Some of the biggest names in local broadcasting, including David Barrett, Alan Frank, Jack Abernethy, Gordon Smith, Michael Fiorile, Greg Meidel and Frank Comerford, came out to toast Dennis Swanson at the Broadcasters Foundation's annual Golden Mike dinner at the Plaza in New York Monday night.
Swanson, president of station operations for Fox Television Stations, was celebrated for the indelible mark he's left on broadcasting over the past half century, whose highlights include tapping Oprah Winfrey for a daytime show, and getting the Olympics on an every two years schedule.
Deborah Norville emceed the banquet, while former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi provided the musical entertainment.
Larry Wert, president and GM of WMAQ, spoke of Swanson turning WLS Chicago from an also ran to a No. 1, but said the spike didn't do much to change Swanson's stern demeanor. "I took him across the street for happy hour once," cracked Wert. "They actually asked us to leave."
Dr. Mehmet Oz offered an emotional testimony to Swanson's friendship and professional guidance. "I don't know where I'd go without his sage advice," said the daytime doc.
Roger Ailes, president of Fox News Channel and chairman of the Fox owned stations, took the opportunity to level a few blows at his longtime colleague. Detailing the numerous posts Swanson has held -- ABC Sports president, WNBC New York GM, Viacom Television Stations executive VP, among others -- Ailes quipped: "Let's cut to the chase -- Dennis can't hold a job."
Ailes spoke of once planning to fire Swanson after the bulky exec had punched a colleague. Ailes met with Swanson, then spoke with the victim, and ultimately sided with Swanson. "I met the guy he punched, and thought he'd shown good judgment," said Ailes.
Ailes said Swanson has "one of the best eyes and quickest minds in television."
A humble Swanson thanked his broadcast peers and family, including Katharine, his wife of 50 years, for their support, and said he was honored to be part of the media. He also credited the Broadcasters Foundation for its support of those in the broadcast community who are in need. "The work the foundation does," Swanson said, "is incredibly important."