Friday, February 19, 2016

Rich King at the White House with the Blackhawks

This is how Eckhartz Press author and WGN-TV sports reporter Rich King teased his third visit to the White House before it happened (on his facebook page)...

“In the late twilight of a career you have a greater appreciation for the “perks” of the job. I have been assigned to cover the Blackhawks visit to the White House. This marks the third time I will see what the late Jim Finks described as “the power base of the free world.” To a lover of history, being there is surreal. This is a place where there exist the ghosts of the great men you studied in the history books, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy and all rest. When last there we somehow got free of the media guides. We got lost on the way out and wound up going deeper into the halls instead of hitting the exits. Some of us were gleefully strolling along the historic corridors until stopped by the Secret Service. When chatting outside with a security guard he pointed to a window and told us the White House pool was down below. “That’s where Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe would meet,” he said. When I left the press box in Minnesota in December, I took a pause before leaving the last Bears road game I would cover. I looked around one more time to think of all the great places this job has taken me, from coast to coast, into Canada and even across the Atlantic to London and Paris. What a wonderful ride ! I shall pause even longer before I leave the White House.”

This is how he reported it on WGN...


What did you do last night? I worked with a few other guys to make 250 pounds of sausages for this weekend's Green White Soccer Club banquet. I'll be the MC too. Looking forward to seeing 350 of my soccer pals. It's always a good time.

Why is radio in trouble?

It all goes back to their biggest problem: mountains and mountains of debt. iHeart Media (the former Clear Channel) is in debt for $20 billion. That's billion with B.

Watch their CEO spin it.

Every other problem in radio goes back to this. The quality is a shell of it's former self...because of the cutbacks forced by the debt. Younger generations don't listen to the radio anymore...because the quality is a shell of it's former self...because of the cutbacks forced by the debt.

It's hard to watch, especially as a former radio guy who still loves the medium. The saddest part of this whole story is that the guys who ran up this ridiculous debt, all walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth.

WLS-FM Releases Danny Lake

More changes at WLS-FM. Danny Lake, who had been hosting the early afternoon shift (1-4pm) has been let go. He won't be replaced. Instead, the other shifts have been extended. Larz at Chicagoland Radio & Media has the details.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Crystal Award Finalists

The 2016 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Crystal Award Finalists were announced yesterday. Two Chicago radio stations made the list: The Score (WSCR--670 AM) and WSHE-FM (100.3 FM).

Since 1987, the NAB Crystal Radio Awards have recognized radio stations for their outstanding year-round commitment to community service. Congrats to both stations for making the list. It's good to see that we still have a few community-oriented stations in our town.

Chicago Tribune Gets a New Editor

The Chicago Tribune has a new editor. His name is Bruce Dold, and he had been serving as the editor of the editorial page.

Dold's credentials include a Pulitzer Prize.

This could be a very good thing for Chicago Tribune readers.

$528.7 Million Powerball Winners

They held a press conference yesterday.

My two favorite parts of the story...

*They didn't even tell their kids
*Their daughter's ex-husband is kicking himself for divorcing her.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Blast from the Past

Had lunch with my old buddy Bobby Skafish yesterday and he gave me this photo he took of me in the old Loop AM studios in the early 90s. Looks like it was during a commercial break. Dig the carts. (That's for the radio folks) I'm guessing it was during a Best of Steve & Garry or an Ebony & Ivory show (both co-hosted by Stan Lawrence).

World Cabbage Day

February 17th is World Cabbage Day.

I'm not kidding.

Whenever I hear the word cabbage, I think of the immortal song "King of Farts", written by John Landecker/Rick Kaempfer in 1995. You probably think about it too. Sing along at home...

A big heapin plate of sauerkraut.
I love to eat it and wait for my bowels to shout!

Back in the day. When people were much classier.

The Sweetest Words in the English Language

Bill Holub is an old friend and colleague from my days at the Loop. My first year writing this blog (Ten years ago!) I asked him to write about a phrase he used to utter every year in the hallways of the Loop when he heard that spring training was beginning. He called it "The Sweetest Words in the English Language." It's become a tradition to repost his piece every year on that momentous day.

Today's the day!

And this year I can barely contain my excitement.

By Bill Holub

“Pitchers and catchers report”.

These are indeed the sweetest words in the English language. Friends have been hearing me recite this every year at this time. I once had an old poker playing friend who used to say the sweetest words have always been “I’ll play these”. This is the same friend who couldn’t win even when dealt a pat hand. That however is a story for another time and place, where an explanation of the relationship between the quantity of beer consumed, what the cards in your hand really look like and the amount of money you bet can be fully explored. It’s really something scientists should be looking at.

In the meantime, I apologize to all those who came here looking for a sentimental dialogue on romance. I’m sorry to say it but the sweetest words in the English language are not “I love you”. Now that I think of it, this may instead be a sentimental dialogue on romance and baseball.

It’s funny how the two always converge around Valentine’s Day. Spring fever is referred to as that time of year when things start to bloom as the weather changes and love is in the air. It is no coincidence that this is the same time the baseball season opens and brings hope to all of us diehard baseball romantics.

My love affair with baseball was re-ignited in 1987-88. There was only one place to catch baseball highlights from all over the major leagues back then. Once a week you could tune in to “This Week In Baseball” with good ol’ Mel Allen. During those two seasons I was hooked into witnessing two West Coast baseball Gods embodied in the forms of a young Mark Mcgwire and Jose Canseco. This is before anyone had ever heard of andro, anabolics and the other chemical cocktails that have since cast a pall over these two. Back then, I was treated week in and week out to mammoth sized home runs flying out of every ballpark in the country. The fact that these home runs were being hit by players wearing what my brother and I had always considered the coolest looking baseball uniforms in the world (the Oakland A’s green and gold) had me embracing the game I grew up on all over again.

By 1989 I was so hooked on this game I even started collecting baseball cards again, although as much as an investor as a fanboy. I also started another nasty habit that impacts my life to this day. That is when I started a fantasy baseball league with a bunch of guys at work. 1989 also happened to be a division winning season for my beloved Cubs, so I was in baseball heaven and haven’t looked back since.


I think we can honestly say that baseball is no longer the national pastime in this country. It has been supplanted by football. I can accept that. Although I would insist the true national pastime is gambling, which is the driving force that makes football the number one spectator sport in America. I suppose I could go off on a George Carlin type of rant here on the differences between football and baseball, but that’s not why I’m writing this piece.

I just want to point out there is one major difference between the two and that is commitment. I’m talking about the commitment between baseball fans and football fans. Football is a four month season requiring your undivided attention one day a week, or two if you’re both a college and pro fan. Baseball is a six month season requiring your undivided attention throughout with your favorite team(s) playing as many as five or more games a week.

Baseball is a commitment. I believe it carries as much of a commitment as love. They both require dedication and attention. They can both go awry despite the best laid plans. An early swan dive in the standings in May that ends a team’s season before it even had a chance can be just as painful as not having your phone calls returned after the second or third date. Meanwhile an October champagne shower celebrating a pennant or World Series championship is as sweet and memorable as a ‘yes’ to a question posed on one knee.


Once that warm baseball is back feeling starts sinking in every year, I like to get fully immersed by throwing myself into my favorite baseball movies before the games actually begin. This is my form of spring training.

You’ve got your “Bull Durham”, “Field Of Dreams”, “Major League” (only the first one, please), but there is one movie that hits me in the right spot. “City Slickers” is not a real baseball movie per se, but there’s one scene that remains among my all-time favorites. It’s where the three friends (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby) are on the cattle drive and passing the time by discussing their favorite baseball memories. Billy Crystal remembers the first time his father took him to Yankee Stadium as a kid and how he had never seen grass that green before. Mickey Mantle even hit a home run that day. Daniel Stern recalls how growing up he and his father never saw eye to eye, but they could always talk about baseball with each other. “We always had baseball” he says.

As for me, one of my earliest baseball memories was getting to take the day off of school with my brother because my Dad got opening day tickets to Wrigley Field. I still remember wearing our warmest winter coats and knit hats, waiting to sit down while the Andy Frain usher brushed the snow off our seats. They don’t make Aprils in Chicago like that any more.


There is a sound that accompanies the words “pitchers and catchers report”. It is the sound of a ball popping into a mitt. The sound of a simple game of catch. It is more than the crack of a bat sound. The sound of a mitt popping brings the memories and feelings of a lifetime of baseball flooding your senses all at once. It happens every time, whether it’s major leaguers or just a game of catch with your dad or your kid. The week pitchers and catchers report there are no cracking bats, only popping mitts. The sweetest sound in the world. “Pitchers and catchers report”. The sweetest words in the English language.

Pee Wee's Big Holiday

I'm in...

Cosmo Has a Parenting Editor?

It's true, Cosmo now has a parenting editor.

It makes sense, if you think about it. After knowing 101 sex moves that will drive him wild, it's just a matter of time before you become a parent.

RIP Vanity

From the RAMP Newsletter, this surprising news...

Former Prince protégé Vanity, lead singer of the '80s group Vanity 6 had died. As TMZ and other sources reported, Vanity, whose real name was Denise Katrina Matthews, died in a hospital in Fremont, CA hospital on Monday, Feb. 15. She was 57 years old and had been battling years of kidney failure and intestinal issues. Rolling Stone reports Matthews set up a GoFundMe page four months ago to help pay for medical bills. She said she had been diagnosed with sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, which causes a blockage of the small bowel. She had asked for $50,000 but raised less than $7,000.

Sad ending for Vanity, who was on top of the world in the early 80s, when she was dating Prince. This song was a big hit. You can definitely hear Prince's touch...

Chicago Radio Ratings

From Tom Taylor's NOW column...

Chicago – With Christmas over, CBS Radio’s all-news WBBM/WCFS can get back to leading the market (it probably figures). It is indeed #1, 7.0-6.8-6.8. Second is iHeart’s urban AC “V103” WVAZ (6.1-5.8-6.0), and third is Hubbard’s hot AC “Mix” WTMX (4.7-4.2-5.2). Mix certainly isn’t mourning the departure of Christmas music at iHeart’s AC WLIT, now fourth (6.6-13.9-4.7). Tribune’s talk WGN ranks fifth (3.8-3.3-4.2 total week, and third in morning drive). Also recovering from WLIT’s Christmas strategy is CBS Radio’s classic hits WJMK (2.8-2.3-3.3). It pulls ahead of Cumulus’ rival classic hits WLS-FM (2.8-2.8-2.6). CBS country WUSN is likewise happy to see the taillights of Santa’s sleigh (3.0-2.3-2.8). iHeart rival “Big” WEBG hangs around its recent level (1.8-1.7-1.8). Chicago’s leading cume station is hot AC “Mix” at about 2.13 million.

MeTV FM Sets Ratings Record

Larz at Chicagoland Radio & Media has the details, but this is pretty incredible. To say that Me-FM has a weak frequency is an understatement. It's not even technically a radio frequency--it's an analog television station that transmits on the radio. They also don't have any disc jockeys, and they play oldies, which programmers and advertisers alike believe are dead...because 25-54 year olds are the only people that exist to them.

But yet, they just scored a 2.2 rating! That's a heck of an achievement. Congrats to the Me-TV FM braintrust of Neil Sabin and Rick O'Dell.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

McCartney Denied Entry to Party

I bet this hasn't happened to Paul since 1961. The drummer from Foo Fighters and Beck were also refused entry. My favorite line is when Paul says "How VIP do we have to get?"

Free Excerpt: Records Truly is My Middle Name (The Beatles & Mitzi Gaynor)

Today is the anniversary of the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan show from Miami in 1964. It was their second appearance on the show, and they shared the bill that night with Mitzi Gaynor. John Landecker wrote about that night in his book "Records Truly Is My Middle Name"...

Mr. Berg, my choir director and the music teacher at University High, totally pooh-poohed the Beatles. He insisted that anybody could write a Beatles or rock and roll song. Mr. Berg’s reaction was the stereotypical parental reaction to the music we loved. Everybody’s parents felt the same way.

I remember stickers appearing on lampposts. Four heads of hair with no faces and the expression “The Beatles are Coming!” They were already on the radio, but this hype from Capitol Records made us even more excited. The Beatles were the quintessential rock band. They were a group, but they also had separate identities as individuals, and each of those individuals had a distinct personality. Paul was the teen idol, the cute one. George was the introspective quiet one. Ringo was sort of the silly one. And John was the deep thinking rebel.

So, it was a huge deal when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. I watched, and everybody else watched. But honestly, what I remember the most about their appearing on that show wasn’t that first night — it was their second appearance on the show, the show from Miami a few days later. And what I remember isn’t what the Beatles or Ed Sullivan did. What I remember most was the guest right before the Beatles — Mitzi Gaynor. She was a pop singer, the kind of singer that existed before rock and roll, a female crooner, if you will. It was really hot that night — this was Miami — and she was wearing a low cut dress that showed a little bit of cleavage, and I could see her sweating. Oh yeah, I tell ya, I remember seeing that sweat.

The Beatles were great, don’t get me wrong. I’ve played them on the air many, many times and still love their music, and I’ve never played or owned a single Mitzi Gaynor record in my entire life. But oh boy, I sure do remember Mitzi Gaynor on that Ed Sullivan show.

Through the magic of YouTube, I found the video of Mitzi...

Glenn Frey Tribute

From last night's Grammy Awards...

Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away over the weekend.

In the previous world we lived in, there would have been tributes and memorials for the most beloved conservative Supreme Court Justice. In this current toxic political world that wasn't possible. Literally one hour after it was announced that Scalia was dead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that Scalia wasn't going to be replaced as long as President Obama was in office. One hour after the death announcement.

That sparked a nasty political debate with Republicans in one corner saying it was unprecendented to nominate a justice in a president's last year in office (which, of course, is untrue. It has happened 14 times), and Democrats in the other corner claiming that is is unprecedented to take away a president's constitutional responsibility with a full year to go in his term (which is ironic in this case because Scalia was a constitutional purist who never would have questioned the president's right to fulfill his constitutional obligations--but he's not around to "help" them anymore).

Meanwhile, one of the icons of the conservative cause is dead, and everyone is so busy arguing, that virtually no one is paying tribute to him for his many many contributions to the conservative cause. That doesn't seem right to me.

UPDATE: It's actually worse than I thought. There are now conspiracy theories that he was killed. That about sums up America 2016, doesn't it?

RIP Megan Reed

Megan was a radio personality in Chicago for many years. (I interviewed her a few years ago for Chicago Radio Spotlight.) My old advertising agency (AMISH Chicago Advertising) used her for voice overs too. She had a great radio voice.

Megan had gone public with her cancer struggle a few years ago, and stepped down from her position at WSHE to concentrate on her treatments. I've seen a few of her postings on facebook over the past few months and had a feeling that things weren't going well.

Megan passed away yesterday. She had just turned 52 years old.

Her husband created this video for her...

Monday, February 15, 2016

President's Day at Wrigley Field

The country celebrates President’s Day today, and Wrigley Field has hosted a few presidents over the years.

President Taft’s brother Charles was the owner of the Cubs who sold the team to Charles Weeghman, the man who built Wrigley Field. President Taft saw the Cubs play three times, although none of those games were in the “new” ballpark.

In 1920, Warren Harding came to see the Cubs as he campaigned for the presidency. He was friends with Cubs owner William Wrigley, and was very close to Cubs minority owner Harry Sinclair. After he won the presidency Harding even invited Cubs legend Cap Anson to visit him at the White House (photo). Unfortunately for Harding, Harry Sinclair later led him into the biggest scandal of his presidency, the Teapot Dome Scandal. (Note: Harding saw the Cubs play an exhibition game, and it also wasn’t at Wrigley Field, it was in Ohio).

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt attended a World Series game at Wrigley Field. It was the day that Babe Ruth called his shot. Roosevelt was the Governor of New York at the time and was running for president. He watched the game seated next to Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, who would later take a bullet intended for the president.

On September 30th, 1988, President Reagan attended a game at Wrigley Field. He threw out the first pitch, and broadcast an inning with Harry Caray. Reagan got his start in radio in the 1930s broadcasting Cubs games for WHO-Radio in Iowa. He was a life-long Cubs fan.

On June 30th, 1999, President Bill Clinton watched a game from a skybox at Wrigley Field. It was four months after the Senate voted to acquit him on perjury and obstruction charges after he had been impeached by the House of Representatives.

(A few other presidents also watched the Cubs play live, though not at Wrigley Field. In 1929, President Hoover attended Game 5 of the World Series in Philadelphia, and on Opening Day 2006, President George W. Bush came to a Cubs-Reds game in Cincinnati)