In 1972 Frank Bonacquisti was a student at Portland's Benson Polytechnic High School. He was searching for an after school activity when he saw a notification for the school's radio station, KBPS. Intrigued, he checked it out. Some 45 years later he's still working in radio, serving as KBND's program director and host of the station's morning news program, 6-9am.
Bonacquisti says he was attracted to radio instantly. "I enjoy the level of communication radio offers. I can enter into people's minds and consciousness safely from the comforts of a small studio," he quips. Bonacquisti says radio stardom never entered his mind.
Like many radio personalities, Bonacquisti admits he's a bit of an introvert. "I am actually very uncomfortable with people knowing who I am. I've been recognized a few times out and about and I'd rather be anonymous," he says.
Unlike many hosts in the '60s and '70s, Frank used his real name on the air. He now says if he had a chance to do it over, he would probably use a different name so he could "hide better." Bonacquisti says today's audience demands radio personalities be real people on the air, which requires them to share their lives with listeners.
"I never realized that I would become a habit for some people in their daily routine. I'm real conscious of that need. I think I've had only one sick day in seven years. I try to make sure I'm here for them," he explains.
In December of 1973, Bonacquisti landed his first commercial radio job at Portland's KPAM. He also spent time at stations in McMinnville and Albany before landing in Bend in 1977 at KGRL Radio, where he was a top 40 DJ. It was also at KGRL where he took on a new twist to his persona, while still using his legal name.
A female colleague told him she thought Bonacquisti and Monte Cristo sounded similar enough that she started calling him "The Count of Bonacquisti." "So, I used it on the air and it stuck," he explains. He also refers to his wife as "The Countess."
The station eventually bought the couple matching capes. Bonacquisti says he wore his to help open every new 7-Eleven in town, with remote broadcasts.
Bonacquisti also pioneered the city's first airborne traffic reports. The city had begun some sewer projects causing traffic snarls, so the station began aerial traffic updates. When Bonacquisti wasn't on the air in studio, he was in the air providing those reports. "I became the spy in the sky," he said.
As a traffic reporter, Bonacquisti said he would have fun with his listeners and recalled one stunt he pulled on a December afternoon. "It was winter so it was dark by five. I asked folks on a lark that if they were listening to flash their headlights. It was a nice blackout—a nice rush," he recalled.
Bonacquisti would leave Bend for nine years from 1980 to 1989, working at stations in Portland and Palm Springs. He eventually found his way back to Bend and began working at KBND (FM 100.1 and AM 1110) in June 1990.
Except for a few more years away exploring other jobs such as real estate, he's spent the last 20 as host of the KBND Morning News, along with his program management duties.
"I've always seen KBND as a local news station," he explains. "Local news is why people listen to us. Talk programs are what draws people in during the middle of the day, but it's really the local news that we want people to listen for in the morning." Bonacquisti says he's careful to walk a narrow, middle of the road line as the show's host. "I'm not an opinionated person on air and make sure I try to be all things to all people." Not to mention, he says he brings the attitude of an entertainer to the morning news. "I try to be factual, but get some laughs in."
Bonacquisti admits the technological landscape of radio in America is changing. Social media and smartphone use has become more competitive to traditional forms of media such as radio, but he feels radio's future continues to be bright if owners and programmers remain committed to the local communities they serve.
"It's got to be local that keeps it alive. Radio has been able to withstand TV, the Internet, CDs, and whatever else has come along to challenge what we do. If you keep it local, keep it focused on what people in your area are interested in, you'll succeed."