If you ever had a free Saturday night in Oklahoma, there's a good chance you spent it with OETA's B.J. Wexler, his classic movies and that iconic bucket of popcorn.
Born and Raised in Buffalo New York, Wexler joined Oklahoma’s PBS affiliate in the early 80's, debuting the 'OETA Movie Club' in 1988.
“He was very earnest in his kindness and that showed through,” Wexler’s producer of 20 years, Mickie Smith said.
“When he went and got that popcorn out of that popcorn bucket and he took a bite, he's an everyman right, he's walking over to his chair and he sits down and he starts the movie with you and it just brings you into his world,” she said.
“He was truly one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet,” News 9 Movie Man Dino Lalli said. “He always had time to talk with you. He always had time for a kind word.”
Wexler’s warm personality and kind spirt drew viewers in for three decades, earning an Emmy in 2008 before retiring in 2018.
“What I try to do is to give folks a good reason as to why they should invest an hour, an hour and a half to watch a movie that they don't know about,” Wexler told OETA in 2013.
“He was immensely devoted to his wife Anne,” Smith said. “They were so incredibly fun and funny, together they would play off each other.”
Anne preceded B.J. in death, passing in 2016.
“Although he retired from OETA in 2018, his legacy continues—we keep a framed picture of him on the Movie Club set,” OETA executive director Polly Anderson said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with B.J.’s family and hope everyone thinks of B.J. the next time they make some popcorn and watch their favorite classic movie. I know I will.”
Smith said viewers would flock to meet and greets. She remembered one OETA day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
“This lady named Ruth from Guymon, Oklahoma walks up to B.J. It was her 80th birthday,” Smith remembered. “Her only request to her daughter was to drive her to Oklahoma City so she could meet him. They drove for six hours. And while it totally made Ruth's birthday, and that was very apparent, it made BJ’s entire year.”
“He was the real deal,” Lalli said. “Superb, superb individual who is always nice, always had a pleasant word to share.”
Wexler was 83.
The ‘OETA Movie Club’ continues to run Saturdays at 9 p.m.