Friday, March 05, 2021

30 years of media writing

 Just posted on the Eckhartz Press (Studio Walls) blog...

Eckhartz Press co-publisher Rick Kaempfer is a former radio producer and host and still writes about the media regularly as the media columnist for Illinois Entertainer. This is his 30th year as a media writer, so throughout the year we are featuring excerpts from the more than 200 current and former Chicago radio and television stars he has interviewed, including the following people who are celebrating birthdays this week

Ian Punnett’s birthday is March 3rd. He had a very high-profile shot on the radio in his hometown of Chicago during the 1990s ratings hey-day of WGN. Rick interviewed him during that time for Chicago Advertising and Media, and again in 2007 for Chicago Radio Spotlight. In that second interview he asked Ian if the time just wasn’t right for him at WGN…


I guess it wasn’t. In the Quad Cities and Nashville (where he worked before WGN), those were really hard-rock radio stations, even though I was doing a personality/talk radio show that just happened to play hard-rock records. I think when I came to WGN it was a culture shock for both of us. The problem with WGN was the culture kept changing at the top, philosophically-speaking, and it was hard for me to keep up with it. I was kind of like a sacrificial lamb for the inevitable change there. I stayed in touch with some of the managers after I left, and they told me I became like this measuring stick for the listeners. Every time they brought in someone new they’d hear things like “this new person you have stinks as bad as that Ian Punnett” or they’d hear “If you’re gonna change and go this route, why didn’t you stick with the guy who was doing it right?” I was the scapegoat of change.

Read the entire interview here.

Laura Witek’s birthday is March 4th. She was a newscaster in Chicago during the 80s and 90s, most famously at WMAQ during the beginning of it’s all-news format, and later at the Loop (AM 1000) on the Kevin Matthews and Steve & Garry shows. Rick interviewed her in 2007 about those crazy Loop days. To say it was a different era is an understatement…


My favorite times were at the very beginning…when everybody was there and everybody got along. I knew even then it was a moment in time….a very special and good “perfect storm.” Larry (Wert) used to call it “high school with money.” My favorite road trip was Las Vegas with Kevin (Matthews) and Steve and Garry. Johnny B met us there. There was one broadcast that they all did together that was amazing. I never heard anything funnier….before or since.


Other magical moments? Every single show in Hawaii (with Steve & Garry), but especially the time when Steve was diving beneath me in the pool and blowing up bubbles from his regulator. We were broadcasting live at the time and it was hard for me to concentrate. Boy, did that tickle! And yes, that’s code! (Photo: Bubbling in progress). When Kev got me a stripper for my birthday. A female stripper. (Who’s birthday was it?!!) The low fat versus regular Twinkie/Cupcake test when I was blindfolded and Garry fed me. I found it strangely erotic and yes, I could tell the difference!

Read the entire interview here.

Scott Dirks’ birthday is March 5. He also worked at the Loop. In fact, he was one of the only staffers to have been part of the first big Loop era (Late 70s) and the second one (Mid-80s to Mid-90s). Rick interviewed Scott in 2007 after he had moved over to WLS-FM. At the time Scott was finally able to publicly tell some of the tales from his early Loop days, which were as crazy as you would expect them to be.


I’ll tell you one funny story that probably won’t get me in any trouble now. When I started out at the college station I became friends with another one of the jocks there, and we followed almost identical paths for a while – he ended up working weekend overnights at WMET, when I was doing the same shifts at the Loop . The Loop and WMET were bitter rivals in a legendary rock radio war, but he and I were friends, and lived not too far from each other. We’d carpool to work together, or meet after we got off in the air in the morning and go have breakfast somewhere. While we were on the air we’d usually get each other on the phone and have these epic all-night conversations to keep each other awake and on our toes through the overnight shift.

One New Years Eve we were both scheduled to start work at midnight , so we met up a little earlier, toasted the New Year with a drink or two, and then went to work. For me it was just a slightly sloppier than usual airshift, but when he got to work, he kept drinking, and eventually decided it would be a good idea to throw the ‘more rock and less talk’ format out the window, and do very lengthy on-air commentary about the state of the radio business, share his thoughts on various other people on the air, his bosses, etc. I got off the air at 6am, and he was scheduled to be on until 7am, and I’d made plans to drive him home that morning. So as I was driving down the street to WMET, I turn on the car radio I hear him inviting listeners to come on up to the studio, and bring something to drink while they’re at it. I get there, and there are listeners wandering up and down the halls of the radio station, the studio door is propped open and people are just walking in and out, and the unscheduled talk show has taken a somewhat less than G-rated turn.

I tried to get him to cool it, but he just tried to get me to join in the fun. I wouldn’t say a word. So I stood in the studio and basically watched this guy commit career suicide for the last hour of what, as you might imagine, was his last shift in Chicago. The epilogue is that about five years later someone who didn’t even know I knew this guy asks if I want a dub of this hilarious tape that’s been circulating among radio people, it’s a guy who got drunk on the air on New Year’s Eve. A very valuable lesson there – you never know who might be listening…and recording.

Read the entire interview here.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Happy 184th birthday

 It's Chicago's birthday. Doesn't look a day over 180.

Free Kicks

It's all fun and games in the Guess the Premier League star feature until Adam gives Rick a yellow card.

Minutia Men Celebrity Interview--Moody Blues Keyboardist Alan Hewitt

Wednesday, March 03, 2021


70 Years Ago Today

They say this is the first rock and roll record, and it was released 70 years ago today.

Cherish whatever way works for you

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

17 years ago today

I looked I was 12. I sounded like I was 14. I was actually 40, and pushing my first book "The Radio Producer's Handbook."

Eye Opening Stat

Monday, March 01, 2021

National Women's Month

 March is National Women's Month, and we salute the many female authors who have written Eckhartz Press books, including our newest author Vicki Quade. We still miss the late Pat Colander, Felizitas Sudendorf and Dena Mendes, and we'll always appreciate Lauren LoGiudice, Deb Tokarz, Janet Sutherland-Madden, Becky Sarwate-Maxwell, Beth Jacobellis, ML Collins, Ann Wilson, Jeanne Bellezzo, Lori Oster, and Kim Strickland. Also, Kristin Oakley who edited "The Write City Review", Lindsey Eanet who co-wrote "Back in the Game" with Rich King, and Jessica Hagy who provided illustrations for Kipper McGee's "Brandwidth".

Bob Sirott

Minutia Men--Tigger & Tongues