How Bobby Rivers Set The Pace With A Historic Feat

How Bobby Rivers Set The Pace By Becoming Milwaukee’s First Black Film Critic On Television

Rivers’ Meteoritic Rise in Milwaukee Media

Bobby Rivers, who sadly passed away at 70, first made waves in the late 1970s on Milwaukee radio. Hired as a morning newsman on WQFM, he quickly built a sizable fanbase.

When the station fired Rivers in 1978, over 1,000 devoted listeners signed petitions demanding his return. Rivers successfully renegotiated his contract, remaining on WQFM for another year.

Just months later, Rivers stepped in front of the camera for a pioneering role as Milwaukee’s first-ever Black film critic on local TV station WISN.

He simultaneously contributed entertainment segments to the city’s nationally syndicated “PM Magazine” show. Rivers’ profiles continued rising as he secured hosting duties on a popular weekday program on WISN in 1984.

VH1 Come Calling

Executives at the then-fledgling VH1 network took notice of Rivers’ talents. After hiring him in 1987, they gave Rivers his own celebrity talk show the very next year.

“Watch Bobby Rivers” featured interviews with A-listers like Paul McCartney, Meryl Streep, and Mel Gibson. Rivers also worked as a VH1 veejay with future superstar Rosie O’Donnell.

Lasting National Impact

Even after departing VH1 in 1990, Bobby Rivers continued making his mark on national media. He served entertainment editor roles at NBC’s “Weekend Today” and Fox’s “Good Day New York.”

Rivers then reunited with ABC News and Lifetime TV as a correspondent on “Lifetime Live” alongside hosts Deborah Roberts and Dana Reeve.

In 2002, Rivers came full circle back to TV hosting on Food Network’s “Top 5” program. He later pursued acting as well, appearing on hits like “The Sopranos.” Up until his death, Rivers wrote about his lifelong passions of film and TV on a popular blog.

The trail that Bobby Rivers blazed as an openly gay Black media pioneer was summed up in a Twitter tribute from journalist Stephen Whitty: “Bobby was a very funny, very knowledgeable journalist, and a tireless advocate for more diversity…” For the city of Milwaukee and the wider entertainment world, Rivers set the pace for inclusion.