With over 80 books in our library, this year we're taking some time every week to highlight one of the books on the Eckhartz bookshelf. This week's book is "Best Seat in the House: Diary of a Wrigley Field Usher" by Bruce Bohrer...
Thursday, February 09, 2023
Wednesday, February 08, 2023
We have now done over 200 interviews on our various Minutia Men podcasts, and this year we're going to revisit some of the best. This past year we got a chance to talk to Duane Scott Cerny. Duane is the co-owner (w/partner Jeffrey Nelson) of The Broadway Antique Market in Chicago, hosts a bi-weekly vintage show, “Amber’s Crazy In The Attic” with internet drag icon, Amber LeMay, wrote a #1 Amazon Bestselling Memoir, and is a recipient of Gwendolyn Brooks/Poet Laureate of Illinois Poetry Scholarship, Northeastern Illinois University. He's also funny as hell. Something special happened when we had him on the show. We hit it off so thoroughly, that Duane asked us to sell his books through Eckhartz Press. Both are now available there (Selling Dead People's Things, Vintage Confidential)
Tuesday, February 07, 2023
I'm working on a special project this year about a certain radio station, so I've been going back into my files and pulling out some old interviews with former Loop colleagues and pals. I'll feature one a week here on the blog. This week, it's Buzz Kilman. Buzz is one of the few Loopers who was part of both legendary Loop eras, first as the newsman on the Steve & Garry show in the first Loop era, later as the newsman on the Jonathon Brandmeier show in the second great Loop era. I spoke to Buzz in 2009, and this is what he had to say...
Buzz: To be totally honest, it hasn’t changed that much for me. I’ve really only worked with two guys for the past 30 years, Dahl & Brandmeier, and both of those guys have a specific way they want it done.
I can’t talk to what happened to other news departments, because I’ve always really been a one-man operation. The news itself hasn’t changed. Prioritize the stories, put them together in the format you use for that particular show, and then just do it.
What has changed is the way you gather the news. That’s been a revolution. The technological advancements over the years are just unbelievable, but the final product, that thing I do on the air, that hasn’t changed at all. I just do the news.
It’s really in my blood. I’ve been doing it my whole life, starting at the age of 16 when I became a printer’s devil, back in the days before photo offset printing. After high school I was a copy boy for the Miami News for a Pulitzer Prize winner, and then in college I was an editor for the Campus Conservative at the University of Miami...
Rick: Really? The Campus Conservative?
Buzz: Yeah, I lost the gig when Kennedy was shot. The football team didn’t want to play (to honor him), and I came out in favor of the football players, and that was it. It really was the Campus Conservative. Hey, it was only Kennedy! After that, I was also the editor of the Daily Planet (an underground newspaper in Miami), so I really have spent my whole life doing the news. I’m a news geek.
Rick: The first time Chicago heard you on the air was when you came aboard as the newsman on the Steve & Garry show in 1980, which at the time was already HUGE in Chicago. What was that experience like coming aboard that show at that time.
Buzz: The exposure was phenomenal. I came from a respectable station in Florida (WSHE), but believe me--we didn’t have a Steve and Garry. They were probably the highest profile morning show in the country at the time—this was less than a year after Disco Demolition. But I fit in immediately. When I got here, and started working with them, I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was.
And I couldn’t believe they were doing what they were doing! I wasn’t shocked...I came from a wacky radio background...but still to see it put together and become so hugely successful was incredible. That was the wonderful part of that gig. Steve had a vision, pursued it, and did it! And his vision included an insistence that everyone on the show had to have fun—that was part of the format, so heck, how bad can that be? You have to have fun! OK, I’ll do it.
Rick: You’ve worked with Steve now at 4 different radio stations, if my math is correct, The Loop, AM 1000, WCKG, Jack-FM... How were those experiences at the various different radio stations with Steve different? Has he changed much over the years?
Buzz: Steve (photo) invented the modern morning talk show format, turning real life into a comedic soap opera. That’s a hell of a contribution. Over time, he’s become like a radio father figure; an elder statesmen for the medium.
Rick: Everyone knows you worked with Steve & Garry and Brandmeier, but there were a few years between those two shows. What are your memories of working with RJ Harris and Pat Still (and later Mark McEwen)--before the Loop got it right with this rookie from Phoenix named Brandmeier?
Buzz: And let’s not forget Matt Bisbee (photo) for several weeks. He was the guy on the air right after they fired Steve & Garry. It was like they blindfolded him, put him up against the wall, and handed out guns to everyone. Matt took one for the team. Anyone who knows Matt knows what a great guy he is, and that’s probably why they chose him. They figured he was the guy that would incur the least amount of wrath.
That whole place was free-falling after Steve left, but it was a lot of fun to be there, believe it or not, because you could do absolutely anything. I actually got close to Harris, and we would plot against Still, and we came up with hideous things for him to do on the air, like work in stables hauling manure—things like that (Laughs).
Rick: Did you know immediately that Brandmeier would click?
Buzz: Yes. 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 the radio.
Rick: Obviously the success you enjoyed during the Brandmeier years is hard to top. You mentioned how huge Steve & Garry were when you started, but I think Brandmeier was even bigger when you worked with him.
Buzz: Probably true, yes.
Rick: You also really burned the candle on both ends in those days. I was doing overnights for awhile during those years, and I remember seeing you come in after a night of bar gigs with your band, and I’d think...how does he do it?
Buzz: I don’t know. I was single. You don’t answer to anybody when you’re not married. I was just doing stuff that I liked to do. I loved the radio, and I loved the music thing, and I didn’t see why I shouldn’t do both. Music was sort of new to me. Being in Chicago, with all these great places that had live music, it was like being a kid in a candy store. I was just learning how to play, and that’s what you do when you’re learning. You go all out. It’s true, a lot of nights I’d get home at 1 am, and then I’d get up 4:30, but the hangover wouldn’t hit until 9. That last hour of the show was deadly in those days.
Rick: I must confess-- I was scared of you in those days. I was warned that if something went wrong with the newswires or with the AP audio news feed overnight, that my life would be over as I knew it. I brought in alarm clocks so I wouldn’t forget.
Buzz: I’ve heard that before from others who were equally frightened. I did that on purpose, I suppose, because I was arriving in fragile condition and I didn’t want a setback at quarter to six in the morning.
Rick: So I was right to be scared?
Buzz: Nah. I never actually did anything to anybody. Occasionally I would throw a temper tantrum—just like everyone else in radio, but I was harmless. (Laughs) Although, I do remember one time I chased Greg Solk down the hall after he said something to me... I don’t remember what he said, and I don’t know what I would have done if I caught him, but I did chase him. At the time he was only 19 years old or so.
Rick: When Brandmeier first came back to town a few years ago there were sporadic reports that you were negotiating to return to his show. Were those reports true, and what kind of a relationship do you have with Johnny now?
Buzz: There was some talk, and some negotiating, but the timing was wrong, the contracts were not in synch, so it just didn’t happen. We still have a great relationship.
Buzz: That’s a life long addiction, those movies. You bet. Now that I’m home and unemployed I’m watching them even more.
Rick: Do you and Tony still stay in touch?
Buzz: Tony (photo) is my 7-year-old daughter’s godfather.
Rick: Have you considered bringing back the show?
Buzz: Sure, I’ve thought about it. If there was someone that wanted it, we’d certainly consider doing it again. (Laughs) My agent is Steve Mandel, by the way, and I am available.
Monday, February 06, 2023
The latest episode is out now! You can listen to it here.
Jenkins accidentally reveals his cannabis biz on phone to cops, a little girl aggressively seeking evidence about Santa, actress Maitland Ward discussing her unusual career change, another embarrassing death, and a candidate for mother of the year are among the minutiae discussed by Rick and Dave. [Ep301]
Now that we have such a big stable of talented authors, we're going to take some time this year to re-introduce them to you. Alex Burkholder is the author of "Death of the Angels" a book that he spent many years thoroughly researching. It's about the tragic fire in 1958 that took the lives of 92 students and three nuns at Our Lady of Angels school on Chicago's West Side.
Saturday, February 04, 2023
Friday, February 03, 2023
A curation of news items
about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…
*Waking up with Brian & Justin
=The latest issue of Illinois Entertainer came out this week and features my interview with Q-101’s morning team. A fun interview with a twist at the end. You can read it here.
*The Last Great Chicago DJ?
=This was a front page story in the Chicago Tribune this week (January 27). The full title of the piece is The Last Great Chicago DJ? With Lin Brehmer’s Death and Rise of AI, are Radio’s Glory Days Over? Read it and see if you if you agree. It was written by William Lee.
*RIP Jay Marvin
=The former WLS talk show host had been in declining health for many years. His wife Mary announced that he passed away on Tuesday. Marvin was a country music DJ, who later became a lefty talker on a predominantly right-wing station here in Chicago. The published author spent his final years in Colorado.
=I never got a chance to meet him in person, but I did interview him on the phone in 2007 for Chicago Radio Spotlight.
For me, this piece by Eric Zorn is the best and most comprehensive account of Jay that you’ll find on-line. Zorn went back into his archives and reposted three columns he had written about Marvin over the years. Well worth the read.
*Larry Kudlow Show on WLS
=Larry Kudlow, former Trump advisor and current on-air host at the Fox Business Network, will debut a new weekend show this Sunday on WLS. The Larry Kudlow show will air from 5-8pm.
*The Loop Files
=My weekly mining of my interviews with former Loopers continued on Tuesday, in case you missed it. This week’s feature is Bruce Wolf.
*Harper College Radio a Chicago Reader Finalist
=Tis the time of year the Chicago Reader asks people to vote for their Best of Chicago favorites in a long list of categories. One of those is best radio station. Not surprised to see perennial favorites WXRT or WBEZ in the list of five finalists, but how about 100-watt 88.3FM Harper Radio? Congrats to the local music aficionados at WHCM. The other two finalists, by the way, are Vocalo Radio and Chirpradio (107.1 FM). The poll is open through February 15th, if you want to vote. Winners are announced in their April 6 edition.
*Folk DJ Hall of Fame
=John Platt, one of the people who launched WXRT in Chicago, is the latest member of the Folk DJ Hall of Fame. Platt was in Chicago for about ten years but has also made his mark in New York and Philadelphia radio. You can read more about him here.
*The Day the Music died
=Today is the anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper in 1959. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to meet and talk to people who had a deep knowledge of the subject matter. The man who introduced them on stage at their last performance in Iowa was future WLS Big 89 jock Bob Hale. I worked down the hall from Bob when I was at WJMK and he was at WJJD. He told me the whole “The Day the Music Died” story for Chicago Radio Spotlight.
=Bob Dearborn became famous during his days at WCFL when he analyzed the mysterious lyrics of the song “American Pie” by Don McLean. Bob also was kind enough to write this piece for my blog explaining why Buddy Holly was so important to him.
*The Mix and Fitz
=Last October the Mix morning show auctioned off a private perfomance by Fitz and the Tantrums, and this week the band came into town and delivered the promised accoustic set to a select group of listeners at 167 Green Street. The money raised went to the American Cancer Society. The band played at the Vic last night.
*50 Years of Bill & Walter
=Dave Plier always seems to get the biggest guests on his WGN radio show. This past week he managed to reunite Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson for the 50th anniversary of their pairing. A fun listen.
*Jen Weigel to interview Kathy Hart
=February 19 at Madame Zuzu’s in Highland Park. A spiritual discussion is sure to ensue.
=WGN Radio’s Lisa Dent was interviewed by Brandwidth on Demand podcast hosts Kipper McGee and Dave Martin this week. I love these radio-on-radio conversations.
=Acclaimed novelist Adam Langer (a former WXRT intern) has a new podcast that examines the history and back-story of the Pulitzer Prize winning play The Diary of Anne Frank.
=Nick DiGilio is doing another live podcast (The Nick D Show) at Zanies in Rosemont on February 21st. Amy Guth will be there with him, filling in for co-host Esmeralda Leon.
=My podcast, Minutia Men, posted our 300th episode this week. I’m still having a ball doing the show with my Eckhartz Press co-publisher David Stern. The 300th episode is titled “Shopping with your German mother”. It’s very high-brow.
*January 30—Chuck Swirsky birthday.
=Chuck is not only the play-by-play man of the Chicago Bulls. He’s also an author. His book Always a Pleasure came out during the holiday season.
*January 30, 1935—Warner Saunders birthday
=Warner Saunders had a long and distinguished television career in Chicago at NBC-5. He retired in 2009 and passed away in 2018.
*January 30--Lisa Dent birthday
=Lisa hosts afternoons on WGN Radio. I was lucky enough to interview her for Illinois Entertainer in 2016, shortly after she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (during her days at US-99).
*January 31—Josh Liss birthday
=The morning sports anchor for WBBM News Radio was featured in the December 2016 edition of Illinois Entertainer.
*January 31—Nick Shepkowski birthday
*February 1—Lisa Miller birthday
=Lisa has been one of the most powerful media agents in Chicago for the past four decades. She is married to Channel 5 meteorologist Brant Miller.
*February 3—Karen Conti birthday
*February 3—Dan Roan birthday
=Dan retired as the sports director of WGN-TV last year. I snapped this photo of Dan and his fellow WGN-TV colleagues at Rich King’s book launch party last May, just a week or so before Dan retired.*February 3—Steve Sanders birthday
*February 3—Lisa Greene birthday
=Lisa did stints at several radio stations in Chicago, including WJMK. I interviewed her for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2008. She currently lives in California.
*February 3—Steve Bertrand birthday
=Steve has been a news mainstay at WGN radio since the mid-80s. I interviewed him for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2012.
*February 4, 2009—Eddie Schwartz died
=Eddie was the overnight voice of Chicago for decades, first at WIND, then at WGN, and finally at WLUP. He had such an unusual sounding voice that he sparked impersonations from the likes of Steve Dahl and Kevin Matthews. Kevin even created a band to impersonate Eddie. He called it Ed Zeppelin. When I interviewed Eddie in 2007, he was already in declining health and was difficult to understand. Still, I’m glad I got the chance to get him on the record while I could.
*February 4—Jim Williams birthday
The Channel 2 news anchor recently celebrated his 20th anniversary at the station.
*Lisa Parker leaves NBC5
=If you feel like they are dropping like flies at NBC5, you aren’t alone. Here’s another one…
*Marcus Stroman appears on CBS News
=Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman appeared on the national CBS News morning show to talk about his new children’s book, and his baseball career. Not an everyday event for a Chicago athlete.
*DECADES remembers actresses Cindy Williams and Lisa Loring
=We lost two beloved sitcom stars this week, Cindy Williams and Lisa Loring.
=This weekend, Weigel Broadcasting honors Cindy Williams with tributes on MeTV and DECADES. MeTV will present four selected episodes of Laverne & Shirley that Williams said were her favorites, airing on Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm. DECADES will pay tribute with a Weekend Binge of 36 back-to-back Laverne & Shirley episodes beginning Saturday, February 4 at 11am.
=DECADES will pay tribute to Lisa Loring beginning at 5am on Sunday, February 5 with a special binge of 48 back-to-back episodes of The Addams Family celebrating her character, Wednesday Addams.
*Cheryl Scott Welcomes a New Colleague
=The Channel 7 weather department grew by one this week. Cheryl Scott welcomed her newest colleague Jaisol Martinez. Jaisol is a native Texan. Hopefully the Chicago weather doesn’t scare her off.
*Cable News Corner
=In a move that was teased a few weeks ago, CNN signed comedian Bill Maher for Friday nights. It should be interesting to see how he adjusts after having complete freedom at HBO for many years now. Maher is known to be a bit prickly.
*The mystery of ABC journalist answered
=James Gordon Meek was a top producer at ABC News. It made news last year when he abruptly resigned his position after the FBI raided his apartment. He basically disappeared after that, cutting off all contact with his former colleagues. This week’s unsealed court filing probably answers the reason why. Meek was charged in a child pornography case.
*The End of the GM3 Drama
=The titillating scandal involving the extra-marital affair of GM3 hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes appears to have been resolved with the hosts leaving the network after a settlement was reached. Semafor reports that ABC Talent VP Galen Gordon is also on thin ice because he knew about the affair and didn’t alert his bosses.
*Giving back to their alma mater
=Alex Maragos and Mike Lowe may be on different channels in Chicago (NBC5 and WGN), but they are from the same alma mater (Loyola Academy) and spoke to students at the school last Friday.
*Newsworthy week in Chicago print media history.
Three big changes were announced…
*Trump Sues Bob Woodward
=Yet another (probably) frivolous lawsuit was filed by the former president this week. This time he’s suing Bob Woodward for releasing the audio tapes of the on-the-record interviews he conducted with Trump. Presumably, the tapes include Trump agreeing to be taped. That’s something I always get on tape, and I’m sure Bob Woodward did the same.
*TikTok CEO to testify before Congress
=If you haven’t noticed, the new Congress is going hard after TikTok. They have called TikTok’s CEO to testify and justify TikTok’s modus operandi.
As always, if you have any media story you’d like to share or think that I might be interested in sharing, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you're in Chicago media and wondering why I didn't mention your birthday, it's probably because I don't know it. Drop me a line and let me know and I'll put you on my calendar.