Guanzon's life passion is being on air


POSTED: Monday, January 05, 2009

When Paul Guanzon was a kid growing up in the heights in Wahiawa, his parents bought him a crystal radio set, setting him on a path to a career in radio and television that has lasted nearly 40 years.

“;All it picked up was a Japanese station, but I listened to it every night before going to bed and always imagined what it would be like being on the air,”; Guanzon said.

After seeing an ad on television for the Columbia Broadcasting School, he took the correspondence course and within less than a year was working at K-105 radio. “;Matt Levi hired me and three months later fired me for accidentally erasing all the commercials,”; Guanzon said. Soon after, though, he was working at KNDI, a 5,000-watt AM station in Waikiki where he spun records on his Hawaiian music show from midnight to 4 a.m. “;I loved it, really loved that job.”;

In 1974, when his friend, deejay Ken Hutchison, won a contest to see John Denver on the mainland, Guanzon was hired to fill in. He went by the deejay name of “;Jim Shoes”; because he was still working at KNDI. “;To this day Hutchison still calls me Shoes,”; said Guanzon. He was soon hired full time and became a country-western deejay for the station KAHU out of Waipahu.

Guanzon moved to television in 1975, when KITV began experimenting with an anchor team comprising only locals, unprecedented at the time. Veteran Mason Altiery, Gene Okamoto and Guanzon were the news team. Guanzon had no television experience—“;they hired me because I was local”;—and was thrust into the sports scene. In his first few weeks, he interviewed tennis great Jimmy Connors on Maui, hosted the Larry Price show for the then-University of Hawaii football coach, traveled to the mainland to handle play-by-play for UH football telecasts and covered Chaminade University basketball games.

His mentors included Gene Good and Chuck and Jim Leahey. “;Gene taught me how to do football play-by-play. ... The Leaheys taught me a lot about television sports,”; he said. “;I learned from Joe Moore that it's OK to be funny on the air and that sports isn't really that serious.”;

Guanzon was among the first locally to use a new concept during the 1970s, videotape as a means to gather news and sports for later broadcast.

His co-anchors at KITV over the years included Don Rockwell, Janet Zappala, Jack Hawkins, Susan Hutchison and Lynne Waters.

“;I remember him as totally dedicated to getting the job done,”; said Rockwell.

In 1982, Guanzon left KITV for the Satellite News Channel based in Stamford, Conn. After a year the channel folded, and Guanzon landed at WABC television in New York City as a sports reporter.

The Big Apple was quite intimidating, he admits. “;I was scared to death.”; Long hours at the station—seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to midnight—helped Guanzon learn to navigate New York and its rapid pace.

He worked with the late Tom Snyder at WABC and often filled in for the late Howard Cosell on ABC Sports Radio Network. He eventually settled at 1010 WINS News radio in New York City, said to be the most listened-to radio station in the country, in 1986. As sports anchor he was the first to cover live sports for the station.

WINS, a fixture in New York for more than 80 years, was also home to famed deejays Alan Freed and Murray the K, and to Hawaii's Les Keiter over the years.

Guanzon moved to cover news in 1991 and is now overnight senior news anchor, working on air from 1 to 5 a.m. His “;day”; begins at 9 p.m., and he's among the few who write their own news scripts.

“;I was always interested in current events, so moving to news was easy,”; Guanzon said.

He loves New York and all that comes with it—the cold, snowy winters, hot summers, fast lifestyle. Working in the heart of Manhattan, near Central Park, he can see Carnegie Hall from his office window.

Guanzon's interviewed the likes of Andre the Giant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe DiMaggio, Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, and has even hung out in Mario Andretti's pit with Paul Newman.

His ties to Hawaii and to KITV remain strong. He owns a 6-acre coffee farm, purchased five years ago, near Kurtistown on the Big Island. “;We have just begun harvesting and processing our first crop,”; he said.

Married to fellow Radford High alumnus, Debbie, Gunazon hopes to retire to the farm.

Guanzon's brother is chief photographer for KITV, Bob Guanzon, and his sister-in-law is the station's news anchor Paula Akana.

Among his hobbies are playing guitar and singing—he wrote a song about a man who leaves Hawaii to make a living on the mainland, then 30 years later tries to find his way back. “;The chorus and parts of the verses were translated into Hawaiian by Akana,”; he said. “;The hook line is, 'Pono ko'u ho'i ana i ka home, I've got to find my way back home.'”;