From the archives: ‘DeafGeoff’ in The Post-Standard, 2006

From The Post-Standard archives: Feb. 27, 2006, by William LaRue

‘DEAF GEOFF’
HOT 107.9 SIDEKICK EMBRACES HIS HEARING LOSS, AND SO DO HIS FANS

deafgeoff_2006

WWHT-FM (Hot 107.9) morning producer Geoff Herbert has trouble taking calls from listeners. Sometimes, he misunderstands what hosts Marty and Shannon are saying to him.

“Recently, Marty said something about Duke University and I thought he said something about Jewish people, ” Herbert says. “Sometimes, it’s so off-base, it’s funny.”

Even if he didn’t call himself “DeafGeoff” on the air, there would be little doubt that Herbert is bringing something quite exceptional to Syracuse morning radio.

Herbert, 21, was born with a hearing loss so severe that music often sounds to him like his head is under water. Some notes he can’t hear at all.

And yet, despite a speech impediment caused by his severe hearing loss, he is finding early success in a broadcast profession that usually values people with a good ear for hit songs or with a clear voice for announcing.

Herbert has become a listener favorite on the Top-40 station’s morning show, where he regularly joins the hosts in on-air banter and comedy bits. The station in the fall gave away 250 copies of a Christmas album, “Deaf the Halls, ” in which Herbert sang holiday tunes, including off-key versions of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Silent Night.”

Allowing the hearing-loss humor to flow easily on the morning show is something Herbert says he encourages.

That, plus asking people to call him “DeafGeoff, ” are his ways to let others know he embraces his hearing loss and wants others to do the same.

“It’s a good characterization of who I am. My name is Geoff and I’m partially deaf, ” Herbert says. “Of course, with the disability, being hearing-impaired, the least likely job is probably radio. But that’s one of the things I love about it. It excites me to be able to do something people don’t expect. And if I can do it well, people can kind of go, “Wow!”‘

He also embraces the local fame that goes with it.

A few weeks ago, at the drive-up window of a fast-food restaurant, some employees inside recognized his voice.

“They were like, “Are you DeafGeoff?’ And they go, “Ah, man, I love the show. You’re so awesome. You’re so funny, “‘ Herbert says. “I’ve even been asked for my autograph.”

Technically diagnosed as “hard of hearing, ” Herbert says, he was born with the ability to pick up only about 10 percent of what an average person hears. He uses lip-reading, two hearing aids and an eye for visual cues to understand most of the time what people are saying, although over the phone he often has to ask callers to repeat themselves.

Herbert began working at Hot 107.9 two years ago as an intern while he was studying communications at Syracuse University.

He performed so well as a volunteer that he was hired in fall 2004 to become Hot’s morning producer. It’s a job that involves getting to the station by 5 a.m. to edit audio clips and coordinate that day’s music, comedy bits, contests, games and other content.

On a recent Tuesday morning, shortly after 8:30, Herbert is carrying on a long chat about TV with Marty, who, like Shannon, doesn’t reveal his last name publicly.

Marty asks Herbert if he heard about “American Idol” auditions in Boston last summer, hinting that he should have considered trying out for the Fox talent series.

Herbert tells Marty he “heard about it plenty.” Then he adds, “Let’s be honest. My singing was not going to get me very far.” They both laugh.

Marty and Shannon often make references to his hearing loss, Herbert says, although they draw the line at doing anything smacking of ridicule.

When one listener called up to ask why the show didn’t “just get that retarded guy off the air, ” Herbert says, Marty and Shannon quickly “ripped into him.”

“They are very protective, ” Herbert says with a smile.

Interviewed off the air, Marty says Herbert is a talented morning producer who does his job well.

“I think it’s cool he puts his disability aside and says, “I’m going to do this, ‘ instead of being embarrassed by it, ” Marty says.

In addition to his part-time job at Hot, Herbert works nights and weekends at a Blockbuster video store, and is also a disc jockey for private parties and dances.

Herbert, who grew up in Acton, Mass., was manager of his high school radio station for 2 years. He was also general manager at WJPZ-FM (Z89), the student station at SU, where he already has met requirements to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film.

He says his dream is to eventually get a job in radio in Boston or another big city.

For what he has done already, Herbert can be seen as an inspiration, especially by young people with a disability who worry some occupations are closed to them, says Anne Costa, director of communications for Aurora of Central New York, an organization that serves people with hearing and visual impairments.

Although he’s a rarity, Herbert isn’t the only one with hearing loss working in Syracuse radio. Aurora in November presented an excellence award to WVOA-FM and WSIV-AM general manager Jim Wall, 68, who still does occasional on-air work, despite losing most of his hearing in the mid-1980s due to disease.

“I would certainly congratulate the young man, ” Wall says when asked about Herbert. “I encourage him 100 percent.”

Costa says Herbert probably has strong support in the deaf community, although she says some might be offended if they thought on-air bits were making fun of him for his hearing loss.

Herbert says some aspects of living with his disability are funny. He says he’s not afraid to share this or to show that, like anyone else, he excels at some things and struggles with others.

“I want to let people know my hearing disability is part of who I am. I’m comfortable with it and you should be as well, ” he says.

Note: This article appeared in The Post-Standard in 2006, years before Herbert started working at the Syracuse newspaper.

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29 things that will make you feel old

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller knew what he was talking about, and I always get a kick out of taking a moment to look at what’s happened — and how long it’s been since they happened. For example, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out when I was just two years old. In honor of my 29th birthday (that’s right, Geoff Herbert has been turning it up as “DeafGeoff” since Feb. 20, 1984) here are 29 facts that will make you feel just as old as I am. Enjoy!

1. Kids born in the year 2000 become teenagers this year.
Whoa.

Britney kisses Madonna

Britney and Madonna locked lips during the 2003 VMAs. 10 years ago!

2. Madonna kissed Britney Spears a decade ago.
The two pop stars made out on stage during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Madge also kissed Christina Aguilera, but no one remembers that.

3. Elijah Wood and Macauley Culkin are both 32.
“The Good Son,” starring both of the child actors, came out 20 years ago.

4. Magazines now out of print: Spin, Newsweek, Blender, The Sporting News.
Apparently people read stuff on this thing called the Internet nowadays.

5. Metallica’s first album came out 30 years ago.
James Hetfield is now 49 years old with three kids.

6. Cory and Topanga from “Boy Meets World” have a teen daughter now.
The TGIF couple married in 2000 (on the show, not in real life) and are coming back to TV with a 13-year-old child for “Girl Meets World.”

7. Every player on the 2012-13 Syracuse basketball team was born in the ’90s.
Senior James Southerland was born in April 1990 and the youngest player, freshman guard Jerami Grant, is younger than the “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. (Jerami was born in March ’94 and the song appeared on Eddie Vedder and co.’s 1991 album Ten.)

8. Nintendo Entertainment System
The first NES was released in Japan in 1983 — 30 years ago — and Nintendo launched the iconic video game console in North America beginning in ’85.

9. 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”
Fiddy’s first massive hit came out in January 2003. That’s more than 10 years ago.

10. Curly Sue is married and the Spy Kids girl is divorced.
Curly Sue star Alisan Porter is 31 now and tied the knot last year, even welcoming a baby boy in the summer. Alexa Vega first played ‘Spy Kid’ Carmen Cortez in 2001 and she’s not only old enough (24) to play a slutty badass in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills (coming this year), but also had her first divorce last year.

11. “Teletubbies” has been off the air for more than a decade.
Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky Winky last appeared on TV in January 2002.

12. The Nirvana baby is old enough to legally drink alcohol.
Spencer Elden, who showed the world his penis on the cover of Nevermind, turns 22 this year.

The Nirvana baby!

The Nirvana baby!

13. The Mighty Ducks turned 20 last year.
Emilio! Estevez played triple-deke inventor and youth hockey coach Gordon Bombay for the first time in 1992. Kind of surprised a D4: The Mighty Ducks hasn’t happened yet at this point.

14. The New Kids are now in their 40s.
All of NKOTB (or New Kids on the Block, however you refer to them) are 40 years old or older. Jonathan Knight is 44.

15. Maggie from “The Simpsons” would be 24 years old today.
If she aged, that is. The first episode of the longest-running cartoon aired on Dec. 17, 1989.

16. ‘N Sync’s last televised performance was 10 years ago.
Justin Timberlake is busy with his “Suit & Tie” these days, too busy to get back together with Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez. The boy band went on hiatus in 2002 but sang together at the 2003 Grammy Awards in a tribute to the Bee Gees.

17. Jurassic Park came out 20 years ago.
The first dinosaur epic came out in 1993. Jurassic Park IV is on the way, due in theaters in 2014.

18. ’90s bands are now playing nostalgia tours.
Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, Fastball are touring together (if this was 1998, this would blow your mind!) this summer.

19. The final episode of “M*A*S*H” aired 30 years ago.
More than 100 million viewers tuned in for the Feb. 1983 finale — still the most-watched ever.

20. Eminem’s daughter turns 18 this year.

Don’t be a creep about it, but Hailie Mathers was born in December 1995.

21. McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” ad campaign started a decade ago.
Remember JT even did a song about it? Holy 2003.

22. The top songs 15 years ago include “The Boy is Mine,” “Truly Madly Deeply” and “My Heart Will Go On.”

Next’s “Too Close” and Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” also came out in 1998.

23. New TV shows in 1993: “The X-Files,” “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” “Frasier,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Beavis & Butt-head.”
They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

24. Kids today have no idea what a floppy disk or a diskette is.
Yet they click on a picture of one to save files in Microsoft Word.

25. “1999” was 30 years ago.
Prince wanted to party like it’s the end of the millenium (which was technically Dec. 31, 2000) in 1983.

26.Brad Pitt turns 50 years old this year.
Speaking of Prince, he and Michael J. Fox, Ellen DeGeneres, Madonna, Colin Firth and Antonio Banderas are all in their 50s already.

27. The dancing baby has been around for more than 15 years.

First an Internet phenomenon in 1996, you may best remember the baby cha-cha-ing to “Hooked on a Feeling (Oogachaka)” in 1998 on “Ally McBeal.”

28. You can’t buy Surge, Crystal Pepsi, Hi*C Ecto Cooler or Squeezit drinks anymore.
I’m thirsty.

29. Michael Jordan first retired 20 years ago.
The now 50-year-old legendary athlete quit basketball in 1993, played baseball briefly, and then thankfully brought us more hoops greatness (and Space Jam).

Lipreading Syracuse basketball’s Jim Boeheim: My first feature article in The Post-Standard

Lipreading Jim Boeheim

A sneak preview of Geoff Herbert’s first feature article in The Post-Standard, appearing in print on Sunday, February 10, 2013.

“Wanna see my picture on the cover, wanna buy five copies for my mother…”

I recently began my new position as Entertainment Reporter at Syracuse Media Group, the new home of syracuse.com and The Post-Standard newspaper. I mainly focus on writing about hot topics that can include movies, music, television, celebrity gossip, technology news and Central New York life. On Friday, I wrote about something a little different that people have asked about many times so it seemed fitting to share:

#Lipreading Jim Boeheim: How Syracuse basketball gets even more fun on Twitter.”

While everything I write appears online at syracuse.com, I’m excited to say that the piece will also be appearing in print on Sunday, Feb. 10 — my first feature article in The Post-Standard!

I’ll be buying a few copies for family members (Look, mom! I have a job!) but I also recommend picking up one for yourself if you live in Central New York. Not only does it include great photos of the SU coach making his priceless facial expressions, but it’s also a lot better than the first two articles I wrote on syracuse.com in 2010 when I started as an Associate Producer.

Thank you to all for reading and supporting me, and a big thank you to my hundreds of new followers. I’m excited to share with you more lipreading tweets from upcoming Syracuse basketball games as well as stories, news and observations in 140 characters (or less). Let’s go Orange!

Watch: Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert speaks at TEDxBuffalo about being a deaf DJ

Geoff 'DeafGeoff' Herbert talks at TEDxBuffalo on Oct. 9, 2012

Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert talks at TEDxBuffalo on Oct. 9, 2012 about being a deaf DJ and the importance of listening over hearing.

I was humbled and honored to be invited to speak at TEDxBuffalo, my first TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event, about being a deaf DJ and the challenges I’ve faced in my life growing up mostly deaf. The event was held Tuesday, October 9, at Canisius College in Buffalo to an invite-only crowd and was also live-streamed online and recorded for future events.

In a speech titled “Listening Is More Important Than Hearing,” I shared how I was born with a profound binaural hearing loss and learned how to communicate through years of speech therapy. I demonstrated some of the challenges that come from lipreading, such as how “V” and “F” look identical but the sound is different by how much air comes out of your mouth and whether your voice box vibrates when saying it. I then talked about falling in love with music, and its transformative power that led me to pursuing a career in radio — and never once letting my “disability” stand in the way. I learned to appreciate music by listening to it, not just hearing it, and worked hard at radio stations in high school and college before landing a job at Clear Channel’s HOT 107.9 in Syracuse as a morning show producer and sidekick known as “DeafGeoff.” I worked with “Marty & Shannon in the Morning” for six years as possibly the only mostly deaf on-air personality in the country and our show was rated No. 1 in its target 18-34 demographic.

I’m now a producer/entertainment reporter at syracuse.com, the online affiliate of The Post-Standard newspaper but the challenges I face today are the same. At a radio station disc jockey (or as a club DJ), you have to listen to what your audience wants and respond to it. Social media users and website readers will often comment and/or share stories, and it’s the same thing — listening to the audience, responding to them, and continuing to inform and/or entertain.

I’m also still a DJ for parties, dances, weddings, events, etc. and I’m constantly listening to music and studying it, watching audiences to see how they react to songs. It’s amazing how hearing a favorite tune can change a person’s mood — or force them to start moonwalking (or shuffling or Gangnam-Styling or whatever) because the music is that infectious.

You can watch video of me speaking at TEDxBuffalo here, but please check out the other speakers as well. All had great, unique thoughts to bring to the event and I was happy to be a part of it.

Thank you to all who watched and tweeted me their thoughts afterwards, and thank you to Kevin Purdy for inviting me to speak at TEDxBuffalo. If anyone has any follow-up questions or would like to know more, please feel free to email me.

The 28 most ridiculous quotes from Geoff Herbert’s first blog

It’s my 28th birthday today and, as I look back, it’s weird to realize how long I’ve been using the web. I had my first website when I was 12 — “The Page of Qaz” — and I started my first blog on LiveJournal when I was in college, which ranged from poetry attempts to stream-of-consciousness writing to premature, emotional outbursts. Most was written from 2003-2005 and I’ve since removed almost everything from the site, but I thought it’d be fun to revisit the 28 most ridiculous quotes from that LiveJournal and share them. Y’know, so I can show how mature I’ve become since. And stuff. Enjoy!

1. “My heart swells like a passenger-side airbag as she drives me into a bridge abutment.”

2. “So take it all in stride, find the punch-line to life’s punches, and don’t take any of it too seriously. Be serious when you need to be, of course, but learn to laugh, too.”

3. “It may feel like a lot of baggage to carry for your future travels, but it’s not.”

4. “Reality wears an iron glove and it just bitch-slapped me in the face.”

5. “She doesn’t talk to me unless I talk to her, but when I do she gives all the tell-tale signs of utter infatuation. As if her favorite food is apricots, but only when someone offers them to her.”

6. “Another conductor waves their baton at me, urging my heartstrings to join the orchestra, but I’m held back by my own fears and desires. Maybe I’m in the wrong section or playing the wrong instrument.”

7. “I know that the last time I went on this ride, I was not wearing a seatbelt and basically went through the windshield in a beautiful disaster of glass and pain. It was too fast, too furious, and too frustrating. But that doesn’t mean I should never sit in a car again. Wounds heal, senses dull and skins grow thicker as time goes on and we live our lives. But the heart is equally vulnerable at all times, in all cars, on all kinds of rides.”

8. “In the real world with all the cookie-cutter stuffed-shirt conservatives and the brand-infected poster-boy prima donnas who think that Ludacris and Lil Jon represent the pinnacle of good music, I fit in about as well as a three-hundred pound woman does in a size four.”

9. “…I’m a person of function. I can’t dilly-dally, I can’t do small talk, and I hate just driving around aimlessly. I can’t even watch NASCAR because to me it’s just cars driving around in a circle. I’m still an impatient brat, and I currently have no plans to grow up.”

10. “I go swimming in my mind and I always seem to forget my floaties.”

11. “She was an angel — but from another angle, I don’t know anymore and I find myself losing faith in my own judgment.”

12. “Indecision and passivity are vices I can’t stand. They may not be biblical vices and they don’t need to be. In the church of Geoff, they are the unforgivable sins because there is no benefit or reason for them. ‘Whatever’ is a more damnable word than Carlin’s seven you can’t say on the air.”

13. “‘Dammit, Janet! Why do you have to crush my trapezoid like that?’ She sniggered and took another bite out of my smorgasbord of unfortunate disorders. So I retaliated, and threw the only ammunition I had in return. My heart missed, and fell into a precipice.”

14. “How the leaves dance across the quad to the tune of an 18th century ballad, flying with the grace of Fred Astaire over the concrete sidewalks without touching. A spiral of maple and pine children jump into the air, singing ring-around-the-rosy as they encircle a passerby who can’t help but smile at her playmates.”

16. “Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, you’ll get blood on your shirt.”

17. “How wrong I was. And worse, how sure I was that I was right.”

18. “I think your true friends are the ones who stick by your side through all the stupid things you do [when you’re sober] — not all the stupid things you don’t remember doing.”

19. “It’s time to get your gonzo on, write a will, and decide what it was so you can decide what it will be. After all, redefining your redefinition of your refined refinements with referred references may be the only thing saving you from duct-taping your cellphone to your head and taking a long bath in Onondaga Lake.”

20. “Women. I understand women about as well as I do a braille keypad on a drive-thru ATM.”

21. “On second thought, wouldn’t giving someone time and space make them God?”

22. “I look in the mirror and it’s always an unfamiliar face that I somehow recognize. I see that little blonde-haired boy with blue hearing aids who needed a hand to hold — he’s still there, looking up at me for help.”

23. “Heaven is a dancefloor. And I think sunrise occurs when the club closes and the DJ watches a sweaty mass separate and drive home with a smile.”

24. “I wish I were a pen, dictating my life story and writing characters in and out as I see fit… It’s my book, dammit, and I’m the main character. I’m the star. There are no little-did-he-know moments because I know everything that is going on. I purge it all in a cacophony of words, sentences, paragraphs and terrible metaphors. The only thing I don’t know is what happens to the guest stars of chapter 3 after I edit them out and, frankly, I don’t really care what happens to them after chapter 3. We’re on chapter 24 now, baby, and there’s no room for you in the story anymore.”

25. “Wounded pride goes with every outfit.”

26. “I’ve always believed that leading with your heart is taking a step in the right direction. And I’ve always led with my heart, meaning I’m always stepping forward with my right foot. However, if you keep stepping forward with your right foot, you’ll just keep going in circles, won’t you? You’ve got to take a left step here and there.”

27. “Sure, looking at a happy photograph from days gone by makes you sad that you’re not still in that happy moment, but you gotta remember, Geoff, that the moment was only that: a moment. And getting rid of those remnants won’t make you forget them any sooner. So don’t. Don’t forget. Remember.”

28. “Life is a sexy Molotov cocktail of pain, misery and unabashed tears – with smiles in between each sip. Enjoy it all.”