A Tribute to Les Waas!

Broadcast Pioneers board member Les Waas, well known Philadelphia Entrepreneur, passed away on Tuesday morning, April 19th, 2016. He was 94 years old.

The funeral will be on Thursday, April 21st at 1 pm. The location is Goldsteins Funeral Home, 310 Second Street Pike, Southampton, Pa 18966. Goldsteins' phone number is 215-927-5800.

Les Waas had been an active member of Broadcast Pioneers for five decades. He served as our President and then as our Chairman of the Board. He had been on our Board of Directors for over four decades, longer than any other member. On Friday evening, November 18, 2005, Les Waas was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's "Hall of Fame."

Les had been President of Waas, Inc., an advertising agency for more than a half century and is owner of New Sounds, a creative service specializing in jingles and humorous commercials, and winner of most major creative awards. He had performed voices in hundreds of commercials for radio and television.

Les had written and produced 973 jingles for such advertisers as "Mr. Softee" (heard on thousands of ice cream trucks), Holiday Inn, U.S. Coast Guard, Kiddie City, Acme Markets, Genuardi Super Markets, Breyer's, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Department of Virginia Tourism and the longest-continuously-running jingle in advertising, the Melrose Diner. He had also written 22 published/recorded songs and two of them became the official themes of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.

As an artist, he had created ad layouts and cartoons, and had designed logos for such firms as Colonial Village Meat Markets., The Simco Co., Diet III, Super Value Beverage Stores, Action Duplication, plus many restaurants, auto dealers, etc. He designed the current logo of Broadcast Pioneers. As a writer, he had produced articles for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bulletin and Daily News, and for several national publications.

Waas had appeared on scores of national and local TV programs including Prime Time Live, David Letterman, The Today Show, To Tell the Truth, Mike Douglas, Maury Povich and Tom Snyder (just to name a few). Les was also on many network news shows and had appeared on many radio talk shows worldwide. Waas had been featured as "Mother's Whistler," the notorious "Congressman Schwerbitz," and other characters and had been in four major films and served as guest lecturer on broadcast advertising at Temple University.

Joseph Cox, Unidentified person with Les Waas
A WFIL Radio Event
circa 1964

Les Waas had served as president of the regional chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Independence Toastmasters, the Procrastinators Club of America and the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. He had performed as the entertainment for eleven Broadcast Pioneers Person-of-the-Year awards banquets (we threw rocks at him at most of the events).

He was a member of American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the Air Force Association., the National Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Philadelphia Ad Club and other organizations. He was candidate for the Pennsylvania State Legislature and was the creator of the "number system" for announcing school closings on radio & TV. He was considered to be a leading authority on "Phillyspeak" and was a World War II B-17 pilot. He lives in Huntingdon Valley, PA and had been married to Sylvia for 50 years. They have two children and three grandchildren.

Mike Jawer, a visitor to our website, is the son of Broadcast Pioneers member Bob Jawer. Mike e-mailed:

I had no idea of the sheer creative output of one Les Waas. Les and his wife Sylvia always used to send around humorous holiday cards around Christmas - and I knew about the Procrastinators Club, but didn't realize how many commercial jingles he composed, such as for Mr. Softee. Nor that he'd been on To Tell the Truth, etc. Now when I speak with him, I'll do so with even more respect. He and Sylvia have two great kids, too. The son, Murray, is an investigative reporter living here in Washington. I met him 15 years ago when he was dating a friend of mine. Since then, I've seen Murray's name from time to time on ...articles written for the New Republic, or the Nation, or the Washington Post. And their daughter, who also lives in the DC area has recently published a book of poems.

Broadcast Pioneers member Tom Moran said: "May God have mercy on Les Waas. God rest his soul. Les was the most creative person I have known."

Broadcast Pioneers member Roger Hendler referred to Les as a legend. Member Mar Brooks said: " Going to miss him a great deal, (I) went back a great many years with him."

Broadcast Pioneers member Akan Tripp said:

As Les Waas once pointed out to me, the wonderful Procrastintor’s Club actually had no members other than himself. There were, however, hundreds of thousands of people who intended to (join) in, but didn’t get around to it. May there be no delay of his entry into heaven.

Broadcast Pioneers member Mel Klawansky said:

I know we can't live forever, but this is very sad news. He was one of the funniest people, but you couldn't tell until he spoke. Always a nice, friendly demeanor. It was my pleasure knowing him.

Broadcast Pioneers member Donald Rosenblit said:

Les Waas put off his death until he was 95. He was a procrastinator. He will always be known as the founder of the Procrastinator’s Club of America. I was right there with him. He was President and I was Vice President and it stayed that way for the next 60 years. We never got around to having another election.

The club was a magnet for news organizations around the world especially during Procrastination month each March. Over the years, the publicity generated over 200,00 memberships. (only 8 members paid their dues).

We had great parties - a Halloween party in April (the best costume went to the Invisible Man) - Christmas in June - Fourth of July during the Christmas holiday. We held the Republican presidential convention in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall two months after Richard Nixon won the election. We went to Grossinger’s in the Catskills to honor the comedy team of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin a year after they broke up.

And then there was the Liberty Bell incident. The Liberty Bell (it has a big crack in it, right) garnered a huge amount of publicity when we went to the manufacturer in London (White Chapel Bell Foundry) to try to get our money back. We almost pulled it off. The problem was that we didn’t have the original carton (a lesson learned).

I am saddened that Les is no longer with us, but the memories left behind generated by his wit and creativity will not be forgotten.

As part of our ongoing project, Broadcast Pioneers recorded an "oral history" interview, "Pioneers of Philadelphia Broadcasting," with Les Waas on August 5, 2014. Speaking with him is member Mike Strug.

Watch Les Waas from our YouTube Channel!
(Video courtesy of Broadcast Pioneers VP Brad Seecof and Metramedia Broadcasting and Studios)

Broadcast Pioneers member Les Waas
on Eyewitness News with Mike Strug
May 17, 1984

If you attended our January 2011 luncheon, you would have seen Les Waas doing bird calls as Mother's Whistler. Well, back in May of 1984, Eyewitness News (Channel 3) ran an interview with Les (we mean Mother's Whistler). Here it is for your viewing pleasure, if you can call it that. In our opinion, the Real Video version is of higher quality.

View with Real Video!
View with Windows Media!

Broadcast Pioneers member Mike Strug (who donated this video to our video archive) said:

This aired at a time when each station had a full-time feature reporter.... This was one of the Car-3 pieces that I did with photographer (and Broadcast Pioneers member) Irv Grodsky. The brainchild of KYW-TV GM, Pat Polillo, the Car-3 only lasted about a year, but Irv and I agree, it was a great year....
There were days on which we had no story ideas and would spot something as we drove around the city and make that our story. And some days, as I make clear in this piece, we would turn to Chase's Calendar of Annual Events. On this particular day, I got lucky that Mother's Whistler Day had that local address and lead me to Les Waas with whom I had done other stories in his capacity as president of the Procrastinators Club.

Now somewhere in the intervening ...years, I stopped doing features, but Les remains Mother's Whistler.

Broadcast Pioneers member Irv Grodsky, who shot this piece, sent us this e-mail:

The year that Mike and I spent together shooting Car3 was indeed the best time of my career. Mike is a great writer and I really made an effort to make his words come to life with my video. In the piece featuring Les, it struck me that as usual he was not whistling Dixie. Oh, I kid, Les.

And speaking of Les, Broadcast Pioneers member Les Waas said several years ago:

Wow! 27 years ago! I'd all but forgotten that I once looked young. (Even the birds back then appeared to be younger.) It took place along the one-track railroad track in Bryn Athyn. It's amazing how Mike had the ability to make something so unimportant appear to be exciting and entertaining.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
© 2016, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com