Former Channel 7 Personality Liz Dribben Passes Away

January 20, 2011 Updated Jan 21, 2011 at 11:54 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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January 20, 2011 Updated Jan 21, 2011 at 11:54 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( WKBW ) Elizabeth Dribben - better known as "Liz" to friends, family, and viewers - passed away Thursday after a brief illness at the Kateri residence in Manhattan.

Liz Dribben was a broadcast pioneer, hired as one of the first women to anchor news and host television programs. One show Liz is best remembered for on WKBW-TV was "Dialing For Dollars." Liz co-hosted that from 1964 until 1968 with Nolan Johannes. That show was the precursor to the current "AM/Buffalo" show that remains on the air to this day.

Liz was also host of a pioneering series called "In Conversation." In rare one on one interviews, Liz sat down with the biggest stars and newsmakers of the day. Her interviews with Jerry Lewis, Duke Ellington, Phyllis Diller, and controversial poet Allen Ginsberg to name just a few, were featured in the 35th and 50th anniversary Channel 7 specials.

Liz left Buffalo and WKBW in 1969 for New York, later joining CBS News, where she continued her career until her retirement.

Liz was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2001.

The biography for that induction noted that Liz scaled the heights of broadcast journalism alongside Mike Wallace, Dan Rather, Charles Osgood, Charles Kuralt and Walter Cronkite.

Through 21 years as a producer, writer, reporter and interviewer at CBS News in New York, she contributed her formidable talent and discerning critical eye to the betterment of the careers of several of the most distinguished journalists in American broadcasting history.

“Invariably,” says Wallace, “the listener comes away from a Liz Dribben interview enlightened, entertained and sometimes even moved.” Wallace knows, because Liz was the producer, interviewer and ghostwriter of his daily radio program “Mike Wallace at Large,” as she also was for “Dan Rather Reporting” and “Newsbreak with Charles Osgood.”

But the foundation that formed the greatness of her CBS years—1972 through 1993—was created in Buffalo, where she was one of the most memorable personalities on WKBW-TV (Channel 7). She started in 1959 as a publicist and production go-fer. By 1964, with “Dialing for Dollars” 5 days a week, her landmark one-on-one interviews on weekends and a daily morning newscast, Dribben had elbowed her way into a medium that previously segregated females into the bailiwick of cutesy-pie duties.

Stymied by lack of further advancement, she hopped a plane to the Big Apple in 1969 and never returned.

To this day, Western New Yorkers of a certain age hold indelible memories of the charming woman with the intellectual depth and the love of language, a definitive star who lit up that living-room tube through the ‘60s—and has continued to be a devoted Buffalo booster from 450 miles away ever since.

Dribben worked as a commentator at WNYC-FM, hosting talk shows at WEVD Radio and teaching broadcast journalism at Columbia University just ten years ago.

Says Charles Osgood: “Liz could have been a great detective or psychiatrist. When she listens, people talk.”

Eyewitness News was in contact with Dribben's cousin Ellie Alexander. She noted that a memorial service will be held in the spring, and that donations in Elizabeth's memory could be made to the Buffalo Broadcasters Association.

Liz Dribben was 73.

A "blog" about the life, times, and work of Liz Dribben can be found on the "News Links" section of wkbw.com