Thursday, February 11, 2016

Free Excerpt from The Balding Handbook (Burt Reynolds)

Today is Burt Reynold's birthday, and the author of "The Balding Handbook: 5 Stages of Grieving for Your Hair Loss" would like to offer this free excerpt from his book, as one final plea to Burt. Poor Burt. Stuck in Stage One Denial now for more than 40 years.

TAKEN FROM STAGE ONE DENIAL: "Hell Toupee" (Pages 17-18)

There are two kinds of people in the world that can’t spot a hairpiece: blind people and dead people. You have a beaver on your head. People don’t miss that sort of thing.

Don’t be taken in by those tempting commercials of that guy swimming with his hairpiece. “Look! That guy can go swimming and it looks completely natural!” If you were on-set watching them film the commercial instead of watching it via your two dimensional television, you’d say something completely different. You’d say: “Hey buddy, you have a wet beaver on your head! Better drop that hot chick pretending like she doesn’t notice and run for your life!”

Don’t feel bad. Every single balding man in history has given it some thought. Every single one. Balding folks from all walks of life.

But you know in your heart that they don’t work, don’t you? Think of all the different celebrities you’ve seen wearing toupees in your lifetime. Each and every one of those guys is a gazillionaire and can afford the very best quality hairpiece, and yet, you can still spot their fake hair piles from a mile away.

Are you fooled by Burt Reynolds? He was balding in 1970, and now has a furry rodent living on his head. Although in fairness to Burt, at least he’s chosen to wear a gray one; 70-year-old Marv Albert’s fluffy hedgehog piece is Elvis-black. Looks totally realistic, Marv.

What about Elton John? He was almost completely bald by 1976, and now he has bangs. Greg Gumbel was a balding sportscaster working in Chicago in the 1980s, but has apparently been hit by a hair truck. You can actually see the tape on Sam Donaldson’s head. And William Shatner…dear Lord…your five year mission is, to boldly go where only one other starship captain (Jean Luc Picard) has gone before.

Hairpieces don’t work for those guys, and they won’t work for you. It’s OK to consider it, but the second you do, please understand that you are only doing so because you’re deep in the depths of Stage One Denial. But there is good news here, too. The hairpiece is often the end of the road, the last gasp, the final sign that you’re coming close to overcoming your Denial. Seeing how bad it looks is often the final nail in the Denial coffin.

Mark Your Calendars

Two Eckhartz Press authors will be featured in this production. John Records Landecker will play the narrator, and Joel Daly will be the yodeling cowboy...


It's Almost Time!

Must stay calm. Must stay calm. Must stay calm.

The Art of the Deal

What happens when you get Johnny Depp to play Donald Trump in a fake TV movie from 1989 called "The Art of the Deal".

You can watch it at Funny or Die.

It also stars Ron Howard, Alfred Molina, Robert Morse, Patton Oswalt, Jack McBrayer, Michaela Watkins, Henry Winkler, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Lloyd, Kristen Schaal, Andy Richter, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Tymberlee Hill, Alf, Jordan Coleman, Joe Nuñez, Jeremy Konner, and Kenny Loggins.

It's not just a short. It's a full-length 50-minute film.

Possibly the Best Movie Tease Ever

Sacha Baron Cohen on Kimmel last night teasing his newest movie...I have to see it now.

When the Germans Call You Fascist...

The End

This story is too cool...

Guitars in The End from Alan Michnoff on Vimeo.

Garry Meier Coming March 12

Amy Landecker in the Windy City Times

Another great Amy Landecker interview. This time she is speaking to Chicago's LGBT newspaper, the Windy City Times.

Good stuff, here. She really does a great job in interviews. I know it sounds strange, but it's not so easy being yourself in situations like this. She pulls it off fairly effortlessly.

I can see why her dad is so proud of her.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

10 Years of Blogging: The Loop Interviews

This year marks my 10th anniversary as a blogger, so I've been going through my 30,000+ posts to find some of my favorites to share with you one more time. As you know, I've been interviewing Chicago radio folks for most of that time, and several of those radio folks worked at the Loop at one time or another. I had NO IDEA there were this many though.

Here's just one quote about the Loop from each of them that worked there during the station's heyday (1979--1995). I'm proud to call all of them my friends...

Artie Kennedy was a technical producer for Johnny B...
Artie: Mickey Rooney was in-studio and Carol Harmon (great executive producer with Johnny and still with him in another capacity) and I were laughing at a funny Mickey story about one of his like 8 wives when he suddenly switched into this sentence: "Of course you know my 5th wife Barbara was murdered." Well Carol and I were still laughing about his other wife story and he looks in and sees us laughing and says, "That's not funny...someone was murdered!!" I mean, I got yelled at by Mickey Rooney…a living legend! When Johnny and I e-mail each other these days, one of us has to mention MY 5th Wife Barbara!

Bill Leff was the co-host of a show with Wendy Snyder on the Loop...
Bill: Whenever Danny Bonaduce came to town to do stand-up, he'd have me open for him. Which was strange because when I was little I used to watch him on television, and tell my parents that some day we'd be friends. Strange, huh? Anyway, Danny got hired to work at The Loop. I had been doing stand-up for ten years and my wife and I wanted to have kids, and I didn't want to travel anymore, so I told Danny that if anything ever opened up, please keep me in mind. He instantly went to his bosses Larry Wert and Matt Bisbee, and they paired me up with Wendy Snyder. BRILLIANT MOVE!!!

Bob Stroud was the midday man on the Loop FM for many years...
Bob: It was dangerous. At any given moment anything at all could happen. One day, Tom Thayer and Steve McMichael came into the studio and duct-taped Kevin Matthews to a chair. While Thayer rolled Kevin down Michigan Avenue, McMichael literally took over the show. Stuff like that happened all the time. Remember the time Wiser was sent out to be a rodeo clown by Brandmeier? I can still hear him in that barrel at the rodeo… “Johnny, I’m not kidding around here! This isn’t funny!” The stuff that you producers had to go through was unbelievable.

Bobby Skafish was the afternoon drive disc jockey for ten years...
Bobby: The biggest names always came to the Loop. One of my favorites was the day I talked to Bob Geldof at the Loop the day the Band Aid record, "Do They Know It's Christmas" was released in 1984. That transcended the usual artist-working-his-record conversation.

Brendan Sullivan also worked as a producer for Johnny B...
Brendan: As I recall, we were on the Loop, and one morning the announcement was made that our AM station, which shared our space, WMVP was either going all-sports, or the all-sports concept was being dumped. It's a blur. But people were getting fired that morning and Johnny painted this picture of Nazi Germany with staffers hiding under their desks and stormtroopers marching down the hallways and cleaning out the offices. He told Jeff Hoover and me to 'do something with that.' And so we created Helmut and Wilhelm, who owned the radio stations and ruled with an iron fist. It was really more like Hogan's Heroes. Let me stress that. Helmut and Wilhelm were souless idiots, and that's where the humor came in. For the biggest promotional error I was ever a part of, some beer company sponsor sent us in 'uniform' to some bar in Morton Grove or Skokie. No one there knew that there was a radio promotion going on. They just thought we were Nazis, and they were not happy. We drank heavily and wrapped it up quickly before the riots broke out.

Bruce Wolf was a sportscaster on Brandmeier's and Steve & Garry's show, and for one year co-hosted a show with Steve...
Bruce: It was the second best thing I've ever done in broadcasting. I think I was the only real partner Steve ever had. Granted, I got to be his partner because Garry sacrificed his career and I came in through that little window when Steve was receptive to having someone argue with him on the air. (I mean someone other than Janet.) It was an amazing time. We would sit there for four hours, often with no calls, no guests and, well, nothing to talk about. But it was great. I would throw out all kinds of topics, suggestions, comments. I always felt like we were in Wrigley Field, and I was hitting fungoes out to Steve, who would try to field everything, including foul balls into the grandstand. He'd try to have a comeback for everything and most of the time did. Steve is brilliant. Howard Stern wishes he had Steve's imagination. I think the show was actually better than Steve and Garry...technically, that is. But listening to Steve and Garry was like being around for the invention of the wheel. Nothing will ever compare with that.

Buzz Kilman was the newsman/bluesman for both Steve & Garry and Johnny B...
Buzz: I recognized Johnny was going to be golden the first 30 seconds I heard him. I was walking by Tim Sabean’s or Greg Solk’s office, I can’t remember which, and they were listening to this tape of his show from Phoenix. I’m huge fan of boxing, and this guy on the tape was framing some surprisingly erudite question to Muhammed Ali, and I was impressed at the way he put the question together—and the fact that he had Ali on his show, so I stopped to listen in the hallway. But when the answer came from “Ali,” it sounded like it came from a 12-year-old white kid. That’s what it was—a 12-year-old white kid. This kid knew everything about Ali and was answering the questions totally seriously as if he really was Ali. That Bob & Ray school of comedy is my favorite—and Johnny was like Bob & Ray on crack—especially in those days when he had free reign on the phones. Brandmeier changed the face of radio.

Cara Carriveau started at the Loop on the Kevin Matthews show, but later hosted middays on the Loop FM...
Cara: Dennis DeYoung once sat in on the show with me and I had the most amazing experience of being alone in a room with him while he sang "Come Sail Away" live on the air.

Carla Leonardo worked at the Loop in the late 70s. (Carla sadly passed away a few years ago)...
Carla: The station was one of the coolest places to work at. Patti Haze, Dave Logan, Bill Evans, Tommy O'Toole, and Garry "Mondo" Meier, who was working overnites at the time. All the big bands used to come thru, and those that were definitely on the way up: Van Halen visited on their way to Haymakers! I was morning news/traffic/sidekick to a couple of really great guys: Ken Noble and Les Tracy. I feel lucky to have had a chance to work with them. I also met a young intern there, who later went on to become a brilliant programmer and power in radio, none other than Greg Solk.

Cheryl Raye Stout covered sports for the Loop AM...
Cheryl: I was standing behind the Cubs batting cage and some ladies came up to me. They asked me who I was, and what my job was. They were Hillary Clinton’s assistants. When I told them what I did, they said she would be interested in meeting me. She came to the press box, and I was called over and had a great chat with her.

Chet Coppock hosted "Coppock on Sports" on the Loop AM for many years...
Chet: Think about what we had in those days. We had Brandmeier and Buzz Kilman, Kevin Matthews, Jim Shorts, and Shemp and those guys, Steve & Garry and you and that crew, and Coppock on Sports after that, with our incredible boy-quarium. I really believe for a four or five year period there we had the best radio station in Chicago radio history. We were cutting edge. Every day was a thrill. We were treated like royalty. When I hired Dan McNeil as my executive producer, I was desperate. We were going to go on the air on Monday, and I needed somebody, so I pitched de Castro and Solk and said, look, “hire this guy, and within a year he’ll be able to fill in on the weekends and knock people’s socks off.” I didn’t actually know whether or not it was true, but I knew he was going to bust his hump, that he had a great desire to succeed. It turned out to be true.

Cindy Gatziolis was the promotion director of the Loop during some it's headiest days. (Cindy unfortunately passed away last year)...
Cindy: It was a challenge to say the least to please all the people all the time. YES! Luckily I didn’t have to work alone. Between Larry Wert, a myriad of program directors, my excellent staff and the hard-working, seldom-appreciated producers, we managed to make things work. I do recall one day that was nearly 24 hours, waking up at 3am to be at Dahl & Meier remote, working on all sorts of details for the Brandmeier 10 year anniversary show during the day, resting a couple hours and going to a Danny Bonaduce event that went until about 2am. What made it possible for me to do the job without going insane, is that I believed in those shows, and that goes for all of them…the FM jocks like Skafish and Stroud, and Wendy Snyder who maybe didn’t have the light shining on them as often. There will never be a more perfect job for me than that one and I truly loved all those people.

Dan McNeil was Chet Coppock's Executive Producer...
Dan: I admired Steve Dahl a lot when I started at the Loop in ’88. From him, I observed many things I should do, and a few things I shouldn’t. Chet Coppock taught me the ropes as I was cutting my teeth.

Danny Bonaduce will forever be Danny Partridge, but he really caught lightning in a bottle when he hosted a show on the Loop AM...
Danny: Car Carioke was my all-time favorite bit. I loved that! That was the very best thing I’ve ever done in entertainment talk radio, and the best I ever will do. The Hancock had this eight story spiral ramp going up to the parking garage, and the bit was that you had to come into the car with me and sing a song all the way down while I drove as fast as I could, and if you could do it without screaming, you’d win. No one could ever do it, because I knew something they didn’t. That garage ramp was engineered in such a way that a car couldn’t flip over. And I didn’t care if I scraped it up or dinged it, so I would hit the sides, and sparks would go flying and everybody, and I mean everybody, screamed. Nobody made it down that ramp without screaming. One day Johnny B told me that he thought he could do it, and so I took him down the ramp too. And I went fast, but not real fast, not as fast as I could have gone, and he was singing Happy Birthday or something like that and was doing great until we got to the bottom of the ramp. When we reached the bottom, he saw a woman standing there with a baby carriage, and it was right in our way. Well, I slammed into that baby carriage at full speed, and it went flying through the air, and Johnny B FLIPPED OUT. I mean flipped out! And then the woman, my ex-wife, got the baby carriage and showed Johnny there was a doll in there.

Dave Benson was the music director of the Loop during it's 80s/90s heyday...
Benson: The list of talented and/or crazy people all under one roof was amazing. Steve & Garry, Johnny B, Kevin Matthews, Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish, Patti Haze, Chet Coppock, Ed Schwartz, Tony Fitzpatrick, Wendy Snyder, Stan Lawrence, John Fisher, Sandy Stahl, Bill Evans, Buzz Kilman...It was nearly impossible to get in trouble for saying something outrageous at the Loop. My God, Steve Dahl called Wally Phillips an "ass wipe" on the air! Working at the Loop required that you be ready to defend your turf, verbally or otherwise, at any moment.

Eddie Schwartz was a WGN legend (and frequent on-air target of Loop talent) who surprised everyone by signing with the Loop in the early 90s. (Eddie sadly passed away a few years ago)
Eddie: I loved every minute at WGN, make no mistake. It is a very special place to me. Simply put, when my last contract expired the Loop offered me a job. The facts were presented to my bosses. All they had to do to keep me was was offer me 1 dollar more than the LOOP. They refused to let anything or anybody influence their decisions. They didn't take me seriously because NOBODY ever left. I never expected to myself. I could have put 20 or more years in there easily. I was actually very mad at their stupid gamesmanship. But it also gave me a chance to re-energize myself in a new environment and to work with some great people. I can't say enough about the talent of people like Wendy Snyder, Kathy Voltmer, Johnny B, Mitch Rosen who came with me as producer from WGN and a bunch of other folks who made working there a ton of fun. That includes the former GM and my boss Larry Wert.

Ed Tyll had a stint as the late-night man on the Loop AM in the early 90s...
Ed: Chet’s Coppock's intro to my show used to be three minutes long. It was a riot. He would wind up this huge buildup by calling me BIG ED TYLL, and in would walk in this 5’6, 115 pound guy. Working on the Loop was like being on tour with all famous guys, all the time. I do remember one night when all of us got together for an event on the same night, and it was awesome. They did a poster for Budweiser with all of us, and we came out on stage at the same time. That was something.

Greg Solk was the program director of the Loop for many years, but he actually got his start as Steve & Garry's producer in the late 1970s...
Greg: I interned weekends and summers in 77 and 78, and again, purely by chance one weekend morning in early 1979, I just happened to be at the station when a guy knocked on the door carrying a big box of tapes. He said: “I’m Steve Dahl, and I’m going to be the morning guy starting on Monday.” And I helped him carry his stuff in, and get his tapes ready, and during the process Steve asked if I had any interest to work as a producer on his show. I started right away – and got paid! I was very lucky to work with him. I was still in high school, and here I was working with Steve Dahl. I learned more about radio from him than I learned from anyone, before or since. He taught me the genius of connecting “on an emotional level” with the audience. He’s the smartest radio guy I’ve ever met.

Harry Teinowitz was part of several different shows on the Loop AM...
Harry: One night I was doing a stand up gig at The Improv, and the owner told me that Keith Van Horne and Tom Thayer were doing a show on the Loop and that I should stop by. He said—bring a case of beer—they like that. When I got there they already had a case of beer. I was supposed to be on at 1:00 am, and by 2:00 they hadn’t asked me into the studio yet. I was actually just about to leave when they finally came out and got me. Once I got on the air with them, it went great. The next day I got a call saying that Greg Solk liked me on the show very much.

Jack Landreth briefly produced Kevin Matthews show...
Jack: I would come to learn that Matthews, along with Brandmeier, Steve & Garry, and later on, Bonaduce were talents that would help me focus on what mattered the most….entertaining the audience with compelling content. That’s what mattered most. Years later, I talked to Steve, and thanked him for those years. Every now and then I run into Danny, and love to talk those old “Loop” days.

Jack Silver was the program director of the Loop AM during the early 90s...
Jack: One of the things I learned is that the listeners have a boss too, so if you become a boss that can be made fun of, the listeners seem to absolutely love that. I probably met more of the listeners than any other program director, because they knew me. This whole radio thing is about the listeners, and when you put yourself out there, they go out of their way to meet you. The guys that sit in the offices and don’t get out there are usually the guys who never been on the air, and don’t really understand what a personality is thinking or what they’re dealing with, that moment of panic that can set in when you’re not 100% what you’re going to say next. If you haven’t had that, haven’t experienced that, what good are you?

Jeff Hoover is now a producer for the WGN-TV News, but he got his start on Brandmeier's show...
Hoover: I moved to Chicago in 1991 and didn't get the idea to call in to his show until he had a Jerry Lewis impersonation contest in 1993. Johnny had tickets to see Jerry at the Drury Lane in Oakbrook. I was working at a marketing company and heard this and thought this was my chance to play. I asked the HR manager if I could use her office for a minute and closed the door and made the call. I had never tried to say anything more than "LADY" in the Jerry voice so I was nervous and anxious. Luckily, some of the Second City improv training kicked in when it came to my turn. After riffing about my colostomy bag looking like a Steakum, I won the tickets. Now, this is going to sound really dorky, but the greatest feeling during that first call was making Johnny laugh. I still have the tape and it is great to hear Johnny, Buzz and Robin together. And, to this day, the best thing that I can ever hope to do, is to make people laugh. Jesus, I really sound like Jerry Lewis now.

Jeff Schwartz was the sales manager of the Loop back in the Disco Demolition days...
Schwartz: I was the GSM, but I always involved myself in promotions. I realized it even back then that we weren't just selling numbers. I couldn't sell numbers. I never did. I always sold emotion. And those promotions were part of what I did. Dave Logan was the promotion director in those days, and if you look at the Disco Demolition video you can see him running on the field. He got to do the fun stuff. I had to get on a plane the day after Disco Demolition to calm down our biggest client in Detroit who wanted to cancel all of his advertising after witnessing the spectacle.

Jimmy "Mac" McInerney produced for Kevin Matthews & Johnny B...
Jimmy Mac: Something that made The Loop really cool back then was the camaraderie. There was a large group or us working there and we got to know each other really well. We all were working for the biggest names in the biz back then, and we were all very aware of it. I think we were really into what we were doing. It was very creative, and competitive. I worked on just about every show at The Loop during this time. It wasn’t uncommon for me to actually have my pillow with me because I was spending more time at the studio than at home! The demands and deadlines were always really tight, as is the nature of talk radio. It was a crazy time. We would almost come to blows over studio time…Then we would all go out to Flapjaws on Pearson for beer. Talent, management, producers, interns…We all would hang out, and sometimes even travel together. Whenever I see anyone from the old Loop, I feel like it’s a family reunion.

John Swany Swanson is the producer for Eric & Kathy now, but he got his start working for Brandmeier...
Swany: When I worked for Johnny, I once swam in the Chicago River to win a bet with him. While the Michigan Avenue Bridge was under construction, there was a story in the Sun-Times about a guy who sat in a boat all day to retrieve anything that fell into the river. The only way to get him on the air was to swim out to him. Johnny bet me I couldn't get to him. I didn't quite get there, but it was great radio, even though I almost drowned. About a week or two later, a cab crashed onto the sidewalk and knocked somebody into the river. That same guy in the boat had to retrieve him--so Johnny sent me back out there again. The cab was up on the sidewalk against the rail. Johnny told me he would give me $5000 if I got in the cab and drove it off the bridge. I did get in the cab, which could be heard clearly on the air, but I didn't drive it off. I'm crazy, but I'm not stupid. People still talk to me about that bit, though.

Kevin Matthews was the midday man on the Loop AM and was right in the middle of all the mayhem, but he says it's only the second craziest station he ever worked for, believe it or not...
Kevin: I started at a college station and we were wild too. Our advisor dropped acid and would do two days shows—I swear that station was like the Manson Ranch. But it was so much fun. I learned about music there—everything from John Coltrane to the Sex Pistols. My roommate and I did a show we called the Dos Equis hour. We brought in a case of Dos Equis, drank it live on the air, and played Spanish songs. It was so much fun—probably too much fun. We lost our license when we said that President Lubbers (the President of the University) had been mutilated and killed. They came in like Animal House, took away the license, and turned it into a hair salon. That’s where it started for me. My first station--and we lost our license.

Laura Witek worked as a news anchor for both Kevin Matthews and Steve & Garry...
Laura: I will never forget my very first newscast on the LOOP….Kevin’s show. I hadn’t really listened to him before, (too busy watching/listening to the news!) but I did my homework in the few days I had before I started. Of course, as I listened to his show I thought he had to have some guests…SOME help. He couldn’t really be all those characters, right? When I got to the studio that first day, I was surprised to find only Kevin. So, I start to read the news and proceed to get interrupted by Jimmy, Devon, Bill Cartwright and Raymond Burr. I remember thinking: I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Les Grobstein did sports at the Loop in the early 90s, but he also very very briefly worked there in the late 70s...
Les: I was called in by (news director at the time) Reed Pence at the Loop and a couple of other people over there, and they were interested in having a sportscaster too. That chance died when they put together their deal for Disco Demolition. Part of the deal was Mike Veeck would come in and do what was basically nothing more than a promotional announcement for the White Sox. He did that for about a week and a half before the actual event. Obviously after it blew up in their faces, they dumped the idea. Mike Veeck was out.

Leslie Keiling did traffic on several Loop shows...
Leslie: I was on with Steve and Garry around the time I was getting married. They told everybody I would be wearing red. They also taught me exactly what an on-air team should sound like. Johnny B. = fun. If he was a dog, he'd be a Jack Russell terrier. I'd get within 5 feet of him, and get scared that he'd steal my life force to keep it all going.

Lisa Dominique did traffic on Brandmeier's show for a few years in the early 90s...
Lisa: I have nothing but memories of that time of smiling, giggling, and laughing until my guts ached. What a fabulous and golden time in broadcasting that it was for all of us. Those 'wacky weenies' that listeners would create for Johnny's show and send in for Johnny, Buzz and me were amazingly creative and it was most flattering to have somebody take the time to do something like that for the show with you, in particular, in mind. I still have a cassette tape of about 20 of them about me that Wiser kindly ran off and gave to me. I came across it in 2008 in a shoebox of tapes that I thought had been drowned in a basement flood several years ago. After listening to them (after spending about a week trying to locate a cassette player!), I was flooded with the warm feelings of the good times that we all had together on the Loop and AM 1000.

Matt Bisbee worked at the Loop for the entire hey-day run. He was a jock, production director, and even briefely the program director...
Matt: The fun days were probably the 80s. It seemed like everyone we added to the puzzle made us better and better. Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish and Patti Haze! Some of the best jocks of all-time. Brandmeier, Dahl & Meier, Kevin Matthews—man, what talent. It was a special moment in time that you couldn't recreate if you tried…although I guess they're trying now. It's hard to restart that fire, though, because it wasn't just the great on-air talent. With Decastro walking the hallway, and Greg Solk, and then later Larry Wert, even the management was well-known, entertaining, and special. It was an unbelievable collection of people, between the AM and the FM. People are what make a radio station great, and we had great people.

Mitch Michaels did the afternoon cruise on the Loop in the late 70s/early 80s...
Mitch: It is hard to describe how big the Loop was in those days. It seemed like it was everywhere. I had worked at some big stations, but nothing like this. I think the marketing plan, the music, the air-talent, everything was just perfect for that time and place. The t-shirts, the Lorelei commercials, obviously Dahl & Meier, and that whole Coho Lips thing, it was just all over the place. I actually found one of those old coho lips buttons in my basement the other day. I distinctly remember one time I was driving in to work. I was living in Oak Park at the time, and it was this time of year. Everyone had the windows in their cars rolled down. At every single stoplight I pulled up alongside another car that was listening to the Loop. One after the other. It was amazing. Everyone was listening.

Mitch Rosen now runs WXRT and the Score, but he came to the Loop with Eddie Schwartz in the early 90s...
Mitch: At that time the Loop was the coolest station in America, and I was thrilled that Eddie asked me to go along for the ride. The truth is I didn't know it was the Loop until the day before he announced he was going there. I really thought we were going to WLS. I never imagined for a second that The Loop was the next stop on The Eddie Tour. I can still remember his call to me when it was close to being official. (Now try to imagine this in Eddie's high pitched voice). He said: “Kid, were going to the LOOP!!” I said "Really?" He said it was going to be fun and all the big boy personalities were on board. Larry Wert did something that I will never forget. He sent Eddie a box of hats; one for Brandmeier, Dahl and Meier, and Kevin Matthews, and a note that said throw your hat in the ring. Eddie never forgot that. We went in open minded about the personalities and their treatment of Eddie over the years, but the guys really treated him great. He felt cool. One of the funniest nights was the night that Kevin and Dahl sent a stripper to the studio to surprise big Ed. Ed quickly put on one of his 15 minutes jazz instrumentals.

Pugs Moran worked on several Loop shows, most notably Kevin Matthews...
Pugs: I was kept sequestered from Kevin for the first month or so. Then one day while working in the green room, the one with the great window view on 37, Kev walks in eating a homemade sandwich from a brown paper bag. He just stood over me staring for what felt like hours but was probably as long as it took him to chew. I was frozen at the idea that the most creatively gifted guy I had ever heard was looming over me. I expected his first words to be something hysterical, something that would come from way out in left field. He finally said, “Hey bud, you want half of my sandwich”? That was first contact, then the next morning while listening from the office I remember hearing Jim say “hey Kev, who is that fat kid that’s always hanging around?” I became the fat kid that would do “anything for the show”. I was pure slapstick and I don’t know if any of it was funny but I know one thing, I made Kevin laugh and to me that was the golden wonka ticket. If we all have a radio family we spring from then mine is, Kev, Mitch, Geli, Peggy, Swanny, Dorothy and my big brother always the late and loved Doc.

Robin Baumgarten is the morning anchor on WGN-TV News now, but she got her start on Brandmeier's show...
Robin: I have such fond memories of that show – Johnny is the best. I was new to the business, and Johnny, Buzz Kilman, and Bruce Wolf were all so accommodating about making me part of the team. It was a blast going to work every day. One of my favorite memories is of the Donny Osmond/Danny Bonaduce fight that Johnny organized at the old China Club. He brought in the late, great Jack Brickhouse as an analyst. As Jack was waiting to go onstage, and I was waiting a few feet behind him, he turned his head and “hocked a lugey” over his shoulder and it landed right on my shoe. No matter what else I do in this business, I'll forever be known as the girl that got “lugeyed” by Jack Brickhouse. A true honor.

Roman Sawczak was Steve & Garry's producer in the mid-80s...
Roman: A lot of celebrities came through the studio but I will never forget Warren Zevon. He was the only person ever allowed by Steve and Garry to smoke in the studio. That's how much they respected and were in awe of his visit. I had the honor of co-hosting when the boys were on hiatus with people like Joe Walsh, Richard Belzer, Richard Lewis and many others. Of course there's the time Janet was out of town and entrusted me to stay at the house with Steve. We ended up staying out all night and Steve could not make it to the station for the show. He called Garry and did segments over the phone. Garry was not a happy man.

Scott Dirks was the overnight guy at the Loop FM for many years, beginning in the late 70s...
Scott: When I started out at the college station I became friends with another one of the jocks there, and we followed almost identical paths for a while – he ended up working weekend overnights at WMET, when I was doing the same shifts at the Loop. The Loop and WMET were bitter rivals in a legendary rock radio war, but he and I were friends, and lived not too far from each other. We’d carpool to work together, or meet after we got off in the air in the morning and go have breakfast somewhere. While we were on the air we’d usually get each other on the phone and have these epic all-night conversations to keep each other awake and on our toes through the overnight shift. One New Years Eve we were both scheduled to start work at midnight, so we met up a little earlier, toasted the New Year with a drink or two, and then went to work. For me it was just a slightly sloppier than usual airshift, but when he got to work, he kept drinking, and eventually decided it would be a good idea to throw the ‘more rock and less talk’ format out the window, and do very lengthy on-air commentary about the state of the radio business, share his thoughts on various other people on the air, his bosses, etc. I’d made plans to drive him home that morning. When I get there, and there are listeners wandering up and down the halls of the radio station, the studio door was propped open and people were just walking in and out, and the unscheduled talk show has taken a somewhat less than G-rated turn. I stood in the studio and basically watched this guy commit career suicide for the last hour of what, as you might imagine, was his last shift in Chicago.

Stan Lawrence was a regular contributor to the Steve & Garry show, and later co-hosted the Best of Steve & Garry (with me) and Ebony & Ivory...
Stan: When Steve went to the Loop (in 1979) and starting doing the show with Garry, they had a contributor named “The Prince” who called in pretty regularly. Well, apparently he became a bit of a nuisance, and they were looking for somebody else. One day Steve was talking about the boat people living in the Orange Bowl in Miami. He said that he wanted to get one of them to be his housekeeper. I called in to say “Yeah, I bet you do. You want to get between those golden arches, don’t you?” He had never heard that term before, thought it was funny, and gave me the coveted hotline number. I’ve been a contributor to the show ever since.

Steve Cochran worked at the Loop in the mid-90s...
Steve: The Loop was probably the most fun of any station I worked at because of the incredible line up. I was there at the tail end of it, but at one point it was Johnny, Kevin, Danny and me during the day, and just to be a part of that was great. To work with Jimmy de Castro, who really is a genius, and Larry Wert, that was a heck of an experience.

Terry Gibson was the overnight jock on the Loop-FM in the late 80s...
Terry: Steve & Garry were celebrating their 10-year anniversary together. I had the bright idea of writing a parody song about their ten years together, and I dragged Wendy into it with me. After I got off the air one morning, and turned it over to Johnny B, Wendy, Mike Davis (known on the air as “Igor”), and me went into the production studio to record the song. We’re not exactly great singers, but that didn’t matter to us. It was really more about the lyrics—a tribute to Steve & Garry. Well, somehow Johnny B (photo) got wind of us doing this, and put our studio on the air while we were singing. We had no idea we were on the air. Johnny thought it was hysterical, so he called Steve up on the phone. Mind you, this was 6:15 in the morning. Steve was out cold when Johnny called, and he wasn’t happy about being awakened. I heard the tape later, he said: “Johnny, I don’t do mornings anymore, babe.” Anyway, it took Steve a long time to figure out that the song was about him, but he wasn’t quite getting the concept because he was so groggy. After he hung up, Johnny called into the production room and Wendy answered. He told her that the entire thing had been live on the air. We were mortified. I could feel the red in my cheeks. By then though, we had finished the song. I was listening that afternoon when Steve & Garry played it on the air, and all the embarrassment we felt that morning was worth it.

Vince Argento is the production director of the Loop today, but he got his start on Steve & Garry's show. He was their producer the day they broke up...
Vince: After Garry’s wedding he was gone for two weeks and we all assumed he was going to be back that next Monday. That morning Steve called me on the producer’s line, and I told him “Garry must be late. He’s not even here yet,” and Steve said “I don’t think he’s coming Vinnie.” I’ll be honest with you; I don’t really remember what we did on the show that day. We were in all in a fog. At some point, they pulled Steve off the air, because they were worried that he was going to say something that would mess up the chances of getting them back together—so Stony and I hosted the Best of Steve & Garry while they negotiated behind the scenes. Every single local news outlet was reporting that they broke up—there were reporters in the lobby, in the hallway, and here’s me and Stony on the air...we had no idea what to do. When they finally decided what to do, Garry got his own show mid-days on the Loop FM, and Steve was put on mornings on the AM along with Leslie (Keiling), Laura Witek (photo), and I believe Les Grobstein. I stayed with Steve.

Wendy Snyder got her start at the Loop as an FM jock. She later worked with Kevin Matthews, Brandmeier, and both Steve & Garry...
Wendy: Here I was, 23 years old and working at the same station as Jonathon Brandmeier, Buzz Kilman, Steve and Garry, Kevin Matthews, Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish, Patti Haze--I grew up listening to many of these people and now I was working with them. Too cool. Later on, throw in a Danny Bonaduce, Chet Coppock, Eddie Schwartz, ’85 Bears Tom Thayer and Keith Van Horne, Artist Tony Fitzpatrick, Stan Lawrence, and Rick Kaempfer. It really was a blast back then….one big happy family. And, of course, the Loop is where I met my future husband, Jimmy “Mac” McInerney.

Of course, that wasn't the only Loop wedding. I also met my future wife Bridget working there in 1988. This coming November we'll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.

Around the Publishing World (February 10)

At Chicago Author Solutions (a division of Eckhartz Press), we stay on top of happenings/trends in the publishing world to help out busy writers who are spending their time doing what they should be doing: writing.

1. How to Be Creative (Tips from Picasso, Einstein, Stephen King)
You can always learn from the greats. This was in a recent issue of Time Magazine.

2. How to Gain Followers on Instagram
Instagram is a very visual social media, so it's not perfect for all authors. For authors of more visually-oriented books, however, it's a must. This article has some good tips about how to increase your instagram presence.

3. Amazon to put final nail in B&N coffin?
Interesting note. Barnes and Noble has lost approx 60% of it's value in the last 6 months. They have 76 million shares outstanding at approx $7.40 share. This means that the company is valued at about $600 million, while Amazon is worth approx $250 Billion. Amazon could buy (or initiate a hostile take over) B & K with .2 % asset allocation. Tick tock, Barnes and Noble. Now Amazon is launching retail outlets too.

4. Kindle cracks down on e-book quality
For those of you who don't follow the whole Kindle world, there's a movement that tracks free e-books and promotes them. Many Kindle readers used to sniff at paying anything at all for an e-book because so many of them were free. Ah, but you get what you pay for, don't you? The quality was often horrible. Not just content-wise, but also formatting-wise. Authors tried to do it themselves to save money and made lots and lots of mistakes. It's gotten so bad that amazon has been forced to crack down.

5. A great interview with Adam McKay, the man who transformed "The Big Short" into a motion picture
The Big Short is a great book by Michael Lewis. It's now also a great film. Adam McCay is the man who transformed it into a movie, and this feature in the Washington Post is a great read.

In Appreciation of Bob & Ray

Ken Levine is one of the all-time great sitcom comedy writers, and his blog is a must read for geeks for me. Today he pays tribute to comedy greats Bob & Ray.

You can read it here.

Glenn Frey Tribute

The Grammy's will pay tribute to Glenn Frey, according to this piece in Entertainment Weekly.

The Eagles and Jackson Browne will perform "Take it Easy" during the broadcast. I was just saying to my family the other night that there was no need to watch the Grammy's this year (We had just seen the promo--nothing of interest to a geezer like me). This news changes it for me.

Radio Still Making Money

From this morning's Tom Taylor column...

Chicago radio’s top ten billers for 2015 –All-news/Cubs baseball WBBM/WCFS (CBS) remains #1, up from $39,215,000 to $43,827,000., Second is Hubbard’s hot AC “Mix” WTMX, up 3.1% to $31,875,000. Third is Tribune’s talk WGN, down 16.1% to $24,540,000. Fourth is urban AC “V103,” the first of the iHeart-owned stations, and it’s up substantially (+22.2%). WVAZ improved from 2014’s $19,515,000 to $23,857,000. Fifth is iHeart’s top 40 “Kiss 103.5” WKSC, also up double digits (+11.5%), to $22,502,000. The second five begins with CBS’ all-sports “Score” WSCR, off just slightly to $21,886,000. (A reminder here that the Cubs are shifting to the Score from all-news WBBM.) Seventh is CBS-owned rhythmic “B96” WBBM-FM, down 11.7% to $20,034,000. Eighth is Univision’s regional Mexican WOJO, gaining 5.4% to $19,483,000. Ninth is iHeart’s urban WGCI, down 4.7% to $17,324,000. And tenth is CBS Radio’s country “US 99.5” WUSN, perhaps showing the effects of a new format rival and budget cuts. It’s down nearly 20%, to $16,960,000. Just outside the top ten is another strong-performing iHeart station, hot AC/all-Christmas WLIT, up 15.8% to $14,621,0000. Twelfth is CBS radio’s adult alternative WXRT, off 21.3% to $13,318,000. And thirteenth is SBS-owned regional Mexican “La Ley” WLEY-FM, up a whopping 42.2% to $12,224,000. Cumulus had a solid year with the adult alternative station it LMAs from Merlin. WKQX jumped 47.3% to $11.5 million. Though its classic rock sister “Loop” WLUP was off 1.6% to just below $5.5 million. Of the stations Cumulus owns, its talk WLS ranked seventeenth, down 14.7% to about $8.1 million. Classic hits WLS-FM improved 26.1% to just shy of $6.9 million.

Van Halen

On this day in 1978, Van Halen released their very first album. I was a fan immediately. They toured Germany the following year. (It was still called "West Germany" back then). I lived in Heidelberg at the time, and my buddy and I took the train to Ludwigshafen to see them perform. I'm pretty sure I damaged my hearing that night...

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

"Monkey in the Middle" by Dobie Maxwell

Announcing our newest Eckhartz Press book: "Monkey in the Middle" by comedian Dobie Maxwell

For years Dobie Maxwell has been told that his incredible life story should be a book. This is it. Dobie was born in Milwaukee, to a biker father and drug abusing mother. When he was only five months old, his mother abandoned him and his two older siblings. Dobie was separated from his siblings and sent to be raised by his paternal grandparents. It was there, in his grandparents’ neighborhood, that Dobie befriended another societal misfit. The two became best friends.

Years later as Dobie pursued his dream as a professional comedian and radio personality, that same “friend” robbed a local bank. He used Dobie as his unknowing getaway driver as they took a cross country trip to Las Vegas in a rental car in Dobie’s name. The same friend robbed the same bank again two years later. This time he did it disguised as a Gorilla Gram–a robbery so audacious it made all the local television news programs. Who would have done such a thing? Law enforcement thought it just might be the work of a comedian, and all trails led to Dobie.

Dobie was dragged into the story against his will, and eventually had to make the excruciating choice of either testifying against his life-long friend in court or going to prison for crimes he did not commit.

Monkey in the Middle is hilarious, tragic, joyous, dark, and smart. In short, it’s just like the real life narrator of the story; Dobie Maxwell himself.

Monkey in the Middle is available for pre-order now! It ships on March 14th.

Lisa and Ray

Last night Ray Stevens posted this on Facebook about his buddy (and US-99 co-host) Lisa Dent, who is in Nashville getting recognized as an inductee in the Country Radio Hall of Fame...

"To be nominated for the country music Hall of fame is unreal, but when they send you the paper work and you don't fill it out you don't get inducted (Me). My pal Lisa Dent did, and she's in. This article was done by another longtime friend Rick Kaempfer. It sums up the day Lisa got the news. I was told to wait and management would tell her later that day. This is a woman who has shared my highest highs and lowest lows. When you're doing radio with a partner, it's that person you live and die with, not the suits. This read sums up the day Lisa got the news. Needless to say she got the news from me over her favorite dirty martini."

Thanks Ray, and congrats to Lisa!

Super Bowl Ratings

Before the game all the experts were predicting it would be the highest rated show of all time.

Close. It was third.

111.9 million people tuned in.

How Low Can You Go?

This really happened at a Donald Trump rally last night. A woman (that's right, a woman) screamed out a phrase while Trump was ripping Ted Cruz. What did she yell?

"He's a pussy!"

And how did Donald Trump respond? He made her repeat it. And just in case not everyone in the joint heard her, he repeated it too. And then, with a smirk on his face, pretended to be offended by it.

And the crowd cheered wildly.

Making America great again.

A Jeb in Winter

Samantha Bee's new show debuted with this little film about Jeb...

Bill Veeck

From Just One Bad Century...

~February 9, 1914
Wrigley Field (then known as Weeghman Park) was just a few months away from opening its doors for the first time when a boy was born to Chicago sportswriter Bill Bailey and his wife. Bailey’s real last name was Veeck, and he named his son after himself, William Veeck Jr. The elder Veeck became the president of the Cubs when Bill Jr. was still a little boy, and was probably the greatest innovator of his time. He was the first man to bring Ladies Day to the big leagues, and was the first to realize how important it was to broadcast the games on the radio (The Cubs were the first team to do so). While other teams were afraid of giving away the product for free–Veeck Sr. saw it for what is was–a free 3 hour commercial for the team and the ballpark.

At the age of 11, young Bill started helping out his dad at the ballpark. He worked on the grounds crew, as an office boy, and a vendor. (Photo: Bill with manager Joe McCarthy) As a fifteen year old kid, he was taking care of the Ladies’ Day passes at Wrigley Field by day, and was tagging along with baseball hero Hack Wilson to the speakeasies in Cicero by night.

“With a father who ran a ball club, my boyhood was the kind most kids dream about,” Veeck says in his autobiography. It’s no wonder that Wrigley Field meant so much to him. Young Bill wasn’t only hanging out with famous ballplayers like Wilson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Charlie Grimm, he really felt like he was part of the team. After his father died in 1933, Veeck quit college to work for the Cubs full-time. He eventually rose to the job of Treasurer, but when he wasn’t given the job of President a few years later, he moved on (in 1941). His most lasting accomplishment at Wrigley Field is something that still draws fans into the ballpark seventy years later…the ivy on the walls. Veeck was the one that planted the ivy in 1937.

In his final years Veeck re-adopted the Chicago Cubs. He was a frequent sight at Wrigley Field, often found sitting in the bleachers without a shirt. He had owned several different teams in his long baseball career (The Browns, the Sox, the Indians, and the Brewers), but when he could go to any ballpark in the big leagues in any town in America, there was only one ballpark he came to again and again as a fan. He came home to his favorite place; the place of his childhood dreams, Wrigley Field.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Adam McKay Interview

Adam McKay is the director of "The Big Short", which has been nominated for five Academy Awards. After reading this incredible interview in the Washington Post, I absolutely have to see this movie. It's a long piece, but it's really illuminating. Highly recommended.

McKay spent his formative comedic years here in Chicago working at Second City and as part of the improv comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade. I met him once or twice in those days, although I'm sure he has no memory of that. It's not like we had long conversations or anything. He's a friend of my co-author (of "The Living Wills") Brendan Sullivan. Brendan sent him a copy of our book when it first came out.

I'm rooting for McKay. He's one of the good guys.

Free Excerpt: Joel Daly Commentary February 8, 1974

Joel Daly's book "The Daly News" is a great chronicle of a very interesting and tumultuous time in Chicago history. One of the best parts of the book, is when Joel dips into his archive of commentaries. He did them every night for ten years and won several Emmy's for his work. This one was delivered on this date in 1974. It was the last day of NASA's Apollo program...

The problem with being a dreamer is that you tend to close your eyes, and, for me, the space program, which came to an end today, was the “stuff” of which dreams are made.

Forty-one Americans ventured into the black frontier during the past decade, and they all returned. Their achievements were generally measured in technological terms: how far, how fast, how much.

But, I was more fascinated with the human adventure.

For every flight, every mission, including the one that ended today, succeeded only because man was there, still the most flexible, adaptive, non-mechanized creature to come along.

I remember when Neil Armstrong took that “giant step for mankind,” when he put his footprints on the moon, I sat up all night trying to find the right words:

“By reaching for the planets,” I concluded, “Man reaches beyond himself and takes another giant stride away from the primeval caves, where he first learned fear, and the feuding tribes, where he first learned war. By conquering space, he conquers himself.”

But, I was wrong. I was dreaming! The space program was primarily an engineering feat, quickly forgotten, and, in the final phases, almost ignored.

But it’s my hunch that, say, 10,000 years from now, it won’t be Watergate or the energy crisis that will dominate the history of this era. It will be our achievement in space, man’s first tentative steps into the foothills of the Universe.

History? Ten thousand years from now? Perhaps, that, too, is the mark of a dreamer.

Carpool Karioke

James Corden is riding this bit, and for good reason. It's a winner. He's done lots of them, but saved Elton John for Super Bowl Sunday. I couldn't stay up to watch it, but I looked it up this morning...

Trump Valentine

Think Bridget will like this one?

There are nine more at I have to admit, they made me laugh.

Re-examining Figures from History through today's Mental Health Lens

This piece in the New York Post is actually quite good. (That's a sentence I've never written before)

It takes a new look at some notorious figures from history. Was Howard Hughes OCD? Andy Warhol a hoarder? Albert Einstein on the autism spectrum?

Definitely worth a read.

Bern Your Enthusiasm

This was probably the best bit on SNL with Larry David. Bernie himself showed up in a later (not nearly as funny) bit.

My Favorite Commercial

I thought the commercials were subpar this year, but this one is my favorite...

The Real Super Bowl Controversy

If you've ever been to Vegas during a Super Bowl, you know that you can bet on absolutely anything. You can bet on the coin flip, the number of turnovers, the name it.

One of the things you can bet on is the length of the National Anthem. This year the betting line for Lady Gaga was 2:20. How long did the National Anthem last?

That's the controversy. The Washington Post has the controversial details.

Friday, February 05, 2016


What is a TRUS? From Google...

"A transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) is an ultrasound technique that is used to view a man's prostate and surrounding tissues. The ultrasound transducer (probe) sends sound waves through the wall of the rectum into the prostate gland, which is located directly in front of the rectum."

Now look at Ted Cruz' logo again...

Can't take credit for discovering that. It was sent to me by "JF", who found it at the Daily Kos. I make no political judgements. Just thought it was funny.

You Just Can't Trust Hired Killers Anymore

This story in the Washington Post is amazing. I can't do it justice with a recap. Check out this incredibly well-written lede...

Noela Rukundo sat in a car outside her home, watching as the last few mourners filed out. They were leaving a funeral — her funeral. Finally, she spotted the man she’d been waiting for. She stepped out of her car, and her husband put his hands on his head in horror.

“Is it my eyes?” she recalled him saying. “Is it a ghost?”

“Surprise! I’m still alive!” she replied.

Far from being elated, the man looked terrified. Five days earlier, he had ordered a team of hit men to kill Rukundo, his partner of 10 years. And they did — well, they told him they did. They even got him to pay an extra few thousand dollars for carrying out the crime. Now here was his wife, standing before him. In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Rukundo recalled how he touched her shoulder to find it unnervingly solid. He jumped. Then he started screaming.

Read the article to see the rest of the story. It's really something.

New Zealand Politics

Our politicians are often mocked, heckled, and booed, but they take it to another level in New Zealand.

Watch this politician get hit with a dildo during a press conference.

Not sure exactly what the point is, but I did get a kick out of it.

Sir Van Morrison

This has to be a strange feeling for these old rockers. They spend their whole lives as rebels...and then they get a call from Buckingham Palace. You, sir, are now a knight.

Van Morrison was so honored yesterday. From the BBC...
The 70-year-old said he had a brief chat with Prince Charles as he received his award and was asked about his future plans.

"He was just saying, was I still writing? And he said: 'You're not going to retire any time soon?' And I said: 'No, I'm not, I'm going to keep it going while I can'."

Asked if fans could still call him Van The Man now that he has a knighthood, the singer laughed and said "Well, take your pick".

Morrison grew up in Belfast, where his father, a shipyard worker, was said to have had one of the best record collections in the city.

I will never tire of listening to Morrison's incredible vocals...

Megyn Kelly's $10 Million Book Deal

That's not a typo in the headline. Megyn Kelly seriously just signed a $10 million book deal to write her memoirs.

She should send at least a portion of that to Donald Trump, shouldn't she?

Beatles Meme

This one comes from "WB". I agree wholeheartedly...

No words necessary

Thanks to "DM" for this one...

RIP Maurice White

Another one is gone too soon. Maurice White was the leader of Earth, Wind & Fire. He was only 74 years old.

This one is my favorite Earth, Wind, & Fire song...for obvious reasons.

Strange story about Maurice White involving John Records Landecker. In the 70s when Earth, Wind & Fire was at their peak, Landecker was doing a segment called "Boogie Check" every night on WLS Radio. It involved answering the phones in rapid-fire fashion while unscreened teenagers would say whatever came to their mind. In the 90s John met the leader of the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan. Corgan said: "John Landecker! I used to call Boogie Check when I was kid--pretending to be Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire." True story. (It's in the book "Records Truly Is My Middle Name")

As the Sumner Turns

Another day, another chairmanship taken away from the aging ailing Sumner Redstone. From the RAMP Newsletter...

Less than 24 hours after the ailing Sumner Redstone resigned as Chairman of CBS Corporation and handed those reins over to CBS Pres. & CEO Les Moonves, the company announced that Redstone has also relinquished his Chairmanship of Viacom, Inc., passing the baton to his longtime colleague, Viacom President & CEO Philippe Dauman. Redstone now assumes the role of Viacom Chairman Emeritus, the same role he now inhabits at CBS. Whatever transpired behind closed doors in yesterday's Viacom Board meeting obviously overruled yesterday's highly publicized objections from Redstone's daughter, Non-Executive Vice Chair Shari Redstone, who, along with Dauman, are among the seven members of a trust that will eventually inherit Sumner Redstone's shares in National Amusements, the umbrella company through which he runs both CBS and Viacom. On Wednesday Shari commented, "It is my firm belief that whoever may succeed my father as chair at each company should be someone who is not a trustee of my father's trust or otherwise intertwined in Redstone family matters, but rather a leader with an independent voice." According to an account in Variety, while Sumner Redstone "voted" (Rick's note: my quotes) in favor of Dauman's elevation at yesterday's board meeting, Shari Redstone did not. She was the only dissenting member of the board, said a source familiar with the proceedings.

Looks like Sumner's daughter doesn't trust Dauman either, but then again, her feelings toward her father are "complicated" at best. Remember, Dauman was chosen to be her father's guardian instead of her--which is profoundly weird. I'm not prone to sympathy or empathy when it comes to Sumner Redstone because of his life-long ruthless and unrepetant greed...but I can't help it. I feel sorry for the old vegetable. It's a real-life "Rosebud" Citizen Kane ending, isn't it?

Is Ron Magers Retiring?

Robert Feder reports this morning that insiders at Channel 7 (WLS-TV) are saying that Ron Magers will be announcing his retirement...

Insiders at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 said Magers, 71, could step down as soon as this summer, if all goes as planned. The move is believed to be entirely voluntary by Magers, who’s widely regarded as the best in the business and still at the top of his game.

You can read the whole article here.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Bill Cochran interview: Great Moments in Vinyl

Bill Cochran has been one of the great radio production voices in Chicago for decades (WXRT, WNUA), but he is also the leader of Great Moments in Vinyl. It's a unique project to say the least. He and his band perform great albums from rock history from beginning to end. On Tuesday night February 23rd, they are performing Tom Petty's "Damn the Torpedoes" and "Full Moon Fever" at Martrys in Chicago. (Ticket information below). Last night I got a chance to chat with him about the band and the show...

Tell the story of how you came up with the idea for this project.

Bill: Great Moments in Vinyl is the culmination of a lot of things. The earliest origins can be traced to my passion for music pure and simple. I’ve been listening to music in all its shapes and forms my entire life, and I love sharing songs I’m excited about with other people.

About six years ago I started hanging out at The Old Town School of Folk Music, and I found myself surrounded by all these amazing musicians who were teaching classes there—on Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Steely Dan—and it occurred to me that since they knew how to play all this different music, maybe I could build a series of shows with these talented people. So for each new Great Moments in Vinyl performance, I ask around my circle of musicians for ideas about whom to recruit for the lineup for each show. I work quite regularly with guitarist Richard Pettengill who to my knowledge has never met a riff he cannot play. I also turn frequently to vocalist/guitarist aerin tedesco for musical ideas and personnel suggestions. There’s a regular roster of musicians I’ve brought on board as we’ve gone along. But I also make it a point of recruiting people I’ve never worked with before for each new show in order to help spread the word about the band throughout the music scene and to bring new fans to the performances.

And then there’s the storytelling aspect of these shows. I’ve been to too many gigs where the band has gotten the crowd in their corner, but then they take so long to get the next song going, the audience starts chatting or moving around or ordering drinks. I figured I could fill that time with stories about the songs and the artists and hold the crowd’s attention as well as give them insights about the music they were listening to. And really, the stories do give you a new appreciation of the music. Like learning that on Led Zeppelin’s second album, Robert Plant composed lyrics about a woman he was wrestling over whether or not to have an affair with. One difficulty was that he was married at the time. But the more major obstacle might have been that the woman in question was his wife’s younger sister.

“What Is and What Should Never Be” indeed!

How else is it different from a typical bar cover band experience?

Bill: I think of ourselves as fans of the albums we play. And when we get onstage, we’re just sharing our excitement for those songs with other fans of those albums. It reminds me of growing up listening to records with my friends. When the singer or the guitarist did something cool, you’d look at each other and go, “Whoa! Did you hear that?”

So that passion is what I hope we convey first and foremost. We don’t try to replicate the albums note for note and nuance for nuance. Because then you’re inviting the audience to listen for the places you don’t get it right. Instead we want our crowds to get caught up on how cool it is to hear these songs live.

The major difference, though, is that a Great Moments in Vinyl show is a narrated concert. You’ll hear the songs you remember from an album performed with passion. But you’ll also learn a thing or two that’ll make you hear the music in a new way. We haven’t done a Joni Mitchell show yet, but one of her songs from Hejira sticks with me because it was written about a friend who at that point in the ‘70s had gotten married and started a family. At the time the record came out, it seemed like a fanciful bit of wistfulness about what it might have been like to settle down. We come to find decades later that Ms. Mitchell had herself given birth to a child when she was young and given it up for adoption. And suddenly “Song for Sharon” becomes a much more poignant reflection on the road not taken.

How do you decide on an artist (generally) and what made you pick these two Tom Petty albums specifically?

Bill: In the past, it’s been as simple as asking amongst ourselves, “Well, what album would you like to do?”

I’d spent two years rehearsing prog rock songs in a friend’s basement with no performances to show for it so that inspired me to put together a Pink Floyd set (that I loosely referred to as before and after Dark Side of the Moon): Meddle and Wish You Were Here.

Sometimes a chance remark or spontaneous groove will pave the way to a future show. While rehearsing for one of our R. E. M. sets, I happened to pick out the bass riff to “Walking on the Moon.” Our drummer joined right in and said that if we ever wanted to perform The Police, count him in. So two shows later, we did.

Then, at one of those Police rehearsals, vocalist Peter Andreadis threw out the idea of doing a Michael Jackson show someday. When I got the idea to hire some dancers for the dance floor to take that set to the next level, we started making plans for an Off the Wall/Thriller concert that fall.

This year, we’re exploring the idea of inviting established artists to step into the spotlight for the shows that we brainstorm together. Chicago singer Phil Angotti is bringing his Tom Petty tribute experience to our upcoming Damn the Torpedoes/Full Moon Fever show. Then in March, the duo Congress of Starlings (aerin tedesco and Andrea Bunch) will make our Indigo Girls show come together.

And of course, there’s a little common sense applied to our choices, too. We take a look at how well an album has sold. And whether or not it really has enough songs on it that would be familiar to an audience. And fun to play.

How much rehearsal time is needed for each show?

Bill: Ha! That’s hard to answer! No matter how many times we get together, I always wish we could have one more run through.

Any favorites?

Oh, man! After two and half years of performances and something like 17 completely different shows, there have been so many amazing highlights. Working with a small string section to play the Paul Buckmaster arrangements for the Elton John albums we did. Having our lead singer aerin tedesco surprise the audience by shaving her head completely for our Sinéad O’Connor performance. Hearing singer Judith Weirauch belt out the Janis Joplin vocal to “Ball and Chain.” Rehearsing the Police album Synchronicity and getting to hear guest vocalist Miki Greenberg's over the top performance of “Mother” for the first time. (There comes a time in every series of rehearsals when we realize that we’re going have a great show to present. And for the Police rehearsals, that was the moment.) The first time we ran through our Janis Joplin set with a horn section (for the Kozmic Blues numbers) we all got chills. Playing "Moonlight Mile” live (with strings, of course) to close out our Rolling Stones show. But probably one of the best moments in this whole series was when we did Michael Jackson’s Thriller on Halloween week. As the title track kicked into high gear, the zombie dancers appeared and the place went nuts!

And those are just the performance highlights. I’m so invested in the power of the storytelling aspect of every show that I’m especially gratified when the tales I tell about the artist and the music hit home. Feeling the audience wince when I introduced Sinéad O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds,” a song about racially motivated police brutality in 1980s Britain, by dedicating it to Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland, and Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner of New York City, and Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio, and others.

Or sensing their simpatico when I talked about Patti Smith writing her album Horses for the “alienated teenagers, sensitive waifs, and artistic misfits,” the people who discovered that record when they were young and held onto it for dear life. “They were my people,” she said. “They were exactly the people I had in mind. I wrote Horses for Michael Stipe. I wrote Horses for Morrissey. And they found it.''

Or hearing them laugh when I reported that Bernie Taupin moved into the family home of Reginald Dwight and shared a bunkbed with him when they were just launching the career of Elton John...and that just for the record, Bernie was on top and Reg was on the bottom.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Bill. Where can people get tickets?

Bill: Martyrs’ sells tickets through their Calendar page.

For more information, check out the band website or their Facebook event page.

RIP Bob Elliot

There's a nice write-up about Bob Elliot from Bob & Ray in the New York Times this morning.

It's hard to overstate how big of a star he was back in the network radio days. Bob & Ray were one of the most important comedy teams of the entire century.

There are a million more of their bits on Youtube. I had to stop myself from watching because I would have been doing it all day. I absolutely love their dead pan delivery.

RIP Bob. Back together again with Ray.

The People Vs. OJ Simpson

Are you watching this mini-series on FX? I rolled tape and watched it last night. It's actually quite good. As someone who followed the trial ridiculously closely (I was writing jokes and songs about it every morning), I think it's a very fair and accurate representation of how it went down. At least so far. The ratings were huge, by the way. Highest rated drama premiere in the network's history.

Gracious Loser

Everyone wondered what would happen to "winner" Donald Trump if he ever lost. This was something he tweeted yesterday...

Both teams are already in their respective locker rooms and Bobby Knight is still yelling at the referees. There's no instant replay in politics, pal.

Sumner Steps Down

This was a long-time coming. From the Daily News...

With questions about his physical and mental health swirling, aging billionaire Sumner Redstone has resigned as executive chairman of CBS Corp. and will be replaced by Leslie Moonves. Moonves was nominated by Redstone's daughter and CBS Vice Chair Shari E. Redstone and confirmed by a unanimous vote of the other directors, the company said Wednesday. The new chairman will continue to serve as president and CEO of CBS, positions he has held since 2006. Redstone's resignation was effective Feb. 2, and he will move on to the position of chairman emeritus at CBS, the company said.

He remains the chief executive at Viacom, with Philippe Dauman as his CEO.

Interesting, eh? His own daughter forced him out at CBS, but his "guardian" is letting him stay at Viacom. No need to remove him there. Dauman can already (legally) do whatever he wants.

RIP Joe Alaskey

You may not know his name, but Joe was the voice of Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck (Mel Blanc's replacement), among other things. From the New York Daily News...

Joe Alaskey, who provided the voice for famed cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Elmer the Fudd, and Sylvester the Cat has died at age 63. His family members announced the news of his death on Wednesday, TMZ is reporting.

Alaskey's big break in Hollywood came when he was hired in the late '80s by Warner Bros., eventually replacing master impressionist Mel Blanc after his death in 1989. The comic actor, who was born in upstate New York, also provided the voice-overs for Marvin the Martian, Plucky Duck on "Tiny Toon Adventures," Grandpa Lou Pickles on "Rugrats," and the ghost Stinkie from "Casper."

Alaskey's last credits include Droopy on "Tom and Jerry," Green Loontern in "Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham," and as a narrator on Discovery Channel's "Murder Comes To Town." In 2004, Alaskey won an Emmy for his portrayal of Daffy the Duck on Cartoon Network's "Duck Dodgers."

Joe was also an author. We were helping him at Chicago Author Solutions. Among the things we helped him with was creating his website ( He was always very good to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Why Glenn Beck's Media Empire is Burning Down

The Daily Beast has a meticulously researched piece on Beck's empire (The Blaze) and assesses the main reasons why it isn't doing well.

(Photo: Glenn Beck discussing his company's finances)

Read the entire piece here.

Dying Your Hair Gray...on Purpose

The New York Times has a piece today about the new trend for Milennials: Dying their hair gray on purpose.

They do it for style and gravitas.

Never really thought of myself that way, but now that they mention it, I guess I am loaded with both. See that patch of gray on my head in this picture from last weekend? That's 100% natural style and gravitas right there.

Rand Paul Drops Out

He just made the announcement.

He's one of the few that I would have seriously considered.

The sun is setting on a chance to get a sane candidate, Republicans. Please give us a realistic option.

10 Years of Blogging: The Day the Music Died

This year marks my tenth anniversary as a blogger. I've posted more than 30,000 items during that time, and this year I'm going through my archives to re-post a few of my favorites. Today it's only fitting to go back and post about the infamous "Day the Music Died". In 2008, I had a chance to interview Bob Hale. The legendary WLS disc jockey was just a kid broadcaster back in 1959, but he was in the right place at the right time. He was there at Buddy Holly's last show, and he was there when Buddy, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens got on that plane. Here's a portion of my interview with Bob about that day...

Rick: I know you've had to answer this question a million times, but please indulge us by answering it one more time. You were the Master of Ceremonies on February 2, 1959 in Clear Lake, Iowa--the last concert by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Describe the scene backstage for us, and explain your part in that ill-fated coin-flip.

Bob: The bus with Valens, Holly, Richardson, Dion, and Frankie Sardo arrived in the late afternoon…actually around 6PM . We hurriedly got them something to eat, and then all pitched in to set up for the performance. Those days were pre-high-fi days, so we had to deal with only one microphone. The tour manager was Sam Geller of the GAC Corporation (which would go on to purchase Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus). As the set-up was taking place, Buddy was playing the piano. Sam and I were listening and he said to me, “This guy is going to be one of the greatest popular music composers of our time. He’s so talented – he can play so many instruments, and he creates such interesting music.”

Buddy’s talents were put to use during the concert as he played the drums during the Dion set. The regular drummer, Charlie Bunch was in the hosp[ital in Green Bay , Wisconsin , having suffered frostbite on the broken down bus! Buddy would play the drums for Dion’s set, which began the second half of the show. The first half was Frankie Sardo, and Big Bopper.

The second half, Dion and the Belmonts, followed by Buddy.

When Dion’s set was over, I sat down with him on the riser in front of the drum set and asked him to introduce his musicians. When it came time for the drummer Dion said something like: “This fellow is taking the place of Charlie Bunch, our regular drummer who is in the hospital in Green Bay suffering from frost bite. Um...let’s see…the drummer’s name…is…ah, oh yeah! BUDDY HOLLY!”

Buddy jumped up, grabbed his guitar and began singing “Gotta Travel On.” The backup men quickly changed places and joined Buddy before he was half way through the first stanza.

There was some drama taking place off-stage, even before we got started, actually. At one point Bopper was sitting with my wife, Kathy, and me in a booth. Kathy was expecting our first child, and Bopper said something like, “That’s what I miss most…being around my wife when the baby moves. Kathy, may I feel your baby moving?” Kathy took Bopper’s hand and placed it on her stomach as the baby moved. Bopper smiled: “I can’t wait to get home to do that.”

Interestingly, no such conversation took place involving Buddy. We didn’t even know at that point that Maria was expecting.

During intermission the back-and-forth conversation between Bopper and Waylon Jennings took place, resulting in Waylon giving up his seat to Bopper. At that point Waylon uttered a phrase that would haunt him all his life – “Well, OKAY, but I hope your plane crashes!”

Years later, at a social gathering in Kentucky, Waylon and I recalled that night. He said: “Man, there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t wish I could take back that comment. The next day when I got the news in Fargo, I went nuts. I cried, I yelled. And I began to drink. Drugs helped along the way. Of course, I realized years down the road I was killing myself, so I quit. I don’t know, maybe deep inside I was so damned guilty, I was trying to kill myself!” He admitted that no matter how long he'd live, he’d always be haunted by Feb 3rd 1959.

After the show was over that night, Tommy Allsup, pressured by Ritchie Valens, said, “Let’s flip a coin.” It’s at this point that two versions of the coin flip emerge. Tommy maintains he flipped the coin; I maintain that as soon as he suggested it, he reached into his pocket and realized he had no money – he was still in his stage clothes. He asked me if I had a coin. I took out a 50 cent piece, said to Ritchie, “OKAY, Ritchie, you want to go, you call it.”


“Heads it is, Ritchie, you’re flying.”

Tommy said, “OKAY,” and went out to the car to retrieve his bags which he’d already put in Carroll Anderson’s car. Regardless which version of the coin toss you hear or accept neither Tommy nor I demand “ownership.” We’ve talked about this, and have no emotional investment in either version. What we agree on is that night was a tragedy and an extremely emotional one for us all.

Rick: What was that next day like?

Bob: February 3rd would be a painful day for family, friends, fellow-musicians, and for those who attended the Winter Dance Party. Within minutes of my announcing the plane crash – I was pulling the 9 to noon shift on the 3rd, teens began arriving at the station (KRIB) just to talk. It became a day-long wake, Pepsi and Coke distributors brought extra cases to our studios – we had so many people just “hanging around.” Parents came, too. Many had been at the Surf the night before. It was the custom of Carroll Anderson to invite parents to the weekly record hops free of charge. Many teens and parents were in tears.

Some students from Waldorf College had been at the Surf the night before. Some came to the studios. I interviewed college as well as high school students. What I didn’t know at the time was that Waldorf, a two-year Lutheran college, did not condone dancing! The school had a rigid Danish-Lutheran background which was extremely conservative in social activities – “Sad Danes,” they were called in Lutheran circles. When the school heard about the students who’d been to the Surf, they immediately suspended the dozen or so students for a couple of weeks. No comments on the deaths – just on “school policy.” Fortunately time has given Waldorf a more enlightened school administration, as well as transforming the college into a four-year, well respected liberal arts college.

On the way home in the afternoon, after conducting about two-dozen telephone interviews with radio stations across the country, I drove by the crash site. The bodies had still not been removed, as the ambulances were still in the corn field. I could not bring myself to walk the hundred yards to the site – and to this day, I’ve not been able to make that walk!

Rick: One of your former colleagues from WJJD, Bob Dearborn, also became known for a connection to the Buddy Holly story in a way. His analysis of Don McClean's "American Pie" (a song inspired by the Buddy Holly plane crash) is considered by many to be the best and most thoughtful one out there. I'm sure the two of you discussed the subject a time or two. What is your feeling about that song?

Bob: Bob Dearborn and I have talked about his analysis of "American Pie." While I take McLean at his word when I asked him about the several theories out there - " Oh, heck, I took words that rhymed, and some thoughts I had, and tied them together. If they sounded good I kept them in."

I think Don has begun to see the value in all the "deciphering" going on - it's good for sales, even today! - that he's backed off that open and honest statement these days. But, as far for which one strikes home the most - Dearborn's, as far as I am concerned.

(You can read Bob's analysis here)