Since there’s a good chance that no one is ever going to write a biography about me and there’s equally as a good a chance that I will produce no offspring, I might as well leave a little something about myself on this planet so that I don’t fade into complete bolivian (props to Mike Tyson).
I was born to Sue and Bruce Levine on October 26, 1973 at Hackensack General Hospital in Hackensack, New Jersey. I was the first born of what would eventually become a family of three, with my brother Matthew arriving in 1977, followed finally by my sister Sara in 1981.
When I was five-years old, my family decided to leave New Jersey. My father, who had been working in television production, was part of a company-wide downsizing and was offered a partnership in the business being run by my grandfather, Meyer, and his brother Dave. It was this event that precipitated my arrival in Florida, the state in which I currently reside.
While still living in New Jersey, my parents decided that it would be fun for me to audition for commercials. It was here that I got my first start in front of a camera. As it turned out, I did quite well and ended up in several large commercial campaigns for some very well known brands (AT&T, Hardee’s Hamburgers, Sarah Lee, and Sperry-Rand to name a few). This commercial career didn’t last very long and ended in earnest when I moved to Florida. However, I think that it was this early exposure that eventually led to the career paths that I have chosen.
I would say that, save for the commercials, I had a pretty normal childhood. My family was of the typical, middle-class variety and always very happy. We lived in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale called Sunrise which, at the time, was as far West in Broward County as you could go. Past our house was pretty much the Everglades. Now, Sunrise is where the Florida Panther’s play and had one of the largest shopping malls on the planet, Sawgrass Mills.
I went to public school all of my life, which started at an elementary facility named Banyan. It was here that I found that I had a penchant for public speaking. I somehow, either through my parents, or through my teachers, found myself in a public-speaking club that gave speeches in front of parents, teachers, and other students. While I thought nothing of this at the time, I can see why others looked at it with such pride. Watching a fifth-grader prepare for and deliver a speech, as I understand now, is quite an accomplishment. At the time, however, it was really just second nature. I believe this because of my home life.
Both my parents, and now my brother and sister, are very witty and funny individuals. Dinner at our house every night was like open-mic night at a comedy club, with each participant trying to best the other. Typically, my father and I would verbally joust for who could come up with the most clever or wittiest remark, while my brother cornered the market on the toilet humor. Unsurprisingly, the same holds true to this day. My mother and sister would also join in and there were few times around the table that were not filled with uproarious laughter.
With this nightly training, speaking in front of people, and especially making people laugh, came very naturally to me. My entire scholastic career was spent running for and obtaining numerous class-level and student council-level offices, including being the Student Council President of Piper High School, my alma mater.
It was also at Piper that I was introduced to broadcasting. Piper was one of a handful of high schools in the state of Florida to have an actual, FM radio station right in the school. 88.5 WKPX broadcast live, everyday with students running the show. From production and programming to engineering and on-air talent, it was quite an amazing program. Funny thing is, I got into it by accident.
For the first time since I had been there, Piper was offering German as a language option. Because I was living in South Florida, I thought that German might come in handy (yeah, right). More likely than not, I just wanted to be different. Anyway, I signed up for German as an elective and put Radio as my backup. Now, you never got your backup. Electives were never cancelled. Ever. Except for now. I, along with three others, Dieter, Henrich, and Adolph, were the only students to sign up for German, so it was nixed. I was put into my backup, Radio, and it shaped the rest of my life since. I fell in love with it, went to college to study it, moved from it to TV, then eventually settled in Marketing. Weird how things work out.
After high school, I went on to the University of South Florida in Tampa. My college years were spent (like most) filled with drinking, partying and fraternizing with the opposite sex. I somehow managed to squeeze in some studying and even learned a thing or two. While I wouldn’t trade this, or any, of the experiences I had, I do wish I had taken the educational component of college a little more seriously. I feel that I shortchanged myself of the opportunity to become smarter.
College was coming to a close and I had been studying communications with the eventual goal of working in broadcasting. A semester before I left school, I was talking to my friend Courtney Lieter and we were discussing our future plans. I mentioned that I was looking to get into broadcasting and she mentioned that her father, Bob Leiter, was the General Manager of WSVN 7, the Fox affiliate in Miami. I asked if she would set up a meeting for me and she agreed. The result of this meeting was two-fold: it launched my career in broadcasting and it taught me the valuable lesson early on that it’s not what you know, but who you know. From that point to the present, I’ve never held a job that wasn’t obtained through networking.
I started as an intern in the sports department which I eventually turned into a full-time job. It was at WSVN that I met some life-long friends including Jacki Schechner, Ducis Rodgers, Dave Kobert, and others. While working at WSVN, I obtained a position at WTWN 19, a local owned cable station, where I started as the play-by-play announcer for the ‘High School Football Game of the Week’. Along side former Miami Dolphin Roy Foster, we broadcast games every Friday. This position eventually grew into a full-time reporter roll for their newly-started news division. For a few years, I did news, sports, and whatever else came my way. I left WTWN in late 1998 and went to work for the local ABC affiliate, WPLG, for a few months before abandoning my broadcasting career.
…to be continued.