‘The Big Story’ Tonight is Larry Kane, Philadelphia’s Anchorman

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Larry Kane (Courtesy of Larry Kane)

He’s the man who coined the phrase “The Big Story” at the top of Action News broadcasts on 6abc.

He spent more than three decades bringing Philadelphians the story from his anchor chairs at all three local network affiliates, ABC, CBS and NBC. He even brought Americans the story of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and of The Beatles’ culture-stopping arrival in North America in the 1960s.

But now, as he approaches the age of 80 in a couple of weeks, Larry Kane is looking back on his own story.


The first Jewish anchor in the Philadelphia region still lives in Abington and belongs to Old York Road Temple-Beth Am, a synagogue he joined in 1977. He also does freelance work for KYW Newsradio.

But for the most part, Kane is a grandpa now. When he spoke to the Jewish Exponent on Sept. 14 about his career, he was excited for the next day, a Saturday, in which he would do his best to attend the two soccer games and two baseball games that his grandchildren were playing in.

“I’d rather spend the time with them than go down to Florida,” he said.

At the same time, Kane was willing to go to Florida in his mind, because that’s where his journey began.

The Bay of Pigs

Living in Miami, Kane had friends who immigrated to the United States after the Fidel Castro-led Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. One day, those friends invited the newsman, who did half-hour updates for a local radio station called WAME, to a town south of Miami.

They took him into a field where kids were shooting off “World War II weapons,” Kane recalled. The kids told Kane that they were going to invade Cuba but swore him to secrecy. They said the John F. Kennedy administration had promised to provide air cover.

Kane told them to call him on his phone at the station when the invasion was underway. When the kids landed on the beach and the Kennedy administration failed to provide that cover, two of them called their friend at the station. Then he went on the air with his usual news update.

“I got a call from The New York Times. ‘What’s going on?’” Kane recalled. “I was just lucky.”

Three years later, Kane got “lucky” again.

The Beatles

After their famous appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, The Beatles arrived at Miami International Airport. Kane followed them to The Hotel Deauville in Miami Beach and got to do “a little interview.”

Larry Kane interviews Paul McCartney.
(Courtesy of Larry Kane)

After that conversation, he got letters from kids who wanted to meet the famous group. He then wrote to Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager, to see if he could organize a station promotion for kids to attend the band’s upcoming Gator Bowl stop in Jacksonville.

Epstein wrote back and invited him to travel on the entire upcoming tour instead. Kane was not sure if he should go. He was a newsman, not a music guy. But his mother, who died right before the tour, told him to go.

“She said, ‘This is going to take you into television,’” Kane remembered.

Kane’s reports were syndicated to 50 stations around the country. They also landed him an offer to come to Philadelphia and work for WFIL Radio and WFIL-TV.

Philadelphia

During his first few years here, Kane worked as a reporter, news director and occasional weekend anchor. But in 1969, the lead anchor’s toupee fell off in the bathroom before a broadcast, and he handed Kane, who was in there with him, the script.

The newsman nearly led to his own report from City Hall during that broadcast, but he got it done without any major mistakes, and then got asked to fill in again. When the station commenced an anchor search later that year, Kane sat in on an interim basis. His channel was a distant third in the ratings.

But as the search continued, the ratings started to improve. With reps, the new anchor’s pace got faster; his eye contact got so good that he barely needed the teleprompter; and his laughter was natural.

On Valentine’s Day 1970, the general manager and news director invited him to dinner and offered him the anchor seat. From April 1970 to April 1971, the station climbed to No. 1 in the ratings. The newsman would remain in an anchor seat until 2002.

“I’ve always liked news,” he said. “I still like news.”

Kane left briefly for a job with WABC-TV in New York City in the late 1970s. But he was commuting, which made him realize something.

“I wanted my kids to grow up here,” he concluded. JE

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