Who’s talking now? Pat O’Melia takes on Hudson County

Since starting a talk radio show in 2000, Pat O’Melia has become a kind of Will Rogers of Hudson County, his wit having many political people ducking for cover. Although he is still an icon of radio who can be heard every Monday night on 1430 AM at 9:30 p.m., O’Melia has recently added a face to the voice as his TV program called “The Weekly Show,” formerly only broadcast in Jersey City, goes countywide.

“The only places we’re not seen are in East Newark with all of its six people and Secaucus, which is on Comcast in Bergen County,” he said.

The lifelong Jersey City resident, O’Melia called himself “a political newbie” when he started with his radio program in 2000. But because his show became a venue that allowed people to air complaints, he soon learned the ropes, an experience that he has since brought to his hour-long television show.

O’Melia started in radio in the 1990s as what he called the “comic relief” of an Elizabeth-based wrestling show aimed mostly at teens. This, of course, had its limitations for advertisers who did not see this age group as a particularly profitable market. So when the advertising dried up, O’Melia got out of radio for a while. He did tape a pro-wresting TV program in 1998, but did not get inspired until 2000 when the popularity of Internet message boards made him realize the public needed a place to air its complaints. So was born his radio show.

“When I signed the contract I didn’t expect the program to last more than 13 weeks,” he said.

The radio show got a boost from then-Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who took the complaints seriously enough to order his directors to respond.

In the years since, his program has become a venue for people to vent their outrage over current issues.

“This week it was about trees and the way PSE&G cuts the trees, not shapes,” he said. “So we’re working with the DPW to see if they can have their forestry division shape the trees.”

Although the TV show has given his voice a face in Jersey City, he had not intended the program to become what it is today.

“The late [Jersey City] Mayor Glenn Cunningham was supposed co-host once a month,” O’Melia said. “Unfortunately, he passed away and I was stuck with the contract.”

While O’Melia has a reputation for being aggressive, even ruthless with political forces, he says the radio show tends to emphasize controversy more than the television show does, and that today the TV show strives to be informative and entertaining, not merely controversial.

“We get everything from dogs to singers,” he said.

Shows usually feature three or more guests in order to give them variety, although from time to time O’Melia will host a theme show featuring a topic or a particular guest.

Recently, he interviewed County Executive Tom DeGise, a man who O’Melia has from occasionally “raked over the coals” on his radio show.

The TV interview proved a bit more gentile as O’Melia allowed DeGise to talk about a number of initiatives from the Open Space Trust Fund to summer employment for kids.

In expanding the show to cover the county, O’Melia said he will likely seek out people who are involved in some way in the community, such as the kid who wins a spelling bee or some other championship.

During the last two years, O’Melia has often brought on owners of new businesses from Jersey City, something that he will likely expand to Bayonne, Union City, North Bergen and other areas within his broadcast reach.

Recently he featured a classic car show in Lyndhurst and a visit to a classic car junkyard in Jackson, New Jersey.

This is not to say that he will cease to highlight political people and has already contacted people such as Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.

“I called Nick and told him I’m coming to your city and want you on the air,” he said.

He also will host special programs featuring local politicians such as Louis Manzo in his role as state assemblyman and Sacco as state senator, covering the bills they sponsor, what services they offer, and issues they oppose.

While “Hudson County Talking,” O’Melia’s radio show, will continue to broadcast from the historic Lowe’s Theater in Jersey City, O’Melia said the lack of air conditioning – a matter expected to be rectified in the near future – may force him to take his show on the road.

This is not to say O’Melia will change his style just because he will reach a wider audience.

“I’ll still pat politicians on the head and kick them in the ass,” he said, and has already received commitments from Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Brian Stack and others. Recently he did a show on Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s first year in office.

“I started it off saying that you wouldn’t be hearing Sinatra singing this was a very good year and we went on from there,” O’Melia said.

The show airs Thursdays on Cablevision at 6 p.m. on Channel 18 and on Comcast in Jersey City on Channel 64 at 7:30 p.m. The show also has an accompanying Web site: http://www.patsshows.com.

Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group