Question: What popular talk show host in the ’60s and ’70s had a hit song, "The Men In My Little Girl’s Life?" Read on for the answer!
From the time he was 10 years old, John Di Sciullo, the promotion and production director and host of the game show Bragging Rights on WBBZ-TV, knew he wanted to be involved in television. "A lot of people in this business; anchors, actors, and personalities, are defined by their core upbringing," said Di Sciullo.
He had a childhood of wanting to entertain. As a pre-teen and teenager, Di Sciullo, now 53, would put on monthly shows with his neighborhood friends and classmates in the basement of the Philadelphia row house he shared with his mother and grandparents.
"There were lots of kids and families in our neighborhood; everyone participated in the shows doing things like singing, dancing, and telling jokes." When he attended Northeast Catholic High, an all-boys school in Philadelphia, he was able to borrow video equipment from the school and record the shows.
Di Sciullo’s defining moment, when he decided on his life’s career, was when he was a mere ten years old. His grandmother loved a certain singer who hosted a television variety show. Remember the question at the beginning of this story? The TV host who had the hit song, "The Men In My Little Girl’s Life" was Mike Douglas. His show was produced in Philadelphia. John’s grandmother got tickets to the show, and took young John with her. "It was the most amazing thing I ever saw," said Di Sciullo. "For me this was when I decided that this is what I wanted to do."
He attended Temple University in Philadelphia, one of the country’s top colleges for radio and film. He was a commuter student but spent a lot of time on campus, working in the university’s activity center running movies. He learned how to edit and present movies, which gave him a background for what he does now.
He interned at WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, a station that had the same parent company, Capital Cities Communications, as WKBW-TV in Buffalo. "College internships are very important in this business; you get to meet people and are given the opportunity to prove yourself."
At WPVI his mentor was Dave Thomas, who is from Buffalo. (Remember Rocketship 7 and Dialing for Dollars?) "Dave and I became very close; he told me about an opening in Buffalo for the producer of AM Buffalo and he encouraged me to apply."
Di Sciullo was 20 years old and one semester away from graduating when he was offered the job, which he decided to take. "I had never been on a plane before or travelled much before coming to Buffalo. It was a big step." While he was producer of an established show with established talent and management, he realized that he didn’t know everything once he started working. "I realized that we all learn from each other; younger people learn from older ones and vice versa. It is like that now at WBBZ-TV. We have a young team of digital experts who embrace the new technology."
He noted that in the TV business you get to meet many people because you are so connected. "When Regis and Kathie Lee came on the air, I made it my mission to bring Regis to Buffalo and I did, three times!" He added, "Regis has so much personality; when he’s on the air with you, he makes you feel like you’re the only one there. I hope to bring some of that energy to our game show on WBBZ-TV."
Di Sciullo stated the importance of connecting with the community. For a number of years he produced the Variety Club Telethon for WKBW. He felt that it was important to do this because it benefited children.
He also helped develop Off Beat Cinema in 1993 with advertising executive James Gillan. Off Beat Cinema, which is currently seen locally on Saturday nights at midnight on WBBZ-TV, takes old movies and re-packages them using hosted segments with local actors. Off Beat Cinema is syndicated nationally and seen on 93 stations across the country.
In 2012, when Di Sciullo saw what Phil Arno, owner of WBBZ-TV, was doing to develop his station, Di Sciullo felt the positive energy and wanted to be part of it. "It was like I was ten years old again!" said Di Sciullo. "I thought it was a good opportunity and wanted to be part of something from the ground up." While he enjoyed working at WKBW and left on good terms, he felt that it was the right decision for him to join WBBZ.
The station is located in the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence. "It’s unique being in a mall. We wouldn’t be able to produce the types of shows we do if we weren’t in a mall." He added, "WBBZ’s core concept is connecting with our hometowns, so it’s about accessibility. It’s sort of a throwback, everything old is new again."
In addition to carrying MeTV, classic iconic shows like M*A*S*H, The Brady Bunch, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Love Lucy, just to name a few, WBBZ airs several locally produced shows including the Bucky and Sully Show, featuring Buffalo News sportswriters Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan; The Fred Jackson Show with Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson; and Talk of the Town, a local interest show with Phil Arno and Kim Piazza. Di Sciullo hosts the station’s popular game show, Bragging Rights.
"The game show is another way to connect with everyday folks in the community in a more entertaining way." He added, "The show is all about the contestants, and how they connect." The show currently airs weeknights at 8 p.m. Programs are recorded Thursday nights at the WBBZ-TV Eastern Hills Mall studio at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.
Di Sciullo added that every day is different for him at WBBZ; hosting shows, producing, dealing with clients, and connecting with social media. "There’s a quality about WBBZ; every job and every person is important, no job is too big or too small. We all do what we have to do to make projects come together."
WBBZ-TV (wbbz.tv) can be seen on cable channel 5 (HD 1230 everywhere); FiOS Channel 5; Dish Ch. 5; DirectTV Ch 67, and over the air on channel 67.1.