Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Loop Files: Chuck Swirsky


 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 sportscaster Chuck Swirsky. Swirsk is now the radio play-by-play man of the Chicago Bulls, but in the early 80s he was brought aboard the Loop from his previous radio home, WCFL. He wrote about that in his book, "Always a Pleasure" which was released last Christmas by Eckhartz Press. The following is a short excerpt of his chapter about the Loop...

With one eye looking to leave WCFL the timing couldn’t have been more perfect then to receive an offer from the hottest radio station in the country in 1980, WLUP FM, commonly known as “The Loop.” The station played rock and roll music featuring high energy personalities like the outrageous morning show duo of Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, who took radio to a different level, depending on how you define “different.”

      Dahl drew national attention when his Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park ended in a riot. The playing field was so unplayable the Sox had to forfeit the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers. The station featured some of the best radio music hosts in the country in Sky Daniels, Mitch Michaels, and Patti Haze. News Director Tom Webb was terrific, as was news anchor Buzz Kilman.

     General Manager Les Elias told me his plans were for me to anchor morning and afternoon drive sports and eventually host a Sunday night sports talk show. I liked Elias very much, along with his assistant Greg Solk, a rising star in broadcast management. I was leaving a nightly sports talk show, navigating my way to a new world of sports on a rock and roll station. WCFL offered give me a two-year deal, but I declined.

     My first shift on “The Loop” took place September 22, 1980. I sat down in a small booth with a glass partition separating myself and the on-air hosts, in this case Dahl and Meier. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but it became very apparent from day one that they were not pleased I invaded their space. They would constantly interrupt my sportscasts and at times not give it back as they moved on to other things. In their eyes I was a nuisance. To a certain degree I understood where they were coming from. Steve and Garry were on the verge of overtaking legendary morning man WGN’s Wally Phillips for the top spot in morning drive ratings, and suddenly a new voice arrives taking time away from their show.

     I kept my head down and continued to report and cover Chicago sports. My Sunday night sports talk show took us to different venues around the city performing live from the “Thirsty Whale” to “Buffoons.” We did salute a “Buffoon of the Week” with a box of Lemonhead Candy sent to the recipient.

     On Friday, February 13, 1981, following my morning sportscasts, I hung around the station for 30 minutes or so, then grabbed the bus to take me home. To reiterate, this is 1981. No cell phones, Internet, social media. I returned to the station around 2:30 and saw our receptionist trying her best to answer calls at a frenetic pace.

     “What is going on?” I asked myself. I’ll tell you what was going on: Steve Dahl had been fired by Heftel Broadcasting for “continued assaults on community standards and repeated violations of company policy” (WLUP release).

     I was stunned. Meier was offered the opportunity to stay but declined. It was major news in Chicago. Like front page news. Dahl was a megastar. He was Howard Stern before Howard Stern. Regardless of if you found him to your liking or not, Dahl was a superstar in the industry.

Next week: Cindy Gatziolis