You've probably heard about the Billy Goat curse that supposedly afflicts the Cubs. But did you know that it had already been 37 years since they won a championship when the Billy Goat was barred from Wrigley Field?
No, sir. It goes much deeper than the Billy Goat. At Just One Bad Century, we have created a brand new video that explains the story of Merkle's Ghost. I think it's the best thing we've ever done. Check it out for yourself:
KARMA TRAIN VIDEO: Merkle's Ghost
After you watch it, you'll wonder why the Billy Goat is mentioned at all.
Musings, observations, and written works from the publisher of Eckhartz Press, the media critic for the Illinois Entertainer, co-host of Minutia Men, Minutia Men Celebrity Interview and Free Kicks, and the author of "Back in the D.D.R", "EveryCubEver", "The Living Wills", "$everance," "Father Knows Nothing," "The Radio Producer's Handbook," "Records Truly Is My Middle Name", and "Gruen Weiss Vor".
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Media Notebook (March 27, 2008)
Collected and Edited by Rick Kaempfer
Highlights and links to the big stories in the news this week about the media. This column appears twice a week at MEDIA NOTEBOOK
Radio Legend Wally Phillips dies at 82
(Chicago Sun Times) Wally Phillips, one of Chicago's most popular and influential radio personalities of all time, has died, WGN-AM (720) is reporting this morning. Phillips, a Radio Hall of Famer, had been battling Alzheimer¹s disease since 2004. He died at his home in Naples, Fla., at the age of 82, the station said. He began his ground-breaking 42-year run at WGN in 1956, when he arrived from WLW-AM in Cincinnati. For 21 years, he was the undisputed king of morning radio, drawing an astonishing half of all listeners at his peak. At the Tribune Co.-owned news/talk powerhouse, Phillips pioneered a new form of radio by engaging his audience through phone interaction and employing his impeccable sense of comedic timing with random drop-ins and sound effects. At the peak of his popularity as morning star at WGN, Phillips attracted half of all Chicago area radio listeners -- an audience of nearly 1.5 million each day -- making him the most listened-to radio host in the country.
XM-Sirius Merger Approved by Justice Department
(Inside Radio) The Department of Justice's Antitrust Division has closed its investigation into the pending merger of the two satellite radio operators without taking any action to block the deal. The merger still awaits action at the FCC, where last week chairman Kevin Martin says his staff is drawing up documents for several different possible outcomes. He doesn't expect to issue a ruling until next month.
Talent may suffer most after XM/Sirius merger
(Chicago Tribune) I agree with every word Phil Rosenthal writes about this: "Both Sirius and XM have music channels. They both have news. It's the proprietary stuff that makes a difference. Take away the competition for that and guess whose price deflates. Sorry, Oprah and Howard. It's talent agents who ought to be protesting this merger. Instead, the National Association of Broadcasters is lobbying hard, saying that eliminating competition would be bad for the public. The NAB had no such qualms when it came to radio consolidation a dozen years ago, which makes one suspicious their real motive is solely concern over a potential competitor. But the homogenization of broadcast radio by station groups dumping local talent in favor of syndicated fare has done more harm to broadcasters than satellite radio ever will."
Fox refuses to pay indecency fine
(Variety) William Triplett writes: "Fox Television is refusing to pay a $91,000 broadcast indecency fine that the Federal Communications Commission slapped on the network for a 2003 episode of its "Married by America" reality show. In a statement released Monday -- the deadline by which Fox had to respond to the FCC's official notice of forfeiture -- the net said it will instead file a request for the FCC to reconsider the fine. In 2004, the FCC initially fined 169 Fox stations $7,000 each -- a total of $1.2 million -- for the episode, which included images of contestants licking whipped cream off strippers. Recently, however, the agency reduced the number of stations to 13 and thus the fine to $91,000, saying it would fine stations only in markets from which it had received complaints. Fox has argued that the material was not statutorily indecent but rather was integral to the storyline."
Clear Channel, Buyers sue Lenders
(Radio Ink) The Clear Channel privatization is going to court, as Clear Channel and its private equity purchasers have filed suit to force the banks that agreed to finance the $19.5 billion buyout to close the deal. The suits were filed by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners in Bexar County, TX, and the New York State Supreme Court, and Clear Channel has joined as a plaintiff in the Texas suit. Clear Channel said it will be represented by Joe Jamail, who was Pennzoil's chief attorney when it won its multibillion-dollar merger-interference suit against Texaco in 1985. Bain Capital and Lee Partners said the suits were filed against Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, and Wachovia "to enforce binding commitments the banks made to provide debt financing for the private equity firms acquisition of Clear Channel Communications Inc."
More on the Clear Channel deal collapsing
(Radio Online) Can everyone just admit this is a bad idea because Clear Channel just ain't worth it? "Some 16 months after it was announced, the $19 billion deal to take Clear Channel private is 'near collapse' reports the Wall Street Journal. WSJ says that private-equity firms Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital are still trying to resolve their differences over the terms of the credit agreement. Shares of the radio giant were down 21% in after-hours trading on Tuesday losing $6.86 to $25.70. Shareholders approved a buyout of $39.20 per share in September."
Ah, here's someone who agrees with me
(Inside Music Media) Jerry Del Colliano writes: "For the poor folks who have to keep running these excellent outlets under tenuous circumstances, they can expect cutbacks and economies of scale to operate the infrastructure in an industry that is ice cold and headed into the freezer. Tough times for Clear Channel employees. More shortcuts and layoffs. The Journal reported 'The sponsors do not want to do this deal,' said one person involved, referring to the private equity firms. 'No one wants to do this deal except for the seller.' Ya think?"
CNN Headline News working on a comedy show
(USA Today) CNN Headline News isn't the first place you'd look for comedy, but the network says it will try to have fun with some of the clips in its news archives. Not Just Another Cable News Show will premiere April 5, the network said Monday. "It's an entertaining way to recall some of the more memorable moments captured on video," said Ken Jautz, executive vice president at CNN Worldwide. The 30-minute show will be on Saturdays at 7 p.m. ET, then repeated twice later in the evening. It will be followed each time by News to Me, a series that shows hot Web videos. The sober CNN has generally avoided such light material in the past. A few years ago, CNN International aired reruns of Comedy Central's The Daily Show for overseas viewers.
The Future of Radio?
(Washington Post) Mark Fischer writes: "As the audience for AM and FM radio declines, start-up entrepreneurs and giant media companies alike search for the "next radio" -- a way to make money by helping listeners discover new music. Online music providers such as Pandora, Imeem and Last.fm provide an early glance at that next chapter in radio history."
Time Warner CEO pay goes up as stock goes down
(Bloomberg) Michael White writes: "Time Warner Inc. reported compensation of $19.6 million for Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bewkes last year, a 4.9 percent increase. Chairman Richard Parsons, 59, had reported pay of $18.6 million, down from $22.5 million, the company said today in a proxy filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Bewkes, 55, named CEO on Nov. 5 after two years as president and chief operating officer, is considering selling assets, including publications and the AOL network. The company has been hurt by declines in its publishing and AOL Internet businesses. Bewkes's compensation included $1.25 million in salary and a $7 million bonus. His total included $7.33 million in stock awards and $3.9 million in stock options, according to the filing. Time Warner fell 23 cents to $14.18 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading."
For Whom the Zell tolls
(Variety) Cynthia Littleton writes: "Sweeping through his newly acquired business units with characteristic bluster and bluntness, it didn't take too long for Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell to acquire the nickname Yosemite Sam. And when he met with employees of what has been the Tribune Co.'s problem child, the Los Angeles Times, last month, he was quick to define the newspaper's problems with a kind of cartoonish naughtiness. 'The challenge is, how do we get somebody 126 years old to get it up?' Zell said, referring to the newspaper. 'Well ... I'm your Viagra.'"
Dissension at Fox News over Obama Coverage
(NY Times) Brian Stelter writes: "Critics of the Fox News Channel regularly complain that the network beats up on Democrats and takes comments out of context. Usually, though, those critics are not Fox anchors. On Friday Chris Wallace, host of the weekend political talk show “Fox News Sunday,” took the hosts of “Fox & Friends” to task for their conversations about Senator Barack Obama’s comments about race. His complaint — which created both a tense moment and some must-see TV — was that his colleagues were taking those comments out of context."
VIDEO: Chris Wallace scolds Fox and Friends
An interview with Hulu's Jason Kilar
(Iwantmedia.com) Big media is betting big on Hulu, the new, all-free, all-legal video Web site that streams television shows, movies and other clips, jointly owned by powerhouses News Corp. and NBC Universal. Unlike Google's largely user-generated YouTube -- the world's leading video site -- the advertising-supported Hulu presents professional content only. That means no clips of cats playing the piano (unless, perhaps, they're part of a short from "Saturday Night Live"). Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, a former tech exec with Amazon.com and Disney, oversaw the unveiling of the site on March 12 after some 18 weeks of testing. At launch Hulu served up episodes of more than 250 TV series, from current hits like "Family Guy" to classics like "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," as well as 100 full-length motion pictures, like "The Usual Suspects" and "Some Like It Hot."
Arianna bests Drudge?
(Allthingsdigital) Kara Swisher writes: "In February, for the first time ever, Arianna Huffington’s liberal political mega-blog and news site, the Huffington Post, has apparently surpassed the longtime mighty blog leader, Matt Drudge of the conservative/populist-leaning Drudge Report, according to recent traffic data reports from both comScore (SCOR) and Nielsen Online."
An interview with Joe Collins
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with the afternoon traffic anchor of WBBM-AM Newsradio 780, Joe Collins. Joe talked about his interesting career and his brushes with broadcasting greatness, including the advice Mike North gave him for picking up chicks. Coming this weekend; Bobby Skafish, Wendy Snyder and Scott Childers provide updates since their last CRS interviews.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Suburban Man: Be Prepared
By Rick Kaempfer
After the last Boy Scout trip, an overnight stay at Detroit’s Greenfield Village, the Scoutmaster had a little chat with me when he dropped off my son.
“I really think you should come along next time,” he said. It didn’t sound like a request.
“Was there a problem?” I asked.
“Well…” he didn’t want to say it, but I’ve been living with Tommy for 12 years. I knew.
“Did he wander off?”
He looked relieved. “Yes.”
I promised him I would go along the next time.
I should explain the Tommy dynamic to you. Tommy is the classic absent-minded professor type. He’s a brilliant boy intellectually…so much so that he has a few deficiencies in other areas. What he really needs is a personal assistant–someone to remind him to do the little things in life, like put on his pants, eat, and open the door before walking through it–you know the sort of things that people tend to notice.
That job has fallen to me, largely because I was the same way (minus the intellectual part) when I was boy. I was one of those kids that we now refer to as a “creative type.” I had the same issues as Tommy and (sort of) managed to overcome them. That makes me uniquely able to handle him. I can see the problems that are going to occur before they occur.
Which brings me back to scouting. Now that I’ve described our unique father-son team, try to picture the two of us on a Boy Scout trip. The Boy Scouts have managed to encapsulate all of Tommy’s and my weaknesses into one handbook, around which they’ve created an entire organization. It’s the main reason I wanted him to join. I was hoping somebody would help me teach him the things I can’t teach him. Now it looked like I was going to have to do it after all.
Last weekend was our first Boy Scout trip together.
We went in caravan to Iowa to something called “Merit Badge University.” I chose this as our first trip because I figured we would be able to handle it. It was being held on a college campus (University of Iowa), and I love college campuses. There was no camping involved, which meant that we wouldn’t need to set up a tent. Tommy was working on his computer merit badge–which is certainly NOT among his weaknesses. There were ten dads going on the trip so I wasn’t going to be in a position of responsibility. What could go wrong?
It took less than twenty minutes.
As the caboose in the caravan, I somehow got separated from the other cars in a traffic jam just past Chicago. Even though we were each given walkie-talkies to stay in touch with each other, this is what I heard through the speaker.
I found out later that the garbled mess was telling me to turn onto the next highway. I missed the turn, and just like that, we were lost. Luckily another dad was in my car and he helped me figure out how to get back on track. Even luckier, we caught up to the caravan when they stopped at a truck stop near DeKalb. I was practically tailgating them the rest of the way.
When we arrived at the lodge in Iowa, I exhaled. Even though we would be sleeping on the floor, it was a nice lodge. We were segregated by age–dads on one side, boys on the other. We also segregated the bathrooms by age–dads using the women’s restroom, boys using the men’s. I think it might have had something to do with keeping the boys away from the gigantic supply of feminine hygiene products. That wasn’t a discussion we felt like having.
As I nestled in my sleeping bag that night, I thought, “This isn’t so bad. I think we’re going to be able to pull this off.”
The next morning we drove to the University of Iowa campus. Again, the other dads almost lost me, but I managed to find our final destination. I also helped Tommy find the right classroom for his merit badge study (and wow would that have been a disaster if I wasn’t there–he started walking the exact wrong direction).
Tommy’s teacher, however, was having a bad day. He couldn’t figure out which key to use to get into the classroom. Once we got in the room, he couldn’t figure out how to log onto the computers. He looked around for help, and the only other parent who decided to stick around was me. I saw the look in his eyes. That’s when it hit me. What kind of a dad volunteers to teach the computer class (as opposed to knots, survival skills, aviation, rocket propulsion, etc)? The same kind of dad as me.
I hopped right in to help. Between the two of us, we finally figured out how to handle the computers: by asking the kids. These kids, most of which were just like Tommy, were wizards on the computer. One helped us decipher the sign-on codes. Another one managed to identify the IP address of each computer in the room. Still another worked with the other dad to take apart a computer and point out what each part did. Another one walked the rest of the class through databases on Excel and Access. Tommy showed some of the kids how to use Powerpoint.
At lunchtime, Tommy informed me that my services would not be needed in the afternoon session.
“Why?” I asked. “Am I embarrassing you?”
Before he could answer, I stopped him. It didn’t matter. He knew that he could handle the rest of this day by himself, and I wasn’t going to be needed. That was good enough for me. It’s what I wanted to see.
I picked him up after class and we quietly took a tour of the University. He had a big smile on his face. I could tell that he was invigorated by the atmosphere. It was an institution of higher learning, and there was nothing that Tommy enjoyed more than learning…as long as it was his kind of learning.
That night, after a long day, we had some time to kill back at the lodge. While the older scouts were playing poker on one side of the room, and the younger scouts were having a full-fledged pillow fight on the other side of the room, Tommy got into his sleeping back and fell asleep.
The scoutmaster was concerned that something might be wrong with him. When he asked me, I just smiled.
“No,” I said. “He’s going to be just fine.”
This originally appeared on my blog at NWI Parent, "Father Knows Nothing." If you haven't yet checked out "Father Knows Nothing", there are several new columns there that I haven't shared here at Suburban Man headquarters.
Click here to see them.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Every Monday stop by for jokes, links to stories you might have missed, amusing photos and video, and more. Contributions and suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Click on the "Email Me" link on the right to contribute.
Joke of the Week: I hope everyone had a great Easter. Please enjoy these "Easter Jokes" contributed by "E"
Q. What do Easter Bunny helpers get for making a basket?
A. Two points, just like anyone else.
Q. What's invisible and smells like carrots?
A. The Ether Bunny
Q. Why did the Easter Bunny hide his eggs?
A. He doesn't want the other bunnies to know tht he was fooling around with the chickens.
* * * * *
As a man was coming out of church one day, the preacher was standing at the door as he always does to shake hands. He grabbed the man by the hand and pulled him aside The Pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"
The man replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor."
The Pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?"
He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service. "
* * * * *
Three blondes died in a car crash trying to jump the Grand Canyon and are at the pearly gates of heaven. St Peter tells them that they can enter the gates only if they can answer one simple religious question. The question posed by St. Peter is "What is Easter"?
The first blonde replies, "Oh, that's easy! It's the holiday in November when everyone gets together, eats turkey and are thankful..." "Wrong!, you are not welcome here, I'm afraid. You must go to the other place!" replies St. Peter.
He turns to the second blonde, and asks her the same question: "What is Easter?" The second blonde replies, "Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus."
St Peter looks at the second blonde, bangs his head on the on the pearly gates in disgust and tells her she's wrong and will have to join her friend in the other place. She is not welcome in Heaven.
He then peers over his glasses at the third blonde and asks, "Do YOU know what Easter is"? The third blonde smiles confidently and looks St Peter in the eyes, "I know what Easter is." "Oh?" says St Peter, incredulously. "Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples were eating at the last supper and Jesus was later deceived and turned over to the Romans by one of his disciples. The Romans took him to be crucified and he was stabbed in the side, made to wear a crown of thorns, and was hung on a cross with nails through his hands and feet. He was buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large boulder."
St Peter smiled broadly with delight. The third blonde continued... "Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out and, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter."
Stories you might have missed
1. A Good Marriage Leads to Good Blood Pressure
(Uh oh. I wonder if it works the other way around too? I've had high blood pressure since shortly after I got married.)
2. Things that White People Like
(I've been getting links to this site sent to me about once a week. It's not a story-per-se, but it's funny.)
3. "It's Raining McCain" by the McCain Girls
(He should use this as a campaign ad. It's exactly as hip as he is.)
4. What would Kate Beckinsale rather eat than sushi?
(It starts with a V, and no, this isn't a link for the kids.)
5. Man blames speeding on bad oreo dunk
(In this case "oreo dunk" does not have a secret meaning)
Video of the week: Contributed by "Z". There's something oddly amusing about this...
Picture of the week:
Contributed by "B": Redneck Tree Swing
Regarding Chicago Radio Spotlight: Matt DuBiel
"Rick, Steve was ripping your interview on the air this week. He spent almost an hour on it and said that you obviously have some unresolved issues because you dared to ask a question of your interview subject about what it was like working with Steve. Did you hear any of that?"
"Steve took a few shots at you on the air this week. He said, 'Rick was my producer when I was with Garry. He wasn't very good, but he was a nice guy.' Then he ripped your interview."
Rick responds: I haven't had a chance to check out Steve's show since he moved to mornings because it gets a little crazy at my house in the morning, but I'm sure whatever he said was all in good fun. By the way, his description of me ('he wasn't very good, but he was a nice guy') is pretty accurate. That was my first job in Chicago radio and I didn't really know what I was doing. I learned a lot from him, including the standard explanation if anyone asks you about a rip job. Always say: "it's just a bit."
Regarding Suburban Man: "Young Love"
"Just wait until he's in seventh grade and you find the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue hidden in the bottom of his sock drawer. I really don't think he was hoarding it for the articles, either. Also, wait until those cute little girls are able to read and write complete sentences.
*Dear Junior, You're such a hottie. Would you go with me? If you don't want to go with me, would you go with Amanda?
*Dear Junior, I saw you riding your bike the other day. You're such a cutie. I was going to walk by your house on Saturday, but I'm afraid of your mom. (YESSS!)
*Dear Junior, Hi cutie. So, do you have a game tonight? You're number 52, right?
*Dear Junior, How are you? This class is so boring. Are you going to the dance? I hope I see you there before Alyssa does.
Yes, those were actual notes I found shoved in a book bag. Before that, the worst thing that came tumbling out of there was a dissected frog. My son always claimed that he never wrote them back and did nothing to encourage them to write notes. I believe it. He is a guy, after all. Oh, and I think the word you were looking for to answer Sean's question is a 'crush.' Because, inevitably, that's what happens to the feelings of the one experiencing it! "
"Aww! Your son is so adorable. That story gave me a good laugh and melted my heart too. I look forward to when my daughter is a little older and we get some good talks with her."
"How cute. The other day when I arrived at my five-year-old’s preschool to pick her up, one of her boy classmates gave her a big hug and said, “See ya later, Sweet Cheeks!” Sounds like he and your son would get along; they are old souls."
Regarding "Just One Bad Century": Boots Day
"My favorite Cub short-timer is is Roe Skidmore. Look him up. He was the playground supervisor during the noon hour at my grade school when he was in college at Millikin. Nice guy."
302 days until we get a new president.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Chicago Radio Spotlight: Joe Collins
Joe Collins is the afternoon traffic anchor at WBBM-AM, Newsradio 780
* Worked as a jock at the college radio station, WSXC, which broadcast to 27 rooms and the cafeteria, when I was at St. Xavier on the South Side
* Got a job as afternoon news anchor on WJOB-AM (1230) in Hammond, starting in January 1981
* Got work as a jock on WKDC-AM (1530) in Elmhurst, the format of which was (believe it or not) Broadway show tunes, in December 1982
* Got weekend work as a Saturday overnights at WBYG (99.9), "The Big One", In January 1983, so I worked during the week at WKDC and Saturday nights at WBYG
* When WKDC shut its doors after bankruptcy in September, 1983, got part-time work for WYEN (106.7) in Des Plaines; format change at WBYG in early 1984 lost me that gig
* Finally got hired at WAUR (107.9) in Aurora for the "All-Gold Weekend" in early 1984; then was hired for the afternoon talk-show shift at their sister station, WMRO (1280) shortly thereafter;
* Fired (it was inevitable for a broadcaster) from WMRO/WAUR in August 1987
* Hired by Shadow Broadcast Services on Dec. 31, 1987; did split shift traffic on WMAQ (670) until they lost the station to Metro in 1992; continued at Shadow doing traffic on other stations until getting out of the business to work at Navigation Technologies (now NavTeq) in August, 1994;
* Returned to Shadow to do traffic on WMAQ again in August, 1997; sometime during 1999-2000 (I can get the exact date), became AM drive reporter on WBBM-AM (780); after MAQ folded, Bart Shore moved to BBM mornings and I shifted to afternoons and HAVE BEEN THERE EVER SINCE!!! YIKES!!!
Rick: I think most people in Chicago have heard your voice on the radio over the past twenty years. I get a kick out of the way you like to describe this phenomenon: "reverse celebrity." What do you mean by that?
Joe: When I meet someone and the question comes up, "What do you do for a living?", I always answer "I do traffic reports on the radio." Then they say, "Really? What station?" and when I answer "WBBM", they then ask my name, and when I tell them, they almost always answer. "I've heard you!" Then they start to remember when and where they've heard traffic reports, and usually get very excited about this, thereby elevating me to some sort of celebrity status. Hence, "reverse celebrity."
Rick: You are among the best known and most respected traffic reporters in Chicago. What do you think is the secret to your longevity?
Joe: Thanks! I enjoy it a lot, and I want the listener to know what I'm talking about when I describe what's happening. They don't ask much; they simply want it to be in the same order: outbound is Kennedy, Edens, Ike, Stevenson, Ryan, I-57, Ford, LSD, Tri-State, Jane Addams, Reagan, 53 and the Veterans Tollway, Elgin-O'Hare and the Indiana Roads. I'll change it up and start with the tollways first and go back to the expressways, but it's always in the same order. And I still get a few complaints that we talk too fast, but we only have a set amount of time and I want to get in as much as I can...those complaints have faded because people have been driving for many years and have gotten used to the quick pace. I guess my "secret" is I'm there to make it as simple and accessible for the motorist as I possibly can.
#3: You've had two lengthy runs in the all-news format (WMAQ and WBBM). Talk about some of the time constraints involved in doing traffic in that format.
Joe: Well, there are definitely times when we can't fit it all in and people blame us, but frankly, there days when we could easily go 3-4 minutes with all the traffic that may be going on, but there are commercials to play, weather, sports, the network news to cut to and reporters in the field talking about all the news. And we're back with more traffic is just a few minutes. Plus, we have a traffic tip line at 312-202-CARS if we haven't mentioned some huge problem. That's a huge help, too; it makes everything more interactive with the listeners, and as a person who has commuted during bad rush hours, I feel their pain.
Rick: I'm sure after nearly twenty years of doing this, you've discovered a few constants in traffic reports. So much so, you could probably do the traffic without even seeing the travel times. Let's say it's 4:38 in the afternoon, you hear the WBBM news anchor coming to you, and you don't have any traffic information in front of you. What would you say?
(Photo: Joe with fellow traffic reporter Jill Egan) Joe: Well, this has happened, certainly, when just as you're about to go on, the computer blanks out. But as I've often said, I can do this in my sleep...I often do! (That's a joke, by the way.) Mostly, it's a matter of just remembering what you just said in the last report, so rarely does anything change drastically in the last few minutes. When it does, like an accident is blocking all lanes or something, we're usually aware of it. One of the things I've learned in 17-plus years of doing traffic on WMAQ and WBBM is how to ad-lib and be ready for any eventuality. When things are crazed, the adrenalin rush helps you through that, and I figure I'm best in a crisis. The trick is to sound good...and interested...when it's bo-ring.
Rick: You've also done your fair share of news over the years. What do you prefer doing, traffic or news, and why?
Joe: I did news on WJOB in Hammond in the 1980s when it was a very serious news operation, and news on WAUR in Aurora, and even some news on several stations while working at Shadow/Metro. I kind of fell into the traffic thing when Rick Sirovatka hired me to start on New Years Day 1988--back then I also handled taping race results on a harness racing hotline. Myself and Ken Zurski both started doing the hotline reading results from Hawthorne, Balmoral and Sportsman's and taping Phil Georgeff's stretch call from each race (You know, "here they come, spinning out of the turn"). But traffic was immediate, it was (mostly) exciting, and I got good at it pretty quickly. So I like it!
Rick: You're a Chicago boy--born and bred. Over your twenty years on the air here, there must have been times when you've appeared on radio shows hosted by some of your radio heroes. Talk about a few of your appearances on some legendary shows, and what that meant to you.
Joe: I still remember working with Joel Sebastian in my first radio experience back at Country-Music WMAQ back in 1980 when John Lennon died. Joel was very cool, and because the only Beatles tune we could find at a country station seemed to be "Yesterday," a Paul McCartney song, we played it. Also during that time, one of the "Good Morning Guys" (along with Pat Cassidy) was Tim Weigel (photo), and I used to call him during the show and wake him to give him some of the late-night scores. Also worked occasionally producing Mary Frances and Bill Veeck's show.
On the air myself, I've done traffic reporting with people like John Landecker (one of my first radio idols--it was a real thrill working with him); radio legend Clark Weber, who has been very helpful to me for awhile; truly fun people like Brant Miller, Catherine Johns, Jim Frank, Dean Richards, Steve Dahl (he called me once to find out how the Ryan project would work), Mike North (he told me the best way to get women was to stick a $100 bill to my forehead and say, "How ya doin', babe?"). I also treasure the moments with the people I still get to work with like Felicia Middlebrooks, Pat Cassidy, John Hultman and so many other great folks at WBBM.
Rick: In the mid-90s you actually left the business for a few years. Why did you do that, and what drew you back in?
Joe: I had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor at Navigation Technologies (now NavTeq), a company that produces digital map databases for navigation vehicles. It's obviously grown to a much more affordable product. I enjoyed my time there, but I truly loved doing traffic on WMAQ, so when Rick Sirovatka called me and invited me back into radio, I went.
Rick: When I read your radio-ography, I got a kick out of your 1980s tour of suburban radio--particularly that "Broadway Show Tunes" format. Ironically, that turned out to be a foreshadowing for you, didn't it?
Joe: Yeah, that was WKDC in Elmhurst, and the second day I worked there Rob Feder's column had an item about how the station had declared bankruptcy. Hello! The station manager was convinced that Broadway show tunes were the format of the 1980s (I think he was about four or five decades too late.) I always enjoyed theatre anyway, onstage and off, and because I still do acting, directing, and producing of a lot of plays at the community theatre level, I took to that format quite easily--until the station closed its doors a few months later. I also worked on radio shows in several languages: Spanish, Greek, Polish and even Gaelic--none of which I speak--mostly at WJOB in Hammond.
I also had my own talk show at WMRO in Aurora, interviewing numerous celebrities like Larry King, Oprah Winfrey (right after she first came to Chicago), Werner "Col. Klink" Klemperer, and Gavin "Capt. Stubing" MacLeod. There was the time I interviewed comic Emo Philips and then had to drive him home to Downers Grove, and he kept making truly bizarre comments on passersby all the way home. WMRO was where I enjoyed one of my fondest memories: broadcasting the Aurora Memorial Day parade in Aurora on WMRO with P.J. Harrigan. And one of the strangest moments, having to follow Joe Bartosch on the air after he was, shall we say, relieved of his duties after nailing himself shut in the studio until the Cubs won another game. Let's just say it hasn't been boring.
Rick: I understand that you're working on a book. What's it about?
Joe: I am in the process of interviewing some of the leading players on WLS and WCFL in the 1960s and 1970s in an effort to create sort of an oral history of a time when there were only two rock-and-roll stations in town (photo: Clark Weber from his WCFL days). People have been very welcoming and forthcoming, and I hope to speak to everybody who was there in those days, to get their great stories on paper so we can all enjoy them. I first pitched the idea to a publisher about six years ago, but my biggest flaw--among many--is that I put the "pro" in procrastination, so progress had been slow. But I'm excited and working hard on it now, and hope to have a really fun book in a few months. If some of your readers were at all involved in that era, I'd love to hear from them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You know about books Rick, and I really appreciate your allowing me to talk about it.
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