By Stephen J. Kotz
Alright all you Potz people! After nearly 40 years on the air at WLNG, Sag Harbor’s oldies station, Rusty Potz signed off for the last time shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday, with a simple, “Hey folks, it’s been great and God bless you.”
The studio overlooking Sag Harbor Cove on the Redwood Causeway in Sag Harbor, was crowded as well wishers, including Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., WLNG staff, and reporters from local papers who stopped by to mark the occasion.
“There’s going to be even more surprises,” said Gary Sapiene, the station’s president and general manager, after one of many proclamations were read. “Do they involve checks?” asked a hopeful Mr. Potts.
“I’m a ventriloquist,” quipped Mr. Potz as he sipped tea while a commercial he had recorded played in the background.
Mr. Potz, who has been in radio for 52 years, will move this week to Sarasota, Florida, with his wife, Margaret, where he will retain his title as executive vice president and continue to work for the station part-time, selling advertising, recording commercials, and working on promotions. It wouldn’t be practical, he said, to try to continue the program from afar.
Veteran WLNG announcer Brian “the Cannon” Bannon will take over Mr. Potz’s 3 to 5 p.m. daily time slot.
As always, on his last day, Mr. Potz included a dash of Elvis, “TV Trivia” (What country did Ricky Ricardo come from? Cuba, of course, as the first caller reach the studio line correctly guessed. “Hold everything. No more calls, please. We have a winner!” Ding!) and a slew of baseball scores. In case you are wondering, his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, were set to take on the Texas Rangers at 8:05 Friday night.
Mr. Potz, dressed in khaki slacks, a white shirt and a Boston Red Sox tie, clanged his bell, and told his listening audience that although WLNG trades in the oldies, he was going to play whatever he liked. That included something new, “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Marz. But he also reached deep into the archives for The Beatles’ version of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.”
In between there were plenty of local commercials, phone calls from well wishers and a quick traffic advisory to report on a light that was out in Riverhead.
Mr. Potz, 72, said he got his start in radio, first doing traffic and ski reports for AAA in his native Connecticut. “That’s how I got my food in the door,” he said, quickly adding that his first real job was on WLIS in Saybrook, Connecticut, where he read the news for a guy Sag Harbor residents may remember, Paul Sidney. His first full-time job was at WSOR, a small station just north of Hartford. “It was only about 12 miles way but you couldn’t hear it in Harford,” he said.
Mr. Potz, who said he was “just crazy about Motown music,” nonetheless said the biggest thing he had seen in his half-century career was The Beatles and the British Invasion that followed.
He said he would miss his daily broadcasts. “I was on the air when people were finishing their day, heading home from work, so I always tried to be upbeat and happy,” he said.
Mr. Potz, whose real first name is Robert, said he had settled on “Rusty Potz” for his on-air name, because “Who would remember Robert Potz?” It’s a pretty good bet that his listeners will. Ding!