Saturday, January 28, 2006

Guest Blogger: Kim Strickland

Kim Strickland is a pilot for a major airline, a novelist, and a mother of twin boys. Her novel "Wish Club" is about a women's book group that reads a novel about witchcraft and tries one of the spells for fun, only to have the spell actually work. Nuttiness and mayhem ensue.

Kim has also been a pal for twenty years and was kind enough to agree when I asked her to contribute a guest blog.

City Mom

by Kim Strickland

When Rick asked me to be a guest columnist on his blog, I agreed without hesitation. However, when the time came to actually start writing, I sort of freaked out. I have to write a column? Containing my opinion? About anything? What was I thinking?

I didn’t have any idea of what I would say. Then again, I am the same woman who wrote a 350-page novel. Having something to say, for me, is generally not a problem.

So, I checked out Rick’s blog for inspiration. Good stuff. My favorite bit is Suburban Man. From the safety of the 773 area code, I read about Rick’s suburban trials and tribulations with a smug, self-satisfied smile on my face.

You see, I am City Mom.

Ha ha, I laughed, as Rick lamented his minivan. Ha ha—those suburban stoplights sure are long. Ha ha, Rick got caught rocking-out to some cranked-up AC/DC. Ha-h—

Wait a minute. Could I be envious? Of the stereo in a minivan?

I think about the sound system in our Jeep and— Whoops. I admitted to the Jeep. Now I’ve done it. I’ve admitted to committing the biggest urban parent, City-Mom cop-out: buying an SUV. A minivan in denial.

But I need the Jeep, I tell myself. I need a vehicle large enough to transport the kids (I have two) and the dog (I have one) and all the giant rafts of paper products I need to buy at Costco. And have you ever tried to navigate a Chicago alley in January without four-wheel drive?

Before the kids were born, my husband suggested we get a station wagon. I pretended to be considering it, until a vision of my parents’ blue Grand Torino floated into my head, with a visible shudder. Next suggestion? Minivan, he says. (He’s always been the sensible one.)

Now the shudder transitions to full-blown seizure.

No. No minivans! I am City Mom. City Mom’s are cool. We wear low-rise bell-bottoms. We eat sushi. We don’t drive minivans!

Being cool. That’s what it all boils down to. I can give all sorts of reasons why we chose (Okay, I chose, my husband agreed) to stay in the city. And those may be fodder for another guest blog, if Rick is ever gracious enough to invite me back after all the vitriolic comments I’ll probably receive regarding my disregard, however tongue in cheek, for motherhood in the suburbs. And before any suburban moms write those vitriolic comments filled with examples of their coolness, you should know that I’m not terribly serious about any of this, but, that being said, I am fully capable of driving my Jeep out to any suburb to investigate rumors of suburban fashion sense progressing past 1995. Oh, kidding again. Some of my best friends live in the suburbs. They even wear black.

I love the city and I really, really wanted to raise my children here, but I was surprised at the opposition I faced. Friends and family demanded answers to yet another one of Kimmy’s crazy ideas: Have you thought about schools? What about gangs? How about all crime? I told them my husband and I had lived in the city for eight years and had so far resisted the urge to join a gang, and we’d never once committed a crime. (I don’t think that one incident with the parking ticket and street-cleaning truck should count.)

Perhaps more than anything else, my stubborn nature is what made me refuse to let go of the idea of living in the city with children. “Kids need the suburbs,” I was told. Yeah right. Just like I need my Jeep.

The real reason I love city living is not the restaurants and the museums or the ability to hop in a cab after too much wine at a girlfriend’s house, although I do love all of the above, the real reason is simple. I think it’s cool to live here.

So as I read about Rick, our hero, Suburban Man, perhaps the smile on my face shouldn’t have been so smug. I laughed with him in his embarrassment at being caught rocking-out to AC/DC at a stoplight, but doesn’t my Jeep have a Grateful Dead sticker on the back?

Perhaps the only difference, other than the obvious one of gender, between Suburban Man and City Mom is the area code. In terms of the quantity of Skittles squished between the cushions of the back seat of his minivan and my Jeep, in terms of petrified french fries under the floor mats, Rick and I are equal. Maybe it’s time we passed on the “baton of cool” to the next generation, to generation Z, or whatever they like to call themselves these days. I really don’t know. That’s how uncool I’ve become. But when I pass on the baton, you can rest-assured, I’ll be wearing my low-rise bell-bottoms and handing it out the window of my SUV.

Rick Responds:
Kim used a word in her piece that I had to look up. "Fashion" apparently refers to something that is in style--usually clothing.

If you'd like to check out any of the previous guest bloggers (John Landecker, Spike Manton, Dave Stern), go to

Next week's guest blogger: Former Chicago disc jockey Bob Dearborn will explain the significance of "The Day the Music Died".

Friday, January 27, 2006

This Week News & Views (Jan 21-27)

Big Week in Media News

*UPN and WB merge
NEW YORK—CBS Corp. and Time Warner announced this week that they are merging two of their struggling networks into one. UPN and WB will merge, debuting Tuesday as The CW. Among the shows rumored to survive this merger: America’s Next Top Model, Gilmore Girls, Beauty and the Geek, Reba, Everybody Hates Chris, Smackdown, and Smallville.
=Of course, the shows will also be merging. I’m looking forward to “Everybody Hates Reba.” I’ve been championing that idea for years.
=I just hope they have the courage to weather the protests over “Beauty and the Smackdown.” That has real potential.

*Disney buys Pixar
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Walt Disney Company said Tuesday it is buying its long time partner Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for $7.4 billion in a deal that could restore Disney’s clout in animation while vaulting Pixar CEO Steve Jobs into a powerful role at the media conglomerate. Jobs, who controls more than half of Pixar’s stock and also heads Apple Computer Inc., will also join Disney’s board.

= Seven little beepers just went off in the diamond mine. The last time someone at Disney bit into an Apple, things didn’t work out so well.

*This just in: David Lee Roth might not be so easy to work with
NEW YORK --According to the New York Daily News, Howard Stern’s replacement in New York, former Van Halen front man David Lee Roth, is “totally out of control and totally out of his league when it comes to producing a radio show.” The show is currently being produced by his manager Matt Sencio. Sencio, like Roth, has absolutely no radio experience.
=Who could have possibly seen the potential warning signs here? You have to feel bad for the company.

*Howard Stern is being censored already

NEW YORK—(New York Post) Howard Stern may be coming down with a Sirius case of the bleeps. High-level executives of the satellite broadcaster are developing an internal standards-and-practices document that will set boundaries for Stern and other shock jocks.
=This is the shortest honeymoon since Britney Spears married her childhood pal in Vegas.
=I haven’t heard Howard complaining about this new arrangement. It’s funny what $500 million will do to calm your censorship fears. On the other hand, after the debut of “The David Lee Roth Show” in New York, and “The Rover Show” in Chicago, why do I think that Howard could get a billion dollars from his old company right now if he asked for it?

Other stories in the news this week

*Pamela Anderson rebuked by Kentucky

The star of "Stacked" wrote several letters to the Governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, protesting the bust of Colonel Sanders on display in the Kentucky Capitol. Anderson was upset because she considers Sanders a symbol of cruelty to chickens. Governor Fletcher denied her request.
=I have to control myself on this story. The star of "Stacked" wants a "Bust" removed of the man who sold chicken "Breasts." To comment would be inappropriate.

*King Tut tickets on sale
CHICAGO--Tickets for the Field Museum's show "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs" went on sale in Chicago on Tuesday. The exhibit is expected to be the biggest draw ever for the museum. It drew nearly a million visitors in Los Angeles.
=Good to see it's coming to town. I didn't want to have to go all the way to Arizona to see his condo made of stona.
=That one's for the 40--60 year old crowd who still thinks he was robbed because he didn't win a grammy buried in his jammys.

*George Ryan’s ATM practices
CHICAGO--Former Illinois Governor George Ryan's trial continued this week in a Chicago courtroom. Among the dirty laundry aired...Governor Ryan only made eight ATM withdrawals in ten years, yet he always carried a gigantic wad of cash in his pocket.
=You have to love Illinois politics. We're so subtle here.
=Illinois residents, I have a question for you. Do you still think that the Painted Turtle was the best choice for our new official state reptile?

*Sarcastic Men
(Scripps Howard News Service)--University of Western Ontario psychologist Albert Katz has done a study on the ways each gender uses language to communicate. According to Dr. Katz, men are more sarcastic than women, and are much more likely to use metaphors in their daily conversation.
=What a great study! I smell a Nobel prize.

*The Year of the Dog
CHINA--Sunday is Chinese New Years and begins the year of the dog according to Chinese lunar-calendar astrology. 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1932, 1920, and 1908 are all years of the dog. People born in the year of the dog are supposedly more loyal and honest. In China they are considered perfect corporate employees.
=I don't want to say this is a bunch of hooey, but the first corporate crook I looked up, Dennis Kozlowski (1946), was born in a year of the dog.

*Mozart’s birthday
SALZBURG, Austria--Today marks the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth. While Mozart is revered by most musicians and composers (and was the idol of Beethoven), the Chicago Sun-Times published an article about Mozart on New Years Day written by a music critic. The critic said that Mozart was overrated, was nothing but a progenitor of Muzak, and shouldn’t be taken seriously at all.
=So true. His music has only lasted 250 years. Let’s wait and see if he can stand the test of time.

*National Compliment Day (Jan 26)
NEW YORK--Yesterday was “National Compliment Day,” a day to concentrate on the positive traits of your friends and loved ones. Everyone was encouraged to compliment people all day.

=Needless to say, this holiday was not observed in Germany.

Reader Response

Regarding Sunday's "Beer" article from Lake Magazine. I asked for help finding the beer endorsed by the Pope.
"I found Stuttgarter Hofbrau at Binny's once. It wasn't in the refrigerated section, it was warm, but they had it a few months ago."

Regarding Tuesday's "Suburban Man" (about meeting former Cub Jose Cardenal while shopping for onions.)
"Was it a Vadallia Onion ? A red onion? A yellow Onion ? A white onion? True fans will want to know. What could Jose be making with a yellow onion or a red onion ? Some Cuban delicacy perhaps? Maybe a Cuban Sandwich, commonly known as a cubano?"
Rick responds: "It was a red onion."

More about Tuesday's "Suburban Man". I asked for other suburban brushes with greatness. Here are a few of my favorites...
"I met Will & Grace star Sean Hayes at a Burger King once. He ordered a chicken sandwich."
"I golfed in a foursome behind former Bears Jim McMahon and Kevin Butler once. Butler has a slice."
"I saw Mickey Dolenz at a bookstore in Northbrook. He was looking in the self-help section."

Regarding Wednesday's Bald Bonus: Balds in the News
"When I saw that 22 year old bald kid on the news, I told my wife, I bet Rick and Dave use that picture on the blog."
"I can't believe that Leif Garrett picture you posted. Yikes. Serves him right for lording that hair over us in the 70s."

Bonus Bald Bonus: This week marked the 20th anniversary of the Bears winning the superbowl. I happen to have a picture of Bald Handbook co-author Dave Stern taken on that very day. He may have lived in squalor in those days, but he still had a thick lucious full head of hair.

A.M.I.S.H. Chicago Advertising Update: Another company picks A.M.I.S.H as their advertising agency! For those of you in Milwaukee, if you happen to hear a commercial for "Lightshaves," that's the work of A.M.I.S.H. Chicago Advertising. We're happy to have them aboard (the spots started airing in Milwaukee on Monday). If you or someone you know is interested in hiring the talented staff of A.M.I.S.H Chicago Advertising, please click on, and check out our website.

Remember: Tomorrow's guest blogger is pilot/novelist/mom Kim Strickland
Coming Sunday: "Snow Dome Kings"

If you missed any of the previous "This Week News & Views" and want to read them, check out

Thursday, January 26, 2006

From the Archives: Andy Shaw interviews Rick & Swany

By Andy Shaw

Radio is air, literally and figuratively, and it changes like Chicago’s weather. There’s a cool breeze when you groove on a mellow jazz station. A radiant warmth when you absorb a feel-good story on the news. Hot flashes when you catch the excitement of a sporting event or a great rock band. And a cold that chills to the bone when you listen to a talk show host rip the heart out of an unsuspecting celebrity target.

Unfortunately, I know the last weather system all-too-well, and not from a Jerry Taft forecast. Here’s the story: You may recall I have a day job as political reporter at ABC 7, and I moonlight as assistant innkeeper at the Windy City Urban Inn, a Lincoln Park bed-and-breakfast owned by my wife Mary. A couple of years ago, when Chicago Alderman Ed Burke tried to shut down the inn on licensing grounds (as payback for my tough reporting on his multiple conflicts of interest over the years), I was suddenly the hot story, and radio had a field day heralding the titanic battle of two well-known personalities, one from the world of news, the other politics. I was in the uncomfortable position of making news instead of reporting it until the city finally passed a bed-and-breakfast licensing ordinance, which ended the story and the controversy. Thankfully, the radio predators pulled out and I licked my wounds.

But the attack dogs were at it again over the summer when I had a “bad microphone moment” at the Democratic Convention in Boston, yelling for a mike on live TV on the 10 o’clock news. After that one, the radio hosts replayed the gaffe over and over with bells, whistles, phone calls from listeners and sound effects. It was definitely hot radio, and guess what? The shtick worked because of the talents of the people behind the scenes, the producers who help the hosts fill the dead air between the commercials. Kind of like the famous Billy Crystal line in City Slickers, when he tells his son’s class that he’s a radio spot salesman who, in effect, “sells air.” The kids in the class look dumbfounded. But when the producers of the best radio shows are doing their jobs well—lining up the celebrity guests and callers, prepping the big-money hosts with all the relevant information, making sure everything runs on time, and hitting the buttons that embellish the broadcast—that “air” sells like lottery tickets on a $100 million jackpot day.

All of this comes to mind as I finish reading a wonderful book by a couple of well-respected Chicago radio producers: Rick Kaempfer, who’s produced for Steve Dahl, Garry Meier and John Records Landecker; and John Swanson who handled Jonathan Brandmeier, Kevin Mathews, Steve Cochran and, most recently, the eminently successful Eric and Kathy Show on WTMX-FM.

These guys have collaborated on the first-ever how-to book for would-be radio producers. And I’ve gotta tell you, it’s the most interesting and best-written technical manual you’re likely to come across for a while. These guys walk you all the way through, including getting your first job (line up an internship while you’re in college—it’s the best way to get in the door), running a sophisticated computerized audio board (technophobes like me need not apply), keeping a show moving successfully (a mixture of balls, balance and bravado), maintaining a detailed list of phone numbers to reach key guests instantly (I always wondered where those calls in the middle of the night came from) and figuring out how to survive the inevitable clash of egos, management shake-ups and ratings slides that periodically roil the radio business.

“This is the book we wish was handed to us on our first day as producers,” they write in the introduction. “We don’t want another generation of producers tossed into the deep end of the radio pool without being taught how to swim.” The book moves breezily through an overview of radio, a detailed description of the job (p is for psychologist, r is for researcher, o is for organizer, etc.), a day-in-the-life section, a primer on getting that first job, a brief explanation of radio’s technical side, a chapter on “climbing the ladder” (who doesn’t want to make a few more bucks or become the host?) and finally, a glossary of relevant terms (the “input button” may sound erotic but it’s really just used to identify which piece of equipment is fed into a certain module.)

There’s even a forward by radio legend Landecker, who writes that “When I began my career in radio over 30 years ago, the position of producer was an afterthought. The authors of this book are among the handful of producers in America who helped define the position. Producers aren’t just helping us get sandwiches anymore. They are essential partners.”

There is, sad to say, one thing missing from the book: An explanation of how and why otherwise nice folks like Eric and Kathy turn into raging predators who lust after innocents like me, turning foibles into radio fuel, goofs into gags, errors into erotica. Where does that come from? The hosts? The producers? Station management? What makes Steve Dahl so nasty? Mancow so cruel? Howard Stern so pubescent? That probably doesn’t fit into a “how-to” book for radio producers, but it’s a logical question for someone like me.

So I did a little investigating of my own, over at the WTMX studio on North Michigan Avenue on a recent Friday night to get down with the authors, Rick Kaempfer and John Swanson. Here are excerpts of the interview:

AS: John, tell me this . . . One microphone foul-up at a Democratic National Convention, one screaming match on the 10 o’clock news, and the next day Eric and Kathy run me into the ground on their show. I thought they were nice people, but they trashed me. Why are they so mean?

JS: They’re not mean at all. What we liked about it was that you made Ron Magers crack up so bad he couldn’t even go on to the next story. If it was just you asking for a microphone, that was funny in itself, but for Ron Magers to not be able to do the next news story. . . we had to go with it.

AS: But why make hay over someone else’s pain? That’s what I’m asking!

JS/RK: (Simultaneously) That’s what we do.

JS: And the cool thing is that we introduced you to more of our audience, by saying this guy’s as human as the rest of us.

AS: Oh, thank you. I should probably send Eric and Kathy a thank you note, right?

RK: Think of it as a public service.

AS: Rick, on that subject . . . Imus, Howard Stern, Chris Matthews, locally Brandmeier, Steve and Garry [Meier] way back when, Steve now, the most popular radio personalities tend to be either obsessed with sex, or mean . . . why is that? Is that what sells?

RK: Well, the sex definitely sells. But the mean thing is, I think, a passing fad. Most aren’t mean. Brandmeier wasn’t mean. Steve and Garry . . . OK. Mancow, yes. But for the most part, that is going out of style. America is turning away from that. The ratings show it.

AS: OK. You are both smart guys. You’re successful radio producers. Why did you spend all this time on a manual when you could have been positioning yourselves to take over the on-the-air jobs that pay all the big bucks?

RK: Personally I have never been interested in being on the air because of the performing part of it. They’re two separate skills. Producing is one skill and performing is another. For me, writing and coming up with ideas is fun and it’s what I enjoy. Performing is too much pressure. I’ve had my own show a couple of times and I just didn’t like it as much.

AS: John, then you answer the same question. Why did you spend all this time on a manual when you could have been sending out tapes and trying to get yourself an on-air gig?

JS: I agree with Rick. When I ended up landing my job with Brandmeier, I actually thought at the time it was just my foot in the door to get an on-air job. But I enjoyed producing so much because I was able to do all of it. I was able to be on the air, come up with ideas, book guests, write parody songs and not have to deal with the every day . . . I’m kind of a moody guy and you have to be on every day and Andy, I’m sure you know, sometimes that’s hard to do and the pressure is great. There’s a lot of pressure being a producer, too. The book came about because Rick and I got together and we’ve been doing this a long time and we thought: What do we have to show for our success? Sure we can go around telling people I produced for Jonathan Brandmeier, Rick for Steve and Garry, Eric and Kathy now, John Records Landecker for Rick, but what do we have? We have nothing concrete, and that’s when the book idea came along. Rick was the driving force on the writing because that’s what he wants to do.

AS: I’ve got to be honest . . . it’s really a well-written and interesting manual. I found it fascinating. A lot of people are going to read this interview and not get a chance to read the manual. So tell them: What’s the single most important thing a person can do to get a start? There are thousands of people out there who would love to have your jobs, just like they’d love to have mine. What would you tell someone? What’s first and foremost?

JS/RK: (Simultaneously) Get an internship.

JS: Absolutely.

RK: Unlike TV, in radio, internships actually lead to jobs. An internship at a television station—I have a lot of friends in TV—especially in a big market like Chicago, just doesn’t generally lead to a job.

AS: So you get an internship while you are in college. You get tons of experience and you get yourself contacts . . .

RK: Sure.

AS: So you guys would make a call to help one of these interns?

JS: Right. That’s it absolutely. You get your foot in the door. As a matter of fact, right here at the radio station [WTMX] two of the people who are on-air as part-time and fill-in started off as interns. Now they’re on the air. Think about it. There are a lot of people who get into this business and their first gig is in Paducah. Here you are coming in out of college, you’re an intern and then you’re on the air at a major market radio station.

RK: Both of us started in Chicago. I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign and came right to Chicago, the third biggest market in the country. And I did it through the producer door, which is not that well known.

JS: (Laughing) Not when we started.

AS: You’ve written the manual now, why not start a business like a talent agency? Help people get jobs. There are agents for TV reporters and anchors. There are agents for radio people, why not do that? You guys obviously know the territory…
(Raucous laughing)

JS: Andy, were you at our last meeting together?

AS: I’ve just been around awhile so it seems obvious. But seriously—is that something you’re thinking of?

JS: We joked around about what we would say if you asked us certain things and we were going to say we were saving that for the next book or the next chapter of our lives. Actually there are many possibilities and . . . do we have to say?

RK: Obviously we’re available for that. Personally I’m consulting with the Loop [WLUP] morning show. I’m not there full-time. I’m coaching the people that are on the air and the producer. I’m training them. That is probably something that is our future in the long run.

AS: Considering that all of us have short shelf lives…

JS/RK: Exactly. Right. Absolutely.

AS: Tell me about the major talents that you’ve worked with, something that people would never know just by listening to the shows. What’s one secret about Eric and Kathy that listeners to the morning program don’t know? Without violating any confidences, of course.

(Long, loud laughing)

JS: Wow.

AS: (Prompting, like a producer) Eric picks his nose during the commercials . . . Kathy is always adjusting her bra strap, something like that.

JS: Well, maybe the audience does know this . . . Kathy can out-belch anybody. And I’m talking loud and longggg.

AS: She’s done this on the air?

JS: On the air, I don’t think she’s done it.

AS: How could you pass up a bit like that?

JS: Because it’s not very ladylike, is it? Eric, geez, I’m trying to think . . . what would the audience not know . . . Eric and Kathy are pretty much an open book on the air. They pretty much tell it all . . .

AS: All right, how about Brandmeier?

JS: (Laughing) I will say this about Jonny: He’s very intense. As I stated in the book, I would not be where I’m at now if it wasn’t for working with Brandmeier.
AS: Is that good or bad?

JS: I think it’s good. He ended up being able to teach me what makes a morning show work. He was all about show business. He always made it bigger than life.

AS: That’s why he took it out to California.

JS: That’s what made it so much fun. A very, very intense guy, but once the show was over, boom.

AS: OK, Steve and Garry, as dysfunctional as . . .

RK: Totally, every bit as dysfunctional.

AS: Garry gets a $10 million deal that all of a sudden he walks away from because he wants his wife to be his agent? I love Garry, but what’s with that?

RK: Garry is a unique guy. Let’s just say, I produced their show for about five years. Garry and I didn’t have a lot of in-depth conversations. He’s not that kind of guy. He is what he is. He shows up, he does his job. He is the best second banana in the business, ever. I don’t think there has ever been anyone as good as him . . . Steve is a complex guy.

AS: . . . but great staying power.

RK: Absolutely.

AS: It’s hard to survive 25 years . . .

RK: . . . and he’s still right at the top. I have a lot of respect for him. Steve taught me to not screw up because if I ever screwed up, 300,000 people would know about it. So he taught me a lot.

AS: . . . and John Records Landecker?

RK: The thing that people don’t realize about John is that he’s very energetic on the air, super energetic, I’ve never met anybody more energetic. Off the air, he’s nearly comatose. He uses every ounce of energy that he has for the show. He puts everything into it.

AS: Have you guys decided which private security firm is going to handle the crowds at the book signing when thousands of people are lined up around the block?
One final question and that should take care of it. Rick, you don’t have a show, so I can’t ask you this. This is for you John . . . Will you agree that Eric and Kathy will say nice things about me every day from now on?

JS: I’ll work on that for you. I’ll do my best. Actually, when we were talking about radio being mean and sexual, I meant to add that the Eric and Kathy Show is not mean at all, that’s why it’s been so successful . . .

AS: The sex on the show is kind of like training bras.

JS: It’s right up to the line. The best part about it is the women know what we’re talking about without us getting graphic about it, which is great.

RK: And for the record, I advised John not to play that tape of you. I said that it was just over the line to keep repeating you screaming for the microphone.

AS: I would think he wouldn’t want to miss such a great opportunity. And it wasn’t just him, WGN has gotten a lot of mileage out of it, and bless them. We’re all still working.

RK: I’ve heard it on other stations, too, by the way.

AS: You know what they always say. Just spell my name right.

Postscript: "The Radio Producer’s Handbook" was recently published by Alworth Press. You can buy it in bookstores, or online from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $19.95, and it’s a must for anyone who wants to break into radio. But this story comes with a warning: I play in the radio air from time to time as a fill-in host on WLS Newstalk 890. So if Rick and John get lucky enough to do a book tour, and it happens to coincide with one of my fill-in radio host gigs, I will get even. Tough Love. Reality Radio. Take your pick.

(Lake Magazine: Holiday 2004 issue)

Did I mention the book is still available? Click on the Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble link at the top of this blog (on the right side under links) and buy it for a very reasonable price.

If you missed one of the previous posts "From the archives," you can still access them at

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Bald Minute: Bald Depression


In her book “On Death & Dying,” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of grieving; Denial & Isolation, Anger & Rage, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. The bald or balding male goes through the same stages while grieving for his hair loss, but no-one recognizes or acknowledges that pain. Until now.

In our upcoming book, “The Bald Handbook,” co-author Dave Stern (bald) and I (bald spot)leave no bald stone unturned as we look at each stage closely and help the balding male cope with his painful reality. Until the book comes out, this blog will present nuggets and pearls of wisdom from the book in short weekly segments, we call…”The Bald Minute.” (This feature is available for radio syndication. Click on the e-mail link on the right to inquire.)

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

R: Welcome to another episode of “The Bald Minute.” Today’s Bald Minute subject?

D: Bald Depression

R: Eventually, a bald man suffering through the fourth stage of grieving for his hair loss….

D: …Depression …

R: …will realize his hair is never coming back and will sink into a deep depression.

D: Luckily gifted inspirational bald poets like William Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, E.E. Cummings, Ogden Nash, Shel Silverstein and others also suffered bald depression.

R: Unfortunately none of them ever wrote about it.

D: On the other hand, we have tracked down some of their descendants who have written truly inspiring poems in the style of their famous ancestors.

R: For example, Chuck Shakespeare.

D: Chuck has written a Shakespearean sonnet about hair loss that can help the Stage Four bald man out of his temporary depression.

R: And now, without further ado, “The Loss” by Shakespeare.

D: Thou were there to greet me in the morn as I lay,
Lamenting thine misshapen curls,
Twas a “Bed Head,” I heard my valet say,
Another of his colloquial pearls,
Then one day thine “bed head” stayed on the bed,
Even as the rest of me arose,
I shuttered in horror and wished I was dead,
An easy target for razor tongued foes,
With a quill in my hand and no hair on my head,
I penned plays that will never be topped,
Five centuries later I’m still widely read,
The floor with my foes I have mopped,
I suffered no loss on that bed-headless day,
I hope my bald brothers I have shown you the way.

R: For more inspirational poems from descendants of famous bald poets, read our upcoming book “The Bald Handbook”. Reporting for the Bald Minute, I’m Rick Kaempfer.

D: And I’m Dave Stern.


1. The Super Bowl
On the surface, the Seattle vs. Pittsburgh match up doesn't sound exciting, but we have a team we're rooting for. Matt Hasselbeck (shown here with his coach) is our favorite quarterback since Terry Bradshaw.

2. Scuffle in the stands
Last week, New York Knicks player Antonio Davis climbed into the stands to save his wife from a confrontation with a fan (Michael Axelrod). The case has devolved into a he said/she said. We don't want to tell you who to believe, but let's look at the evidence. This is Michael Axelrod...

Look at that 22 year old's hairline. NOT GUILTY.

3. Leif Garrett
Former Teen Idol Leif Garrett was arrested last week and charged with heroin possession. We all remember the long flowing locks of Leif, the teen idol. This is what he looks like now...

Guilty? Maybe. But good people.

If you want to check out previous episodes of "The Bald Minute", they can all be found at

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Suburban Man: Brush with Greatness

In my previous life as a radio producer for personalities like Steve Dahl & Garry Meier and John Records Landecker, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of the biggest celebrities in the world. I’ve met politicians, movie stars, television stars, rock stars, comedians, newsmakers, and people famous just for being famous. It was exciting at first, but after you meet a few celebrities it isn’t a big deal anymore. Of the hundreds of celebrities I met in my official capacity as a radio producer, I was only impressed two times.

The first time was when I met an actual Beatle, Ringo Starr. That was pretty heady stuff for a lifelong Beatle-maniac. I can still recite my entire conversation with him word for word and it happened in 1989. The last time I was impressed by a celebrity occurred in the summer of 2000. I met two of my comedy heroes on the same day; the writer of the funniest movie and stage play of all time, Mel Brooks, and the writer of the funniest television series of all-time, Carl Reiner. They are every bit as funny in real life as they are on the screen, the stage, or the page, and I was truly honored to meet them.

Other than those three people, I’ve been a pretty cynical ho-hum sort of guy when it comes to meeting celebrities. I only mention this to show how out of character it is for me to make a big deal when I meet one. I was more surprised than anyone by my reaction last winter at the Jewel near my house when I had another memorable brush with greatness.

I was grocery shopping with two of my boys, following my usual routine of breaking up fights and castigating unkind comments about the vegetables, when I saw him. He was holding an onion and looking for a plastic baggie. My heart started pitter-pattering and I became so nervous I walked in the other direction to regain my composure.

I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to talk to him. I was plotting a way to confront him casually, when I saw him rip a plastic baggie off the plastic roll. That’s when I made my move. Leaving the yelping youngsters near the oranges where they couldn’t do any damage, I strolled up to the baggies to get one for myself.

“I don’t want to embarrass you,” I said, my voice squeaking with fear, “but aren’t you Jose Cardenal?

He looked at me and smiled. “Yes,” he said with his Cuban accent. He offered his hand for a handshake.

“Good ‘Ol #1,” I said, shaking his hand. “I was your biggest fan. We used to sit out in the right field bleachers at Wrigley so we could cheer you.”

“You must have been pretty young,” he said. This wasn’t just a scrappy former ballplayer—he recognized youth when he saw it.

“Well, yes I was,” I said.

I knew he was the first base coach of a team in another city and hadn’t been part of either Chicago team for thirty years, so that led to an obvious question.

“What are you doing in town?” I asked.

“I never sold my house,” he said. “I still spend my off-seasons here. I love it.”

That was pretty much our entire conversation.

My kids, as you might imagine, were less than impressed by our brush with greatness, and not just because I left them by the oranges. They weren’t even impressed when I showed them the Jose Cardenal baseball cards I keep in a shoebox in the basement.

I can understand that. They weren’t born yet when Jose played for the Cubs. But I was impressed big-time. Not because I’m a geeky Cubs fan. Not because Jose is such a big celebrity, or because he was so nice, or because he knows a good onion when he sees one. I was most impressed by all of us; the good people of the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

How cool are we?

A Cuban millionaire spends his winters here.

That should be in all of our brochures.

I want to hear more Suburban brushes with greatness. Click on the "e-mail me" link on the right or the "comments" link below this post. I'll collect all of your stories and post them in a later post.

If you missed one of the previous Suburban Man columns and would like to check it out, the archives are available at

Monday, January 23, 2006

Jokes for a Monday morning

Three jokes to start your week with a smile...

1. The first shot has been fired and the season is three months away...

A first grade teacher explains to her class that she is a Sox fan. She asks her students to raise their hands if they were Sox fans too. Not really knowing what a Sox fan was but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like fleshy fireworks.

There is, however, one exception. One girl has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different. "Because I'm not a Sox fan."

Then, asks the teacher, what are you?

"Why I'm proud to be a Chicago Cubs fan," boasts the little girl.

The teacher is a little perturbed now, her face slightly red. She asks the girl why she is a Cubs fan.

"Well, My Dad and Mom are Cubs fans, and I'm a Cubs fan too."

The teacher is now angry. "That's no reason," she says loudly. "What if your Mom was a moron, and your dad was a moron. What would you be then?"

A pause, and a smile. "Then," says the girl, "I'd be a Sox fan."
--Submitted by "D"

2. Remember, my kids have quite a bit of Irish in them. I'm allowed to post this...

O'Toole worked in the lumber yard for twenty years and all that time he'd been stealing the wood and selling it. At last his conscience began to bother him and he went to confession to repent. "Father, it's 15 years since my last confession, and I've been stealing wood from the lumber yard all those years," he told the priest. "I understand my son," says the priest. "Can you make a Novena?" O'Toole said, "Father, if you have the plans, I've got the lumber."
--Submitted by "T"

3. I had to change this slightly to clean it up...

He walks over to the produce section and says to the clerk, "Boy, I want half a head of lettuce."

"Did you say HALF a head of lettuce?" asks the clerk.

"You heard me right", says the Texan.

Bewildered, the young clerk walks to the back of the store to find his manager, but he doesn't know that the Texan is following right behind him.

The clerk enters his manager's office and exclaims, "Hey boss, some friggin moron wants HALF a head of lettuce!"

Just then, he turns around and sees the Texan standing right there.

The clerk says, "Oh ... and this fine gentleman would like the other half."

This week on Rick's Blog 1-23/1-28

This week on Rick's Blog

Monday January 23: Jokes for a Monday morning

Tuesday January 24: Suburban Man has a suburban brush with greatness. You'll never guess who it is.

If you missed one of the previous Suburban Man columns and would like to check it out, the archives are available at

Wednesday January 25: The Bald Minute. Stage 4 of Bald grieving is depression. We look for words of comfort from a man who also went through this stage: Shakespeare

If you missed a previous Bald Minute, and or would like to show one to a friend, they are all available at

Thursday January 26: From the Archives. John "Swany" Swanson and I were interviewed by ABC-Channel 7 reporter Andy Shaw when our book "The Radio Producer's Handbook" came out.

If you would like to check out a previous "From the Archives," simply click on

Friday January 27: This Week, News & Views

The previous columns of topical humor are still available at

Saturday: Guest Blogger--Kim Strickland. Kim is an old friend. She is a pilot for a major airline, a fellow novelist ("Wish Club"), and a city mom. Her blog is about the differences between "City Mom" and "Suburban Man".

All of the previous guest bloggers can be found at

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the beer can. As it turns out, I've written a thing or two about the subject, including a short piece recently for Lake Magazine. I don't know why they keep asking me to write about beer...

This is about the winner of their reader poll about best microbrew in the area. It's a short piece, only 300 words. They paid me a beer per word.

I drive a hard bargain.


by Rick Kaempfer

From the Best of 2005 issue

Best Microbrewery: Mishawaka Brewing Company
3703 North Main Street
Mishawaka, Indiana

The Mishawaka Brewing Company is truly a family affair. Tom Schmidt opened the brewpub after leaving corporate America in 1992. His wife Barbara designed the hunter green walls and dark stained high-back wood booths that give it such a homey atmosphere. His son Rick brews the award winning beer and Rick’s wife Tami runs the restaurant, which features cuisine they describe as “Americanized International.”

We called to let them know they were a finalist, and got to speak with one of the Schmidt’s; Brew Master Rick. We asked him what it was like to work so closely with your family.

“It’s either the greatest thing in the world or horrible,” he said with a laugh, “depending on the day.”

The biggest draw to Mishawaka Brewing Company is obviously the beer. The most popular brew is a tribute to the Four Horsemen from Notre Dame (“Four Horseman Irish Ale”). The ND crew is currently featured on the label of the bottle, although Rick told me they are planning on slightly altering the logo soon.

“We’re thinking of changing it to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” he told us.

Whichever Four Horsemen end up on the bottle, the beer’s popularity has been growing by word of mouth. The capacity of their current location is maxed out trying to keep up with increasing demand. With an eye toward expanding, they purchased the equipment from the Duneland Brewhouse in Michigan City, and hope to be up and running with a stand-alone brewery by early August.

In the meantime, Lake Magazine reader’s choice for best microbrewery is open seven days a week. Sun & Mon: 3 p.m.—Midnight, Tue—Thurs: 11:30 a.m.—2:00 a.m., and Friday and Saturday’s from 11:30 a.m.—3:00 a.m.

Rick's notes: The defunct Duneland Brewhouse he talks about in this piece was previously featured in an earlier article I wrote called "Indiana Beer Tour". Beer expert John O'Malley and I visited three different breweries in the area, and Duneland was the only one that got a bad write up. That's power right there.

and scroll to the bottom of that archive if you want to read it too. It's the last article there. We leave no beer stone unturned in our tour of Microbrews.

Bonus Beer Fact: How is my father like the Pope? Stuttgarter Hofbrau, my father's all-time favorite beer (when we lived in Germany) has become the first beer to be endorsed by a Pope. Pope Benedict has agreed to let the makers of his favorite beer use his likeness on their bottles. I feel duty bound as a Catholic to seek out this beer now. If anyone knows where I can get it in this country, please let me know.