LOU PARIS attended SS Peter & Paul from 1955-1958. He
would have been in the 1959 class, but moved briefly to Hunts
Point in the Bronx, then to Amityville on Long Island.
He was a member of the boys choir, but then became an altar boy. He truly
enjoyed his time at SS Peter & Paul. He lived at 840 Eagle Ave.
He is currently retired from the Air Force. He also spent 20 years as a
television news reporter, working at WPIX in New York City for a while with Officer
He now humorously says "I flunked retirement. Went back to work as a flight attendant (yup,
that's right). I work for Pinnacle Airlines...we fly the regional
jets for Northwest/Delta." He now lives in Germantown, Tennessee, with my
wife, two daughters, and dog.
The DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE in Rochester NY recently wrote an article about LOU PARIS as part of a series about faces of the past.
July 6, 2009
Rochester Rewind: Broadcaster, now a flight attendant,
Lou Paris took one look at Rochester and almost turned right around.
It was December 1969, and he had flown in to interview for a job with WHEC radio and TV.
"They were having me stay at 111 East Ave.," Paris recalls. "When I pulled up in the taxicab, they
had cut a tunnel in the snowbank. Not a path, but a tunnel."
So what was Paris thinking at that moment about living in a place with that much snow? "I don't think
Fortunately, that wasn't the final word.
Paris was offered a position, accepted it, and for the next six years provided an important minority
voice as late-night music DJ, TV news reporter and weekend news anchor.
He is still remembered by many of his listeners as one of the first to bring soul music to Rochester's
airwaves — and thereby give voice to the black community's feelings and aspirations.
Let's set the stage. Back in 1969 and 1970, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F.
Kennedy were still raw memories; the race riots in Rochester had occurred only five years before.
Paris, a news writer and announcer from New York City, was hired specifically to reach the black
community, and he recalls being given pretty much carte blanche about how to do it. After much
discussion and thought, Paris proposed a late-night music show each weeknight from 9 p.m. to 1
a.m., featuring soul music "to bring the audience in, and then give them an education."
About once a week, for example, Paris would bring a guest on the program. One of the first was
Ralph Parks of the Rochester Association for the United Nations (RAUN) to talk about that
organization and the larger world peacekeeping effort it supported.
Then came the Attica prison riot. Suddenly, Paris was getting calls from relatives of prison inmates,
voicing their anger and concern over prison conditions. He let them be heard on the air, often against
the wishes of management.
"These people just needed a voice, to be able to tell what they perceived to be true, and my reaction
was: How can I sit here and say I represent the black community, and not give these people a voice?
" But it was the music that is remembered most by at least two of his avid
listeners. Late-night listeners Scott Wallace remembers hiding a radio under his
pillow like so many other black kids — "so our parents would think we were
sleeping" — and listening to Paris' show. "It was like a top-40 soul show. Soul was being played on regular pop charts stations, but this went a lot deeper," says Wallace, a
Henrietta letter carrier who does a weekly soul show of his own from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays on WRURFM
"I think the statement (Paris was making) was that this music was important, and there's an audience
for this music."
Paris, for example, was playing Kool & the Gang at least three years before they became popular on
mainstream stations. "A lot of black artists were not able to crack into pop stations, and this gave
them a totally necessary outlet."
Eric Washington, one of my newsroom colleagues, concurs. He too would lay in bed "fighting sleep
and the wishes of my mother, trying to listen to the sweet sounds of (Paris') show."
In a 1999 tribute to WDKX radio, Washington wrote how even before the advent of that black station,
Paris became "an important figure in my life. Lou was an articulate smooth-talking DJ ... (who) knew
all the cool, smart phrases of the times and, like a good bartender mixed them with music. ... The
music spoke to my own experience, growing up off Genesee Street. Having my father fight in Vietnam
for rights we didn't have here in America. Wearing a military jacket my father sent back, and being
chased by white boys who called me a Viet Cong with a suntan. Lou Paris probably had to go to war
to get that music on the air. It took me beyond the mellow sounds of Motown and exposed me to the
harder-edged rhythms and lyrics of soul."
Two years later, the station came under new management, the format changed, and Paris switched to
WHEC-TV as a reporter and weekend anchor. He remained in Rochester until March 1976, when,
finally, the "cold and snow" prompted him to move to Norfolk, Va., where he worked as a reporter,
anchor and eventual news director for a TV station.
Ten years later, Paris got out of the business altogether. "There was a point in the mid-1980s when a
lot of people my age that were in broadcasting left," Paris recalls. "It had become 'ha-ha' news; it was
more about the business of broadcasting than the business of doing journalism correctly."
It was time to return to a lifelong passion via the Air National Guard.
His Other Passion :
"I've always been a military-oriented person," Paris explained. "I grew up in the 1950s and early '60s,
at a time when we still revered the people who served in World War II and Korea. It stuck with me."
Moreover, he had always been fascinated with airplanes. Born in New York City in 1946, Paris grew
up in the Bronx; he moved with his family while in junior high school to Amityville on Long Island. F105
fighter jets were built at a nearby defense plant, and "every one came screaming over my house."
And after graduating Amityville High School in 1963, Paris spent about a year at Pennsylvania Military
College before enlisting in the Air Force. Paris tells wonderful stories about his military service —
especially a memorable tour in Seville, Spain, where he drank sangria before going to the bullfights,
where he fell in love with the food, the people, the culture, and where he spent a year "having the
best time of my life."
That was when he had his first introduction to broadcasting, serving as an announcer for Armed
Forces Radio. Even after leaving the service, Paris remained in the Air National Guard, joining units
wherever his broadcasting career took him.
And when it came time to leave the broadcasting industry in the mid-1980s, the Air National Guard
gave him a new vocation: five years as recruiter for the Virginia Air National Guard, then 10 years as
superintendent for in-service recruiting at the national headquarters in Washington, D.C. He retired in
A New Career :
These days Paris is no longer "on the air"; he's literally "in the air" as a flight attendant for
Tennessee-based Pinnacle Airlines.
How Did That Come About?
After retiring from the Air National Guard, Paris moved with his wife, Sylverna, to Germantown, Tenn.
She had taken a position as dean of libraries at the University of Memphis. They adopted two young
girls. Paris settled into retired life — and soon decided he didn't like it. There just wasn't enough to
keep him occupied.
He began a home-based business, writing and editing copy for corporate clients.
But even that was not enough. "I'm going back to work," he told his wife. "This sitting around at home
is not working for me."
Someone he knew from church was a flight attendant and that got him thinking — hardly surprising,
given his lifelong interest in airplanes. He interviewed with Pinnacle, and was hired.
And so, on any given night, Lou Paris is the sole flight attendant on a 50-seat jet winging its way from
Memphis to, say, Charleston, S.C.; or Lubbock, Texas; or Minneapolis, Minn., returning home by 8:30
the next morning.
"If you're a people person, it's a great job," Paris said.
Have you ever been reading the newspaper or watching television and had one of those flashes of "I
wonder whatever happened to ...?"
That flash might have been of a local TV celebrity from your childhood, or a well-known politician who
has fallen from sight.
Every other Monday, I will rewind Rochester for you and dig up these people. But I can't think of
everyone and need your help. I've been here for more than 30 years but many of you go back well
Suggest your ideas for my Rochester Rewind column to Bob Marcotte, care of Democrat and
Chronicle, 55 Exchange Blvd., Rochester, NY 14614, or call at (585) 258-2642. My e-mail is