When Ed Dague hosted Answers Please

This is a reprinted blog post from 2010, but since the passing of local television newscaster Ed Dague yesterday, I thought I’d share it in his memory and in his honor.  I hope you appreciate it.

Let’s put it this way.  Ed Dague is one of the most dedicated, principled reporters the Capital District has ever had.  For years as Ernie Tetreault’s assistant anchor on WRGB’s 6pm newscast in the 1970’s, to his long tenure as the lead anchor on WNYT, Dague has been a strong and reliable institution when it comes to getting your evening news from a trusted and reliable figure.

What you may not know about Ed Dague is that from approximately 1972 to 1975, he was a quiz show host.

Yep, along with Dave Kroman, Tim Welch and Jim Brennan, Ed Dague spent several years hosting WRGB’s high school quiz show Answers Please.  I talked to him about his time with the show as part of my research on the history of the program, and he was kind enough to pen some memories of his stint behind the desk.

“When I was at RPI as a student in the early 1960’s, there was a show called Teenage Barn on Saturday evenings (I think) and that too died in the early 1960’s,” said Dague.  “The early days of television saw a lot of pride among the staff in the local broadcasts but that changed in the 1970s as the managers became interested solely in profits. There were a lot of live shows that were killed because they weren’t as profitable as syndicated or network programs. Mary Caroline Powers hosted a show which was terminated. I think a WGY program host named Elle Pankin may have hosted that show before Powers. I recall her having Phil Donahue as a live guest one time.”

Like Tim Welch before him, Ed Dague was tapped by WRGB director of programming Art Garland to host the high school quiz show.  “It is a shame that Art Garland is dead,” said Dague, “as he would be the one to remember all of this.”

In the 1970’s, the show was taped on Wednesday nights – Dague would finish his reporting duties for the day, go home and have dinner, and then return to host the show.  “There was also great difficulty finding someone to write the questions, as I recall. Several people quit in frustration and I know we had real problems finding a writer for the questions. For most of the years I did it, I was not anchoring the evening news, so I’d work the day as a reporter, go home for dinner, then return at about 8:00 p.m. to tape the show. There was no great preparation. I’d get the questions a day or two before the taping day and read them over to be sure I could handle all the strange words.  Then, it was just what you saw. Go do it, all in one hour. I did have one awful experience where Art Garland scheduled a show but didn’t tell me. The station called asking where I was and I dressed and ran into the station. But, I’d had a few beers and kept reading answers instead of the questions. Everyone laughed, except me.”

In the 1970’s, WRGB had several locally-produced television shows – in addition to the evening news and “Answers Please,” WRGB produced the call-in game “Pick-A-Show,” as well as the bowling program “TV Tournament Time” and the early-morning “Student Spectrum.”  But, one by one, the shows became victims of cost-cutting measure, until only “Answers Please” and “TV Tournament Time” remained.  A decade after Dague left WRGB to become the top-rated anchor on rival station WNYT, “Answers Please” asked its final questions in June of 1989.

“Answers Please never got any promotion from the WRGB management,” recalled Dague. “It could have been built up to become the premiere local television production because every school could have become involved. But, the show was under-funded and never promoted and given a terrible non-prime time broadcast schedule (often airing on Sunday mornings or Saturday afternoons), so it never became really big.  Howard Tupper’s TV Tournament  Time was a money maker all along, as the local bowling alley proprietors paid a neat sum to back the show. It eventually became too expensive to tape at area bowling alleys, so WRGB built two lanes in the station’s garage and did the taping there. I wonder if those lanes are still there. They were when I left in 1984.”

Once again, much thanks and appreciation to Ed Dague for his memories of “Answers Please.”