REMEMBERING MY MENTOR – JEFF KRAUS – Garry Armstrong

If fate had been kinder, Jeff Kraus would be celebrating his 80th birthday with us. Many people who’ve achieved success in broadcast journalism would be partying.

Some of the names are familiar even if they’re not around to remember the man who opened career doors for them. Alan Colmes of the Hannity-Colmes tandem on Fox News, “Big Dan” Ingram – a hall of fame deejay during the heyday of classic rock and, still with us, Charlie Kaye – the successful CBS News executive who just recently retired.

We all cut our newbie teeth in radio at WVHC-FM, the original radio voice of Hofstra College/University – celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In its infancy, Hofstra Radio was guided by Jeffrey Kraus. His spirit is still there in the studio walls of the latest class of college radio students.

WVHC Probably 1961 or maybe 1962

I met Jeff Kraus in late 1960. I was beginning evening college classes at Hofstra and peaked my nose inside the tiny radio operation. I was full of hope and dreams at age 18. Just out of a shortened stint in the Marine Corps, I wanted to be “somebody” but not sure who, what or where.

The tall, thin gent – in a blue suit that would become legend. Wearing cowboy boots and puffing a pipe. He looked like a young Leslie Howard or Ronald Coleman. He sounded a bit like Coleman as he addressed me in a voice like the Lord of the Manor.

Jeff Kraus WVHC 1966 or maybe 1967

I was immediately impressed. I sounded and looked maybe 5 or ten years younger than Jeff Kraus but he was just 21 for all his cosmopolitan manner. I don’t know how it happened but – in the blur of seconds – we formed an unlikely bond. Mentor and student, two non-similar guys who would become best friends.

I was a bit hesitant. I was one of a handful of minority students at Hofstra as the new decade began with JFK promising bold ventures for millions of young Americans.

I was intent on becoming an actor or an author. Maybe both. During the day, I sold children’s shoes at a big Department Store. The job paid for my college fees. Tuition back then was something like 16 or 17 dollars per credit. Hofstra was a relatively young commuting college without dorms. All that would change in decades to come.

WVHC 1963 or maybe 1964

The constant was Radio Hofstra. We had an odd collection of people on the WVHC-FM staff which had just grown from carrier current to 10 mighty watts at 88.7 on the FM dial.

I think we were perceived as weirdos by others on campus. We weren’t jocks, frat members or lab rats. Jeff Kraus steered the ship of wannabees with a calming influence. I wanted to be “on the air”, spinning records. However, my hearing impairment left me with flawed diction, not good enough even for a beginner. Jeff worked patiently with me, pointing out my diction problems and helping me find a “radio voice”. He encouraged me to write and gave me great latitude in producing music shows and writing radio drama.

Little Theater – WVHC

This was the door opening for me. I was rapidly promoted from record librarian to program director to, wonder of wonders, station manager as Jeff moved into an executive capacity. These were heady times for me as I found confidence and maybe a little swagger in my work. Jeff would always “school me” if I overstepped boundaries with the new confidence.

My favorite time was – after we signed off the station at midnight and headed over to our favorite bar. This was my introduction to Imbibing 101. I can still smell the pipe smoke (I shamelessly copied Jeff’s debonair style, adopting pipe smoking) and the sips of scotch, brandy, and vodka as my liquor taste quickly expanded. My shyness faded and, for the first time in my life, felt like I was one of the gang. Jeff led his wannabees in chat about post-college life. We were too good for conventional broadcast media. We dreamed about going to work for the BBC or CBC. We’d do “exceptional stuff” for an audience surely just waiting for us.

Studio B – WVHC

This was also a very special period for aspiring college radio folks who had easy access to the nation’s number ONE media market in New York City. I’ve told the story a zillion times about calling DIRECTLY through to CBS, ABC, NBC, and other media giants. The iconic (yes,  overused) figures like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Arthur Godfrey, Howard Cosell and news legends who’d worked with Ed Murrow – made themselves accessible to us. They gave interviews, did promotional “ID’s” and generally encouraged our little group to pursue our dreams in the big leagues. Jeff Kraus was generally recognized and respected by the big time media moguls. Jeff was seen as the man who sent well-trained prospects out to mesh with established news people.

1965 in the WVHC office

The success I encountered in later years on radio and television is directly linked to those early years at Hofstra and the tutelage of Jeff Kraus. Despite repeated “Thank you’s”, I’m not sure Jeff appreciated how he molded the professional lives of so many people.

Jeff Kraus left us — too young at age 53 in ailing health. Rest assured he’s not forgotten. They’ll be many stories about JCK as he is still affectionately remembered when many of his radio kids gather later this month to celebrate Radio Hofstra’s 60th anniversary.

One final round.

Here’s looking at you, Jeff.

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

35 thoughts on “REMEMBERING MY MENTOR – JEFF KRAUS – Garry Armstrong”

        1. While I was not a constant part of the WVHC club, it seems that Jeffrey’s mentoring stretched beyond the coop. I’m not exactly sure how we became friends, nor is it all that important at the moment, but we did become close. He was a constant inspiration to me, re-enforcing my desire to enter the world of audio recording, even if it mean’t a back door through radio. His suggestion of a school to attend was actually a lucky break which directed me to the front door of my first job in the recording industry. That school was primarily a broadcast school. I wish he were still around to , if for no other reason, see where we all ended up. In the pictures, you’ve included, he almost looks too young to be a mentor/guru? I really miss him and think of him often.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I just remembered where Jeff and I mainly hooked up. I wrote this Bossa Nova style jingle/sign-off, Sign-in thing for WVHC and recorded it with Jeffrey. He recorded it, I played guitar and had this absolutely beautiful singer (she looked like a young Liz Taylor) do the vocals. We started to talk after that…

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          1. I need to make a point here because I WAS married to him for a long time.

            EVERYONE knew he was slobbering after any 17-year-old in the station. There wasn’t a guy or gal who didn’t know it. Yes, it was a different time and all that, but you were ALL members of the boys club where “Oh, that’s okay because they really like it.” And most of them probably did, at least when the age difference wasn’t so large. That didn’t make it right. Not then and not NOW.

            Because someone dies, it doesn’t make them saints. Jeff was no saint. In those days, trying to get it on with a coed was a “wink wink” thing. Now it’s a crime, but it was a crime then too — just a crime to which no one paid any attention.

            I paid attention — and I didn’t like it. Especially as he got old enough so that he wasn’t a kid anymore. It was unattractive and unfair to the young women who were there — just like the guys — to learn something. The “no one knows” thing is old, male — and NO ONE believes it. It was the boys club, at work.

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    1. Becky, thank you. Jeff Kraus really opened many doors for me. I really miss him. I wish I could share my successes with him. I think we could laugh about our brash, young promises to change the world.

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        1. Leslie, Jeff was quite the character. We dubbed him “The Old Ranger” because he carried himself off as a seasoned, urbane man of the world. As mentioned, lots of us, including me, copied Jeff’s mannerisms. Hey, even my Mom liked Jeff and she wasn’t crazy about a lot of my friends. Jeff “played” my Mom nicely, making me an “also ran”. But this worked well for me because Mom thought Jeff offered wise guidance for young Garry. He did!

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                    1. Similar situation in the late 50’s when we lived on Long Island. My High School years. Ours was one of the first low-middle income neighborhoods for people of color on Long Island’s South Shore. The High School was predominantly white – out of “Pleasantville”. I stay in touch with some of my graduating class who remember “the good old days when everybody got along”.

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  1. My story mirrors Gary’s. Just five years later. A mentor, teacher best friend and for a while business partner. The WVHC/WRHU mafia is spread out in the media world more than you would imagine. We’re everywhere and it’s Jeff’s fault.

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    1. Pancho, it’s amazing how wide spread and accomplished Jeff’s “kids” are today. I hope his legacy gets a lot of play at that 60th anniversary bash. Hopefully, there’ll be video and audio. HINT-HINT!

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  2. WVHC and JCK accepted ne (Rob Wilson) into the radio womb back in 1971, fresh out of high school in RVC and immature as hell. After taking off the following school year to work in Manhattan, make some needed tuition money and grow into an adult, I cane back to Hofstra where Jeff noticed, somehow, that I had latent, useful radio talents.
    Cut to the chase – I, too, think of Jeff often. Without even trying he became my lifelong mentor and friend, always treating me with respect and assurance as an anti-bullshit confidant, peer and equal.
    I recall Jeff’s kidney operation, and well remember giving him a pep talk about his upcoming heart surgery since I’d weathered a similar ordeal – cardiac bypasses – back in ’88. Who could have even inagined his awful result?
    With much regret, I cannon enjoy a good dinner with Jeffrey to share stories about my radio and business careers, to hear his wry worldview, to marvel about Hofstra Radio’s successful quest for a real budget, modern equipment, respect and achievements.
    I am so pleased that he was able to spend a some time with my kindred spirit wife Alice – and meet my dad Sid. Although Jeff is not among us, he will always be with us – and that staid oil painting of him on the WRHU wall doesn’t even begin to do the whole man justice – because it could never radiate the leadership, guudance, empathy, wit, and commitment to the Art of Radio that Jeff Kraus embodied.

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    1. Hi, Bob>
      I’m just now reading your reminices about JCK. So very warm and thoughtful. It echoes the feelings of most of us who got our “basic training” with Jeff Kraus and WVHC-WHRU, etc. Jeff and I really bonded past mentor-student to best friends. It was a time when I was still painfully shy and had trouble making friends. As you probably know, I eventually married Marilyn and am now Owen’s (Jeff’s son) stepfather/godfather. Bizaree as only a WVHC real life story could play out. If you’re going to the 60th bash, please relay my best wishes to everyone. We can’t afford the tickets on our thin retirees’ income, another story for another time. Bob, did we cross paths at Hofstra or in Boston? It’s hard for me to keep up. I hope we can get together at some point. We live in Uxbridge, Mass. The phone number is 508-779-0556.
      Look forward to chatting more with you.
      Garry

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