Friday, February 02, 2024

Media Notebook--2-2-24


A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago.



*Is Eric Ferguson Coming Back?

=Eric posted a birthday message on Facebook this week. (h/t to Charlie Meyerson at Chicago Public Square for spotting this)

=Axios has more

=He's been off the air for a few years now. Sounds like he wants to come back. The question is which station is willing to take a chance on him? Despite the lawsuits against him being adjudicated in his favor (they were eventually dismissed), the details were widely spread. His reputation took a big hit. It would be a risky hire, but his long track record of ratings success could compel someone to take a flier.


*Terry Chess

=The son of Phil Chess (one of the famous Chess Brothers), and the first general manager of The Loop back in 1977, Terry Chess, is my interview subject this month in Illinois Entertainer. I didn’t interview him in time to be part of The Loop Files, but he has read the book, and lets me know what I have right and wrong about the first two years of the station.

=Coming next month: Tom Freakin Skilling

 *John Records Landecker

=A podcast interview with one of the greats, my old boss and friend John Records Landecker…

=John arrived in Chicago this week in 1972. Thanks to Midwest Radio Memories for posting this…

 *Radio Hall of Fame Looking for Suggestions

=Every year at this time the National Radio Hall of Fame looks for nominations from the listening public. They opened for suggestions yesterday, and will continue accepting them until March 31. Click here to submit a name. You'd be surprised how many all-time greats have yet to be inducted.

*Carmen DeFalco

=Barrett Sports Media wrote a nice profile of ESPN AM 1000’s midday co-host.

 *Mike North

=Barrett Sports Media also caught up with former Score host Mike North to talk about his retirement and what he is up to these days. 


*Podcast Corner

=Smartless Wins The Lottery

Nine figures, baby. More money than any of them made in TV/film. Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes’ SmartLess Media has signed a multi-year agreement with SiriusXM. The deal is worth more than $100 million.

=Paul Anka Gets a Podcast

From the ‘everyone in the world has a podcast’ department, add the name of singer Paul Anka. He is teaming up with business whiz Skip Bronson to do a weekly interview podcast. Anka, by the way, is the father-in-law of Jason Bateman. Between the two of them they can now swim in pools of money like Scrooge McDuck.

=Charlie Sykes is leaving The Bulwark

Sorry to hear this news. I’m a regular listener. He announced his departure in his newsletter yesterday, saying: As much as I love putting out a 2000-word morning newsletter and six podcasts a week —and having conversations with the smartest and most interesting people around — there’s always the risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of idiocracy out there.


*Music News

=Elton John and Bernie Taupin to receive the Gershwin Prize for popular song. The award is given out annually by The Library of Congress.

*Former WVON jock Joe Cobb Sues Soul Train

=He is the man behind that iconic Soul Train scream. The 80-year-old Cobb is suing to get some of those Soul Train royalties. The Sun-Times has the story. 


*Cheeseland Awaits

=Former WLS staffer Cosette Nowik is heading to Wisconsin.

*Ex-Chicago Radio

=Liz Wilde had a stint in Chicago in the mid-90s (WLUP). She is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer and updated her fans and friends on her progress…

=Elizabeth Grattan has exited WDOK/Cleveland. She had been there since 2019. Elizabeth previously worked in Chicago at WGN and WZZN.


*Mardi Gras Weekend Kick-off Broadcast

=WLUW (88.7FM) is hosting a live Mardi Gras weekend kickoff party at Gale Street Inn on February 10, from 11am-2pm. DJ Tom Jackson will host and Naomi Ashley and Jon Williams will perform. Make your reservations through Gale Street Inn.


*Rest in Peace

=Melinda Wilson

Wife, manager, “savior” of Beach Boy Brian Wilson. She was 77.




*January 28—Jack Silver birthday

=Jack was the ringmaster at AM 1000 back in the Johnny/Kevin/Steve & Garry heyday. He went on to become a bigshot for CBS Radio and later Audacy in Los Angeles. I interviewed him in 2009.


*January 29—Oprah Winfrey birthday

=It’s hard to remember that Oprah was a complete unknown when she arrived in Chicago in the mid-80s. They didn’t quite know what to do with her, and even used her on the news with Joel Daly.


*January 29—Dane Placko birthday

=The top reporter for WFLD-TV (Channel 32) has been there now for over 30 years. He has a closet full of Emmys, and a profile in Illinois Entertainer written by me. This is a fun interview about his forced month-long vacation in England.


*January 29—Tony Lossano birthday

=The former host of the Nude Hippo show and the podcast Lossano & Friends is also a long-time radio producer (WLIT, WLS) and podcast producer (including my podcasts, Minutia Men & Minutia Men Celebrity Interview).


*January 30—Chuck Swirsky birthday.

=Chuck is not only the play-by-play man of the Chicago Bulls. He’s also an author. His book Always a Pleasure came out during the holiday season of 2022.


*January 30, 1935—Warner Saunders birthday

=Warner Saunders had a long and distinguished television career in Chicago at NBC-5. He retired in 2009 and passed away in 2018.


*January 30, 1969

=The Beatles performed live for the very last time. 55 years ago this week, they climbed onto the rooftop of their Apple Records headquarters. The entire show was part of the Get Back special that aired on Disney+ a few years ago.

 *January 30--Lisa Dent birthday

=Lisa hosts afternoons on WGN Radio. I was lucky enough to interview her for Illinois Entertainer in 2016, shortly after she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (during her days at US-99). 


*January 31, 1975

=This is a fun trip back in time. John Coleman is the host. Bob Sirott, Chuck Schaden, Sherman Kaplan, and Clark Weber are the guests. The show is called Midnight. Thanks to Chicago Radio Archives & Memories for posting it.

 *January 31—Josh Liss birthday

=The morning sports anchor for WBBM News Radio was featured in the December 2016 edition of Illinois Entertainer.


*January 31—Nick Shepkowski birthday

=Shepkowski was a producer and host at the Score for 15 years. 

*February 1—Lisa Miller birthday

=Lisa has been one of the most powerful media agents in Chicago for the past four decades. She is married to Channel 5 meteorologist Brant Miller. By the way, it’s pronounced Lissa.


*February 3—Karen Conti birthday

=Karen has been a legal analyst and host at WGN Radio for many years. She also has a new e-book coming out in March called Killing Time with John Wayne Gacy: Defending America's Most Evil Serial Killer on Death Row 


*February 3—Dan Roan birthday

=Dan retired as the sports director of WGN-TV in 2022. I snapped this photo of Dan and his fellow WGN-TV colleagues at Rich King’s book launch party just a week or so before Dan retired.

*February 3—Steve Sanders birthday

=Steve also retired from WGN-TV and is also in that photo above (second from the right).


*February 3—Lisa Greene birthday

=Lisa did stints at several radio stations in Chicago, including WJMK. I interviewed her for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2008. She currently lives in California.


*February 3—Steve Bertrand birthday

=Steve has been a news mainstay at WGN radio since the mid-80s. I interviewed him for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2012.


*February 3, 1959—The Day the Music Died

=I interviewed Bob Hale, the DJ who introduced Buddy Holly on stage before his last concert, the night of the plane crash. What an incredible story.

=Bob Dearborn was a DJ at WCFL when Don McLean’s “American Pie” came out. That song immortalized the phrase “the day the music died”. Dearborn became famous for his analysis of the song because McLean refused to explain it. That explanation is here. 




*Demetrius Ivory Named Chief Meteorologist

=Big shoes to fill. He will be replacing Tom Skilling when Skilling retires at the end of the month. Of course, Ivory has been with WGN-TV for more than ten years.

*The Only Guaranteed Ratings

=The NFL has had an incredible playoffs ratings-wise.

*Top Streamers for 2023

=The numbers are in, and we have a new streaming champion. Suits set a streaming record in 2023, breaking the record formerly held by The Office. Of the new shows last year, the most streamed show was Ted Lasso. The Hollywood Reporter has more info.


*U2 at the Grammy’s

=Live from the Sphere in Las Vegas. 


*The Greatest Night in Pop

=Richard Roeper reviews the Netflix special about the making of the song “We Are The World” 


*Cable News Corner

=OAN may have broken laws while spreading election lies 

=Joy Reid has a potty mouth

 *Rest in Peace

=Chita Rivera

Broadway legend. 10-time Tony Nominee. She was 91.

=Hinton Battle

Choreographer, dancer. 3-time Tony winner (The Wiz). He was 67.



*Very Bad Month for Journalists

=More than 500 journalists were let go in January.

*Tribune Guild Protest

=All is not well between The Tribune Guild and the owners of the newspaper. They staged a digital picket line (a click-it line) yesterday…

*The Onion Union Settles

=Meanwhile, The Onion Union reached a tentative agreement with their owners. 

*Jake Sheridan

=Shifts from covering emerging news to covering City Hall.

*Miranda Davis

=Hired by Bloomberg to cover money and power in Chicago and the Midwest. She was previously with The Real Deal.

*Rest in Peace

=Al Borcover

The former Travel Editor for the Chicago Tribune was 92. 




*Social Media CEOs Testify to Senate

=The subject was child exploitation. The Associated Press reports how it went.

*Twitter Blocks Taylor Swift Searches

=After this past weekend’s Chiefs game, you would assume that Taylor Swift was a popular search. She was, but not for the reason you think. Someone posted fake nudes of her. And those went viral, prompting Twitter (X) to block the searches of her name. 


*Universal Music Pulls Songs from TikTok

=This includes music from artists like Taylor Swift and Drake. It’s a royalty dispute.

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 or 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.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

20 Years: A Fine Mess--Cooking with Wine


 This year marks my 20th year as a professional writer. Over the course of 2024, I'll be sharing a few of those offerings you may have missed along the way...

For three years I was the featured columnist for Shore Magazine. My column was called A Fine Mess, inspired by the old Stan Laurel saying, "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into, Ollie."

This particular column was in the February 2012 issue.

When my wife told me that she wanted to sign us up for a cooking class with another couple, I must admit, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect.


“It’s one of those Living Social packages,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”


I’m not 100% positive I said anything out loud, but I most certainly groaned on the inside. Then she said the magic words to stop the groaning: “Every person in the class is supposed to bring a bottle of wine.”


“You mean the two of us would bring two bottles?” I asked, as a matter of clarification.



“I’m in.”


What she didn’t tell me was that the class would be held on a Saturday morning.  Even someone with a low “it’s gotta be happy hour somewhere in the world” threshold like me has a hard time justifying pulling the cork at 10 AM. By the time I found out, it was too late to renege.


The cooking class was at Au Vin on Elston Avenue in Chicago. There were six couples in the group. My wife and I, our old college buddies Mike and Lynee, a mother-in-law and her brand new daughter in law, and three young hip couples from the city.


All of us were given aprons and chef hats, and instructed to write our names on the hats so our classmates could identify us. The teacher/chef was named Cecil, a 20-something tattooed bon vivant with gigantic earrings. He was enthusiastic and passionate about the matter at hand: French cooking.


“The first thing we’re going to make is a soufflĂ©,” he said.


If you’ve ever watched an episode of Top Chef (I’m a devoted follower), you know that soufflĂ© is one of the most difficult and delicate things to make. Even Top Chef Contestants get it wrong all the time. Cecil immediately warned us how easily it could happen to us: “If there’s even one tiny—and I mean even the slightest hint—a whiff, a whisper, or drop of yolk in the egg whites, the entire soufflĂ© will be ruined.”


I think that’s when I started panicking.


I cook dinner for my family every night—but I’m entirely self-taught, and I hate it when anyone watches me. I know that my food will end up tasting good, but I’m a little insecure about my techniques. The way this class worked, we all took turns separating the egg whites while everyone else watched. With all eyes on me, I suddenly couldn’t do it. I was choking under pressure.


That’s when my buddy Mike made a suggestion that rescued me: “Maybe we should open the wine.”

I now have an answer to this question: “What is the earliest you’ve ever started drinking?”


My answer: “10:15 A.M”   (Paging Dr. Phil.)

Mock me if you will, but after the wine began to flow, I really got into the class. I learned how to properly julienne vegetables (as I suspected, I had been doing it incorrectly). I learned how to correctly poach an egg (something I’ve never been able to do before). And I learned how to make a soufflĂ© that didn’t fall.


We created an incredibly beautiful four-course lunch; tilapia wrapped with prosciutto and julienned vegetables, cauliflower au gratin, fresh salad with a poached egg, and chocolate soufflĂ©. And most importantly, we got to eat it.  


It tasted as good as it looked. The tilapia was heavenly. The cauliflower was complex and delicious. And though I never would have ordered a salad with a poached egg on top, it was a really interesting combination of flavors. Plus that soufflé was sinful, and if I can pat myself on the back for a moment, it was perfectly prepared.

But if you are ever invited over to dinner at my house, don’t expect me to serve this meal. I couldn’t possibly julienne a vegetable, separate an egg white without a hint, whiff, or whisper of yolk in it, or poach an egg again. That knowledge was gone by dinner that night.

I’m thinking that the 10:15 AM wine might have been a contributing factor.


At least that’s what Dr. Phil told me.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Studio Walls--1-31-24


A weekly update/preview of my latest podcasts, and a look back at some of my previous audio work from this week in history over the past 40+ years.

Two of the podcasts returned last week. The latest Minutia Men is called My Husband Forces Me To Listen to Your Podcast and the latest Free Kicks is titled Sanctions-Palooza.

Here are some other options from this week in history...

*January 28, 2023

=This week last year, Minutia Men aired our 300th episode. You know the Rick and Dave dancers were there. Listen to it here. 

*January 29--Dane Placko birthday

=The local Chicago news treasure has been on the show multiple times. Here are a few examples...

Dane Placko Part 1 

Dane Placko (Part 2) 

*January 30—Chuck Swirsky birthday

=I got a chance to interview the Bulls announcer shortly after his book came out. For some reason, Dave wasn't a part of it.

*January 30--Dwier Brown birthday

=The Field of Dreams star was our first ever official Minutia Men Celebrity Interview. "Dad, you wanna have a catch?"

*January 31—Nolan Ryan birthday

=What is it like facing one of the greatest flamethrowers in baseball history? Former White Sox slugger Eric Soderholm described it to us. 

*January 31, 1933

=The Lone Ranger debuted on the radio. Approximately 90 years later, The Lone Rogainger debuted on Minutia Men.

*January 31—Ernie Banks birthday. 

=The Cubs great would have been 93 this week. We uncovered an old 1955 interview with Ernie that we played on this episode of Minutia Men. 

*February 2—Nicole Zwiercan birthday

=Who is Nicole? Only Mrs. America. We chatted with her last year. 

*February 2—Graham Nash birthday

=Comedian Mike Toomey opened for Crosby Stills and Nash and told us what it was like performing comedy in front of that famously mellow crowd. Listen to his story here 

*February 3—Maitland Ward birthday

=She started her career as a sitcom star (Boy Meets World). She is now an adult film actress. Dave and I did more research before this interview than any other.