Saturday, February 04, 2006

Guest Blogger: Bob Dearborn

Bob Dearborn was one of the most popular disc jockeys in Chicago in the early to mid 70s during his stint at WCFL-AM. In his more than 40 years in radio, 16 of them have been in Chicago where he's also been heard on WIND-AM, WFYR-FM, WJJD-AM and WJMK-FM. He's been a program host (locally and nationally), writer, producer, syndicator, music director, program director, group program director, programming consultant, general manager and just about everything else in radio, including station owner. In those various roles, Bob was priveledged to interview most of the all-time rock and roll greats, including my hero John Lennon. One day, we'll pin him down to do another guest blog about some of those memories.

Bob's real claim to fame, however, was his outstanding analysis of the Don McLean megahit "American Pie." At the end of this guest blog, he has been gracious enough to give us a link to that analysis. If you've ever wondered about the meaning of that song (since McLean himself has always refused to explain it), I highly recommend you check it out.

I asked Bob to guest blog about the topic of that song. The ill-fated plane crash of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens occured 47 years ago yesterday. The following is about what that day meant to him...

The Day the Music Died
By Bob Dearborn

Some dates – December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; August 16, 1977; September 11, 2001 – remain as indelible in our minds as our memory of the shocking events that took place on those dates.

We have just marked the anniversary of another stunning tragedy, one not as big as those others but an important milestone for many people of my generation and, to be sure, for me personally: 47 years ago, three popular young music stars perished on what came to be called a dozen years later, “The Day The Music Died.”

In the very early hours of February 3, 1959, a small plane chartered after a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, crashed shortly after takeoff leaving all four on board dead: the pilot, singer Ritchie Valens (‘La Bamba,’ ‘Donna’), J.P. Richardson who performed under the name, "The Big Bopper” (‘Chantilly Lace’), and Charles Hardin Holley, known by millions of his fans the world over as Buddy Holly.

I had seen death before, close up, although the earlier experience for me was more curious than catastrophic, more surreal than sad. Oh, I liked my grandparents, all right, but I was 10 and 11 years of age when they died and I hadn't developed enough yet intellectually or emotionally to really understand or feel an impact of their passing.

Of course, two years later, I was much more mature, and starting to realize all kinds of important things. What a revelation it was to discover that music could be about more than the beat, that movies and TV shows could be more than shoot ‘em ups and car chases, that the sudden loss and finality of death could be devastatingly sad.

The first time I was really moved by the passing of someone I cared about was when Buddy Holly died – somebody I “knew” only from his music, his hit records, his appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

I couldn't have guessed it at the time that his music would have a great influence on future generations of musicians and songwriters, including the young, not-yet-famous Beatles and Rolling Stones. I just knew I liked it. From “Peggy Sue” and “That'll Be The Day” through everything that followed, I was first a fan of his music.

He changed the style of rock ‘n’ roll music by altering the chorus and verse pattern of contemporary song composition. He popularized the four-man group configuration. Buddy was the one who advised Elvis to get a drummer (to join Scotty and Bill in Elvis’ backup band). He was the first rock ‘n’ roll singer to use violins, a whole string section, on his records (‘It Doesn't Matter Anymore’). For a man who enjoyed fame for only the last year and a half of his young life, he made the most of it. Leaving his fingerprints all over contemporary music, his influence has been felt and his popularity has sustained for almost 50 years.

It was more than the music for me, however. In an era of pretty-boy teenage idols ruling the music charts, here was this young Texan who was kinda … geeky. He wore horn-rimmed glasses on his face and his emotions on his sleeve for all to see and hear – from the youthful pedal-to-the-metal exuberance of songs like “Rave On” and “Oh, Boy!” to the playful intimacy of a song like “Heartbeat.”

This guy was not only different and good, he was the first rock ‘n’ roll star that I could relate to, since I was a gawky, sensitive, geeky kid with black, horn-rimmed glasses, too! Buddy Holly’s acclaim and success confirmed that it was okay to be and look that way, that I was okay. He was MY hero. And his death was a crushing blow.

Ritchie, the Bopper and Buddy were the first popular music/rock ‘n’ roll heroes to die suddenly, shockingly at a young age. Theirs are the first names on a list that we review with heartache for its scope and length: Eddie, Johnny and Jesse … Patsy, Gentleman Jim … Sam, Otis and Frankie … Janis, Jim, Jimi, Ronnie and Duane … Jim, Rick, Karen, John, Harry … Marvin and Stevie Ray. Elvis. John.

Each time the bell has tolled, we've been stunned to learn of the loss of another hero, another artist who touched us with their music, a person we never met but who was so much a part of our lives that we viewed them as friends. And, too, with each passage, we've felt the loss of yet another important touchstone of our youth.

For me that all started with Buddy Holly. I was changed by his presence while he was alive, profoundly moved by his untimely death, always transformed by his music. And touched yet again by all of that in late 1971 when I first heard Don McLean’s brilliant composition, “American Pie.” Masterpiece is not a big enough word to describe that recording.

The song’s story begins with Buddy Holly’s death … as felt and told by one of his great fans, Don McLean. The clever metaphors of American Pie’s lyrics, then as now, leave many people confused, unable to understand what the song is about. Don and I are the same age, we lived through the same music era with similar reactions to all the changes that occurred, and we were, first and foremost, big Buddy Holly fans. I knew immediately what Don was saying in that song.

Where did all this lead? I invite you to click on the link below that'll take you to a Web site that Jeff Roteman created in tribute to my analysis of American Pie. I hope you enjoy “the rest of the story” at this site, that it helps you appreciate what a wonderful piece of work American Pie is, that it makes you want to know more about Buddy Holly and his music, and that you find the experience a fitting observation for the 47th anniversary of “The Day The Music Died.”

Bob's Full "American Pie" analysis can be found right here:

If you missed any of our previous guest bloggers (John Records Landecker, Spike Manton, Kim Strickland or Dave Stern), click on the following link to read what they had to say:

Friday, February 03, 2006

This Week News & Views (Jan 28-Feb 3)

By Rick Kaempfer

*President Bush delivers State of the Union Address
WASHINGTON--President George W. Bush reached out to his opposition by calling for a new "spirit of good will and respect for one another" during Tuesday night's State of the Union Address. He finished this thought by saying "And I will do my part."
=For those of you keeping track of this sort of thing, that spirit lasted exactly four minutes, before he called anyone who thinks we're not winning the war in Iraq a "Defeatist."
=I'm choosing to look at the 'good will and respect' cup as half full, not half empty. The President and his surrogates previously called 'people against the war' names like "pro-terrorist," "traitor", "cut and run" and/or "appeaser." "Defeatist" could be a step in the right direction.

*The Democrats Response
WASHINGTON--Virginia Governor Tim Kaine delivered the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.
=The nation hasn't seen that kind of charisma since Walter Mondale.

*Republicans elect Rep. Boehner as new House Majority Leader
WASHINGTON--On the second ballot, Rep. Boehner came from behind to defeat Rep. Roy Blunt to become the brand new House Majority Leader. The first ballot was thrown out and considered "a mulligan" because there were more votes cast than Republicans present.
=The winner on the first ballot? Al Gore.

*Academy Award nominees announced
HOLLYWOOD--The Academy of Motion Pictures announced their nominees this week. The nominees for Best Picture are: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night & Good Luck, and Munich.
=I've actually seen trailers and/or commercials for four of the five nominees this year. Maybe I'll get some of the jokes at the Academy Awards.
=You know you don't get out much when you have three kids and you haven't even seen the nominees in the "Best Animated Film" category.

*Super Bowl Sunday
DETROIT--Super Bowl XL will be played this weekend in Detroit. According to the National Eating Trends Service, the #1 snack eaten at Super Bowl parties will be vegetables (29%).

=What a coincidence, the #1 drink turns people into vegetables too.

*1985 Bears Declared Best Ever
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois--The Illinois General Assembly unanimously decided Thursday to designate the 1985 Chicago Bears "the greatest football team of all-time." The city of Chicago honored the '85 Bears with a similar resolution last month.
=This is what happens when your team doesn't win a meaningful playoff game in twenty years.

*Italian Leader's Celibacy Pledge
ROME, Italy--Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised his priest that he would not have "marital relations" until after the April 9th election, as his way of saying thanks to the priest for his political support.
=His wife of 16 years was said to be resting comfortably after high-fiving everyone she knew.
=Clinton Alert: Notice he didn't say anything about extra-marital relations.

*Man falls 130 feet and survives
VIENNA, Austria (AP)--A man plummeted 130 feet from a helicopter but escaped injury because deep snow cushioned his fall.He was suspended by a rope to make repairs when the knot came undone, police in the Austrian town of Hallstatt said. He suffered no injuries.
=If any of you know my youngest son, please don't bring up this story. He already fears nothing--the one argument he might have believed was "hanging from a helicopter by a rope isn't safe."

*White Castle for Valentine's Day
(CHICAGO SUN-TIMES) 22 of the 76 Chicagoland White Castles will be accepting dinner reservations for Valentines Day. They will be laying out white tablecloths, printing menus, dimming the fluorescent lights, and playing romantic music. Employees will also be wearing formal attire, and a maitre'd will seat guests.
="That's right baby. You are my princess, and this is our castle."
=You could slip the maitre'd a twenty for the best table in the joint and still only spend twenty five bucks.

=Roses are red,
my baby's wider,
now that I gave her,
her seventeenth slyder.

*Groundhogs Day
Yesterday Punxatony Phil emerged from his home, and saw his shadow--which means that we're in for another six weeks of winter.
=Frankly, I don’t think his heart has been into his job for years. All Groundhogs have been hiding their heads in shame since they were portrayed by Buddy Hackett in the Christmas special “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”

Reader Response

Regarding my Home for the Holidays article--Snow Dome King.

"I have a very similar story, but I collect snow globes the larger more expensive kind. I have one from here, seattle, new york, london, las vegas and a few others... I have found them hard to come by, cuz most places only have the smaller plastic-y kind you show here.. I love my snow globes!"

Regarding Jokes for a Monday morning

"As for that joke about the Chicago Police Department making a bear admit he was a rabbit--that bear was probably guilty of something else anyway."

"I was disappointed to see there were no George Bush jokes on your blog the day before his state of the union."

Rick responds: Good point. If anyone has any good George Bush jokes, send them in this weekend and I'll feature them on next Monday's Jokes. Don't worry--we're an equal opportunity offender. I'll do Democrat jokes another week.

Regarding Tuesday's Suburban Man: "The Worst Part"

"I can totally relate to your hatred of crafts. I actually told my daughter that I injured my hands in a farm combine accident when I was young, making them useless for crafts."

"Let's not forget Origami. The other day I had to help make a cup and then a Chinese warrior helmet. The cup was easy, but I had to enlist the help of my 12 yr old for the helmet."

"Hey! I love crafts. They teach children so much."

Rick Responds: You're hired. We have a Science Fair project due in two weeks.

Regarding Wednesday's Bald Minute: "We are good, they are evil"

"I have a flaw in Dave's 'bald people are good' theory. What about Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies? He's bald, and he's so evil it's in his name."

Dave Responds: Hollywood Propoganda. Mike Myers is actually a fullhead playing a bald man. There's a special very hot place waiting for him someday.

Regarding Last Week's From the Archives: Rick and Swany Interviewed by Andy Shaw

"Rick, thanks a lot for using that picture of me. I'm planning on using it for my next mugshot."

"That Swany is cute. I take it that long hair photo is a few years old."

Rick Responds: Actually, it's not that old. It was taken when our book came out last year. And apparently it may be used as a mugshot in the future. I know Swany pretty well. Don't think it's not possible.

Free-lance writing update: I sold another article this week to Shore Magazine entitled "Emergency Rooms." It will eventually be featured on this blog.

Also, this week I was nominated for membership in the Society of Midland Authors. Quoting from their letter now: "An enduring literary organization (established in 1915) of recognized writers in twelve Midwestern states. Qualifications are publication of a work of literary merit by a recognized publishing house, and a close personal connection with the Midwest by birth or current residence." Wow, literary merit! I better send in my membership form before they see "The Bald Handbook."

A.M.I.S.H. update: Add the "Hacienda" chain of restaurants in Indiana to the list of clients signing up for the radio advertising work of A.M.I.S.H. We're working on a campaign for Cinco de Mayo.

"Severance" update: I'm about 2/3 done with my final edit/rewrite. Although any similarity to people living or dead is strictly coincidental, I've been told that Rob Reiner, PETA, Rush Limbaugh, and the Heritage Foundation won't be crazy about the chapters I edited this week. I have no idea why.

Coming up this weekend on Rick's Blog
: Today marks the anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Don McClean was inspired by that event to write the song “American Pie,” and since the song’s release, this day has been known as “The Day the Music Died.” Guest blogger (and former WCFL-Chicago rock jock) Bob Dearborn will explain the meaning behind the cryptic words of that song in tomorrow’s blog. Don’t miss it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

From the Archives: Creative Kids Speech

As the author of a how-to book about radio(which has been purchased by over twenty universities now), I often find myself talking to groups of creative kids (high school and college) and their parents. This speech is as much for the parents as for the kids. It's to help show non-creative parents what makes their creative kids tick, and to let creative kids know that they aren't alone.

Creative Kids
by Rick Kaempfer

I wish there was a night like this when I went to school, because it’s not easy being a creative.

That’s the term I’m going to use to describe all of us; people who think creatively. In my twenty years of working in radio I’ve met hundreds of the most successful creative people in America. The similarities are amazing. No matter what the talent; creative people are bound by one common thing. It’s the way we think.

It’s not like other people. Our brains are wired differently.

Let me ask you a few questions to see if you are one of us.
=Has anyone ever accused you of being spacey? Having your head in the clouds? Living in your own world?
=Can you see a creative project in your head before you create it?
=Has anyone ever said this to you: If you didn’t have your head screwed on you’d lose that too.
=Do you drive people crazy because you question everything?
=When you don’t want to do something, do you take more time and energy coming up with elaborate excuses than it would have taken to just do whatever it was you didn’t want to do?
=Do you feel like nobody really understands the way you think?

If you said yes to any of those questions, welcome. You’re in the right place. You’re a creative.

Notice the questions I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask if you were organized, or efficient, or methodical. Because you probably aren’t—are you? And the reason why it feels like no one understands the way you think is because they don’t. Organized people will never understand disorganized people. They look at us, and they think, why don’t you just get organized? That’s much harder for us, than it is for them. But is possible. I’ll tell you how it happened for me a little bit later.

It’s frustrating that there is no way to measure creativity. They don’t have a creative ACT score. It’s a subjective thing. Talent is another thing that is difficult to measure—especially in the creative world. If someone has told you that you have no talent, you are pretty good company. Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point.

A California kid was an English major at California State University in Sacramento, but he wanted to act. So, he tried out for the college plays. He couldn’t get cast in a single one. They told him he had no talent. After he graduated, he moved back home with his family. His little brother encouraged him to try out for one more play—a community theatre. He did, and because of his knowledge of the classics from his English degree, he nailed the part. That play eventually went on tour to Cleveland, making him a professional actor. The next year he got his first television acting job--dressing like a woman in an ABC sitcom that was cancelled after half a season. He has been a working actor ever since—you may have heard of him. His name is Tom Hanks.

Granted, not everybody is Tom Hanks. But if you think creatively, you have a chance.

The most frustrating thing about being a creative is that you know you have to pursue a career in a creative field, but you may not be able to explain why. For me, I knew I was a good writer, but I didn’t know that I could make a living at that, necessarily. I just knew deep inside that I had to do something creative. I remember trying to explain that to my Dad. I can still see the look on his face.

I should tell you a little bit more about my family. My parents were immigrants. My Dad was from Austria, my mom was from Germany. German was my first language at home. If I can generalize; the German people have a lot of positive traits. They are organized, efficient, punctual, and orderly. In other words, all of things I mentioned creative people are NOT. Don’t get me wrong, they do get creative. They had a good run in the 19th century with people like Beethoven and Wagner. But since then, not so much. To my parent’s generation of Germans, creativity meant trying chicken schnitzel instead of Wiener schnitzel.

I only tell you that story so you can fully appreciate the horror my parents felt as I was getting ready to choose a college major. We compromised. I enrolled as a liberal arts major at the University of Illinois. My dad was happy because he went there and it’s a good school, and I was happy because I wasn’t in business or engineering or some other field that would have been horrible for me. I eventually transferred into the communications school and got my degree in advertising.

The most important thing I learned at college, however, wasn't learned in the classroom. I learned that I wasn’t alone. I learned that at the college radio station. That’s where I met my peers. My fellow creatives; people with the same talents, interests, and weaknesses. I didn't feel so odd anymore.

There's no reason to feel bad about those weaknesses either. Remember what I told you: You aren't alone. Let me give you a few examples...

See this tie? My wife tied it. I’m over 40 and I still can’t tie a tie.

Have you heard of Andy Warhol? One of the most famous artists of last century. His mother had to move in with him in New York because he couldn’t figure out how to turn on the stove. She eventually became his agent because he couldn’t figure out how to balance his checkbook.

I’m not making these stories up.

The late sportscaster Tim Weigel was a friend of mine. I used to write for him and helped him do his Weigel Wieners. He was a talented and creative guy—but driving with him was like putting your life on the line. He was a gregarious conversationalist, and when he was driving, he spent more time working on the conversation than he did watching the road. I said a little prayer every time I got in the car with him, and spent most of my time in his car stomping on the imaginary brakes on my side of the car.

John Landecker must have lost his wallet a half dozen times in the years I worked with him. He is a gifted radio performer, but it took him twenty minutes to find his keys every morning.

Parents, am I making you feel a little better? Sound like anyone you know? When I talk to parents of creative kids they usually say the same thing….”I’m scared to death that my kid will try to go into the arts or broadcasting.” My answer is “What if they don’t?” They have to follow their talents. It’s their best chance of happiness, but it’s also their best chance at a career. There may be a thousand artists better than they are, but they may develop that talent and amaze you. They seem pretty sure they will. That should tell you something.

Let me tell you a story about a fraternity brother of a good friend of mine. He was a journalism major at the University of Missouri—a very prestigious journalism school. Only he didn’t go into journalism. He moved to California before he graduated. His first job there was driving exotic dancers in a limo. His second job was moving refrigerators. Can you imagine what his parents thought when he called up to tell them his third job was dressing as a giant chicken while handing out fliers for a Mexican restaurant? They probably got over it. His name is Brad Pitt.

Despite what you’ve heard, starving is not the alternative, even for the kids that don’t make it. Creative kids are usually pretty smart. She may not become a famous painter, but last time I checked most art galleries weren’t owned by painters. He may not become a famous radio host, but may become a producer or a writer (like me) or God forbid; management. She may not become a famous actor, but may become a casting agent. There are so many possibilities.

Have you ever seen the movie “Amadeus”? You think it’s the story of Mozart’s genius, but really it’s about another composer named Salieri. He feels cursed that God has given him only the appreciation of great music and not the ability to create it. He doesn’t recognize the value of his own talent. He isn’t a genius, but he recognizes genius. He is a music critic—someone who helps the rest of us mere mortals appreciate great music.

Roger Ebert wrote one film, “Return to the Valley of the Dolls,” and it wasn’t exactly one of the best movies of all time. But he is tireless supporter of film genius—he is the Salieri of our time. And nobody would argue that he isn’t in a creative field. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his film criticism.

When I was your age I had a teacher tell me the odds for reaching the top of any creative business is something like 80 million-1. What she didn't tell me was there are many happy professionals at every other level of every creative business. Creative kids are smart. They’ll find a place. They will. Trust your smart kids.

Let me tell you a story about a smart kid named Ted. How smart was he? He got his B.A from Dartmouth, and then got a graduate degree from Oxford. His parents were so happy and proud. But imagine how they felt when Ted told them he wanted to be a cartoonist. An Ivy League and Oxford-educated cartoonist. It gets worse. He got a job at an advertising agency, and his first assignment was drawing bugs for a bug spray campaign. In his spare time, Ted continued to play around with some drawings, and then put silly words to them. Ted changed his name so that his parents wouldn’t be humiliated if he was ever published. And he was published many times. Theodore Geisel became Dr. Seuss.

Now that I’ve told you some of the reasons that you should go into a creative field, let me tell you three reasons why you shouldn’t.

Bad Reason #1: Money.
I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of creative professionals, and some of them
have been extremely successful and rich—but none of them went into it for the money. If you are doing this because you want to be wealthy, and that’s the biggest reason, you’re making a huge mistake. You know the old adage—‘do what you love and the money will follow’. It’s true that the money will follow if you really have a talent and discover how to harness it. But sometimes it takes years to blossom and discover that inner drive to make you successful.

The people that go into it for the money quit before they learn how to make a living doing what they love. On the other hand, if you are a creative, you don’t care about the money. We aren’t wired for that. To my relatives this is a character flaw. Maybe so. But if it is, it’s a character flaw that is common to all of the creative people I know.

Bad Reason #2: Fame.

First of all, it probably won’t happen. Let’s say you beat the odds and it does happen? I’ve talked to several celebrities about this subject. The people I talked to didn’t exactly complain about fame, but they were under-whelmed by it. If a complete stranger loves you, it doesn’t mean anything because you know that they don’t even know you. People close to you loving you—now that’s the real thing. When you hear that fame is empty, that’s what they mean.

Bad Reason #3: Prestige.

You remember the story about Brad Pitt working as a chicken? If you can’t handle that, you’ll never stick around long enough for the prestige. Listen to this story of a young newspaper reporter. He was working as a legman for newspaper columnist Jack Mabley. At the time, he wrote for the Daily News (a paper that is no longer with us). It was 1957, and Mabley got an invitation to a nudist colony in Indiana. He thought it was a great story, but he wasn’t willing to go nude himself—so he sent his young legman to cover his first story….and he had to do it nude. I’m sure that story is not in the official biography of esteemed journalist Walter Jacobsen.

If you are a creative you owe it to yourself to go to college and experience as much as you can. You may not be able to locate that creative switch inside of you yet because you haven’t found the right form for your creativity. You might just find it in college, and it might be totally different than what you thought it would be.
=Dan Rather went to college to play football at Sam Houston State University. Now the broadcast journalism school there is named after him.
=Rupert Murdock, the owner of the Fox Network, went to Oxford to study philosophy.
=Bill Cosby, the comedian, went to Temple on an athletic scholarship.
=Howard Stern went to Boston College for journalism. If you’ve heard his show, you know he chose another route for his career.

You may discover your talent in college, but not find your creative switch until later. I already told you about Tom Hanks. Here’s another story:

This kid was an English major at the University of Maine. He discovered he loved to write. He sold one short story when he was still in school and made a whopping $35. He wrote a novel after he graduated and nobody was interested (it was rejected by 20 different publishers). He was so hurt by the rejection of that first novel, he didn’t write again for a few more years. He needed to get some life experience first. He became a teacher. He got married. He settled down and had a family.

A few years later he wrote of couple pages, but crumpled them up and threw them in the garbage. His wife found them, liked what she saw, and begged him to finish this second novel. In January of 1973 he submitted it to a publisher. Doubleday bought it. In May of that year, they sold the paperback rights to New American Library for $400,000. The book was called “Carrie” and the author was Stephen King.

If you think you are a creative, and you think like a creative, you are one. Even if you haven’t found that internal switch yet. It may take a few years. Writers particularly need some life experience.

I was 28 when I found my creative switch, and surprise surprise; it was located within my German-ness. I was the producer of the Steve Dahl & Garry Meier show at the Loop in the mid-to-late 80s. That was the number #1 rated afternoon show in Chicago at the time. Unfortunately, that job required me to do all of the things I couldn’t do. I had to be organized. A producer has to know everything that is going on in the world, in the nation, in the city, at the radio station, at the competing radio stations, and in the media. He has to be on top of everything. In order to do that you have to be organized.

I don’t know how much you know about Steve and Garry, but when I let something fall through the cracks, I heard about it. Unfortunately for me, several hundred thousand people also heard about it. They liked to conduct their business on the air, and I was being hammered every day. That was really great motivation to get my act together. I went searching for my inner German-ness to save my butt. And I actually found it. When I found that organization within me, I also finally found my creative switch—and surprise, surprise; it was nestled tightly next to those inner German traits of organization, efficiency and punctuality. Those traits didn’t hinder my creativity, they allowed it to flourish.

Since then I’ve written a musical play, a Second City stage show, a sitcom script, over 100 songs, an award winning children’s story, a novel, over 20,000 radio segments, hundreds of commercials, and a non-fiction book “The Radio Producer’s Handbook,” which by the way is available on Allworth Press for a very affordable $19.95. If you want to go into radio keep your eye for that book.

Buy it by clicking here

I want to mention one more important thing about being a creative. You hear the sob stories of the dark brooding artists who have to feel real pain before they can become creative. That’s nonsense. They would have been artists without experiencing abuse or eating out of dumpsters. And you also hear that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It doesn’t hurt to know people, but if you have talent and learn to harness it, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or how much pain you’ve experienced.

Let me tell you a story about a suburban kid. He studied drama at Hofstra University, and then went to UCLA to study film. He didn’t know anyone. He didn’t live a painful life. But he had talent. He found that he could write, and he took a stab at screenplays. One of his first screenplays won the Academy Award. The movie was “Patton.” That led to a producer job. He produced a film called “American Graffiti”. That was nominated for five Academy Awards. It also got him the clout to direct. You may have heard of that little movie he directed…The Godfather. His name is Francis Ford Coppola, and he’s a suburban kid who didn't suffer and didn't know anyone.

As for me, after over twenty years of working in radio, I’m finally working in the field of my major; I now co-own an advertising agency. My mother can finally tell people what I do for a living without saying…”but he got his degree in advertising.” My agency is called “A.M.I.S.H Chicago Advertising.” And we’re doing amazingly well for a company run by a bunch of creative guys. Check out our web site at I’m not Amish. That’s an acronym. It stands for Ad Men In Search of Happiness.

It’s still a search as far as I’m concerned, but I’m enjoying the journey. I’ve gotten to work with my radio heroes Steve Dahl & Garry Meier, and John Records Landecker. I’ve gotten to meet some of my creative heroes like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Sir George Martin. But for now I’m happy with my advertising agency because it allows me to spend time with my new creative projects…my sons Tommy, Johnny and Sean.

And those are my most satisfying creative projects of all.

And they are creative. This creative ‘illness’ runs in families by the way.
Even my German family. After my Dad died I found a pile of poetry that he wrote. It was written in German, but it was brilliant. His father, the grouchy old German, mellowed so much in his 90s that he finally admitted to me what his lifelong dream was: He wanted to be a professional accordion player. His uncle wrote the newspaper in their tiny little town in Romania. I never heard these stories growing up. They wanted to spare me from the anguish of being creative. Guess what, you can’t spare anyone. And in America, you don’t have to.

We’re lucky—you and I—we live in a society that values creativity. And someday, you’ll find your place in that society.

Albert Einstein was once asked what his greatest gift was. He answered: imagination. Because it has no limits.

And if you came here tonight, you can bet that you have a great imagination. And you have no limits to what you can achieve.

If you've missed any of the previous "From the Archives" and would like to check them out, click on

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Bald Minute: We are Good, They are Evil

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 man 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 to 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 to inquire).

“We are Good, They are Evil”
By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

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

D: Fullheads.

R: Right. Dave has done extensive research on the subject of people with full heads of hair, and has some remarkable findings. Care to share those with us, Dave.

D: As far as I’m concerned you’re a Fullhead.

R: I have a bald spot—

D: I would kill for that bald spot.

R: Dave, stay on topic, please.

D: It boils down to this: Bald people are good and Fullheads are evil.

R: According to Dave’s research, for every example of Fullhead evil, there is counter example of bald good.

D: For instance…

R: Mass murderers Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Charles Manson—Fullheads.

D: Prosecutors Rudy Giuliani and Elliot Spitzer—Bald.

R: Typhoid Mary—Fullhead.

D: Jonas Salk—Bald.

R: Atheist Howard Stern—Fullhead

D: Pope John Paul II & the Dali Lama—Bald.

R: Adolf Hitler—Fullhead.

D: Winston Churchill—Bald.

R: Mussolini?

D: Misunderstood. He was just suffering from Stage 2 Bald Rage. Would it have killed the Italian people to show him a little compassion?

R: Um…actually, Dave…you probably shouldn’t say ‘killed’…

D: I’m telling you--one less snarky comment about the reflection off his head and one more hug and the whole thing could have been avoided.

R: You seem a little tense. Are you reverting back to Stage 2 yourself?

D: Get on with it, fullhead evil boy.

R: I have a bald spot.

D: Don't push me.

R: For more information about fullhead evil, including the reason for their evil…

D: God loves us more…

R: Check out our upcoming book “The Bald Handbook.” Reporting for the Bald Minute, I’m Rick Kaempfer.

D: And I’m Dave Stern.

If you missed a previous episode of "The Bald Minute" and would like to check it out, click here:

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Suburban Man: The Worst Part

By Rick Kaempfer

When other men find out that I’m a stay at home dad, I usually see a certain look in their eyes. It’s not exactly pity—but it’s a close relative. They’re thinking “Geez, I wouldn’t want to do that.” I can see the wheels spinning in their heads, thinking about how they would do in the same situation. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, I usually get the same question.

“What’s the worst part?” they ask.

I have a stock answer to that question, and it always surprises them. They think I’m joking. They don’t understand the magnitude of the problem; but it’s something I face every single day. I don’t care if it sounds benign and harmless; it’s the bane of my existence.

My answer is this: Crafts.

I hate crafts. No, I mean it. I really, really, really hate crafts.

If you’re the parent of young children, you know what I’m talking about. You have to do crafts all the time. It starts during the first 'mom and tot' class at the park district (don’t look at me that way). As soon as you walk in the door, the teacher hands you some construction paper, a few crayons, scissors, and a cotton ball and says: “Today we’re making snowmen!”

And it hasn’t stopped yet. Pre-school? Forget about it. Ghosts, goblins, thanksgiving turkeys, snowmen and snowflakes. Kindergarten? Leaves, Indians, Valentine hearts, shamrocks, and mother’s day cards. And of course, many, many more snowmen and snowflakes.

It never stops. First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade. Crafts, crafts, crafts, crafts. Is it time for the science fair? Great! Load up on supplies and start cutting, and drawing and painting. Get some markers and paint brushes and construction paper and cardboard and scissors and glue and silly putty and play-doh and yarn.

And it’s not just school. The after school extra curricular activities are no respite from crafts. Cub Scouts is the granddaddy of them all, especially when it’s Pinewood Derby time. That’s more than a craft--you have to make a wooden car; with weights and decals and paint and aerodynamics. Religious Education is no escape from crafts, either. Every year at Easter time, you can bet we’ll be making a cross. Shouldn’t we be allowed to resurrect last year’s cross? Don’t look at me that way. It’s thematically appropriate.

Crafts are not confined to the school year, either. This is a year round phenomenon. I almost had a seizure when I got the summer school brochure last year. One of the classes offered in every age group? “Crafts for Kids.”

If it’s a new day, it’s a new craft. Here’s a big blob of clay and some shellac. Make a duck. Here’s a pinecone and a jar of peanut butter. Make a lure for squirrels. Here’s a stick, a leaf, a blade of grass, a jar of Elmer’s glue and a tongue depressor. Make Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity.

Make it yourself. I’ll pay you $20.

Crafts are a stealth weapon. They certainly weren’t in the parenting brochure. The brochure itself was a little scary, but I think I’ve got a handle on most of those jobs. I’ve got no problem with cooking. I’m not very good at cleaning, but I understand the need for it. Helping with homework is fine; it’s part of the job. Counseling and advising the boys, car-pooling, soccer practice, field trips, and play dates are fine.


There, I feel better. Sometimes you just need to vent.

Now if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’m looking for a carrot, three jelly beans, a baggie full of mini M&Ms and a quarter. My son and I have to make George Washington crossing the Delaware.

If you missed any of the previous Suburban Man columns and you'd like to check them out, click here:

Monday, January 30, 2006

Jokes for a Monday morning

Three Jokes to Start your Week with a Smile

1. This one is for the teachers. Thanks to "N" (a teacher) for submitting it.

You know you're a teacher when...
=You believe the staff room should be equipped with a Valium salt lick.
=You find humor in other people's stupidity.
=You want to slap the next person who says "Must be nice to work 8 to 3:20 and have summers free."
=You believe chocolate is a food group.
=You can tell if it's a full moon without ever looking outside.
=You believe "Shallow gene pool" should have its own box in the report card.
=You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today.
=When out in public you feel the urge to snap your fingers at children you do not know and correct their behavior.
=You have no life between August to June.
=When you mention "Vegetables" you're not talking about a food group.
=You think people should be required to get a government permit before being allowed to reproduce.
=You wonder how some parents ever MANAGED to reproduce.
=You believe in aerial spraying of Prozak.
=You believe no one should be permitted to reproduce without having taught in an elementary setting for the last 10 years.
=You've ever had your profession slammed by someone who would "Never DREAM" of doing your job.
=You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
=You know you are in for a major project when a parent says "I have a great idea I'd like to discuss. I think it would be such fun."
=You want to choke a person when he or she says "Oh, you must have such FUN everyday. This must be like playtime for you."
=Meeting a child's parent instantly answers the question "Why is this kid like this?"

2. This one is for the office. Submitted by "J", a long suffering office worker.


"They told me at the blood bank this might happen."

"I wasn't sleeping, I was trying to pick up contact lens without hands."

"I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm!"


"This is just a 15 minute power-nap like they raved about in the last time management course you sent me to."

"Whew! Guess I left the top off the liquid paper"

"I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work related stress."

"This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people!"

"Boy, that cold medicine I took last night just won't wear off!"

"Darn! Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem."

3. This one wasn't submitted by a cop, but I thought it was funny anyway. Thanks "M".

In an effort to determine the top crime fighting agency in the country, the president narrowed the field to three finalist, the CIA, the FBI, and the Chicago Police.

The three remaining contenders were given the task of catching a rabbit which was released into the forest.

The CIA went into the forest. They placed animal informants throughout. They questioned all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigation they concluded that rabbits do not exist.

The FBI went into the forest. After two weeks without a capture, they burned the forest killing everything in it, including the rabbit. They made no apologies. The rabbit deserved it.

The CPD went into the forest. They came out two hours later with a badly beaten bear.
The bear was yelling "Okay, Okay, I'm a rabbit, I'm a rabbit".

This Week on Rick's Blog 1/30--2/4

This Week on Rick's Blog

Monday January 30--Jokes for Monday Morning

Tuesday January 31--Suburban Man reveals the #1 worst thing about being a stay at home dad. What is it? The answer may surprise you.

Wednesday February 1--The Bald Minute reveals a handy guide for differentiating good from evil.

Thursday February 2--From the Archives: Rick presents excerpts of a speech he delivers to "Creative Kids" (in this case, kids means high school and college age) about how to cope with being so different.

Friday February 3--This Week News & Views complete with observations, jokes, comments, and reader input.

Saturday February 4--Guest Blogger: Bob Dearborn. The former WCFL disc jockey explains the significance of the "Day the Music Died".

Sunday, January 29, 2006


"Snow Dome King"

By Rick Kaempfer

From Home for the Holidays/A publication of the Times

It started out as a joke. My buddies and I went to Graceland in 1987 for the tenth anniversary of Elvis’ death just because we wanted to witness the spectacle. Let me tell you; it was memorable. We felt like we had inadvertently wandered into the capital city of Tackyland for the coronation of the King. As we passed black velvet Elvis portrait after black velvet Elvis portrait, a thought occurred to me. I wanted to bring home the tackiest memento I could find as a tribute to this amazing weekend.

When I saw a shelf full of $3 Elvis snow domes at the gift shop across the street from Graceland, I knew I had a winner. First of all, let’s face it, it was only three dollars. Secondly, the whole idea of honoring Elvis with a plastic water-and-fake-snow-filled dome seemed so profound. I had my own intellectual interpretation; the snow falling on his former home represents the chill the city of Memphis feels since he left us, and the snow falling on the Lisa Marie airplane represents the white light that awaited him as he “flew” up to his final destination.

That was the interpretation I planned on using when people asked me why I proudly displayed a Graceland snow dome in my home. I saw this plastic thing as nothing more than a conversation piece. How was I to know that it would become so much more than that? It was the beginning of a real problem; a sickness. From that moment on, whenever I traveled anywhere, I instinctively looked for a snow dome to commemorate my visit. I now own over a hundred snow domes from locations all over the world, and while I still mock them and come up with ridiculous kitschy reasons why a plastic water-and-fake-snow-filled dome is a perfect memento of a visit, I have to admit that I’ve grown to love these things.

In fact, I now effortlessly tick off my list of reasons to collect them.
=Affordability: The price is right. At most, a tourist snow dome will cost you five bucks. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for your collecting dollar.
=Convenience: There isn’t an airport in the world that doesn’t sell them. Your friends won’t even mind picking one up for you.
=Fun: Shake one and tell me it doesn’t bring a smile to your face. It’s fun for “kids” of all ages.
=Conversation: Since 1987 there hasn’t been a single visitor to my home that hasn’t asked me at least one question about my collection.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if you travel somewhere it never snows?
This was the first dilemma I faced when I began to expand my collection. I like to travel to warm destinations. Luckily, this is shockingly not a problem. Among the snow domes in my collection: Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Hawaii, Arizona, Acapulco, Cancun, Barbados, St. Kitts, Bermuda, and the Dominican Republic. To me, these are the crown jewels of my collection because the entire concept is so ridiculous.

What is your most prized snow dome?
My favorite has to be the Pope John Paul II snow dome. My brother picked it up for me when he visited the Vatican. Shake it and watch a submerged Pope get covered with snow inside a cheap plastic dome. It’s an obvious keepsake for Catholics.

Is this really a worldwide phenomenon?
I have snow domes from every continent on earth except Antarctica, the snowiest of the continents. In another ironic twist, the only location I have been completely unsuccessful finding one is China—where virtually all snow domes are made. Although I should note that I wasn’t the one who traveled to China; it was my sister-in-law. She might have just been too humiliated to purchase one. That happens occasionally.

Which one comes from the furthest location?
I would have to get out my atlas to check the actual mileage, but I have snow domes from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

What are your favorites from this country?
I personally cherish the snow domes from places that have no business producing snow domes. I have one from Iowa. It features cows. I have one from Harvard University. That just seems like an odd choice for Harvard, doesn’t it? I also like the snow domes that commemorate events. The one I bought in Richmond, Virginia commemorates the Civil War. The one I bought in Atlanta commemorates the 1996 Summer Olympics. Last but not least, I have a Las Vegas snow dome that doesn’t have any pizzazz at all. I just thought that was funny.

Do you have any local snow domes?
I have one from Chicago, one from Wrigley Field, one from Springfield, Illinois, one from Indiana, one from Detroit, two from Lake Geneva, and one from Wisconsin that is exactly the same as my Iowa snow dome. Apparently, they got a deal on the cow picture. Minnesota and Ohio, by the way, both feature the exact same duck.

Why don’t you have any fancy snow domes?
I know there are beautiful glass snow domes on the market, but those don’t really fit into my personal collection. I pride myself in the cheapness factor.

Do you have any cautionary tales?

Take it from a father of three boys; a child as young as two years of age can throw a snow dome up to fifteen feet. While a snow dome may cost only $5, it may cost a little more to go to Australia to buy it. And if you’re like me, and you have a three year old little darling who likes to watch a recently deceased Pope fly through the air, you may have to take drastic measures. My entire collection is currently in a box in the basement until the kids move out of the house.

That has a tendency to take the fun out of any collection.

SNOW DOME UPDATE: Since this article came out last month, I have added another gem to my collection. I found a beautiful nativity scene snow globe with a music box attached. Why is this so great? The music box plays the song "Chicago, Chicago" (which everyone knows was Baby Jesus' favorite song).