When Arnold D'Angelo was born almost 78 years ago, his book-loving dad named his new son after the British historian Arnold Toynbee.
"My father was a voracious reader and a great admirer of Toynbee," D'Angelo said. "And I became addicted to books, as well."
Arnold Dean, the dean of sports, who will soon be celebrating 60 years in radio, most of them at WTIC.
Dean remembered the librarian in his hometown of Cortland, N.Y. "It was 1.2 miles from our house to the library," he said. "Every three or four days when I was about 10 years old, I would walk to the library and check out three books, take them home and read them and then bring them back and check out three more. One day, the librarian, who was an older lady, asked, 'Why is it you bring these books back so quickly? You couldn't have read them.' I said, 'But I did read them.' "
Dean came from the Syracuse area to 'TIC in 1965 and began making a name for himself. It was a new name, for him. Leonard Patricelli, the big boss, said, "We want to hire you, but we hope you'll consider changing your last name, because we shy away from ethnic-sounding names here."
Arnold said, "I didn't want to do it, and I said to Mr. Patricelli, 'What about your own name?' and he said, 'But I'm not on the air.' So I became Arnold Dean."
And that's how we've known him for the past 43 years. He is not completely retired. Not yet. He still fills in here and there and his familiar voice is always welcome to listeners. Dean hewed closely to sports over the decades. He was a pioneer in the 1960s when he was one of the first men in the country to host a talk show.
He also did play-by-play with Chuck Kaiton for the Whalers, and the same with the Hartford Knights. He covered all the major sports events in the area, and conducted countless interviews with sports personalities over the years, from Hank Aaron to local kids. He was much in demand as an after-dinner speaker and master of ceremonies.
Music has also been a great part of his life, professionally and otherwise.
He was a gifted clarinetist.
"I was in the all-state [high school] band," he said. "And that was a pretty good feather in my cap, because the band included all of New York State except New York City."
"I was into music at Syracuse University, and as a member of the U.S. Air Force ROTC, I was invited to join the Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. I almost left school to do it, but finally decided to stay in school. I was the first one in my family to go to college and it would have disappointed my parents if I hadn't finished."
At WTIC he hosted several big-band shows. One was "The Plaza Show" at noon on weekdays. It was also known as "The Arnold Dean for Lunch Bunch" and was very popular. But his favorite was a weekly one-hour show called "One Night Stand." He conducted scores of interviews with famous bandleaders and musicians for that show. "There were 43 of them of those shows," he said. "And after the show had run its course, the Library of Congress asked for copies of all of them."
Dean was a firm friend of Matt Moriarty, a former mayor of Manchester, who happened to be an amateur drummer and an ardent fan of jazz drummer Gene Krupa.
"I was lucky enough to set up an interview with Krupa at his home in Yonkers," Dean recalled. "So I called Matt and told him I had a surprise for him, but didn't tell him what it was. I picked him up and we drove to Yonkers and found the address. When we got out of the car, I said, 'Matt, get ready to meet Gene Krupa.' He was flabbergasted. We went in, found Krupa to be a great guy and as we were leaving, we passed a set of drums. I suggested to Matt that he sit down and play. Of course, with one of the greatest drummers who ever lived standing there, he didn't want to, so I said, 'Aw, come on Matt, play the drums for Gene Krupa.' "
Arnold Dean is a rare man. Few people last as long or maintain their high popularity for this long. It's because he's a good man and naturally nice. What's not to like about him?
I joined the Courant in '65, the year he joined WTIC. We've been friends ever since. I'm proud of that.