Retired radio DJ Dave Herman, one of the most evocative voices on New York airwaves in the early days of FM's ascendancy, died Thursday morning while in federal custody in New Jersey on pedophile charges to which he pleaded not guilty. He was 78 years old.
His death was confirmed by his defense attorney, Marc A. Agnifilo of Manhattan, who was notified by a U.S. marshal. Officials said Herman was taken from the Essex County Jail to Newark's University Hospital Wednesday after complaining of chest pains. No official cause of death was released.
Herman, who had been out of the spotlight since retiring in 1998, lived primarily in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and in Airmont in Rockland County, where he has a daughter. He made news in October when he was arrested at St. Croix's airport. According to the U.S. attorney's office for the district of New Jersey, he was at the airport where he expected to meet a 36-year-old woman with whom he had been communicating in Internet chat rooms and by phone, and her 6- or 7-year-old daughter, with the intention of having sex with the child. In reality, he had been talking with an undercover officer from the Bergen County prosecutor's office.
The arrest was an unexpected coda to a life and career that made him "one of the greatest examples of personality radio," said Marty Brooks, creator of NYRadioArchive.com, who cited Herman's "knowledge of music and his ability to go beyond what you would typically hear on a radio station. He was also a great interviewer" whose subjects ranged from George Harrison to George Burns.
"When my clock radio went off at 6:45 when I was growing up in Yonkers," his lawyer Agnifilo said, "he was the first voice I heard when I woke up. When I flew down to see him in St. Croix, I met him in this kind of ramshackle old jail, and he came out and he spoke, and it was that same voice. At the end of our meeting I told him that, and he started crying and he hugged me. That I was a fan of his and now all these years later his lawyer, it struck a chord with him."
Herman, who was born in Huntington and was the son of an Orthodox rabbi, began in small-town radio before becoming a nexus of the counterculture with his free-form radio show "The Marconi Experiment" at Philadelphia's WMMR in the late 1960s. He joined WABC in 1970 and moved to WNEW in 1972, anchoring mornings until 1991. He left for WXRK before rejoining WNEW from 1997 until he and fellow legend Scott Muni were let go in November 1998.
Aside from his daughter, information on other survivors was not available.