Saturday, July 01, 2006

Guest Blogger: Catherine Johns

Catherine Johns was a fixture in Chicago radio for decades. She was the morning news anchor on the Larry Lujack show on WLS. She was the host of her own talk show on WLS. She was also the sidekick/co-host of the John Landecker show on WJMK (where I met her). Now she's doing something completely different, and I asked her if she would mind writing about it.

She was kind enough to contribute the following...

Change Your Mind … Change Your Life

by Catherine Johns

Imagine yourself being able to make the changes you’ve always wanted to make. Take off some weight … stop smoking … free yourself from fear … improve your health. Now imagine being able to do it without a struggle!

Because all positive change begins in the mind, hypnosis is the perfect tool for lasting behavior change. Of course hypnosis has been around practically forever, but still, most people have some questions about it. Like these, for instance …

How does hypnosis work, anyway? Our minds operate on two levels. We use our conscious mind to make decisions, to analyze and act. The unconscious mind controls habits and emotions. Hypnosis helps you stop the fight between your conscious and unconscious minds so you can stay motivated and make the right choices every day.

But will hypnosis work for me? Almost everybody can be hypnotized, barring serious mental disorders. (I guess that leaves out some of my one-time radio colleagues!) So virtually anyone can experience the benefits of hypnosis. With your cooperation and commitment, you can expect excellent results with Positive Changes Hypnosis.

Is hypnosis safe? Yes, completely. In fact, hypnosis was approved by the American Medical Association back in 1958! You should know that you’re always in control during a hypnosis session and you can end it at any time. You can’t get “stuck” in a hypnotic state, and you certainly cannot be made to do something against your will. Hypnosis is a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable experience.

How will I know that I’m hypnotized? Most of us naturally move in and out of light trances all day long – daydreaming, imagining, dwelling on the past, dreaming of the future, carrying on internal dialogue and more. When it comes to hypnosis sessions, many people can’t tell the difference between the hypnotized state and a waking state. Some feel deeply relaxed, others feel heavy, and still others experience a feeling of lightness or a tingling sensation. Sometimes, people aren’t sure they were really hypnotized … until they notice the positive changes in their daily habits and behavior.

And what about Positive Changes Hypnosis Centers? Positive Changes uses powerful personal coaching and hypnosis to help clients lose weight, stop smoking, reduce stress, manage pain, enhance sports performance, eliminate unwanted habits … and much more.

Our mission is to create lasting positive change in every human life, one client at a time. And we’re doing it in a big way.

Karen Hand and I opened Positive Changes Hypnosis Center Chicago in March ’05. You remember Karen from her years at B-96 … doing the news with Eddie and JoBo, and presiding over “Private Lives” with Dr. Kelly Johnson. More recently, she and Dr. Kelly discussed those intimate details on their talk show at WCKG – when people were still listening to ‘CKG.

As for me, I was a news anchor/reporter and later a talk show host at WLS, sharing the mike with legends like Larry Lujack and Fred Winston. I wrapped up my radio career as morning show side-chick with John Landecker (and of course, with producer extraordinaire Rick Kaempfer) at WJMK. Then I went straight! I became a business communication consultant, coaching bankers, lawyers, and others, to enhance their presentations and their professional presence. Quite a switch from the world of wacky morning shows to wearing a pin-striped suit and becoming fluent in corporate-speak.

So here I am after yet another transition. And I have to tell you, looking at radio in the rearview mirror has been a Positive Change for Karen and me. It’s just thrilling to work with clients who are transforming their lives. And get this – there are no program directors here!

Owning a business can be a real challenge, of course. You know … all that stuff about where the buck stops. But we love it! And we’re blessed with an outstanding staff. They make running the center a real joy.

Looking to make a change in your life? Come in for a free evaluation – let’s talk about what you want to accomplish and how we can help you get there. Call 877-POSITIVE to reach the center closest to you. Or go to

To see my other guest bloggers, click here:

Thursday, June 29, 2006

From the Archives: 5 Questions with Swanson & Kaempfer

Bill Zwecker, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, was nice enough to write a piece about us when we put out "The Radio Producer's Handbook." This article appeared in the Chicago Sun Times on November 1, 2004.

"5 Questions with Swanson & Kaempfer"
By Bill Zwecker
Sun-Times Columnist

Veteran Chicago radio producers Rick Kaempfer and John Swanson have spent the past two decasdes learning the inside scoop on how to make good radio--or at least successful radio--as the unseen (and mostly unheard) creative minds behind such phenoms as Steve Dahl & Garry Meier, Kevin Matthews, Eric & Kathy, Jonathon Brandmeier, and John Records Landecker.

Now the two have have joined forces to pen "The Radio Producer's Handbook," and last week they shored some insights with me.

Q: You've worked for some of the biggest names in Chicago radio. When I throw out their names, describe them in a word or short phrase.

A: John Landecker? (Answer: Kaempfer: "Energy"). Jonathon Brandmeier? (Answer: Swanson: "Energy on Red Bull"). Eric & Kathy? (Answer: Swanson: "Dynamic Duo"). Steve Cochran? (Answer: Swanson: "Great interviewer. Always knows his stuff."). Steve Dahl? (Answer: Kaempfer: "True natural for radio. A total original.")

Q: Name something you could not believe was happening to you.

A: (Swanson): For me that's an easy one--meeting Paul McCartney. The moment before he walked up and I knew I was going to meet him a the House of Blues in Los Angeles, I actually did pinch myself--knowing this was a big moment. (Kaempfer) "We're both Beatles fans--when I met Ringo, that was same for me. I can remember every word of that conversation. Also for me, as a writer--meeting Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner."

Q: Who was a better guest than you ever expected?

A: (Kaempfer) Two of the biggest comedy punch lines of the 80s and 90s were Barry Manilow and Dan Quayle--and yet, when I reluctantly had to book them--they both turned out to be fantastic.

Q: Any heroes who disappointed?

A: (Swanson) Yes. Harrison Ford and Christopher Guest. Harrison was on for "The Widowmaker" and he obviously was not happy about that movie. It was all one-word answers. As for Christopher Guest, I was so looking forward to him--I love all his movies. I was looking for him to say something funny--anything! He gave us nothing!

Q: Who was the most arrogant guest you ever had?

A: (Kaempfer) Larry King. He just walked in, handed me his coat, and said "Cream, No Sugar." before he even said hello.

If you want to check out any of the previous From the Archive segments, click here:

This is the last official "From the Archives" segment. I'll still be dipping into the archives occasionally for a weekend segment or two in the future, but starting next Thursday, it will no longer be a weekly occurance.

In this space next Thursday and every Thursday until my book "Severance" comes out--I'll be doing a feature called "Media Notebook". It will feature links to articles about the finances, politics and personalities in the media (the subject of "Severance"). I think you'll see why this subject is so ripe for satire.

See a free preview of it here:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Half Empty: Nine Fine Sports Whines

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

You know those little moments that irk you, that get your blood pressure boiling for no good reason, that make you grit your teeth and pretend you aren’t incredibly irritated? You don’t say anything because it’s obvious that whatever is bothering you is your problem—not anyone else’s—and why should you bother other people with something that is probably just a pet peeve?

Ah, but there’s your mistake. A glass of fine whine goes with any dish. When you get a taste for it, stop by and visit one of us. Our whine cellars are particularly well-stocked.

Today we’re serving nine fine sports whines.

1. ESPN Scroll
Women's softball should never, and we repeat never, be listed on the news-flash scroll at the bottom of the ESPN screen. Anyone who wants to know a women's softball score attended the game. Let's take it easy on the tennis scores too, please. Geez, I wonder if the #27 seed beat the #73 seed in the first round of the Greater Australian Virginia Slims/American Airlines Open?

2. Baseball Rainouts
Oh, boo hoo. It's raining! Call the game! We're going to get wet! Players in every other team sport (including soccer) will play in a hailstorm, but baseball players act like they are wearing suede.

3. Baseball Fights
Say what you want about the punch Michael Barrett threw at A.J. Pierzynski, but at least it was a real punch. Baseball fights usually look like the fight over the last creampuff at the sorority social.

4. The little white dot on the top of the baseball helmet
The little button on the top of a baseball cap is hard enough to explain (what does it do?), but to actually paint a button on the top of a helmet seems completely ridiculous.

5. The Dog Show on ESPN
Fellas, please give us a break here. Unless the fat old lady running next to the poodle has to jump over hurdles or is about to get tackled by a 300 lb. lineman, this belongs on a chick channel.

6. The last 30 seconds of a basketball game
Is there a wife out there who hasn't been burned by "There's only thirty seconds left in the game--we can go as soon as it's over"? The last thirty seconds of a college basketball game actually take longer than the first 39 minutes and 30 seconds. Why not just play the last thirty seconds?

7. Cellphone waving yahoos
Let us get this straight. You paid over $100 to get the best seat in the house so that you could wave to your buddies on television? You obviously have too much discretionary income. Please send each of us a check immediately.

8. Athletes in cameo roles on TV
Willie Mays would never know Donna Reed. Don Drysdale would never know Mike Brady. Joe Montana would never know Al Bundy. The only realistic athlete cameo would have been on the West Wing, and they were smart enough not to do it.

9. U.S. Cellular Field Condiment Dispensers
Granted, this one is really only for those of us in Chicago, but can anyone explain why the "Ketchup" label is written in yellow while the "Mustard" label is written in red? How many games have been ruined by the sacreligious act of accidentally putting ketchup on a hot dog?

Again, we've just scratched the surface on sports whines. We're sure you have some you'd like to contribute. Just click on the "comments" link below--all comments go directly to Rick's e-mail.

We'll print the best ones in Friday's post.

Check out other Half Empty columns here:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Suburban Man: Field Trips

By Rick Kaempfer

The idea was to get the boys out of the house this summer to experience some of the great attractions in the Chicago area. I insisted that we would take at least one “field trip” a week.

It sounded good on paper, but the dream is over after three weeks.

Why? Let me count the ways.

1. The John G. Shedd Aquarium

Our first destination was one of the finest aquariums in the world, the John G. Shedd Aquarium. This field trip started out well—it was a free day, and we got there before the lines got out of hand. Unfortunately, we also discovered that “free day” only referred to the main portion of the aquarium. You know what you can see in the main section?

A few catfish and a big tank of tropical fish.

What can’t you see? The Oceanarium, the Wild Reef or the Komodo Dragon exhibit. I started counting up the cost in my head for four people (it’s $23 a piece for an all-access pass), looked into their sad, pleading eyes and said...

“Take another look at the catfish and the tropical tank. We’re going home.”

2. Wrigley Field

How popular is Wrigley Field? It’s considered one of the ultimate tourist destinations in Chicago—with more than 3 million people paying top dollar to go there every year. I’m one of them. I have season tickets.

I only have two seats, so I usually take one boy at a time. It’s usually a wonderful father-son bonding experience, because we talk baseball. This year, I thought it would be fun to take all of them at once, so I got four tickets.

When we got there they each ordered some food (popcorn & pretzels), and we got a program. Unfortunately, because we got there late, we missed the first inning of the game. This threw off Tommy because he likes to keep score. Johnny usually likes to chat with me, but with Tommy sitting right next to him doing nothing, he decided it would be more fun to start a fight with his brother.

I spent the second inning breaking up fights. By the third inning the food was gone. By the fourth inning they were ready to go.

By the fifth inning I couldn’t take the whining any more. They complained all the way back to the car too. The walk was a little long for them.

3. The Art Institute

This just happens to be one of my favorite places to visit. The collection of artwork at the Art Institute is world class. Since Tommy (10) is an aspiring artist, I thought he would love the wide variety of paintings. Since Johnny (8) and Sean (3) are aspiring gladiators, I thought they would love the suits of armor.

As soon as we got there, I went right for the oldest paintings to show them that art can last forever. What I hadn’t considered was the subject matter. Those 15th and 16th century paintings are unbelievably barbaric. The two most popular themes? Death and God’s name.

“I’m scared,” Johnny said, looking at wall-sized swords stabbing into flesh.

“This stuff is old,” Tommy said. “Don’t they have any new stuff?”

After looking at the Monet collection, and getting into the 20th century, they were bored. So, I took them to see the suits of ace in the hole.

We walked through the entire exhibit without the slightest flicker of interest. That was when I made the mistake of telling Johnny that they were real suits of armor. Apparently, he has seen one too many episodes of Scooby Doo, because he thought the suits of armor were going to break out of their glass cases to get us.

“I’m scared,” he said.

“I’m bored,” Tommy said.

That was it. End of trip. When I sarcastically mentioned to them on the way home that next week’s field trip would be to the neighborhood pool, they all cheered.

Culture is overrated.

The field trip summer has been canceled.

To see any previous Suburban Man columns, click here:

Sunday, June 25, 2006


By Rick Kaempfer

(From the July 2006 issue of Shore Magazine, available on-line at

There was a time, kids, when people gathered for backyard parties and played games instead of watching them. It’s true. Look it up.

These games are slowly making a comeback. Backyard games like bocce, croquet, badminton, bean bag games, horseshoe pitching, Frisbee and more, may once again become common sights around your neighborhood.

For those of you thinking about bringing these former staples back into your regular yard party rotation, we offer this quick refresher course.

(For a complete list of Badminton rules, go to
Some people may not be comfortable playing a game with terms like “Shuttlecock” and “Birdie,” but Badminton has been around for hundreds of years in places like China and India. The name “Badminton” comes from the estate name of the duke of Beaufort in England. It’s a racquet sport like tennis, but an inexpensive badminton set (with racquets and net) can be purchased for less than $40 at most sporting goods stores. Badminton can be played at a very competitive level (it’s been an Olympic sport since 1992), but it’s also the perfect backyard sport because it doesn’t require much space, it can be played by all ages, and the next “birdie” that breaks a window will be the first.

Bean Bag Games
Bean Bag toss games have become wildly popular over the past few years, and one of the reasons is that they can be played indoor and outdoor. The standard two-color beanbag game with two laminated boards (that each have a bean bag sized hole) is probably the most popular. Teams of two compete with four bean bags per person, and much like horseshoe pitching, score points based on who gets the most closest to (or in) the hole. The popularity of this basic version of the game has spawned all sorts of variations—from tic-tac-toe beanbag, to large vinyl beanbag targets shaped like fish or clowns or football players or baseball diamonds or hopscotch or dart boards. For around $30 you could have a bean bag game that entertains your entire party.

(For more information about Bocce, go to United States Bocce Federation website at
Bocce players often take this game veeerry seriously, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a fun lawn party game. The advantage of bocce is the number of people that can play at one time. There are four bocce balls per team, so there can be either one, two or four players per team. Bocce balls are heavy, so it’s probably not the best sport for smaller kids, but the basic rules are pretty easy to follow. The “pallina” or “jack” ball is thrown by the team that wins the flip, and then each thrower tries to get the bocce ball closer to the pallina than the person before him. It is permissible to knock balls away, which makes for fun competition. A nice bocce set will set you back over a hundred dollars, but for backyard purposes, a simple beginner set will probably suffice and can be found for less than $50.


(For a complete set of croquet rules, go to )
Croquet is making a major resurgence in America; even becoming popular as an activity at corporate events and parties. In this country, it’s still considered a backyard picnic type sport, but it’s played competitively in twenty other countries like New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia. (In Australia it’s as popular as Olympic sports like boxing and rowing.) If you’ve ever played croquet, you know how fun it can be. It truly is a sport that can be played by any age, male or female. All you need is a croquet set, a nice sized yard, and at least one party guest with a hypercompetitive streak to make things interesting. Players hit wooden balls with wooden mallets through a series of nine or ten wire arches named wickets. The course is set up in a double diamond with stakes on either end, and the first player to get all of his balls through the wickets, hitting the second stake is the winner. Like bocce, a nice croquet set can get a little pricey, but you should be able to find a decent set for around $50.

Frisbee Games
(A complete list of rules for Frisbee or disc-golf, and we mean complete—it’s something like 20 pages long - go to the Professional Disc Golfers Association website at )
Of course the Frisbee has never gone completely out of style because it’s light, inexpensive, and easy to transport. However, the games that are played with the Frisbee have gotten quite complex. Probably the most popular Frisbee game is disc-golf. This combines the rules of Frisbee and golf—the object is to make the fewest number of throws to get your Frisbee through each hole. Of course, you’ll need lots of room to do this correctly. If you have a gigantic backyard or nearby park, it’s tough to beat disc-golf. The hoop targets tend to get a little pricey (you’ll probably pay over $300 for a complete 9-hole set), and the outside of the boxes say the three words I most dread seeing, “Some Assembly Required,” but if you can get past the expense and the hassle, it’s a good time.

Horseshoe Pitching
(For complete horseshoe pitching rules, including the regulation pitching distances, go to )
Horseshoe Pitching is the granddaddy of all the tossing games. The rules are almost exactly the same as a game called quoits (which was supposedly created by bored sailors who played it on ship decks with rings of rope—called quoits). Both quoits and horseshoes have been around forever; they were played all the way back in ancient Greece and Rome. They have also been popular in America since this country was founded. The main idea of each game is the same, get the horseshoes or quoits as close to the peg as possible. A ringer is 3 points, a leaner is 2 points, and if you get one closer to the peg than your opponent, it’s one point. You’re supposed to pitch the horseshoes into sandpits about thirty to fifty feet away, but everyone knows you can play it without the pits. A cheap rubber or plastic horseshoe kit can be found for about $10, but why not splurge and get the real deal? An official metal horseshoe kit is only about $30, plus it’s good luck. If you have a nice long yard, and can keep the kids away from the flying metal horseshoes, a great time can be had by all.

Lawn Darts

Did you just find your old “Jarts” or “Lawn Darts” in the back of your shed? Wouldn’t it be great to bring them out again and give those metal spikes another toss? Don’t do it. They have been illegal in America since 1988. The Consumer Product Safety Commission not only banned them, they urged everyone who owned them to destroy the lawn darts they had (and you weren’t paying attention, were you?) What could have possibly gone wrong with weighted metal spikes hurling through the air at backyard family gatherings? Well, apparently they caused thousands of injuries and three deaths. I did find a product called “Safety Lawn Darts” on the internet, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it...just to be safe. (Although it was only $9.95).

Can’t Buy Me Love

Of course, you don’t have to spend much money at all to have fun with lawn games. A simple ring toss game is basically the same as horseshoes, and it’s cheap. Even the tykes can play it. Plastic Scoop Toss games (based on lacrosse) are no more than $10. Or, if you really want to save money, how about a simple game of Kick the Can. Cost? One can. How about Capture the Flag? Cost? Two socks. Ghosts in the Graveyard? Free.

Remember, lawn games were invented to pass the time in a relatively non-strenuous way. If you’ve got the lawn, and you’ve got the players, and you’ve got the equipment, and you’ve got a bunch of couch potatoes crowding around the television at your family gatherings watching the ballgame, entice them to enjoy the outdoors by starting up one of these games.

It won’t take them long to remember why they used to love playing them so much.