She was on her way to a job interview in Kansas City, but she never got past St. Louis. Anne Keefe got an early morning phone call from Robert Hyland, who convinced her it would be worth her while to put down roots here and work at KMOX.
During her stopover here, some of Keefe’s acquaintances let Hyland know of her extensive broadcast background, and he phoned her at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday.
“I got to the phone and he said, ‘This is Robert Hyland.’ Now I had no idea who Bob Hyland was. I’d been working in television in upstate New York for 20 years!”
He said, ‘I hear you’re a top-notch news broadcaster and I’m interested in hiring you.’ And I told him I wasn’t so sure he could afford me because radio people were paid a lot less than those of us in television. And he said, ‘I can afford anything I want.’”
Hyland had already dispatched a car to pick her up and soon Anne Keefe was sitting in the corner office at 1 Memorial Drive. After a brief conversation he asked her if she’d go on the air that night. That was in 1976. Seventeen years later Keefe retired from broadcasting, having attained renown as the woman in the KMOX lineup.
In 1976, broadcast operations were not enlightened in terms of gender equality, and Anne Keefe had just settled into a den of testosterone. Why? “Well, I was 50 years old. I was not a kid. If I’d been 25 I couldn’t have survived. The male talent were absolutely cold. Thank God for the engineers. They got me through it.”
KMOX wasn’t her first foray into radio. She’d been in that end of the broadcast business in 1946. “I got a job at WHAM while I was in college in Rochester [N.Y.]. It was a 50,000 watt station and they had ‘old time radio.’ They had copy writers, continuity writers, a full, 17-piece orchestra. Nothing was said on the air that hadn’t been written in advance. There was no ad-libbing. I learned the news business from the former newspaper guys who were working in our newsroom.
“I worked on the station’s dramas. They paid me $7.00 a show. I was a great screamer. Audiences would come to watch the production.”
In 1950, Anne Keefe moved into television, hosting “Anne’s Attic,” “Romper Room,” even a cooking show. Later, at age 50 and looking for work, Keefe didn’t immediately accept the offer to join the KMOX staff. She consulted with a friend in the St. Louis broadcast industry who warned her that Hyland was known as a man who would hire someone, but, tiring of that person quickly, would then find a reason to fire him or her.
She had two kids in college and one in high school, and as a single mother, she couldn’t afford to make such a risky move. Before saying “yes” to Robert Hyland, she was able to secure the offer of a backup job at a local tv station if things didn’t work out at KMOX, an arrangement she kept secret from Hyland. But things did work out at KMOX.
“Hyland was a star maker, and he never interfered with the content of my shows or my approach.
“When I first came here, I think I was too abrasive. The style back East was to hold people to account. That didn’t work here. It was too aggressive. My mother advised me on how to soften the approach by coming in the back door rather than using direct confrontation.”
In retrospect, the job she thought long and hard about taking turned out to be the best professional move she’d ever made. “I could call anybody in the world for my show. I could call the Soviet Union. I interviewed the greatest writers. It was an ideal job and the young people who worked with me were so wonderful. I can’t imagine anyone having a job like that today, and I got paid for it!”
(Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 9/06)