Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

Alison Steele, the Night Bird

Jack Beebe talks about his work life. He was involved in the early days of television in New York, working as a producer. His experience brought him into contact with many famous people.


In this video, Jack Beebe fondly remembers Alison Steele (January 26, 1937- September 27, 1995). She was born Ceil Loman, known as the “The Night Bird” of New York radio station WNEW. She was one of few women disc jockeys across the country in the late 60s to the early 80s, working the late night and overnight spots, the “time when radio magic happens.” (1) In the early days, she was often alone in the studio except for her poodle. (2) A New York icon who was known for her “smokey, serene” (3) voice and comforting style, she began every broadcast with a poem becoming an “intimate companion” to police, truck drivers, cleaning people and “insomniacs.” (4) She was of the people, known to connect with her callers in conversations that would sometimes overrun the song she was playing. (5) There are many anecdotes of the warmth she showed listeners, and in 1976 she won Billboard magazine’s Personality of the Year award. She recounted later that she was not given the evening off to accept the award, and said although she never experienced discrimination felt she was never allowed the luxury of “making errors.” (6)   She married bandleader Ted Steele, with whom she had a daughter. They later divorced. (7) She and her sister operated a feline boutique in Manhattan. She was also fond of dogs. Listen to broadcasts of her WNEW show here (poem transcribed below) and here.

If trouble never happened
And sorrow never came
The only thing you’d know about your neighbor
Is his name.
If all your days
Were bright and fair
And certain was your place
You’d only know a fellow by the features of his face.
Tis not in sunshine
Friends are made
But when our skies are grey
The splendid souls that men possess are never on display.
We cannot tell
What lies behind
The hasty nod or smile
Nor what of worth will come of it in just a little while.
We only know that
When we face
The cares that life must send
We realize the passerby has changed into a friend.

  1. Night Talkers New York Times, January 21, 2007. Accessed January 17, 2019. ProQuest New York Times 1980-present.
  2. Alison Steele, Disk Jockey, Dies; The Pioneer ‘Night Bird’ was 58. New York Times, September 28, 1995. Accessed January 17, 2019. ProQuest New York Times 1980-present.
  3. The Lonely song of the ‘Nightbird.’ New York Times, October 29, 1995. Accessed January 17, 2019. ProQuest New York Times 1980-present.
  4. Alison Steele, Night Bird. New York Times, December 31, 1995. Accessed January 17, 2019. ProQuest New York Times 1980-present.
  5. Ibid.
  6. In the World of Radio, She’s a Rare Bird New York Times, December 9, 1971. Accessed January 18, 2019. ProQuest New York Times 1980-present.
  7. Alison Steele. Wikipedia, page last edited on October 11, 2018. Https://en.wikipedia.org. Accessed January 17, 2019.

Jack Beebe Interview

Alison Steele, the Night Bird

 

Alison Steele with Jack Beebe