John’s career in the wonderful world of broadcasting has been interesting and varied, largely due to his eagerness to always try something new. He entered that world in 1953 at CBC, Winnipeg, as an office boy, and worked his way to technician. Able to speak four languages, he decided to take a turn on air when he moved to CBC, Edmonton as announcer/operator in 1956. A couple of years later he moved to CJRL, Kenora, in the private sector, doing News and sports, and he recalls doing football play-by-play from a vantage point on the roof of a conveniently located house!
John moved to Edmonton for the opening of CHQT in 1965, and was the station’s first News Director. While there, since his shift allowed it, he opened up the National Institute of Broadcasting. Not only did teaching potential broadcasters appeal to him, but he also taught public speaking at the behest of various companies across the country.
It was then off to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and CFRY where he was both Station Manager and Program Director, until his ideas and those of ownership clashed. And off he went to CKXL in Calgary, again doing News and sports, but with the on-air name John B. Kennedy, marking the only time in his career that John did not use his own name on-air.
In the late ’60’s, John moved back to Edmonton, this time for CHED, where he broadcast News for about three years, but then decided to go freelancing. That’s when he would interview all the stars as they visited Edmonton and also spent several weeks each year in Las Vegas, interview top names in entertainment, and bring back the tapes to go on the air on CJCA in a show called Johnny-on-the-Spot. In Vegas, he received the widely-coveted Silver Spotlight Award, an international award for best broadcast coverage.
Always one for new ideas, John decided in 1976 that all those Edmontonians who visited Hawaii in the winter would appreciate some News from back home, so through KGU, Honolulu he would transmit, from Edmonton, live broadcasts of happenings in Canada. That proved so popular that, while he essentially retired from his other broadcasting activities some time ago, John will soon complete the 30th year of his Hawaii/Canada connection.
Radio waves bring Edmonton to beaches of Waikiki
After three decades on air, ‘the voice of Hawaii’ isn’t about to let health problems stop him from manning the microphone
Jeff Holubitsky – The Edmonton Journal – Monday, January 7, 2008
EDMONTON — When each morning promises another day of constant pain, the man known as Edmonton’s voice in Hawaii steadfastly refuses to let it get him down.
“Like Tony Bennett told me years ago: ‘Johnny, no matter what, the beat goes on,’ ” broadcaster Johnny Bohonos says, mustering a smile.
For the past four years, he has suffered the effects of fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that has robbed him of energy and can cause widespread pain, fatigue and sleep disorders.
“The problem is that it can affect the sound, it can affect the voice,” Bohonas says. “It has to have the resonance. But sometimes it’s tough because the sound isn’t there like I’d want it to be.”
Now 74, Bohonos has been going through some difficult times: his brother’s death, his beloved wife Roslyn’s recent hospitalization for an intestinal disorder, a diagnosis of basal skin cancer.
With all that, he wasn’t sure he could continue the weekly Edmonton radio show that has been broadcast in Honolulu for three decades.
But the “medical enigma” of fibromyalgia, as he calls it, hasn’t dampened his desire to continue as the Canadian Connection to the thousands of Albertans, particularly Edmontonians, who escape each year to head for the beach.
“I’ve launched it for its 30th year on KWAI,” he says.
Bohonos still exercises his baritone for half an hour each day, reading the newspaper aloud at the basement desk where he produces his show, humorously rewriting Canadian news stories and preparing “special alohas” for people with anniversaries and birthdays.
“I’ll be doing it by satellite,” he says. “It’s lucid and provocative and sometimes I say things that make people say, ‘Did you hear what he said?’ ”
Bohonos was born in Winnipeg to a Ukrainian-Canadian family with eight children. His father wanted him to be a priest.
But at age 17, his father died and Bohonos’ career path started its journey to the microphone. He was hired by the CBC to do small office jobs and had worked his way up to become a technician, producing sound effects, when a manager noticed his voice.
“I bought a little tape recorder and I practised and practised,” he says.
In 1956, CBC deemed him good enough to become an announcer and sent him to work in Edmonton, where the national broadcaster’s offices were on the fifth floor of the Hotel Macdonald.
As Bohonos recalls, “I wasn’t paid very much, but it felt good walking through the hotel to get to work.”
But the new job wasn’t fulfilling. As a jazz lover, he wanted to expand his on-air responsibilities beyond news and weather, and he also wanted to stay up late.
“I love swinging music,” he says.
He spent a short stint at a new station in Portage la Prairie before going to Calgary, where for two years he worked under the name John B. Kennedy, and then to Edmonton for a stint at CHED.
After a few years, he turned to freelance broadcasting, interviewing the likes of Paul Anka and Bob Goulet in Las Vegas and selling his reports to CJCA.
Later, as news director for CHQT in Edmonton, Bohonos also taught public speaking and ran a broadcasting school, working with young announcers who would become Edmonton fixtures themselves.
They included Rod Phillips, voice of the Edmonton Oilers (“He has the best ‘he shoots, he scores’ crescendo in the NHL”), and popular morning man Bruce Bowie.
“Bruce is a cool cat,” his former teacher says. “He is the true gentleman of morning radio, and I believe the secret of a good broadcaster is to project your personality.”
He also began spending winters in Hawaii, where he wrote an around-town column for a guide magazine in addition to doing the radio show.
That was before the emotional stress and physical difficulties of fibromyalgia ended his winter trips three years ago.
He’s since learned to realize it’s all right to cry sometimes.
“I don’t get depressed, I get disappointed,” he says.
“The beat goes on, it’s got to go on.”
© The Edmonton Journal 2008