Fans pay tribute to radio personality Rick Shaw, ‘South Florida’s Dick Clark’

It was 1964, and as a 14-year-old girl, Gail Sheres was in love with Paul McCartney. When she saw that the local radio station, WQAM, was giving away tickets for a Beatles concert in Jacksonville, she joined the station’s “Tiger Club” and entered.

She was listening to DJ Rick Shaw’s morning show, hoping to hear her name called, when her mother made her turn it off so she could prepare for school. Sure enough, Shaw did call her name — and lucky for her, her cousin was listening and quickly called her to tell her to call the station.

Sheres flew with Shaw and other winners to the concert, which she still says was the best night of her life. She sang along with her favorite songs including “Love Me Do” and cried. It was the first time Shaw — who was the first DJ to play the Beatles in Florida — got to meet the band.

“I don’t think he realized how much he meant to so many people,” Sheres, now 67, said Sunday night of Shaw. “It was like he picked me. It felt like he was a big part of my life.”

Sheres was one of about 100 people who came to Gulfstream Park on Sunday night to stroll down memory lane and remember Shaw, who died in September at the age of 78.

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Some of Rick Shaw’s memorabilia is laid out on a table during a tribute to the late radio personality at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017.

Omar Antonio Negrin Miami Herald

Shaw’s 51-year career — he retired in 2006 — was remembered through pictures, songs, stories and memorabilia including old radio posters, his polo shirts with his name embroidered on it, and signed albums that he collected over the years. Local celebrities, including Beatles Brunch host DJ Joe Johnson and Majic 102.7 colleague Mindy Lang, were there to pay tribute to their late colleague and friend.

“He was larger than life,” Johnson said. “He was South Florida’s Dick Clark.”

The memorabilia of his storied career was up for grabs in an auction to raise money for Kids in Distress, an organization Shaw supported for decades. Those who went also brought enough toys for the organization to fill about 20 trash bags.

Among the items for auction was a poster from the 1983 fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club where Shaw was roasted. The headline: The sinking of the legend.

The tribute also served as a reunion of sorts for radio DJs throughout the years. Former colleagues credit Shaw with launching so many careers in South Florida.

“Rick was a gentleman to all of us,” said Ellen Jaffe, who said he helped her start her long radio career at WAXY. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Some people who never worked with him still felt like they knew him.

“I went to Beach High and Rick Shaw was it,” said Aviel Malki, 65. “Most DJs don’t last 50 years.”

Tiffani Dhooge, 42, grew up in Hialeah and said Shaw was the voice of her childhood. The first time she met him was when she was 12 and in a lip-syncing contest at a credit union.

“He was very gracious,” she said after taking a selfie with a life-size picture of Shaw. Dhooge’s husband is the CEO of Kids in Distress, the organization that Shaw supported.

Mark Dhooge, 50, said Shaw was humble and always had the kids’ best interest at heart. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the kids,” Mark Dhooge said, saying when Shaw first started, the organization served about 150 kids and now serves 11,000.

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Rick Shaw’s son Sean Hummel stands next to a cardboard cutout of his late father on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at the Gulfstream Park.

Omar Antonio Negrin Miami Herald

Sean Hummell, Shaw’s son, said that outpouring of love from the community has been overwhelming. Hummell performed at the tribute with his band Captain Pigg, singing some of his dad’s favorites including selections from the Beatles.

“I know he is tuning in from wherever he is and would hear us,” he said.

The event would end the same way Shaw ended his program throughout his career — with the 1959 Ray Peterson classic “Goodnight My Love”:

Goodnight, my love

Pleasant dreams and sleep tight, my love

May tomorrow be sunny and bright. …