If you have lived in the Philadelphia area for quite a while and are a radio listener, then you most likely have heard Steve Martorano at some point. In a career spanning more than four decades, the …
If you have lived in the Philadelphia area for quite a while and are a radio listener, then you most likely have heard Steve Martorano at some point. In a career spanning more than four decades, the Chestnut Hill resident (a townhouse near Evergreen Avenue) has interviewed the likes of Jane Fonda, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, BB King, Stevie Wonder, Frank Rizzo, Bill Bradley, Willie Mays, Andy Reid and cops and robbers, to mention a sampling.
But Martorano, 72, is probably best known for his years as a talker at WIP All-Sports Radio starting in 1987. “No one in Philadelphia had tried an all-sports format before,” he said last week as we sat socially distanced in back of his home. “The smart money pegged this new kid on the block as a very long shot indeed. Me included. As the early WIP struggled, I took over the morning show. After a year as the sports station’s first morning-drive host, I decided the smart money was right. This wasn’t for me. I left for a job in Boston.”
After four years in Boston, Martorano came back to Philly and WIP. “They told me they would put me on the air with a real sports guy, which I really was not. That was Anthony Gargano. Most people remember me from that. I had a great time with Anthony for four or five years. We did the Super Bowl, where the Eagles lost to the Patriots (February, 2005).”
Ten years ago, however, Martorano switched gears and started “Recovery Radio” on station WPHT (1210 AM). “I wanted to stay in broadcasting but doing something important and interesting,” he said. “I stumbled upon a group of Lancaster County people working on recovery of addicts. Most were recovering addicts themselves. (No, I am not recovering from anything myself.) I thought is anyone doing a show on this?”
Six months ago Martorano and his partners took the talk show off radio and made it into a podcast, “The Behavioral Corner.” It deals with substance abuse, treatment and a broad range of mental health issues … I can't think of anything I would rather be doing. Things have changed, and we are learning a lot more about brain chemistry.
“The numbers (of people addicted to drugs or alcohol) are staggering, but only a small number seek help. It took a while for the medical establishment to recognize addiction as a disease, but help is out there. If you are in crisis and recognize it, turn to someone you can confide in and say you are in trouble. Be honest. There are lots of good programs and new techniques out there for you.”
Steve and his underwriters post a new podcast every Tuesday. They have experts in behavioral health and people in crisis who have recovered. October is National Mental Health Month, so now is a good time to check it out.
Martorano was born in Northeast Philly and raised in South Jersey. He went to Pershing College in Nebraska for three years and Temple for a while but did not earn a degree. “I just wanted to stay out of Vietnam,” he said. “Luckily, I got a high number in the lottery, so I was not drafted (into the military). I just wanted to get into broadcasting, and I was always writing screenplays. I went to California in the late '70s and tried to grab the brass ring. I actually was paid for a couple screenplays, but they were never produced. The movie industry is brutal, but I must say that living at the beach for four years was not too bad.”
Martorano and his wife, Marie, whom he met in high school, packed up and came back to Philly, where he started in radio at WDAS-FM, then at WMMR on air and a stint in New York Public TV. “I'm like a bad penny,” he said. “I keep turning up. I got older and smarter and resisted the urge to do more screenwriting. I still have friends in that business, though, which means I get a fast 'No' instead of a slow 'No.'”
He insists he will not go back into sports talk “by mutual agreement,” even though it helped him meet lots of colorful people. “Most compelling, though, have been the ordinary people with life and death struggles. They are heroes. Their stories and the people trying to help them are the most important ones ...
“But if I had to do it all over again, I would choose to be born into a wealthy family. And please don’t fail to mention my Nobel Prize for Literature in your article. I am too often reluctant to mention it myself. Even my wife doesn’t know about it.”
You can hear the podcast at Behavioralcorner.com. Click on the sound icon. It also streams on iTunes, Spodify and other platforms. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com