His longevity and versatile reporting skills for radio and TV are the framework for his 2011 autobiography, It Shocked Even Us and More Crazy Stories Covering Local News. (Available directly through Cipolla’s website, itshockedevenus.com)
No need to be a war correspondent for anecdotes. Cipolla has tons, probably enough for another installment from his beat in the five boroughs and New Jersey. His time at WNBC is a favorite chapter worth the price of the book on its own. As a newscaster, Cipolla was on the front line for some of biggest egos in the business: Howard Stern, Don Imus and Soupy Sales.
Cipolla tells Tuned In it was equally stressful and hilarious.
Despite its 437 pages, Cipolla’s book takes readers on an easy, enjoyable journey through his career. The chapter focused on 30 Rock is no exception.
“As a young radio anchor, I witnessed a Soupy Sales fistfight in the hallway, Howard Stern stealing Soupy’s piano and how I found it, and of course the Imus ‘Corn Flakes’ story,” Cipolla remembers. “At one point all three weren’t talking to each other. I remember thinking — ‘these are grown men!'”
Perhaps, though, his fondest memories happened on the other side of the Hudson RIver — on the air at Channel 9/WWOR — specifically the chance to sit in the Secaucus studio and get to know longtime WCBS-TV anchor Rolland Smith.
“Talk about one of the great thrills of my life,” Cipolla says. “This kid from Queens growing up watching him and then actually anchoring alongside him, and as usual, he was as gracious as he could be.”
Cipolla made a successful transition from radio to TV, maintaining a foothold in both mediums.
In writing his book, Cipolla drew inspiration from Bob Teague, the trailblazing WNBC reporter. He modeled the personal narrative after Teague’s 1982 autobiography Live and Off Color.
When Cipolla began his book tour, he attempted to reach Teague. No luck. But fate would intervene. One night, Cipolla and his wife were dining with another couple, who had a connection to the veteran broadcaster.
Ever gracious, Teague invited his protege to visit, where the duo signed copies of each others books.
“I am happy to say we spent two hours laughing and reminiscing. I got to meet the man who put the thought in my head to begin with about writing a book,” Cipolla recalls. “Bob died just a few months later. I often think about the serendipity and coincidence that allowed me to spend time with Bob and thank him for his inspiration.”
With a steady career that featured work on major stations in top markets with legendary personalities–does he have any regrets? Just one.
“I wish I could do it over again! You only go on the air for the first time once in the city you grew up in. You only do your first newscast once. You only do your first TV live shot once…I have enjoyed every minute of it!”
Editor’s Note: We worked together at Wall Street Journal Radio in 2013 and 2014.