George Burns once said: “If I had taken my doctor’s advice and quit smoking when he advised me to, I wouldn’t have lived to go to his funeral.”
As the great granddaughter of a four-cigar-a-day smoker who closely resembled George Burns and lived well into his 90s, I have to admit that maybe he was on to something. I recently met up with a group of guys who might agree.
Bill Graffius, Gary Lightman, Frank Dombroski, Jerry Waters Sr. and newcomer Dale Albertson are the cigar-smoking hosts of the radio show, “Live from the Lounge,” which is taped at Harrisburg Beer N Cigar on Union Deposit Road in Susquehanna Township.
As the name implies, “Live from the Lounge” features five guys sitting in a cigar lounge, talking about anything and everything. Their comedic banter covers the gamut, from local business to community happenings to live-to-tape visits at various locales. Although politics and religion aren’t off the table, they rarely come up.
Usually, journalists sit behind the microphone, separate from the story they’re reporting, observing and taking notes. It’s not often that we get to be a part of the interview with our subjects. Such was the case on this particular day, when the “Live from the Lounge” hosts decided my interview might make for a good program. They invited me on air and let me ask anything I wanted. Their candor and humor kept me entertained, as it does their regular listeners.
“Live from the Lounge” is more than two years old.
The guys actually wanted to start their own YouTube channel or create some type of podcast that they could farm out to the public. As fate would have it, however, veteran radioman Frank Schofield, then of iHeart Radio, just happened to be at the lounge one day and suggested that the team should have its own show. A few demo tapes later, “Live from the Lounge” was born.
The crew originally taped their show at the station with Schofield. But they soon agreed that the program would be better if they all sat around smoking cigars and—in their words—solved all of the world’s problems. Dombrowski acquired some equipment that allowed them to record remotely from the lounge, giving the show greater authenticity.
“We are a very eclectic group, and we speak here as friends,” Lightman said. “When you walk in the lounge, you will meet people of every walk of life, every religion and every ethnic group.”
The bunch, all retired, have known each other for about 10 years, although Graffius and Lightman have known each other since the 1960s. The majority of the group are transplants: Graffius is from Port Matilda; Lightman is from Atlantic City, N.J.; Dombrowski is from Shamokin; and Albertson is from Franklin, Mass. Waters is the only member originally from Harrisburg.
Getting to know the team means getting to know their on-air personas. Each one has a nickname.
Waters, who worked for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, is “The Godfather.” Lightman, an attorney, is “The Duke.” Former hospital administrator Bill Graffius goes by “The Professor.” Dombrowski used to be a Harrisburg police lieutenant, so he’s known on air as “The Cop.” And listeners know former UPS employee Albertson as “The Instigator.”
Being in studio, you realize that, even during commercial breaks, the show really doesn’t stop. The hosts are always in character, or just being themselves, constantly joking and ribbing.
Back on the air, I asked the team about some of the road trips they took to record the show. Recent trips have included to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day, which they admit was a blast, despite the weather. When they mentioned Eastern State Penitentiary, I told them it’s haunted. Without missing a beat, Dale interjected and joked that it’s even worse since they’ve been there. Centralia, known for its underground mine fires, was a stop along the road show, with the joke being that Frank dropped a cigar there, causing even more damage.
The “lounge” gets around.
The hosts have visited the Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz and the Appalachian Trail; taken fishing trips where Lightman fell into the water twice during one trip; and even visited London and the pyramids in Egypt, a bucket list trip for Lightman. They hosted a show at a U.S. Army training center at Fort Indiantown Gap, where they operated helicopter flight simulators learning how to fly—or, as they describe it—crash helicopters.
The trips are intriguing. But beyond that, the show is about the real and organic conversations they have about what’s happening today, especially with young people.
“We talk about the good things kids are doing around our community, things that never get reported,” Waters said.
A son of one of the lounge members shared details of his five-month hike across the length of South America.
So, what’s next for a local crew who easily could have a show on Comedy Central?
They’re planning to race cars at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway in Lemoyne, meet with local mushroom growers in Kennett Square in southeastern Pennsylvania, and attend the Elegance at Hershey, an annual car show. For this bunch, the possibilities are endless.
“We shake hands when we come to the lounge, and we shake hands when we leave,” Graffius said.
And about those cigars?
“You can’t be angry or upset when you are smoking a cigar,” Albertson said.
“Live from the Lounge” airs at noon on Saturdays on 1460 AM. For past shows, visit the podcast page at https://www.iheart.com/podcast/498-live-from-the-lounge-28240856/.
For more information, visit the Facebook page: The Lounge HBG.