Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Loop Files: Bruce Wolf

 I'm working on a special project this year about a certain radio station, so I've been going back into my files and pulling out some old interviews with former Loop colleagues and pals. I'll feature one a week here on the blog. This week, it's Bruce Wolf. Bruce worked at the Loop through several different regimes, including the final Loop chapter of Johnny B's show. I interviewed Bruce in 2007 for Chicago Radio Spotlight...

Rick: A lot of people know that you are a lawyer, but not many people have heard the story of how you got your big media break at WXRT. Could you tell us that story?

Bruce: Danny Lee, who owned WXRT, was in my father's hardware store on Fullerton and Clark and heard me on the radio announcing a Highland Park or Deerfield high school football game on WVVX, a north suburban station. Danny said WXRT was starting a sports feature for a non-sports oriented audience. I auditioned for it, and got it. That was "athletes' feats." I neglected to ask for stock in the company. I could have cashed out for about $25 million several years ago.

Rick: In the 80s it seemed like were on the radio in Chicago every minute of every day. In the mornings you were part of the Johnny B. Showgram, and in the afternoon you were on the Steve & Garry show. How were those two experiences the same and/or different?

Bruce: Johnny was mostly me doing a scripted sportscast...although we had many moments, like when I got Howard Cosell to hang up on us. Steve and Garry were basically me fending off their inquisitions and then laughing my head off when they broke up. I loved it all.

Rick: After Steve & Garry split up, you essentially replaced Garry on Steve's show. You even released a CD of your material if I recall correctly. How do you feel about that stint looking back on it now?

Bruce: It was the second best thing I've ever done in broadcasting. I think I was the only real partner Steve (photo) ever had. Granted, I got to be his partner because Garry sacrificed his career and I came in through that little window when Steve was receptive to having someone argue with him on the air. (I mean someone other than Janet.) It was an amazing time. We would sit there for four hours, often with no calls, no guests and, well, nothing to talk about. But it was great. I would throw out all kinds of topics, suggestions, comments. I always felt like we were in Wrigley Field, and I was hitting fungoes out to Steve, who would try to field everything, including foul balls into the grandstand. He'd try to have a comeback for everything and most of the time did. Steve is brilliant. Howard Stern wishes he had Steve's imagination. I think the show was actually better than Steve and Garry...technically, that is. But listening to Steve and Garry was like being around for the invention of the wheel. Nothing will ever compare with that.

Rick: I've always called you the Dennis Miller of Chicago Radio because some of your references seem to go over the head of the audience.  Have program directors over the years tried to reign you in, or get you to dumb down your act?

Bruce: I've listened to Dennis Miller on the radio, and he's very good. I didn't like his recent television show that much. So go figure about the difference between radio and television. Hey, what's wrong with a reference to Pelops, the son of Tantalus, anyway? Everyone knows Greek mythology nowadays. Didn't you see "Troy" with Brad Pitt? I have had management tell me from time to time that I'm speaking over the audience's head. I actually speak over my own head when I quote Anselm's ontological proof for the existence of God (that which nothing greater in the mind can be conceived of, I think), I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Rick: You were also an important part of the ill-fated Morning Loop Guys show, featuring Spike, Dobie and Max. You actually did a newscast as well as a sportscast on that show. What was that experience like?

Bruce: The great thing about getting older is that each succeeding experience in life has very little impact on you. There's just too much history in your life for anything new to matter that much. In other words, I have no recollection of Spike or Dobie, but I do remember Max. He was the guy who appeared on "Oprah" with his wife and talked about his anger management problem, and I was the only one on the radio the next day who tried to make light of it. I knew we were cooked then.

Rick: After that show was blown up, you were the lone survivor on the Loop, and you were back with Brandmeier's show one last time. How was it different working with Johnny B the second time around?

Bruce: I just tried to shut up and do everything he said. Actually, it's a lot of fun. We did a show at the House of Blues, and I sang a medley from "Jesus Christ Superstar." Johnny and I sang "I don't know how to love him" to each other and meant it. Dennis Deyoung played Pilate, and had me (as Jesus) get down on my knees. He went through this tirade for about a minute until I finally sighed "Jesus Christ, Dennis!" You don't get to do stuff like that on Spike O'Dell's show, I don't think.

One of the songs that Bruce performed on the Loop was "The Lou Doo" for which he later recorded this video. The video aired on Fox-32, on Bruce's regular sportscast. It was the year of the Flying Illini...

Next week: Buzz Kilman