Obituary: Wayne Van Dine / TV's tenacious consumer advocate
March 24, 1938 - Jan. 22, 2016
January 25, 2016 12:00 AM
Wayne Van Dine
By Adrian McCoy / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wayne Van Dine’s name was synonymous with getting problems solved for many in the Pittsburgh TV viewing area. Many a conversation about a problem with a business or bureaucracy inevitably ended with someone saying, “Call Wayne Van Dine.”
The longtime consumer advocate spent several decades on local TV — at KDKA and before that at the former WIIC (now WPXI).
Mr. Van Dine, 77, died Friday at his home in Weirton, W.Va. The cause was cancer.
The Kittanning native started his broadcasting career in radio and TV in Weirton and Steubenville, Ohio.
He came to Pittsburgh in 1969 to work at WIIC. In 1973, the station asked him to start a consumer affairs show called “Action Line.” There was no real blueprint for such a show back then, Mr. Van Dine told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Rob Owen in a 2003 interview.
“I experimented with … how to go about solving these problems and using this medium effectively,” Mr. Van Dine said.
His experiments paid off and he proved to be a popular and respected consumer advocate. Competitors WTAE and KDKA both offered him jobs. In 1978, he joined KDKA, where he hosted “2 on Your Side” and “Take it 2 Wayne.”
Mr. Van Dine established himself as a trusted champion of frustrated consumers who couldn’t solve disputes, were having hassles with contractors or were trying to get stop signs placed at busy intersections. Mr. Van Dine could make it all happen.
“Approach people with respect and give them a chance to solve the problem without looking like an idiot,” Mr. Van Dine told the Post-Gazette. “Some people in this market tried to look tough or shook their fist at the [camera] lens. None of that made sense to me. Are you trying to solve a problem or impress people on the air?”
“He was a great mentor and friend,” said former KDKA anchor Patrice King Brown, who co-hosted “Pittsburgh 2Day” with Mr. Van Dine. “He would say ‘Be yourself. People know if you’re pretending. Your best bet is to be who you are and react the way you would react as opposed to being a caricature of a television personality.’
“Whatever story we were telling, he’d say ‘Make that person as comfortable as you can, and they’ll learn to trust you and you’ll get the best information.’ ”
He also was a prankster, Ms. King Brown recalled. Once during a cooking demonstration where they were making doughnuts, he switched the powdered sugar and substituted baking soda, just to get her on-air reaction to the not-so-sweet flavor.
He had a long tenure at KDKA, working there until he retired in 2003.
“For all of his years doing what we do, he never lost his enthusiasm,” said John Shumway, KDKA TV reporter/KDKA Radio morning co-host. “He just had such a zeal for helping people and seeing problems resolved. Even after he retired, people would talk about Wayne and the things he had done for them.”
Mr. Shumway, who took on the consumer affairs beat at the station after Mr. Van Dine left, said the experience gave him newfound respect for his colleague.
“The volume of complaints that came in to Wayne was absolutely amazing,” he said. “And Wayne helped a lot of people whose stories never ended up on the air.”
“He was the consummate professional. He really took his job of trying to help people seriously,” said Larry Richert, KDKA Radio morning news co-host.
Many TV viewers will remember the hilarious promotional ad campaign that featured Mr. Van Dine exiting a phone booth and taking off his jacket to reveal a Superman costume with the numeral 2 instead of the letter S.
Mr. Van Dine liked playing guitar. He was a fan of, and later befriended, Slim Bryant, the late country music radio performer whose band played in the early years of television on WDTV and KDKA. They would get together for jam sessions.
Mr. Van Dine was also an accomplished golfer.
He is survived by his wife, Rose Marie; sons Wayne Jr. of Severn, Md., and David of Crane, Mo.; daughters Diana Eafrati Buchanan of Brigantine, N.J., and Gwen Cartier of Scott; and five grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Greco-Hertnick Funeral Home in Weirton, W.Va.
Adrian McCoy: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1865.