Q: How do you know you’ve reached stardom? A: When Arlene Herson, a Boca Raton resident who became the accidental talk show host on Manhattan Cable Television, invited you to her show for an interview.
Herson made a remarkable career of having the most well known national personalities divulge fascinating details for their lives on her show, “The Arlene Herson Show,” and the evidence is on the wall.
Photographs of Herson and high-profile celebs and politicos fill the wall of her home office, where she has lived with her husband Milton since 1998. Suzanne Somers, Don King, Danny DeVito, Walter Cronkite, Sammy Davis Jr., Linda Evans and numerous other famous faces poised elegantly next to Herson after appearing on her show in which she produced, wrote, researched, booked talent and got sponsorship. The New York-based show aired from 1978 until 1991 and is currently being broadcasted in syndication in Boca Raton on Boca Raton Educational Television (BRET) and in New York City on Manhattan Cable Television.
The Arlene Herson Show has won awards for the best talk show on cable television in New York and New Jersey and was nominated for a Cable Ace Award – the Academy Awards of cable television – for the best talk show nationwide. “I have positive, uplifting conversations with my guests about their lives and I always do my homework, which includes reading books, magazines and bios about them so I know the right questions to ask,” Herson said. The awards and honors Herson boasts are appreciated by this New York native every day, especially because she has no degree or formal training, she said.
Herson began her professional career at the New York-based public relations firm of William Safire, the former Richard Nixon speech writer who ultimately became the noteworthy op-ed and language columnist for The New York Times.
Herson had to leave the firm after Milton’s business holding required them to relocate to Rumson, a suburb in New Jersey. Herson decided to raise the couple’s two children, Michael and Karen, play tennis and became involved in the local charity scene. After two years, a greater calling than tennis and afternoon tea drove Herson to do more.
“I took a job making very little selling advertising for a local newspaper, which is all I could get, but things took off from there,” she said.
A short period of time passed and the newspaper asked Herson to write a social column. She interviewed many local politicians and, after a conversation with Joseph Frankel, then mayor of Eatontown, NJ, it launched her next big career move. While chatting over cocktails, the mayor suggested she should do something on cable television. Obviously, Herson agreed.
It wasn’t long before she graduated from local personalities and politicians to high-profile celebrities. Although television is not Herson’s only medium for rubbing elbows and interviewing stars, she currently participates in a more intimate local radio show in Boca Raton called “Florida Forum,” hosted by Ann Bocock. The show can be heard on WXEL 90.7 FM Sundays from 11 a.m. to noon and Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Guests on the show include: Bea Arthur, Julio Iglesias, Shirley Jones and Barbara Eden.
Herson also had the opportunity to interview people for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which she took videotaped, candid testimonies of Holocaust survivors. “It was difficult for me to hear their accounts and I felt horrified but privileged to have heard their stories,” she said.
On April 30, Pres. George W. Bush appointed Herson to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, a privilege she said is beyond words. Herson is also one of the few non-lawyers appointed to the Florida Bar Grievance Committee, and was appointed by former Pres. George W. H. Bush to the Take Pride in America Advisory Board and by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council. She is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who's Who in America,Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in the South.
It is undoubtedly a privilege to have Arlene Herson in the community of Boca Raton. Just be ready if she sits next to you at lunch. She’s not afraid to ask questions.