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If you lived in Haverhill in the early 1970s or in southern New Hampshire in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, you might remember Tom Bergeron from his radio stints at WHAV and WHEB. Most of us, however, became acquainted with Bergeron when he was a popular Boston media personality at WBZ-AM and WBZ-TV, and then for a short time as the morning show host at Magic 106.7. Bergeron then headed off for the bright lights of New York and, later, Los Angeles.

While his life is now anchored on the West Coast, Bergeron’s North Shore roots run deep. He fondly remembers growing up in Haverhill, where he attended St. Joseph’s School for eight years, and spending Monday afternoons working at the local fruit store simply to get a first look at its new comic books when they came in.

It was meeting Ed Johnson, his public speaking teacher at Haverhill High School, however, that would set in motion Bergeron’s career in radio and TV. Johnson introduced Bergeron to Ed Cetlin, owner of WHAV, a then 1,000-watt radio station in Haverhill, which can still be heard on the radio, online, and on select cable channels in some Merrimac Valley and New Hampshire Seacoast communities.

According to Bergeron’s book, I’m Hosting as Fast as I Can! Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood, from Harper Collins Publishing, Cetlin told him, “You’ll never make a living in radio. It’s not a career. I’ll prove it to you. I’ll give you a job.” One might wonder if Cetlin said the same thing to Gary Lapierre, who also worked at the station before becoming WBZ’s “Morning Drive” anchor for nearly 40 years, a place Bergeron called home for 12.

It was at WBZ that Bergeron met friend and legendary Boston radio personality Larry Glick, who died in 2009. Bergeron said for all of the TV he did while at WBZ—and there was a lot of it, hosting People Are Talking, Super Kids, and 4Today, among others—it was his time hanging out with Glick in the ‘BZ radio studios that he recalls as being the most fun. “I grew up listening to Larry, and there I was working with him,” Bergeron says. “It was incredible. He was a very special guy.”

In 1994, Bergeron was released from his contract with Magic 106.7 (see sidebar) for a shot at national television. He was hired as the co-host of Breakfast Time, the new flagship morning show on the brand-new fX network (now FX) in New York. While the show was a critical success, it was not a ratings blockbuster. After undergoing several format changes, Breakfast Time was moved to the Fox network and renamed Fox After Breakfast in mid-1996. Bergeron was unhappy with the changes, and the show was canceled less than a year later.

Soon after, Bergeron was set to take over for Charlie Gibson on Good Morning America, a gig that never came to fruition (Bergeron explains why in his book). Instead, he was off to Hollywood—first commuting from Connecticut, where his family had settled when he was working in New York—to host Hollywood Squares, for which he won an Emmy as Outstanding Game Show Host.

Bergeron eventually relocated to the West Coast as he assumed hosting duties of ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos (AFV) and the mega-hit Dancing With The Stars. The latter began as a six-week summer series in 2005 and has since turned to ratings gold. Dancing now airs two seasons each year, the most recent of which began filming September 19. Dancing fans will be happy to know that Bergeron is under contract for another two years and that he is very happy with the show’s current production team. This year, he says, viewers can look forward to an enhanced set with eye-popping new aspects.

Of the show’s 12 seasons, Bergeron says Season 2 has been his favorite. It was then that he partnered with dance pro Ashley DelGrosso, an idea he pitched to show executives because he wanted to know what it would feel like to train and to dance on live TV. Bergeron says it turned out to be significant, not because it taught him to dance, but because it taught him how to be a better host. “From that point on, I started jettisoning the scripted material and reacting in the moment,” he says. “Doing that dance helped me to become more honest and genuine.”

Other standout moments from Bergeron’s tenure on Dancing include Marie Osmond’s fainting on the ballroom floor after a 2007 performance while waiting for her scores. This was proof that anything can happen on live TV, Bergeron says.  “At first, I thought she was kidding, but once I realized she wasn’t, I did what anyone would do when faced with an emergency—I threw to a commercial.”

Another is what Bergeron calls “Boo-Gate.” In disapproval of scores given by the judges to her friend and contestant Jennifer Grey—who went on to win the mirror ball trophy—actress Jamie Lee Curtis incited booing from the studio audience. Viewers mistakenly thought the audience was booing former presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who sat in the audience in support of daughter Bristol, another contestant.

Bergeron also acknowledges moments that were lighter on drama but heavy on cheese. He cites an episode in which eliminated contestant and reality star Kate Gosselin returned to reprise her dance to Lady Gaga’s song Paparazzi, and, more specifically, Gosselin stepping off a mechanized lift, enveloped by machine-made fog. “I’m sure the look on my face let the audience in on what I was thinking,” he says.

“It’s a big variety show,” Bergeron says. “I love the fact that we not only acknowledge the cheesier aspects, we embrace them. Almost everything can be made fun of, with the exception of the integrity of the effort put forth by the stars.”

Though the years on Dancing, Bergeron has befriended many of the celebrity contestants and professional dancers. Of them all, though, Bergeron confesses to having a soft spot in his heart for dancer and fan favorite Cheryl Burke, to whom he feels “like a surrogate father.” Bergeron even wrote the foreward for Burke’s book, which was published last February.

To cope with his frenetic schedule, Bergeron, a self-described liberal, relies on Starbucks and meditation, but he says that he has learned to say “no,” and that he’s “very content” with Dancing and AFV. He calls the latter the “annuity,” because “it just seems to go on and on.” It’s also why he took himself out of the running as a possible replacement for Regis Philbin on Live! With Regis & Kelly after Philbin’s planned departure in November. With Dancing and AFV filming in California and Live! taping in New York, Bergeron says that beyond being too heavy of a workload, logistically it just wouldn’t work. (It may be a moot point if Bergeron’s prediction—that Philbin reconsiders and stays with the show—comes true.)

While he doesn’t get back East as often as he’d like, Bergeron did in June make the trip to Haverhill, where his parents and sister still live. On that visit, Bergeron took his family to Skip’s Snack Bar in Merrimac, a favorite since childhood. If he were in the area for a longer stay, Bergeron says, he would go to the Seacoast area of New Hampshire, or “perhaps just hang out in Newburyport,” home to The Grog, where Bergeron claims to have “lost many brain cells.” It’s an unlikely truth, considering his sharp wit.

Though Bergeron’s life is now in L.A., his loyalty is to Boston. And while he’s admittedly a fair-weather sports fan, Bergeron is always pleased when the Sox sweep the Yankees, and he celebrated the Bruins’ Stanley Cup win earlier this year. “During that last playoff game, I claimed Patrice Bergeron as a cousin,” he says. It’s a safe bet that the Bruins star would welcome the TV host into his family, as millions of us have done throughout his prolific career.