April 4, 2004, Sunday Boca Raton Edition
SECTION: Community News
By: Sally J. Ling Special Correspondent
Arlene Herson sits in her Boca Raton home office at the Polo Club under the watchful photographic gaze of Johnny Mathis, Danny DeVito, Gloria Steinem, Malcolm Forbes, Placido Domingo and other recognizable faces.
Right now she is lining up the next high-profile personality for her radio show, The American Senior Side, heard at 11 a.m. every Sunday on National Public Radio affiliate WXEL, 90.7-FM.Chuck Zink, a South Florida media personality since 1956, created the show 17 years ago, and Herson has been with the program for seven years."
She interviews the cream of the cream and gets all the big stars. It's quite unique and she's a very determined lady. Hardly anyone says no to her," Zink said.
Herson and her husband, Milton, moved to Boca Raton as seasonal residents in 1988 and permanently in 1998. A native New Yorker, she began her professional career at the public relations firm of William Safire, the former Richard Nixon speechwriter who subsequently became the noted op-ed and language columnist for The New York Times..
The couple moved to Rumson, N.J., a prosperous suburb, when her husband's business holdings required him to relocate, and raised two children there. Although she was sad to leave New York, the move proved to be a blessing.
"I played a lot of tennis, but after two years I wanted to do more, so I took a job selling advertising and wrote a social column for a local newspaper. I interviewed a lot of local politicians," she said.
One interview led to another and not long after she had her own TV show.
"My pilot show, Getting to Know You with Arlene Herson, was shot with me interviewing my husband, Milton, on local New Jersey cable TV in 1978. That was when cable TV was just getting started," Herson said.
As viewership grew, so did Herson's repertoire of personalities that eventually evolved into celebrity interviews.
"I did my homework and didn't ask questions about their most recent accomplishment, I asked questions about their life. That was far more interesting," she said.
Herson's show won awards for the best talk show on cable television in New York and New Jersey and was nominated for a Cable Ace Award for the best talk show nationwide. The show ended in 1991, but it can be seen in syndication on Manhattan Cable Television in New York City and on Boca Raton Educational Television, Channel 98, at 8:30 p.m. Mondays and 6 p.m. Fridays.
"It's a fun program. It's a great opportunity for people to see some of the stars they grew up with. It brings a new element of programming to us that we didn't have before," said David Schmidt, executive director of Boca Raton Educational Television.
Herson also was the executive producer of the opera, The Magic Flute, narrated by Victor Borge, in December 1995, and the musical, 1776, featuring members of Congress, both of which were performed at Constitution Hall in Washington.
She was also an interviewer for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation videotaping first-hand testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
"I think it is so important to have documentation of these real-life stories for us to remember," she said. "It was difficult for me to hear their stories, but they had dignity and courage and I feel privileged, horrified but privileged, to have heard the stories first-hand.
"In addition to her media involvement, Herson was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. She is a member of the Florida Bar Grievance Committee and was appointed by former President George H. W. Bush to the Take Pride in America Advisory Board and by Governor Jeb Bush to the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council.
Friar Arlene Herson is an incredible lady. A Friar since 1990, she’s had a remarkable career as a radio/TV personality, celebrity interviewer, and public speaker. She’s the producer/host of The Arlene Herson Show, an award-winning cable television talk show that started in 1978 and can still be seen in syndication on Boca Raton Educational TV and on Manhattan Cable Television.
From the FRIARS CLUB EPISTLE, SUMMER/FALL 2005