An ugly scene in the stands isn't enough to hold back Arsenal. Adam and Rick discuss the team with one hand on the Premier League trophy. [Ep175]
Saturday, January 21, 2023
Friday, January 20, 2023
I was sad to see the news that David Crosby had passed away yesterday at the age of 81. He was a big part of my life. I met him only once, and he kindly autographed this album cover for me (above), but his music was important to me since I first discovered him. I actually wrote about that experience in my latest novel "Back in the DDR." In honor of Crosby's death, I'm posting that excerpt from the book here today. It's out of context, obviously, but I think you can get an idea of what he meant to me.
The US Army bus stop was easy to find. The sign had a green border with a yellow background, and a green H in the middle of it. We took the Army bus line to PHV and walked to the Rhein-Neckar Halle in Eppelheim from there. It wasn’t a long walk at all. The hall holds about 8,000 people, but this concert was general admission, all standing-room, which meant it was first-come, first serve. Uschi insisted on getting there early. She really knew what she was doing.
“Now before we go in there,” she said as we were in line, “there are two things you should know. One, we’re not going to stand too close to the stage because the speakers are really loud, and you aren’t trained to deal with that yet.”
“And secondly, you’re going to smell some smoke that doesn’t smell like your dad’s cigarette or cigar smoke. Stay away from that smoke or you may get high.”
“Drugs?” I asked.
She laughed. “Harmless, but yes.”
The doors opened and we got a perfect spot to stand about half-way back on the ground floor, to the left of the stage. I even had a railing to lean on. There were no seats except a few small bleachers on each side of the hall. It looks like they use this mainly as a sports hall for games like Handball (the group sport version), which is very popular around here for some reason.
Before the show started, I smelled the smoke that Uschi was talking about. It reminded me a little bit of the smell when a skunk gets run over near LaBagh Woods on Foster Avenue in Chicago.
Someone behind me tapped my shoulder. When I turned around, I saw that familiar long hair and goofy facial expression. It was my Edgar Winter Group pal Johnny from the first day of school. He held a pipe in his hand. The skunky smell was wafting from that pipe.
“Wanna share a bowl?” he asked. When he recognized my face, he lit up. “It’s you! The celebrity’s kid.” He slugged his buddy’s arm. “This dude’s got a famous dad.”
Uschi pulled me away from them. They were giggling and slapping each other five as we walked away. I got a kick out of watching Johnny trying to explain to his buddy about my dad. He was having a very hard time putting his sentences together.
“Is that the smell you were talking about?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said. “If someone offers you a bowl, that’s what they mean.”
I finally understood.
The concert was incredible. I didn’t hear some of my favorite CSNY songs, but Uschi explained to me that Stephen Stills and Neil Young wrote those. It didn’t matter to her. I could tell that Uschi was in heaven by the way she danced. It was like she was in a trance. I got excited too when they played a few songs that I loved like “Our House,” “Guinevere,” “Long Time Gone” and “Wooden Ships.” I thought the show was over after that, but Uschi made me stay.
“Watch,” she said. “They’ll come back for an encore.”
Not only did they come back, but the encore was the Graham Nash song “Chicago,” which made me a little homesick. I know the song is not exactly a warm tribute, but I loved hearing the crowd singing “Won’t you please come to Chicago.”
On our way back to the bus station, I thanked Uschi profusely.
“I really love having you live with us,” I said.
She smiled, put her hand on my shoulder, and replied: “I never knew I had such a cool cousin.”
A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…
*John Kass Recovering from Health Scare
=Kass reported the news about his stroke and quadruple bypass on his WGN-Plus podcast The Chicago Way. His voice sounds strong, but he remains hospitalized.
*Rick Gieser Running for Mayor of Carol Stream
=The Chicago radio veteran (and original member of The Score staff) is now the publicist for Zanies. That’s where he is holding his fundraiser on February 5th for his Carol Stream mayoral campaign. A who’s who of Chicago comedians will perform there, including Dwayne Kennedy and WCPT’s Patti Vasquez.
*Nick D Unveils New Podcast
=Nick Digilio has a new podcast on the Radio Misfits Podcast Network (in addition to his other show, The Nick D Show). It’s a podcast all about SNL. He calls it That Show Hasn’t Been Funny in Years, which is obviously a point of view he doesn’t share. You can listen to the latest episode here.
*Dave Fogel’s Tribute to Dad
=WLS-FM morning man Dave Fogel’s father Jerry Fogel was a famous actor in the 1960s and 1970s (his imdb list is very impressive). This week would have been Jerry’s birthday, and Dave paid tribute to his dad on the show. Jerry passed away in 2019. (When I interviewed Dave back in 2010, it was obvious how close he was to his “Pop”)
*The Loop Files
=This week’s trip into the Loop files is about the great Bobby Skafish, and includes a free excerpt from his book We Have Company about Bobby’s encounter with Jackson Browne.
*Jim Moran resigns from WLS
=Jim Moran has been doing fill-in work at WLS for years, but he announced this week that he is officially stepping away from the station. From his Facebook page: Working in radio, there was really only one radio station that I dreamed of working for, . About 20 years ago, I started a four-year run as the evening news anchor and morning/afternoon drive fill-in for the BIG 89. It was a dream come true. I eventually moved on and was lucky enough to return back in 2018 as a fill-in news anchor. I've loved every second that I've been a part of WLS. But, as life changes and things have progressed with my local government career, I'm just not able to be available for fill-ins like I once was... so this week, I decided to resign from my position with WLS. I still expect to do occasional fill-in work for some of the suburban Alpha Media radio stations, like Star 105.5 during mornings, but I just don't have the flexibility to do mid-day or afternoons anymore. I'm grateful for the opportunity to live out my dream as a member of the WLS news team.
*Former Chicago Radio Report
=Elroy Smith, former Chicago radio executive, has gotten a big promotion. He has been named as director of urban content for Cox Media Group. He will now oversee the company's stations in Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, and Jacksonville.
=Have you ever paid money to see a podcast performed live? I’ve done it a few times myself (most recently when Smartless came to the Chicago Theater.) According to this piece in Inside Radio, podcast listeners are more and more willing to pay for live events.
=Don’t say there aren’t any jobs available in Chicago radio. Here’s one…
*January 15—Martin Luther King Jr. birthday
=His birthday would have been Sunday, and his holiday was Monday. The media world was focused on the ugly and weird MLK statue unveiled this week in Boston. I prefer to highlight this song, put together in 1970 by Detroit disc jockey Tom Clay. It’s a beautiful to tribute to JFK, MLK, and RFK.
*January 15—Mary Sandberg Boyle birthday
=Mary is the boss at WGN Radio these days, having previously produced classic shows by the likes of Steve Cochran and Steve Dahl. She is the first female GM in WGN’s 100 year history and was named last year as one of the most influential women in radio by Radio Ink.
*January 17, 1956—Chuck Goudie birthday
=Channel 7’s premier investigative reporter has been with WLS-TV since 1980, and has been their chief investigative reporter since 1990. He has won every award imaginable, including Emmys, Lisagors, Murrows, and more. Still going strong 43 years after arriving in Chicago.
*January 17—Tom Marker birthday
=Marker is still heard on the radio at WDCB spinning his blues classics. He is best known for his multi-decade run at Chicago’s WXRT.
*January 17—Ted Novak birthday
=Ted was a long-time traffic reporter for WGN radio and became a favorite of the late-night and overnight crowd.
*January 17—Rick Zurick birthday
=Zurick was the morning news anchor and news director at WLIT for many years, and also anchored news for WGN Radio.
*January 18, 1922—Bob Bell birthday
=Simply one of the most beloved local media people in Chicago history. Bob Bell was none other than Bozo the Clown at WGN television for decades.
WGN's original Bozo, Bob Bell, would have been 101 years old today. During his early years as Bozo he was also hosting an after-school Three Stooges program as a character named Andy Starr! Bell was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1996. Happy birthday, Bob! pic.twitter.com/KaGPVl7nhe— Museum of Broadcast Communications (@MuseumTV) January 18, 2023
*January 18—Corey Morris birthday
=The former Chicago traffic reporter now lives in Laredo, Texas.
*January 18—Jim Gronemann Birthday
=Producer Jim, as he is known on Melissa Forman’s WLIT morning show, worked with Melissa for twenty years. When I interviewed Forman for Illinois Entertainer in 2021, she said: “He’s Lenny to my Squiggy”. Gronemann is also a Domino’s Pizza franchisee in Indiana.
*January 18—Jake Hamilton Birthday
=The co-host of Good Day Chicago on Channel 32.
*January 18—Reed Pence birthday
=The former WLUP and WBBM-FM newsman was the co-owner of MediaTracks which produced public affairs programs for hundreds of radio stations nationwide. He retired last year.
*January 19, 2022—Death of Pat Brickhouse
=She was the second wife of the Hall of Fame broadcaster and the keeper of the Brickhouse legacy after Jack’s death. I interviewed her for my Cubs website back in 2008. Hard to believe it’s already been a year since she passed. (WGN-TV also did a nice piece on Jack this week.)
*January 20—Chris Witting birthday
=The founder and CEO of Syndication Networks Corporation (based in Chicago). His Success Journal airs in Chicago on WBBM NewsRadio 780.
*January 20—Rich Renik birthday
=The former WMAQ and WUSN personality is now part of the Alpha Media group in Crest Hill.
*January 20—Mick Kahler birthday
=Mick produced legendary personalities in Chicago for decades (including Larry Lujack at WLS and Big John & Ray at US-99) before leaving radio to become a teacher. He still writes parody songs that are occasionally featured on WGN-TV.
*January 21—Andrew Dahn birthday
=Andrew currently works at WBBM NewsRadio 780 as a reporter/anchor.
*January 21—Mike Nowak birthday
=Nowak’s Let’s Talk Gardening show was a staple at WGN Radio. He also had a long stint at WCPT 820am, and WCGO.
*January 21—Mike Leiderman birthday
=Leiderman had a long and distinguished television career as a reporter/anchor/producer/host. He was a sports reporter for Channel 5, the host of PM Chicago at WFLD-TV, the executive producer of Chicago Tonight at WTTW, and more. I found this video recently from his reporting days. I got a kick out of it—I suspect you might too.
*January 21—Jason Thomas birthday
=The former WXRT evening jock now lives in Colorado.
*January 21--Len Kasper birthday
=I interviewed Len a few times when he was the Cubs announcer including this piece from Illinois Entertainer/2017 and this podcast interview just before his final season with the Cubs. He is now the radio voice of the Chicago White Sox.
*Q&A with WTTW News Director Jay Smith
=Channel 11 viewers are bracing for the changes in the flagship show, Chicago Tonight, which is moving timeslots from 7pm to 10pm beginning on Monday January 23rd. Jay Smith is the news director at WTTW and he answers questions about the impending changes coming to Chicago’s PBS station.
=Chicago favorite, The Bear, returns for Season 2 later this year. I’ll be watching it on Hulu.
*British actor Julian Sands missing in California after a hike
=Sands starred in the film A Room with a View among many others. He went hiking in the mountains in Southern California last week and hasn’t been seen since. More information here in this BBC report.
*What the Jan 6 Committee Discovered About Social Media But Didn’t Include in Their Report
=According to this, the story about Twitter’s content moderation in the pre-January 6th era is the real scandal, not the way they tried to correct that problem after 1/6 insurrection.
*Trump is coming back to Twitter, wants to come back to Facebook
=After saying he wasn’t coming back, the demise of Truth Social has forced his hand. Twitter has already allowed him back, although he hasn’t tweeted yet. Facebook hasn’t decided yet what to do. He had been banned on both social media platforms after his role in fomenting the storming of the Capitol.
*Deep Dive on the History of Twitter by New York Magazine
=It’s all here, including the odd behavior of previous CEOs, and the increasingly odd behavior of the current one.
*Over 500 Advertisers Have Abandoned Twitter
=Reuters reports that news, as well as the news that Twitter revenues are down 40% from this time last year.
*CNET experiments with AI-written articles
=As a writer, not too crazy about this news. But according to this human-written piece in the Washington Post about the experiment, it appears these articles needed a lot of fixing by humans after they were “written.” For now.
*A Cabbie Book
=It’s not from my publishing company, but this book by a Chicago cabbie sounds like an interesting read. Clearly the Tribune’s Rick Kogan felt that way too. His article about the book is here.
As always, if you have any media story you’d like to share or think that I might be interested in sharing, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you're in Chicago media and wondering why I didn't mention your birthday, it's probably because I don't know it. Drop me a line and let me know and I'll put you on my calendar.
I've been working on revising the book for the upcoming 5th edition (which will be out on Opening Day). Thought I'd share a few of these EveryCubEver entries with you while I worked..
His real name was Leonard Leslie Cole. He started his baseball career as a pitcher with the Cubs in 1909. By 1910, he was the ace of the staff. He led the National League that season with a record of 20-4 and helped win a National League Pennant for the Cubs. His 20-4 record is the best winning percentage (.866) for a Cubs pitcher in the twentieth century. He was immortalized as “King” Cole by Ring Lardner, who no doubt got it from the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Old King Cole.’ King Cole didn’t stay with the Cubs very long. He won 18 games for them in 1911, and was traded (along with fan favorite Solly Hofman) to the Pirates for Tommy Leach early in the 1912 season. He later landed in the American League, where Cole gave up Babe Ruth’s first ever hit in the majors (a double on October 2, 1914). But this King Cole would not live to be a merry old soul. In 1915, he contracted a disease that knocked him out of baseball. Some sources say it was malaria, others say tuberculosis, and still others speculate it was syphilis, but whatever the disease, it took Cole’s life. He died on January 6th, 1916, a few months shy of his 30th birthday.
Thursday, January 19, 2023
With over 80 books in our library, this year we're taking some time every week to highlight one of the books on the Eckhartz bookshelf. This week's book is my latest. It came out on December 1st.
Back in the D.D.R is a double fish out of water tale. The year is 1976. 12-year-old Rudi has had a really difficult time fitting in his family’s adopted home of America, but just when he feels like he is becoming Americanized, his family moves back to West Germany. Rudi tries to navigate American Army bases, German and Austrian relatives he has never met, and Cold War political tension and violence he doesn’t fully understand. His unusual journey culminates in a visit to the other side of the Iron Curtain, where Rudi is forced to confront the real reasons his family has taken him on such a bumpy ride.
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
We have now done over 200 interviews on our various Minutia Men podcasts, and this year we're going to revisit some of the best. Dave and I are both huge fans of the film Field of Dreams. Dwier Brown had a small role in that movie, but it was critical. He played Ray Kinsella's father. The final scene of the movie, when Ray and his father "have a catch" absolutely kills me. Talking to Dwier was a thrill, and he didn't disappoint. Turns out that he deals with this almost every day of his life, and the way he handles it is absolutely amazing.
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
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 Bobby Skafish. Bobby's arrival at the Loop in 1983 (From WXRT) was a key move, announcing a new direction at the station, away from the hard-rocking black t-shirt Loop. Bobby did the lion's share of musical interviews on the station, including virtually every major rock and roll star of the era.
Jackson Browne 1986
I think radio air personalities can hold a false sense of the importance of our musician encounters. Because it looms so large in our minds to have interviewed so and so and perceive that he actually likes us, we think that the next time around with the artist we’ll be greeted warmly like the old friends we imagine we are.
This was confirmed for me by reading Jacob Slichter’s 2004 autobiography, So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. Jacob who? Mr. Slichter was the drummer for one hit wonder band Semisonic, from Minneapolis, who clicked big with 1998’s “Closing Time”. At WXRT in 2001 the band performed live and we chatted when they were promoting their next album All About Chemistry. The session went well and when the man’s autobiography/music business reality check came out in 2004 I bought the book and probably scanned the index to see if XRT got a mention. Nope.
Not only that, but reading the thing hammered it home to me that bands are subjected to a massive amount of meeting people while promotionally or musically touring, all in the name of “working it.” Fleeting and superficial episodes they usually are and, with exceptions, the artist might draw a total blank on you next time around.
So why should I have been surprised that after what I felt was a meaningful encounter with Jackson Browne in July, 1986, at Poplar Creek Music Theatre (suburban outdoor venue, 1980-1994, capacity 20,000), that three years later he seemed to have no recollection of having met me at the same venue? Heck, backstage he had even introduced me to his girlfriend, actress Darryl Hannah, and her actress sister Page. Let me one up myself: when I went backstage post-gig for a meet and greet in 1989, he gave no indication that he remembered our interview just hours earlier.
The 1986 on-air situation began from the Poplar Creek broadcast booth from where I did dozens of Loop radio shows. I would do my rap while the songs and commercials were played back at the Hancock by a “board op,” usually Bob Heymann. On this day, as I broadcast on the Loop FM, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier were doing their talk thing on the Loop AM. As Steve & Garry would be cruising out after their show to the Jackson Browne concert they took a particular interest in what was going on out in Hoffman Estates, at the venue. There was some pre-Jackson Browne arrival banter with them and when Jackson did arrive, running a bit late, we were briefly all on the air together.
Once I had Mr. Browne to myself I told him that I had recently seen him on TV performing at the last stop of the Amnesty International Tour: A Conspiracy of Hope held at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, along with other superstars such as Peter Gabriel and U2, and including speeches by the likes of Robert De Niro.
I complimented him that, unlike De Niro, who would get a 10 for sincerity but a lower mark for knowledge of the subject, he scored 10s in both. With this, basically, Browne was off and running: he spoke of a book he held up on the broadcast and gave a tour of Central America Human Rights violations: Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, massacres of entire villages, people held in prison without charges, etc.
I was out of my depth here but the guy was obviously speaking passionately and informatively, so I let him go. Finally, when I had the chance I jumped in with a topic I knew a bit about:
Bobby Skafish: “It’s publicized that you took drugs; it’s publicized that you gave up drugs. Did that help you get out of the introspective (songwriting) thing? Did it help you see people around you a little more clearly? “
Jackson Browne: “It helped everything. A lot of things stopped hurting. For people who grew up in the 60s it was sort of an accepted idea that you could get a lot of self- exploration and a lot of understanding of the world by experimenting with drugs, and of course, there are a lot of casualties from that attitude. And I feel very fortunate that I’m not completely screwed up (laughs).”
We talked about his band and I mentioned the Sun City anti-Apartheid record and the Bread and Roses fair wages causes he had given his time and talent to, concluding “I’d like to thank you publically for thinking about people other than yourself.”
Three years later Jackson and I had a second go-‘round, before his 1989 Poplar Creek Theatre gig. I led, after thanking him for coming on with us live on the Loop, by saying that a lot of people were dissatisfied with his concert three years previous because they wanted to “freeze frame” him the 70s before his music became more political. I supposed I thought I was trying to line up on his side by throwing in “but time moves on, doesn’t it?,” but the whole question was a fail, I can now see. You don’t tell an artist that some people didn’t dig aspects of his show that took place three years ago! Rude. Uncool. Unnecessary. And trying to buddy up by implying those people were the squares, unlike me, was self-serving.
JB: “You know, that might have been happening three years ago. I find it’s always difficult to play the new songs from the album in this kind of setting. Maybe it’s just because it’s beautiful weather and shows they attended ten years ago at Ravinia or places like this. Audiences are more willing to hear songs that they know than songs they haven’t heard, and if the album has just come out as it did then (Lives in the Balance) or has now (World in Motion) it’s a challenge for them and a challenge for me to play the new songs. I actually think it’s going really well. People are receiving the new songs really well.”
BS: ”So you got a mixed bag…”
JB (cutting in): Always. Always. That’s what a show like this is for me, a chance to do songs from all my albums.”
We next touched on a benefit concert Jackson had given recently in Black Hills, South Dakota, benefitting Native Americans. After speaking knowingly about problems on the reservations as well as the friction with white people of the area, he proudly said that it was a sober concert and that the Red and White folk enjoyed it, peacefully, together.
I told Mr. Browne that I had read David Crosby’s autobiography, 1988’s Long Time Gone, and said that Browne “went through hell and high water to try to get David Crosby off drugs, in what’s called an intervention, and he wasn’t ready for it at the time but you put in a very noble effort.”
JB: “A lot of us did. It’s difficult sometimes to remember someone’s better qualities. I mean, he was a mess, in very bad shape, and he continually disappointed people, the friends who loved him the most and his family. He just did some terrible things, self-destructive things, things that were destructive to others.”
BS: “You basically dragged him onto a plane and flew him away and tried to…”
JB: “We basically ambushed him. He was coming home from a small tour he did acoustically and he walked through the door and the house was full of everybody who still cared about him. And after a few hours of trying to sort of wriggle out of it he agreed to go to a hospital and get well. And even as he was agreeing to do that he was sort of planning his escape. It was a pretty fruitless attempt (by his friends). Finally in the end another friend of his and I agreed to fly him down there because we couldn’t get him down there any other way because he was so strung out…and he ended up walking (out) that day.”
BS: “The good news is we eventually had a happy ending on that.”
JB: “The great news is that you should never write anybody off. You should never really give up on people even though I had to stop trying to straighten him out and deal with my own life”
Jackson Browne had participated, as a background singer, on a 1988 long form video Roy Orbison: A Black and White Night. It was Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Roy Orbison (1936-1988) performing a taped concert backed by an all-star band assembled by musical director T-Bone Burnett: Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Elvis Costello, among others.
As an aside, I recall Chicago photographer Paul Natkin telling me about a Roy Orbison Park West concert during which Orbison was cheered on enthusiastically by David Bowie, members of the Grateful Dead and the Buckinghams, whose schedules somehow allowed them all to be there.
BS: “Was that (making A Black and White Night) as much of a thrill as it appeared to be to us watching?
JB: “It was. It was an incredible experience. Everybody came together with such a feeling of reverence for the guy, and awe, really, to be working with him. At the same time it was not a super-high budget production, it was something people did out of love. Nobody had to be paid –there was some kind of basic fee everybody got, across the board. These were some of the best musicians in America with Elvis’ (Presley) old band. And the thing was, meeting him and rehearsing the little bit we did with him you didn’t really get a sense of the man’s power. I mean you’re rehearsing his old hits but the guy was sort of sand bagging it, sort of playing possum. He wasn’t going to blow his throat out at rehearsal; he looked at the situation and he was such a pro. He’d been there. I think they re-edited it so you didn’t really get to see it quite that much, but people were just blown away by his first song, people on the stage! He opened up and people were just really amazed at the power of the guy’s voice, because he hadn’t been singing that way during rehearsals.”
Funny thing, Jackson Browne was at his most animated while talking about others during the course of our two interviews: Roy Orbison, Central American peasants, Native Americans, David Crosby – those were subjects that made him really come alive.
Note: In the photo of Bobby & Jackson above, that's engineer Kent Lewin looking on in his red and white striped shirt.
Next Week in the Loop Files: Brendan Sullivan
Monday, January 16, 2023
Our latest episode is out. You can listen to it here.
Vito from the Soprano’s explains the origin of his character, Jenkins REEEALLY messes up a text from a hospital clinic, Bad lip reading from the floors of Congress, a series of unfortunate 911 calls, and a brush with a feline celebrity. [Ep298]