Almost 30 percent of the Latino population of the United States has tuned in, at some point or another, to “El Handyman En Su Casa” (The Handyman in Your Home), according to marketing company World Hispanic Omnitel.
But the handyman himself, North Bergen resident Ino Gomez, chalks his popularity up to luck.
“The only difference is, I get up and go behind a mic, and they get up and go work in factories,” Gomez said recently about his listeners.
His Univision radio show is syndicated across the nation in places like Miami, Fla.; Houston, Texas; Los Angles, Calif., and Atlanta, Ga., and in the Tri-State area every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on WADO 1280 AM.
The show fuses comedy with detailed descriptions on how to remodel a house. Home Depot is a major sponsor, and Gomez, 51, along with his co-host Manuel, often broadcast from Home Depot stores in Miami.
The show invites plumbing and construction experts on as guests, gives advice on tools, and helps the listeners learn about how to install recessed lighting.
“It’s got to be very descriptive because in radio I don’t have the visual effect like Bob Vila has,” said Gomez. “He is one of my all-time heroes.”
Vila, the television personality on “This Old House,” immigrated to this country from Cuba just like Gomez did. Vila learned how to remodel homes while in the Peace Corps and stationed in Guatemala, while Gomez became interested in carpentry during college.
He stars in two other talk radio programs that focus on current issues.
So while Gomez is on Univision’s number one rated Hispanic radio station WADO 1280 AM, he said his humble background always keeps him grounded.
“If you travel a little bit abroad, you see how other countries live, and then you come here [and] you’ve been blessed with all of this opportunity,” said Gomez. “I am living the ‘American dream,’ in a way.”
First sight of snow
Gomez said that when he immigrated to the United States 1970, a snowstorm prevented his family from landing in New York. The plane touched town in Washington, D.C. and his family was bussed to the Port Authority.
Gomez said that as a child he grew up without a television set.
He said that it was a “rough ride” learning English, but that he went on to become a star basketball player at Memorial High School in West New York. His athletics got him a scholarship to St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York, and he graduated with a B.A. in commercial arts.
Gomez said that as a child he grew up without a television set, but became infatuated with the medium. In his head, he would narrate baseball games.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was growing up in a house without electricity and with dirt floors until I was seven,” said Gomez.
He said that one of his memories of Cuba was his mother mixing ashes with water so the floor would harden and appear white when it dried.
Gomez said that one of the “best things that can happen to a human being is hardship, because that develops character.”
Humor on air
Gomez said that he dreamed of becoming a radio personality, but that he had moved on into advertising and was working at CBS as their Eastern Regional Sales Manger for Latin America.
He said that at an advertising party, he was telling jokes to his friends when he noticed someone in a black suit listening to him. The executive was so impressed that he gave him his own radio show on Univision and Gomez went on the air two weeks later.
Gomez also appears on WADO Informado (WADO Informs), which is a round-table discussion show that touches on many issues, from the recent presidential election to child abuse. The show airs every morning from 7 to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday.
“I am the conservative of the group,” said Gomez. He said that he believes that Hispanic immigrants should assimilate to most of the United State’s values and language, while holding on to their traditions. He said that sometimes his opinions on politics provoke hate mail, but that others appreciate his candor. Gomez responds to ever e-mail he receives regardless of its message.
His other show, 30 Mintues with Ino, airs every weekday from 11 to 11:30 a.m.
“On the radio, people can tell everything,” said Gomez. “If you every think your audience is dumb, that’s when you failed. They have a pretty good notion of who you are and the humility you’re bringing to the airwaves.”
Humor is of course a part of his Handyman show as well. Gomez said that he tells women, a very large demographic of his listeners, that he can only direct them to what tools they should use, not boyfriends to do it for them.
Gomez also sells air time on the radio for infomercials and also co-owns an outdoor advertising business. For the last two years he has also dubbed cartoons, commercials, and movies from English to Spanish. He also does strikingly good impersonations of former President Bill Clinton and Michael Jackson.
In movies he’s done voiceovers for Marlon Brando and even Jesus Christ. He has done movies and cartoons as Curly from the Three Stooges. He said his commercials are international, “so if you’re in Puerto Rico, you probably hear my voice over and over.”
More than anything, Gomez said that he feels grateful to the success he’s had in this country and the friendships he’s fostered in Hudson County, comparing the area to “Cheers, where everyone knows your name.”
“I never have airs or grandiosity,” said Gomez. “I’m just a personality on the air.”