Famous people from Connecticut

Bill O’Reilly: the Lost WFSB Tapes from His Time in Hartford

This Sunday on “Face the State with Dennis House,”  we broadcast some ancient videotape of a famous Channel 3 alumnus, Bill O’Reilly, now of the Fox Channel Channel.   The link to the video is at the end of this post.

O’Reilly worked in Hartford 31 years ago, anchoring our evening news and reporting on some of the top stories of the day.    The fall of 1979 saw the infamous Windsor Locks tornado, the visit of Pope John Paul II to New York,  and the Iran Hostage Crisis.    O’Reilly covered all those stories along with trailing  the candidates flocking to Connecticut for the 1980 presidential primary, including George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Ted Kennedy.    His plum assignment that fall:  being sent to Dallas for an investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy.    I also found videotape of O’Reilly in a sea of screaming girls waiting to meet the big teen idol of ’79, Rex Smith!

 A Bill O’Reilly story logged in our archives.  “Linda/Chapin” was a report on O’Reilly’s interview with Harry Chapin, in concert at the Hartford Civic Center.   O’Reilly painted a contrast between Linda Ronstadt and her refusal to do media interviews, and Chapin, who sat down with O’Reilly for a one-on-one.   Chapin died in a car crash the following year.

As I went digging through hundreds of archaic videotapes in our archives, I came across a decent amount of O’Reilly’s reports.   Some are so old they no longer play in our lone antique 3/4″ machine, but I dusted off several of them and thanks to our engineers they were brought back alive for the digital age.

O’Reilly wrote about his time in Hartford in one of his books, and it sounds as if his tenure wasn’t all that enjoyable.    Even so, from what I found in the archives his displeasure certainly didn’t show in his work.   O’Reilly, then 30, was a good solid reporter and an interesting story teller.

Take a look and let me know what you think:

Here are the clips: http://www.wfsb.com/video?clipId=6455239&flvUri=&partnerclipid=&topVideoCatNo=221670&c=&autoStart=true&activePane=info&LaunchPageAdTag=homepage&clipFormat=flv

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36 replies »

  1. Great piece, Dennis. I learned a lot. Didn’t enjoy his time in Hartford TV? Never knew I had something in common with Bill O’Reilly!!!

    • Alex, Al, Denise and I were all saying how much we loved working with you. Tell us your tenure in Hartford wasn’t all that bad! By the way, check out my blog about my Italian ancestors.

  2. Dennis, this is WONDERFUL.

    The archive is such a treasure trove, and an under-appreciated asset at all TV stations. It’s great to see the tapes survived and move to Rocky Hill.

    Maybe someday, if we’re lucky, some intrepid reporter will dig up out old WFSB reports and say “look how much hair they had back then!!!”

    – Brendan

    • Thanks for the kind words Brendan! There are many tapes missing, and we have yards of film that need to be seen, so who knows what else I’ll find. The hair thing would be a riot.

  3. Dennis…..Thanks so much for this….looking forward to Sunday’s broadcast. While you’re at it….I would love to see the old Hartford-centric Commercials “The beat of Hartford, feel the beat of Hartford, the beat.” along with the “Living in the Land of 3” promos? Any chance you can get your hands on those?

  4. How about a few old Ranger Andy tapes, there must be someone famous in those too.

    Does anyone really care about Bill O’Reilly?

    • We will look for Ranger Andy. The answer to your other question…many people do. I have received many requests over the years for old Bill O’Reilly footage.

    • Would love to see some old Ranger Andy Footage as me and my brothers were actually on that show!! As for the Bill O’Reilly comment, YES, people care about Mr. O’Reilly. He’s not no.1 in ratings by accident!!!

  5. C’mon, why all the negativity? If you don’t want to see anything on Bill, then don’t tune in that day. I applaud Dennis for doing something different and I think it’s fun to see things from when I was younger.

  6. That sounds like fun! I’ll have to tune in – or at least set my DVR. I don’t know if I want to see Bill O’Reilly as much as I really want to see Harry Chapin as I was devastated when he died.

  7. I set my DVR to record this show, but when I came home and watched I was looking for the Late Great Harry Chapin…. I was sorry to not see this clip…. Can you please post this?

    Thanks,
    Will and Kathy

  8. I remember Mr. O’Reilly’s stint on “Eyewitness News”, as I also worked there at the time (1977-1980). Yes, he was talented. But he was also completely obnoxious to his colleagues, berating nearly everyone from the day he arrived. He remains, to me, the worst person I ever worked with, anywhere, any time, and I say that irrespective of his political views. It is fact that few, if any employees were sorry to see him leave, after six months.
    Now, about Ranger Andy, a show I grew up with….THAT I’d like to see. I can still remember the theme song!

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