The other day, as some of us looked at our calendars in disbelief at the passage of time, Richard Sher turned 75.
Everybody around here knows Richard, or thinks they do.
He’s been a headline presence in Baltimore for half a century, as a reporter and anchor at TV’s Eyewitness News, as host of “Square-Off,” and as co-host years ago of the morning talk show “People Are Talking” with a young lady named Oprah Winfrey.
But there’s plenty about Sher that people don’t know, though they’ve been watching and hearing him since the 1960s:
* Richard and his college sweetheart, Annabelle, have been married for 52 years and have three sons and six grandchildren.
* When he left the University of Maryland, Richard went to work for a radio station in Arlington, Va. The ratings were so good that the station had him hosting three different shows under three different names: Richie Sher, Dick Drake and Russ Wheeler.
* Richard was one of the original Hilltop Diner guys, and his college roommate one year was future Diner laureate Barry Levinson.
* Oprah believes Richard is the funniest man she’s ever known (and she’s known Robin Williams and Billy Crystal).
* People routinely ask Richard, “Are you still friends with Oprah?” (Yes.) And “Is it true she gave you a million dollars?” (No.)
* Richard’s a longtime weekly volunteer at the R. Adams Cowley Shock-Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Hospital.
Also, he’s at his best when people are at their worst.
He’s the guy friends lean on when they’ve gotten sick, gotten fired, gotten divorced, gotten in trouble. He was always an energetic, sometimes frenetic, newsroom presence – but a calming one with people in genuine need.
For most of his three decades at WJZ-TV, Sher’s daily schedule was breathtaking. He spent his mornings co-hosting “People Are Talking.” Then he’d anchor the noon news. Then he’d hit the streets to report news stories for the evening news, whose broadcasts he sometimes anchored as well.
For years, he also anchored the station’s weekend news and its “Square-Off” program, which, in Sher’s “retirement,” he now anchors on Sunday mornings on WMAR-TV.
Local television news has always been populated by professional gypsies. Reporters arrive in town and leave for a larger market before they’ve even learned how to find City Hall or pronounce Auchentoroly Terrace.
Richard Sher’s a different story. He’s been in Baltimore since 1941 and knows its players and neighborhoods, its rhythms and secrets. His energy remains remarkable.
The calendar says he’s 75, but maybe this time the calendar’s lying.
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