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".
A curation of news items
about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…
*Bob Stroud Profile
=The latest issue of Illinois
Entertainer is out and features my interview with the recently-semi-retired
rock and roll jock Bob Stroud. (Read the full interview here) We discussed his entire career, including what
led him into this business in the first place…
“The DJ that sent
me on the course to where I am is Dick Biondi,” he says. “It was so important
in my life – sixth grade, living in Kalamazoo, a friend of mine said, ‘Have you
heard this disc jockey named Dick Biondi on WLS in Chicago? He’s crazy.’ I went
home that night and listened, and it changed my life. The other guy who I
always mention because I thought he was so brilliant was Ron Britain from WCFL.
When I met him the first time, it was like meeting a Beatle for me.”
=Coming up next month (September 1st), Garry
*Update on the WTMX lawsuits
Radio has the full story with the latest updates. You can read that here. Bottom line,
according to the article is that Melissa McGurren, former Eric Ferguson
sidekick and current morning co-host at US-99, is appealing the dismissal of
her lawsuit. The case brought by former producer Cynthia DiNicola is still in
the midst of litigation in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
*Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully passes away
much of a part of the American broadcast world was Scully? 67 years behind the
microphone calling games for the Dodgers. The youngest person to broadcast a
World Series game (age 25). 3 perfect games. 18 no-hitters. Hank Aaron’s 715th
home run. Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. He has a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame. A presidential medal of freedom from Barack Obama. The
street leading to Dodger Stadium is named after him, and so is the press box.
Vin Scully was simply the best there ever was. Read the AP obit of Scully here.
me, this is a great example of Scully’s greatness. It’s his radio play-by-play
of the 9th inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game against the Cubs in
was a big announcement this week about the WGN radio archives being donated to
Northwestern. This includes everything from 1941-2011. 70 years of audio is now
in the hands of Northwestern
University Libraries in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special
Collections and University Archives. Some truly historic material has been
donated by WGN and their corporate bosses Nexstar. More details here.
Great positions open on WBEZ's daily talk show @WBEZ: Senior Producer, Digital Engagement Producer and Reset Production Fellow (1-year position, pays 55K). We'll also be posting a Producer position soon. Please spread the word and reach out with questions. https://t.co/JfObSYK9Ae
owns quite a few radio stations in Chicago, including WBBM-AM, B-96, The Score,
WXRT, US99 and 104.3 Jamz, but the company is facing a serious financial crisis.
The stock price hasn’t been over $1.00 since the beginning of July (it closed
at 70 cents a share yesterday), and now they are in danger of being de-listed
by the New York Stock Exchange. (Details are here)
How that will impact Chicago’s Audacy stations remains to be seen. Cumulus
faced a similar financial emergency a few years ago and managed to recover.
=The anniversary of Chicago
broadcasting icon Jerry G. Bishop’s birth was this week. His protégé (as both
Svengoolie and in radio) Rich Koz mentioned Bishop on his Facebook page this
week: “An amazing talent, a good man, and a good friend- his
generosity to me could never be paid back.”
“The job with Jerry actually came about when he was leaving
WFLD after they cancelled his Svengoolie show he was in talks with NBC for
both radio and TV, and he thought enough of me to try and get me involved as
part of his team for the radio side. He did some fill in at WMAQ, with me
filling the afore-mentioned sidekick/producer/goofball role- and, when they
brought him in full time- first, in afternoon drive, then in morning drive- I
went along for the ride.
It was a great gig, other than having to get up so early
for the morning show- we’d ride in, going over the papers, and he’d read
something about Dean Martin, and say-“let’s do a bit on this- you be Dean!” I’d
write stuff and be about 85% of the characters and “celebrities” that called
in- I’d write song parodies for him, invent new bits, and we’d do sponsored
commercials as bits- for example, I played the president of a lumber/home
improvement chain, playing him as a sort of dopey guy, in a running series of
live read commercials, and they went over really well.
Plus, on Monday mornings, when the show started an hour
earlier than usual, for a while, Jerry had me do that first hour by myself!
Jerry was the best--very generous, and, as I’ve always said, the guy who’s responsible
for me getting into the broadcasting business…so blame him!”
*Chicago sports broadcasting pioneer
Chet Coppock released his final (and most critically acclaimed) book Your
Dime, My Dance Floor this week in 2018. Less than a year after this book
came out, Chet died tragically in a car crash. My final Q&A with Chet is
*One of the biggest
names in Chicago television news history, Fahey Flynn, was born this week in
1916. He also passed away this week in 1983. His Eyewitness News (Channel 7) co-anchor
Joel Daly delivered the eulogy, which he published in his book The Daly News. The following is a short excerpt from Joel’s speech…
“Fahey had very strong feelings, deeply held
political and philosophical convictions. But he never let them show on the air.
During this time of great change and great debate, Fahey was steadfast…his
eyebrows as straight as his familiar bow tie. Fahey was the original,
quintessential anchorman. Unmoved, unemotional, a man whom people trusted to
tell them the truth… without endorsement or embellishment. Fahey Flynn fought
the odds of time in a very tough business in a very tough town. And his tenure,
all that time as a broadcaster and newsman belie the unfortunate myths which
cloud our profession: that it is cosmetic…that it is shallow… that it is ‘slick
and superficial.’ For Fahey, the most successful of all, was none of these.
the contrary, what you saw was what you got…what he was—a decent, caring human
being, so obvious and so visible every night at 6:00 and 10:00. For many years,
at the beginning and end of our news programs, the camera would show the two of
us talking. You couldn’t tell what we were saying to each other. That,
naturally, aroused a lot of curiosity. People would invariably ask me; “What do
you and Fahey talk about every night?”
I’d just smile and remain noncommittal, as if it were some kind of secret. We
were two men bound in time—victims of the unrelenting clock. And we talked
about living and dying…of where we had been…and where we were going…if we only
had time. And those conversations would often last long after the studio lights
went out. We would sit there in the darkness, as if unwilling to let go. Those
were the moments I will most remember.
rich voice rolling out of the darkness, spinning a tale from the past…or posing
a question of the future—often funny, sometimes sad—intimate words that could
be said and shared without the presence of the clock…without the witness of the
world. But now time has run out! No more deadlines, my dear friend…no more
rush. No more stories to send…no more fuss. So rest in peace, dear friend…and
be to heaven bound. We’ll follow, for time must end…Just pray the bridge is
*Devil in White City to film in
=One of the most famous books ever
written about Chicago, The Devil in White City, is about to become a
television series. Some big-time names are attached. Keanu Reaves to star.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to produce. And most importantly, it will
actually be filmed here in Chicago. Reel Chicago has the details.
*I want my MTV
=It’s hard to believe it’s already 41 years, but one of the original VJs Martha Quinn tweeted about the anniversary
this week. Do you remember where you were? I was in college at the University
of Illinois, and it was a groundbreaking moment.
Happy 41st birthday to the pop culture meteor that enrolled us all in the greatest school of rock ever-#MTV High! Can you remember the first video you saw? Where were you?? pic.twitter.com/40c3Agc3HU
InfoWars host/founder had a very bad week. He discovered live on the stand that
his lawyer had accidentally given all of Jones’ phone records (all of them) to
the lawyers representing the Sandy Hook families. He lost in court and was
ordered to pay a $4 million settlement. The January 6th committee
then asked for the files too, which may have further implications for him in
future legal matters.
The movie Batgirl is not coming
out at all…anywhere. I get why they don’t want to spend money marketing it, or
they don’t think it’s big enough for nationwide theater release, but I don’t
get why they won’t just release it on HBO Max. Supposedly they are taking it as
tax write off, but even that doesn’t quite smell right. They’ve already spent
$90 million (see below). Rumors have been trickling out that it tested very
badly, despite their initial quotes to Variety this week. Here’s
a short excerpt…
insiders insist the decision to axe “Batgirl” was not driven by the quality of
the film or the commitment of the filmmakers, but by the desire for the
studio’s slate of DC features to be at a blockbuster scale. “Batgirl” was
budgeted to screen in homes on HBO Max, and not for a major global release in
theaters. The initial $75 million production budget for the project, which
finished principal photography earlier this year and was in post-production,
reached $90 million, due in part to COVID-related delays and protocols.
*RIP Nichelle Nicols
=The actress who brought Star
Trek’s Lt. Uhura to life passed away this week. The Washington Post has a great obit of this amazing woman. What a
fascinating life. I didn’t realize that she was from Chicago, or that she was
discovered by Duke Ellington, or that she dated Gene Rodenberry and Sammy Davis
Jr. it’s worth a read. RIP Nichelle.
If you have any media stories (Chicago
or national) that you think I might like to share in future columns, feel free
to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
August 4, 1892. Cap Anson's Cubs are playing the Browns in St. Louis—the westernmost franchise in MLB. The last place Browns win, 6-1. In the news: Lizzie Borden’s parents Andrew & Abby are found dead. Lizzie is arrested and tried for the crime. Verdict: Not guilty #EveryCubEverpic.twitter.com/bbDNmdL6Sj
Talking ‘Bout My Generation is a brand new novel by William Wagner. It’s available for pre-order right now, and ships the week of August 18th. The novel is an imagining of what happened to Pete Townshend’s guitar from Woodstock after he tossed it into the crowd.We caught up with him recently to chat about the book.
EP: The genius of Talking ‘Bout My Generation is the premise of the book, the journey taken by Pete Townshend’s guitar after he tossed it into the crowd at Woodstock. When did you have that Eureka moment, and did you know immediately that you had something special here?
Will: My Eureka moment came several years ago, although I’m ashamed to admit I don’t recall the exact details of when the lightbulb went on in my head. As far back as high school, I had been struck by the image of Townshend tossing his guitar into the crowd at the end of The Who’s set at Woodstock; decades later, it occurred to me that a great fictional odyssey could spring from that act. After having my Eureka moment, I wrote the prologue—the jumping-off point for my story. And then I let the prologue sit for about a year as I thought about the journeys—the situations and characters—that would best exemplify my idea of Townshend’s Woodstock guitar as an enduring symbol of hope. Like the guitar itself, most of the people in the story get battered in one way or another during their life journeys, but they keep on keeping on.
EP: It turns out that Chicago and its surroundings play an unexpectedly important role. Why did you makethat choice, and for those people here in the area, what are some of the Chicagoland areas that show up in the book?
Will: They say you should write what you know. And since I’ve lived in the Chicago area for most of my life, I know it well. Plus, Chicago is one of the greatest, most authentic cities in the world. And it’s also a little off the radar compared with cities like New York, Los Angeles, Paris or London. In my mind, it was the perfect place for this guitar—this lost piece of history—to be stashed away for a while.
Among the pieces of Chicagoland that show up in the book:
• The old Chicago Amphitheatre on the South Side
• The outdoor concert venue in Tinley Park (known as the World Music Theatre when it appears in the book)
• Wrigley Field
• Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in Wilmette
• The Chuck Wagon, a greasy spoon in Wilmette that is legendary in that neck of the woods
• The Italian restaurant Convito Italiano in Plaza Del Lago in Wilmette
• Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago
• The Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Ave.
• Jewelers Row in Chicago
• Oakton Community College
• The Kane County Flea Market
• A fictional tattoo parlor in Uptown in Chicago
• Arlington Heights (the main character works at the Daily Herald newspaper)
• Evanston (the main character and his wife live in Evanston)
• Lakeview in Chicago
• Lincoln Park in Chicago
• The Fox River out by McHenry
And there are lots of other nods to places around Chicago. This is, in many ways, “a Chicago book.”
EP: It’s pretty obvious that you are a huge rock and roll fan. That comes through clearly in this book.What did that music mean to you, and how did that translate into the various different elements of this story?
Will: Music means everything to me, even though I spent a chunk of my career as a sportswriter. The music from the Woodstock era is particularly meaningful to me, because the best of it had a boldness—a bravado—that made you think it could bring about real change in people’s lives individually and in society as a whole. That hopefulness is central to the book’s theme. The power of music permeates the entire book. It is, after all, a guitar—and Pete Townshend’s from the most mythological music festival ever—that binds the various stories and characters together.
EP: I love that Pete Townshend himself, a fictionalized (but totally believable) version of him, is one of the main characters. How much did you know about him and the Who before you started writing, and how much research was necessary, because you really get into the nitty gritty of Pete’s past and prickly personality.
Will: I did a ton of research to create the fictionalized Pete Townshend. I read and listened to scores of interviews with him to get a real feel for his speech patterns and for his temperament away from the stage. Luckily, Townshend is one of the most talkative guys in rock history, so a lot of interviews are out there from which to paint a fictional portrait. I also heavily researched points in Townshend’s life and The Who’s career that appear in my novel to ensure I’d get certain facts right. Otherwise, none of my fictionalized elements would ring true. One thing I didn’t do was read Townshend’s autobiography, which was published while I was writing this book. I didn’t want Pete Townshend’s vision of Pete Townshend to cloud my vision of Pete Townshend.
EP: This book comes out during the anniversary week of the original Woodstock. The first chapters of this book take place there at the festival and its surroundings. It seems so real to me, I just assumed you were there. Then I saw you were still a little kid at the time, so obviously you didn’t attend. What did you learn about Woodstock that you didn’t know when you started this process?
Will: Here’s another area where I did a ton of research. I read as many personal accounts as I could from people who had been there, dug up old articles on the festival to develop a sense for how it was being perceived at the time, and studied maps and such in order to literally get the lay of the land. In my research, one of the more peculiar things I learned about Woodstock—and it’s the tiniest tidbit—is that the organizers built a playground for the children who might be there. To me, that perfectly summed up the naïve idealism of the event and the hippie movement in general. The organizers came up short on so much of the big stuff—food, toilets—yet they had a playground for kids, of whom there obviously were very few. All at once, it was a beautiful and misguided gesture.
EP: Tell us a little bit about you, Will. What’s your background, and why are you the right man to write this book?
Will: I’ve spent virtually my whole career in publishing, both as a writer and editor. It’s certainly not the easiest way to make a living, but there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I was a Creative Writing major at Knox College and the editor of the school’s literary magazine, Catch, my senior year. Upon graduation, however, I decided that I also liked to eat, so I maneuvered from writing fiction to journalism, where one can at least eke out a living. Yet I’ve always had fictional stories floating around in my head. I’m the type of person who likes to watch people at, say, an airport and imagine lives for them. So in a sense, I feel like I’ve come home with this book after a lot of years in the wilderness. I had something to say, and I believe I said it in a way that will entertain, amuse and give folks some hope.
*On this day in 2019, I made two appearances to promote my book EveryCubEver. The first one was at the Elgin library. I not only signed and sold copies of the book, I appeared on a local Elgin radio show for a full hour live. Later that night, I appeared at Club 400 in Lake in the Hills and handed the book to 2016 World Series champion Pedro Strop.
On this day in 2012, the new issue of SHORE magazine came out. It featured my piece about my brush with Beatles producer George Martin. (If you look closely at the cover above, the last notation is about this piece). On the tenth anniversary of the magazine, I'm posting it here again.
Sir George Martin is an
icon in the music business. If he had done nothing else in his career, the fact
that he was the producer of every Beatles album except “Let it Be” would have
been enough to cement his place in rock and roll history.He was their mentor, and they were my
When I received a phone call in December of 1995
alerting me to George Martin’s availability for radio interviews to promote the
Beatles Anthology project, I was speechless for a moment. I cleared my throat,
booked the interview, and bounced off the walls for twenty minutes or so before
I told the host of the show—John Landecker. I wasn’t prepared for John’s
interview him,” he said.
“Why me?” I asked. “It’s your show.”
“Because you’re the Beatles fanatic,” he said.
“I want you to do it.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but John had a
master plan. He figured his normally unflappable German producer would turn
into a stuttering, stammering fool if he was forced to interview one of his
heroes. In John's mind, that had much more potential than a straight interview.When he started promoting the interview a few
days later, he laid it on pretty thick to make me even more nervous.
“Don’t blow this Rick,” he said. “There are
millions of Beatles fans in Chicago, and since we’re the only station that gets
to interview him, you have to speak for all of them.”
Outwardly I wasn’t showing it, but it was
getting to me. I called all of my Beatles friends across the country and asked
them to submit questions to me. I carefully considered each of them, crossed
off the ones that seemed “too inside” or “too geeky,” and prepared diligently.
I knew we only had ten minutes with him, so I couldn’t waste a moment with
The morning of the interview I came to the
studio with a list of questions in my cold sweaty hands.When the hot-line rang to alert us
that Mr. Martin was standing by at his microphone in London, the color left my
“Look at Rick,” John joked. “He’s white as a
“Am not,” I said. My voice cracked.
John couldn’t stop laughing. “Maybe I better
start the interview,” he said. “Sir George…are you with us?”
We couldn’t hear anything for a moment and then
there he was. His lovely British accent responded: “Hello, John. How are you this
“I’m great,” John said. “I hope you don’t mind,
but we’re going to do something a little different this morning. My producer
Rick is a gigantic Beatles fan, and he badgered me to let him do this
interview, so I’m turning it over to him now. This will be fun--Producer
interviewing Producer. Sir George Martin, this is Rick.”
He was silent for a moment again before
answering politely: “Hello Rick.”
I almost fainted. I realize how pathetic this
sounds in retrospect, but I don’t think I can find the proper words to explain
how excited and nervous I was to be speaking with this man.
George Martin was the producer of the Beatles!
He had been sitting across the glass from John Lennon when he sang “Strawberry
Fields Forever.” Hell, he pieced that song together for Lennon, and made
suggestions, and…oh my God…I could barely breathe.
It didn’t help that John Landecker was rolling
on the floor laughing at me, but I ventured on. I knew I would impress Sir
George with my knowledge of the Beatles. I knew he would warm to me instantly
when he heard my insightful questions. So I launched right into them.
That’s the last thing I remember.
No, actually, that’s not entirely true. I do
remember his response to my first question—even though I don’t remember the
That’s when I started flop-sweating. I lost all
my confidence instantly. If I had my wits about me I would have realized that
his silence was caused by the slight satellite delay, but I was too far gone by
then. I was sure he was rolling his eyes at me from across the pond.He eventually
answered me, but I didn’t even listen to his answer. After my second or third
question, Landecker was forced to jump in to rescue me. I completely and
John loved every second of
the experience. I needed an IV to replenish my fluids.
That happened seventeen years ago, and I can
finally laugh about it now. It’s not easy coming to grips with the fact that
you’re the Bill Buckner of Beatles interviewers.
I can't believe the book is now 15 years old. Crazy. It's the main reason I started up this blog in December of 2005. I was going to use this as a promotional vehicle for the upcoming book. The book took two more years to finish, and by the time it came out, I was in too deep.