EDITOR, The Tribune.
And then there were three. On Monday, March 13, the media profession in The Bahamas lost a giant of a journalist and broadcaster, Mr Ed Bethel.
In the golden era of ZNS Radio, before ZNS TV and before social media, Bahamians were fortunate to listen to broadcasting legends Rusty Bethel, Mary Kelly, Don Pritchard among others in the late 40s, 50s and 60s. Then in the late 60s, 70s and 80s the super stars on radio were Bern Evens, the first black person to read the news on ZNS, Carl Bethel, Naden Beneby, Charles Carter, Cindy Williams, Calsey Johnson, Ed Bethel, Elva Russell-Rolle, Peter Bowleg, Basil Bazz Jazz Cooper, Dorothy Panza, Mike Smith, Jeff Scavella, Kirk Smith, Phil Smith, Alex Curry, Yvette Stuart and many others, too many to name all. The music on ZNS Radio had a pure and wholesome feel the programming with every genre of music including Noel Hamilton’s Classical music hours. The daily radio dramas on Radio Bahamas captivated the Bahamian audience - however it was the fantastic local radio drama, written by retired Justice Jeannie Thompson with Patricia Thomas starring as Sister Sara, Lerlene Collie as Ms Lye and Charlie Bowleg as Zeak, called the Fergusons of Farm Road as well as the 7.55am must-listen-to segment Mike’s Comedy Capers and the ‘Family Island You Ask For It’ Saturday night radio programme with Jeff Scavella that proved to be the favorites! ‘Nassauvians’ and Family islanders lived by the many talented voices on the radio, as a matter of fact it was not Gospel or believed until it was heard on ZNS Radio. Family islanders, especially, woke up and went to sleep to the sounds of ZNS Radio.
Ed Bethel, known best as a broadcaster, started in media as a Tribune sports reporter, then was convinced to come to the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS Radio) by Charles Carter and Calsey Johnson as a radio sports reporter. It was said by most ladies at the time that Ed Bethel looked as good as a tall glass of fine wine. During his first tenure at ZNS, he mentored Peter Bowleg and Kirk Smith in the Sports department plus countless others in the News Department.
Mr Bethel was known as a walking, talking encyclopedia. When you met Ed Bethel, you had to be impressed by his elegant style, his effortless grace, his intellect and his unique broadcasting talents. In the golden era of ZNS broadcasting, a broadcaster was more than just a voice, you had to have journalistic skills, a sense of how to produce radio and TV shows and sometimes in radio produce technically and be able to splice and edit tape. Unlike today, where anyone who goes in front of a mike with an opinion or being a political pundit is calling themselves broadcasters. Broadcasters had a sense of class, knew their content, could read and pronounce the King's English flawlessly, today there is a lack of pride for the broadcast profession, any Tom, Dick, Mary or Harry with a smartphone tries to provide important information to the public without a care to proper presentation or preparation.
Mr Ed Bethel became my mentor as soon as I was employed by the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas in the Master Control department of ZNS TV-13 in 1979. In addition to working with my father at The Tribune, they both attended St John's and both worshipped at St Mary's The Virgin Anglican Church. Eddie B or Mr B as we all called him was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a broadcaster. Mr B's command of the English language, his voice control, and his vast knowledge made him a walking, talking Google before there was a Google. Yes, I could read, I understood how to use nuances with subtle distinctions and variation for effect when reading but I never had the booming voice a radio announcer was known for but that did not stop me from going to ZNS in 1976 as an intern and like a puppy following Peter Bowleg, Kirk Smith and Ed Bethel around. As broadcast radio is ‘Theatre of the Mind’, it was later in my life and thanks to Greg Lamkin, that I had the opportunity to get on the radio as characterisations of voices in commercials became popular in the 80s. and as an actor and Danza Award winner I voiced and acted in a number of TV and radio commercials.
One thing everyone knew about Ed Bethel was that he did not suffer fools well, he was a Man's Man, a true Alpha male, yes, there were those who would seek to undermine him but like a Phoenix he would continue to shine and rise. As an iconic news reporter and anchor at ZNS Radio who covered most of the significant events in The Bahamas, the two outstanding events I enjoyed most that Mr. B provided coverage for was his broadcast coverage of the 1973 Bahamian Independence as well as his play by play of Elisha Obeah’s historical boxing championship victory from Paris. In July 1977, Ed Bethel, Calsey Johnson and Charles became the faces of Bahamian TV as well as the voices of Radio Bahamas as the inaugural Bahamian TV programme Focus aired on ZNS-TV-13 our own Bahamian Television station. Up to that time, most Bahamians watched three channels ABC channel 10, CBS channel 4 and NBC channel 7 and if the weather was exceptionally good WPIX channel 6.
As a VTR editor in the early 80s I would work long hours late at night with Ed Bethel as he produced new programmes, his show Perspective as well as news reports. Once while editing a news story after a FNM rally, I tried to advise Mr B on the audio/video content insert we should use but every selection I picked Mr B said 'no', when we reached a unflattering insert, Mr B said 'use that'. Of course, I said ‘Mr B, news is supposed to be objective’ and with the wit that could only come from God he said with his sly grin ‘Paul, at ZNS, news is not objective it is subjective' end of story. It was during CHOGM in 1985 that Mr B and I worked our longest hours together as he had the task of producing short documentaries on each of the Commonwealth nations and he selected me as his VTR editor. This was way before the advent of the internet, as we know it today, it was all about getting video from file tapes and shooting and videotaping the photos from tapes, stock photos, the encyclopedia and magazines then video dubbing them over the voice tract of Mr Bethel. During these long hours, I sat at the feet of the master while soaking up as much knowledge as I could which has served me well in my life. After a late night of editing, Mr B would always take me to Father Allen’s chicken shack where he would meet up with his good friend George ‘God Bless’ Moxey. ‘God Bless', on meeting me, said that he could have been my great granduncle as he knew my great grandaunt Roxanna and put his fingers in his Johnnie Walker and ginger ale drink, sprinkled a little on the ground and said ‘a little bit for Roxanna'. This little ritual became our tradition whenever we met and November 2022 at Mr B’s birthday celebration would be our last time sprinkling a little bit for Roxanna.
Mr B left ZNS in the late 80s and our paths would cross mostly on Tuesdays at Lunch Bunch. Meeting Mr B at the weekly Lunch Bunch surrounded by men of affluence and influence was always a joy. Mr B would hold court during the conversation’s topics of life, politics, religion and current affairs. In the 90s, Mr B would join Jones Communications and in 2002 Mr B would leave broadcasting and join the diplomatic corps moving to New York as Consul General then return to broadcasting where again we would both be employed by the Guardian Media Group. Once again in 2012, Mr B would be called to serve his country in the United Kingdom as the High Commissioner and like in broadcasting Mr B fitted in seamlessly like a glove - it was as if Mr B was born for that duty.
When Mr B announced he was diagnosed with cancer, my wife Porcia, a cancer survivor, my mom and I would visit Dawn and Mr B offering advice and suggestions on homemade remedies, what to do while taking chemo as well as positive words of encouragement. Three weeks ago, when the ill-advised note on social media started circulating, we were bombarded by calls so we called Dawn and then went to Mr B, he was not up to seeing anyone but we all hoped for the best, but it was not to be.
And now there is only three from the golden age of ZNS mega stars - Mr Louis Hanchell, broadcasting's most prolific administrator, Nadene Campbell-Beneby, veteran female broadcaster, and the man with the golden voice, Carl Bethel. Mr B will be missed by many but thanked by even more, he will especially be missed and thanked by media professionals as well as High Commissioners, Ambassadors and personnel in the diplomatic corps who have been tutored and inspired by him. My wife Porcia and I extend our condolences to Dawn, the children and grandchildren as well as all his family and friends. May the soul of Ed Bethel and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace and rise in glory.
March 20, 2023
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