TAMPA — Radio professionals who worked with Dave "Rhino" Reinhart have called him a maestro of programming and profit. He was the steady hand on a fast-moving ship and a den mother to volatile DJs with long signals and short fuses.
Mr. Reinhart, who died Sunday at the Villages retirement community, molded radio stations with a blend of creativity and business sense, retiring in 2005 as a regional vice president for Clear Channel. Mr. Reinhart was 67 and had multiple system atrophy, a progressive neurological disorder.
"He was the ringmaster at the circus," said radio consultant Tim Menowsky, who with Q-105 once competed against WFLZ-FM, the "Power Pig," which was led by Mr. Reinhart in the early 1990s. "Dave was able to keep some passionate, creative, wild people. There were lions and tigers and bears and clowns, and Dave just kind of kept everything together."
Mr. Reinhart entered the Tampa market in 1990 at the start of a wild-west radio era led by shock jocks who tried to outdo each other in outrageous stunts to steal listeners. His bosses at Jacor sent him from Ohio to manage WFLZ and WFLA-AM.
"It was about anything you could do to get water cooler talk going," Menowsky said. "We broadcasted live from each other's events. We would park our vehicles in the other radio station's parking lot. The Power Pig would park outside Q-105 offices with loudspeakers and razz the employees.
"As a programming guy, it was nice to have Rhino down the hall," said Menowsky, who switched from Q-105 to Jacor. "You could walk up and say, 'Hey, I'm thinking about doing this, and it's coming up in the next segment.' He had the experience to say, 'Maybe you could wait till tomorrow.' "
Mr. Reinhart's infusion of team spirit helped keep feuding DJs Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem and Todd "MJ" Schnitt under the same roof.
"I've been in this business 28 years," said Schnitt, "and Dave was one of the most measured, well-tempered general managers I've ever had. He ran the range, from his great participation in radio bits all the way to effectively dealing with business when it had to be dealt with."
He cemented WFLA's position as a successful talk station with talent ranging from Dr. Laura to Rush Limbaugh, and later pushed sister station WDAE to new heights in sports talk.
"That's unusual, to have two spoken-word formats on the AM band do as well as he did," said Dan DiLoretto, president and marketing manager for Clear Channel Tampa Bay.
Clear Channel acquired Jacor in 1998. Mr. Reinhart stayed on in management at Clear Channel, eventually becoming regional vice president for the west coast of Florida.