up, leaned over to me and said, “chutzpah, Rookie, it’s chutzpah”…as I shook my head in agreement and began laughing.