Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Francene Cucinello -- RIP
Radio is an incestually small, uber-ego driven, and severely cutthroat business. That’s why when someone goes against the grain, a talented broadcaster who is also a wonderful person, they always stand out.
And it’s that much sadder when they are no longer with us.
A wonderfully talented, vivacious woman left us last week. And unless you live in Louisville, KY, you’ve probably never heard of her.
Francene Cucinello, according to the AP, died after suffering a heart attack and brain aneurysm last week. She was 43.
I never met Francene, but I remember her television days in Baltimore on WMAR. She was a bright, hard-working, compassionate reporter who made everyone feel immediately comfortable with a gleaming smile and inquisitive personality.
In 2003, I had the opportunity to audition at WHAS in Louisville, which is an outstanding station with a long and proud broadcasting heritage. My audition went well and afterward I talked to the program director Kelly Carls about the position. He said he was interviewing a couple of people but I was in the top tier, so I assumed had the job.
A couple of days later, Kelly called me to tell me that I wasn’t going to be the new midday host on WHAS. I was crushed, but when he told me whom he had hired, I totally understood.
Francene had switched from television to radio and was working in St. Louis, doing well, but wanted a better time slot. Kelly spoke glowingly of her talent and I could not argue with his decision. I reached out and emailed Francene, writing I remembered her from Baltimore, and congratulating her on getting the gig at WHAS. She couldn’t have been more gracious and friendly in her reply. We sporadically emailed each other the years went on, but I lost touch since I moved to KTAR in Phoenix.
I regret not keeping in touch. 43 years young is way too soon to be dispatched from this earth; especially as a talk host. Most radio hosts don’t hit their stride until their 40’s. Francene had become a great fit at WHAS and Louisville. Her ratings were strong, but more importantly, she connected with her audience and her audience grew to love her.
Woman talk show hosts are few and far between. Since it’s primarily a “boys club,” I applaud Kelly Carls and WHAS on taking a chance in hiring a woman to hold a prime spot on a great station. This morning I received a reply from Kelly after I emailed him my sympathies. He said that at the memorial one of Francene’s friend summed up her life this way saying Francene packed 100 years of living into 43 years of life.
We should all aspire to live like Francene Cucinello. You will be missed. RIP.