Morning show hosts keep it light for local listeners

Published on April 26, 2011 by

Tony Reno and Mike Bellamy are the co-hosts of WICC’s “The Family Breakfast Club,” which airs every weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Just tune in to 600 AM on your radio dial and you can hear the duo banter, announce weather-related school cancellations and maybe even give each other a hard time.

Whatever the topic of conversation, the pair is easily recognizable to most Bridgeport listeners. Although Bridgeport is the largest city in the state, it is painfully media-starved, making WICC one of the most significant sources of information for Park City residents.

And since “The family Breakfast Club” is one of the few live, local programs on the station, Reno and Bellamy are essentially the face of WICC — even if you can’t see them.

“People tell me, ‘You guys are great,’ and of course I enjoy hearing that,” said Reno. “We just throw it together as best we can. I tell everybody I just try to relax and have a good time.”

Bellamy said it’s amusing how he and Reno have jelled together since the two have entirely dissimilar backgrounds.

“We are completely different,” he noted. “Tony’s Italian and I am totally a mutt. Tony’s from right here and I’m from Chicago. But we’re similar in that we know each other’s game. There’s no ego involved and we don’t battle for the mike or talk over one another. There might be the occasional good natured putdown, though.”

Bellamy and Reno began working together in the winter of 2009, when a good portion of WICC’s on air staff was let go due to cost-cutting considerations.

Reno, who also heads up the popular local music act, “The Tony Reno Band,” is essentially the host of the show, while Bellamy runs the news desk. At one time, under the direction of longtime radio newsman Tim Quinn, the station’s newsroom was well staffed and covered many events with live remotes.

But Quinn was jettisoned in the cost reduction move and the newsroom is now a solo act, for all intents and purposes. Obviously, that is a difficult task, so how does one handle it?

“There has been a great deal of dependence on local officials with such a limited staff,” Bellamy explained. “I called community officials right away and they’ve all been great. They know the value of the radio station. And we also cover as much ground and as many topics as possible by scheduling a lot of interviews.”

Although Reno loves his role at the station, there is one aspect of his profession that can be a little, well, tiring.

“We both get here about quarter to four in the morning and frankly that’s the only part of this job that’s a real drag,” he said. “It’s six days a week (Reno is also the host of Sunday morning’s ‘Italian House Party’) and once in a while you get exhausted. It’s especially tough for me, if I’ve been out late performing the night before, but fortunately that rarely happens.”

There is little question that any success the pair enjoys stems from the relaxed rapport they have with each other. To listeners of the show, it’s quite apparent that Reno and Bellamy are having a good time shooting the breeze and doling out information.

“For the most part, it’s conversational and people like that,” pointed out Bellamy. “I mean, we do the road closings and all of that, but when I’m out in public I get more questions like, ‘What are you going to name your kid?’”

“That’s true,” echoed Reno. “I get a lot of women who ask me, ‘How does your wife put up with you? How does she do it?’ And I also get a lot of questions about my dog, Jeter.”

Being one of the few local shows originating from the newly renovated WICC studios at 2 Lafayette Square, it would not be surprising if the team felt some pressure to deliver the goods. But that is not the case.

“For me, the only pressure is living up to the great tradition here at WICC,” said Bellamy. “There was some sadness at the beginning because Tim Quinn is a good friend of mine and he did a great job here for 36 years. But then a favorite moment is when you cross paths with someone and you realize you are reaching them on a daily basis. Positive listener feedback is a great motivator.”

Reno concurred.

“My favorite part of the show is just laughing it up and having a great time and getting paid for it,” he said. “There is no pressure for me doing this show. It’s never anything but comfortable and it’s essentially tension-free.”

For this pair, it’s tension-free even when Connecticut’s wild weather forces them to bunk at the downtown Holiday Inn for a night.

Reno and Bellamy exclaimed simultaneously, “We stay in separate rooms. Make sure you put that in the article.”

You got it, guys.