Pittsburgh is treating Big Steve Rizen so well he's ready to give up Texas.
But even if Texans hear about this alarming state of affairs, Big Steve
Rizen would hardly qualify - even in their minds - as the Benedict Arnold
type or the Phillip (Man Without a Country) Nolan type.
"I'm now a Pittsburgher by transplant," Rizen said yesterday, jovially. Did you ever see him otherwise?
Jovial? If he weren't 250 pounds, he'd go leaping over parking meters.
Big Steve is a radio personality. Starting Sept. 6, he'll be a television personality. More specifically, he'll be a radio and television personality.
He'll keep his 6-10 a.m. job daily on KQV Radio. Then after a brunch of steak with the works and maybe one cocktail, for courage, he'll show up at Channel 11 to prepare to host WIIC's new game show, "Give It A Whirl," 1 to 1:30 p.m. daily.
He may not leap, over parking meters - let's face it, even fire hydrants are out - but Rizen, who came to Pittsburgh June 1, 1964, is no loafer. "I'm a young man in a hurry," is the way he puts it. He's 29.
Ambition and confidence he needs. His competition right now is Rege Cordic. On Sept. 6, add Mike Douglas. That's like going from J&L's open hearth into Hades, or if you will, from the frying pan into the fire.
Steve won the Channel 11 job over several other auditioners because of his appearance and personality. He has a big voice of ample avoirdupois.
I've been compared with Hoss Cartwright," he said, pleased with the sound of it. For him, the comparison might be a bonanza.
Steve may be just right for the new job. You got to have a personality. Steve has. He plays the banjo, scuba dives, cooks, acts, rides horses and drives the same kind of car - a compact convertible as the beer he drinks.
Sometimes he wears glasses. "I may do it on the show, to fiddle with, and read the teleprompter," he said.
He has no television experience, "except on telethons." He'll treat the
camera the same way I did the mike." Mike Douglas he's not afraid of. "I've
never seent he show, so how can it scare me?" He asked.
And he can pull things off. Once after boasting about the torrid chili he makes, he delivered some to me in a fire truck.
"Give It A Whirl," created by Vic Skaggs, will feature four contestants, wheels of fortune, amsers to true - false questions, piling up of points and prizes. It will be live and before a studio audience. Jack Gilbert is producer director and Dom Trimarkle has the music.
Contestants will be chosen from the audience and before they go on the air it will be up to Steve to warm things up. That's probably his strongest suit.
That's why John Gibbs, his boss at KQV, gave him the greenlight to moonlight, in a way.
But what will happen if Steve falls too much in love with TV? Will KQV play second fiddle? "I'm too loyal to KQV for that," he said.
In his private life, Steve says he used to "get kitchen clearance from his wife for a night out with the boys once in a while" but that's changing. His wife, Carmen, is expecting their first child in September.
Steve stays home a lot now, building shelves and stuff. And he has promised his wife all the extra cash he gets from "Whirl"
"She can do whatever she wants with it. Use it as an education fund or buy a wardrobe. But that was too rash a promise made. Maybe some viewers or listeners can come up with a few suggestions how I can get part of it back."
Tuning back to KQV, that station moved him from his old afternoon shift to the morning hours to try denting KDKA's monopoly once Cordic leaves.
Because of honest wit coupled with Steve's drive it wouldn't be too surprising if Channel 11 changed it's North Side address from Rising Main Avenue to Rizen Main Avenue.