Paul Castronovo – Living the Good Life!
Article by Marla Schwartz Photos by Debra Todd
Lighthouse Point is one of the most family-oriented locales in South Florida, with a recent census pointing out that 3,078 families make up the demographics of this small town, it makes sense to point out that one of its most famous residents, radio-phenomenon Paul Castronovo has called this place home now for many years. Paul is definitely a family man who takes the needs of his loved ones very seriously when it comes to melding the hurdles of domestic bliss with the variety of work responsibilities his unique employment situation brings into their lives.
Paul and his long-time radio partner Ron Brewer have been entertaining morning radio audiences for more than two decades. Their program, the “Paul & Young Ron Show” began its reign in the heyday of the original WSHE 103.5 FM, then moved to 94.9 Zeta Rocks, and for the past eight years has been heard on Big 105.9 FM. Additionally, the show is syndicated on Clear Channel stations Real Radio 94.3 FM and 101.7 FM in West Palm Beach and on the Treasure Coast and on Sun 103.1 in Key Largo and 99.5 FM in Key West. The program is broadcast live from 6:00-10:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.
Although Paul was born in Brooklyn, NY, he has been a South Florida resident since 1971 and immediately embraced life in this tropical paradise. He grew up in Palm Beach County and attended Lake Worth High School. Paul visited Lighthouse Point when he first moved to the area and years later, with his family in mind, he thought it would be the perfect place to live. “We had friends who lived in LHP. I remember fishing the canals, actually paddling my surfboard across the Intracoastal to go surfing, and I said, one day, I’m going to live in this neighborhood,” Paul said. This is exactly what happened. But first he had to meet his wife Gina and the way they met is a tale that’s comparable to any love affair in the movies.
“Gina was teaching at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, and one of her students was also one of our interns. He wasn’t doing that well in her class, so she said that if he could get ‘those two guys from the morning show’ to come in and speak to her broadcast class, that he’d get extra credit. That’s when he pitched me,” Paul explained. “At first I was like, ‘come on man, I’m busy.’ But then he said, ‘She’s Italian, beautiful, and I swear … you’ll end up marrying her.’ I was intrigued, so I went to the class and … he was right! I asked her out immediately, and a few years later, we were married. Yeah, I’d say it was love at first sight.”
They were married in 1996 and bought a home in LHP. “We really enjoy fishing on a Saturday morning; I would call Gina to tell her to get ready and then we grill the fish, and let me just say this: her fish tacos are the best you’ve ever tasted,” Paul exclaimed. “We also love what our friends, and fellow LHP residents, Paul and Cindy Rondino call the “Bar-muda triangle”: Bonefish Mac’s, The Hillsboro Club and the bar at Cap’s Place. I must also toss a nod to Ernesto’s Italian Chophouse. Welcome to the hood.”
Paul and his family are the perfect neighbors. They’re all kind, generous, warm and fun loving; and let’s face it, Paul works, not only as a successful radio morning show host, but as a man who does so much for the community at large, such as the yearly food drive. He and Ron have to benefit Feeding South Florida, formerly known as the Daily Bread Food Bank, featuring local and national celebrities with listeners calling in and pledging donations. “We’ve been involved for nearly twenty-years and each year have raised over 1 million pounds of food,” Paul said. “I’m also co-chairman of the Miami Dolphins Foundation, Fins Weekend, a fishing and golf weekend that raises money for various charities; the Miami Dolphin Ride DCC for cancer (ridedcc.com), and if we can help, anybody else who asks.” So you can see – his hours expand well past the designated on-air ones and this is what has made him a local treasure. And Paul, his wife Gina and their two sons AJ and Nic have happily made the community LHP more than just their home base; they truly love this place.
“Nic is my stepson, and is now twenty – but has lived with me since he was three. He’s in his 3rd year at the University of Florida, where I went to school, so you can imagine how proud I was the day we got that acceptance letter. He’s an avid skateboarder, and he changes his major about every fifteen minutes. Stay tuned,” Paul said. “AJ is twelve and in 7th grade, and an absolute maniac. Spear fishing, fishing, lacrosse, whatever it is, he’s all in, with no fear. We spend a lot of time in the summer at our cottage in Maine (I fly back and forth on weekends), where we kayak and white water raft, fish and eat lobster, but we also LOVE to take the boat to the Bahamas. We just spent a week in the Abacos with forty friends, fishing, drinking and eating and not necessarily in that order.”
Yet, Paul’s life isn’t all just fun and games, as he must live a disciplined ‘early to bed – early to rise’ schedule in his household in order to fulfill his work commitments. This schedule must affect his family life; and we all know that radio and television hosts talk about their family members on-air. So, how do Paul’s family members feel about it when he discusses their private lives?
“I’m up at 4 a.m., and it never gets easy. That being said, I nap during the daytime, and here’s a note to the lawn service guys: do you really have to blow every leaf in the entire neighborhood away? Give it a rest! Oh, sorry. I nap, so that when my son comes home from school, I’m a normal member of the family and don’t have to turn in at 7 p.m.,” Paul pointed out. “We hang, watch TV, etc. Then I crash hard. As far as talking about them on the air, let’s just say, there was quite a learning curve in the beginning of our relationship. I have to remember, it’s MY career, and MY show … and to sometimes leave certain things out!”
It’s because his family is so important to him that he does try to keep part of his life private … although his fans love it when he regales them with personal experiences; he does try to draw a line between blending his family and work encounters. It’s important to him to honor his family because “to use an over-used cliché, ‘at the end of the day,’ it’s really all we have, isn’t it?” Paul pointed out. “Sure you have your close friends, you have your work friends, but when it comes to the people you can really always count on, you have your family.”
And speaking of family, Paul is very close to his sister, Linda Castronovo, Director at WPLG in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, and their parents. “But I give my sister a hard time because she also went to the University of Florida, and studied broadcasting,” Paul said. “I’m like, ‘couldn’t you have done your own thing?’ She directs the morning news and has ridiculous hours, even worse than mine. She has to be at work at 2:30 a.m.”
Despite their similar career paths and crazy work hours, they do try to see each other as much as possible. “We have family dinners whenever we can, but both of us are lobbying our parents for the bulk of the inheritance. Dad says there’s nothing left,” Paul joked. “We’re currently planning Dad’s 80th birthday this month, but it’s a surprise, so I can’t tell you about it! Joe and Ginger are great parents and have been married since 1954 – how rare. My father taught me how to laugh, he has always been a practical joker, driving my mom nuts and my mother taught me how to cook!”
And more than most people, Paul realizes how important his family is because he knows firsthand how at a moment’s notice, things can change. In the blink of an eye, the Castronovo family was busy living their hectic but exuberant lives when suddenly Gina was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“One minute we were making plans for a weekend getaway to the Bahamas, and the next minute, we were talking to surgeons. That’s how quickly life changes. One of the most difficult aspects from the beginning was the fact that we live such a public life. Everybody seems to know what we do, because my radio show and our lives tend to be an open book,” Paul explained. “When she got the diagnosis, initially we kept it to ourselves, but it was obvious to our listeners that something was wrong. I was missing work, and I surely wasn’t my normal, jovial self. Then she did the most admiral thing: she told me to go on the air and tell her story. That was a brave thing for her to do, and I truly believe, that the day we went public, Gina saved lives. We got thousands of well-wisher e-mails and letters, but we also received numerous emails from people that told us because of Gina’s announcement, they were going to get checked, and so were their moms and sisters. Gina then took it to the next level and wrote a book, along with a few of her friends called, “Just a Lump in the Road: Reflections of Young Breast Cancer Survivors.” That book, available to this day on Amazon.com, has also helped a lot of women.
And you’d think after surviving this perilous experience that things would get back to being as normal as possible for this family.
“Back to the subject of how life changes in the blink of an eye,” Paul said. “Just as Gina was beginning to feel like her old self again, during Christmas week in 2007, she and my mother, while driving back from Orlando, were involved in a head-on collision. A woman lost control of her car, crossed three lanes of traffic and hit my mother’s car. My mom broke her neck in the accident, and Gina had multiple, serious internal injuries that she suffers with to this day and will feel the effects for the rest of her life. I think what we’ve taken from this, and it’s been extremely hard on the kids, watching their mom suffer for years and go through these things is that, we are going to squeeze every bit of life out of every day and enjoy every minute we all have together.
Indeed, this is what this family does …they really do live their lives to the fullest. It was after Gina’s chemotherapy treatments when they traveled to Italy for a vacation and again, their lives changed in an instant, but this time for the better. A chance encounter with a stranger put them on a path of not only purchasing a vineyard, but creating their own blend called Castronovo Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. This Pinot Noir girl and Cabernet loving man stumbled onto a venture that has changed their lives and the lives of their family members, forever. They began selling red wine and because of its success they’re now selling a white wine blend called Castronovo Pecorino.
“On a visit to Italy, while sitting at a Trattoria, the man next to us noticed us struggling with the wine menu. My wife and I were wine fans, but mostly California, he says in his Italian accent. ‘Let me helpa you witha the Italian Wine Choice.’ We ended up tasting everything in the house, and learning that this man, Eros, exported wine to the U.S.,” Paul explained. “We became fast friends and he took us to a winery the next day, where the family, who thought a major U.S. celebrity was visiting their winery, rolled out the red carpet and the whole family dined with us. The grandma cooked, we ate olives from their trees, cheese from their sheep, homemade pasta and tasted all their wines. At one point, I said, ‘I sure would like to have your wine in the States.’ That’s how it began.”
The wine currently is available in many restaurants and specialty shops including Total Wine, Laurenzo’s Italian Market, all of Doris’s Italian Market & Bakery locations and Publix locations throughout South Florida. “The best way to find the wine is via our website, castronovovineyards.com. Click on find our wine, and put in your zip code,” Paul said.
Paul’s fans know that he would’ve been great had he decided to head to NYC to live-out his dreams of becoming a cast member on Saturday Night Live, but they love and admire him even more for carving out a beautiful life for himself in South Florida. If you’ve listened to Paul you know that his enthusiasm is infectious, and if you’ve met his family – you know they’re really grounded people. If you’d like to find out more information, you can find it on Facebook at either the Paul Castronovo Fan Page or the Castronovo Vineyards Page; or go to these websites/Twitter addresses: paulandyoungron.iheart.com, paulandyoungron.com, wzzr.com, castronovovineyards.com, @Castronovowine or @PaulCastronovo.