RIP former colleague Denis Smith

Denis Smith was one of those broadcasters whose name was preceded by the words "the legendary" in South African radio circles.

He was an actor, a presenter, an announcer, a newsreader, but most importantly respected and loved by all who knew him. While his death came as a shock to those close to him, the memories of him from those who knew him personally or through the air waves will live on.

On hearing of his passing, John Berks, a colleague and dear friend shared a tribute to the late Denis Smith on his Facebook page: he recalled one morning while on air at 702 at the old studios, Gary Edwards, his producer, signaled to him to stop talking. Berks turned his head and saw a man standing by the window with a cross bow, ready to assassinate him. Denis flung onto the guy, tackled him and ultimately saved Berks' life.

He will always be remembered for the voice.

John Berks

Angela Mclellan, a former producer and loyal friend had this to say about the late Denis.

It’s not easy to write a single quote about Denis Smith, a man so multi-talented, fiercely independent, strong, brave, and … I have to throw in stubborn. I guess the best is for me to say that Denis is one of the few people I’ve known who truly and purely lived in the present. He remembered, but worried not about yesterday, paid scant attention to tomorrow and sucked the marrow right out of the present.

Angela Mclellan

Other tributes poured in; all reiterating the sentiment that everyone who knew him admired him.

There are a few voices that echo in your head long after they have gone off the air. Denis sounded like nobody else. There was something windswept and interesting, wicked and experienced in his tone. He used to start a fake game show with his dog muffin on Fridays at 7. I can still remember the song. It was theatre of the mind on an industrial scale. I miss that kind of radio. South African radio has lost a colossal voice, a great wit and someone who made magic with sound and conversation.

Gareth Cliff

I had the privilege of working with Denis on the Saturday Afternoon Quiz show - and was roped in to do that show from its inception. What started out as a cheesy, sound-effect laden, retro-style radio quiz show "broadcasting" live from our "702 auditorium" became a slick on-air gem that I cherish in my memory to this day.

Bruce Hong

As a young reporter back in the early days of 702, Denis Smith was a mentor and a friend to me and so many of the others in the Eye Witness Newsroom. He was "the voice" but he was also the coolest guy I had ever met and the most unpretentious. Just a sweet, funny, quirky and smart man who had such an impact on our lives both on radio and off."

Judith Dubin

I remember Denis Smith as a great radio talent and had the pleasure of working with him for a number of years. My first memory of him was as a child, listening to him reading “The World at Seven pm”, the evening news bulletin which proceeded Squad Cars. I’ll always associate Dennis Smith’s rich voice with ‘bangers and mash’, which is what we always seemed to be eating when Denis read the news.

He joined the Eyewitness News team at 702 in the 1990s when I was a producer at the station. He was an amazing talent, eccentric and not always predictable. As a former news editor said of him, he was “an interesting management challenge”. Denis was not just a news reader, but a radio man from another era who understood the magic of painting word pictures on the wireless. He was a theatre-of-the-mind magician. I had the pleasure of producing his “Saturday Quiz Show” on 702 for a few years, together with Bruce Hong who controlled the show. The “Saturday Quiz Show” was broadcast from the 702 studio, but Denis pretended that if was a live broadcast from the Bedford Centre (the show’s sponsor) in front of a large audience. So successful was Denis in creating the atmosphere and impression of the quiz, complete with sound effects, that the then station manager drove to the shopping centre to watch the outside broadcast!

Alastair Teeling-Smith

702 would like to extend condolences to his family and friends.

Denis Smith's funeral will take place this Saturday, 23 May at 10 a.m. at the AVBOB Chapel, corner Owl and Frost Streets, Auckland Park.


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