Friday, May 31, 2024

Media Notebook--5-31-24


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



*Format Change for Alpha Media

=As I speculated last week, Alpha Media is changing the format of two of their stations. WCCQ-Joliet (98.3FM) and WXLC-Waukegan (102.3FM) are now known as Free Country 98.3 and 102.3.

=Drew Walker, who stepped down from US-99 recently, is joining the team as the Asst. Brand Manager and afternoon drive host. Hannah B, who co-hosts afternoons on two of the other stations in the cluster (WSSR and WZSR with Eddie Volkman) will add midday host duties at Free Country. The rest of the lineup looks like they are going with nationally syndicated hosts. Bobby Bones in the morning slot. B-Dub Radio in the evening slot.



*DeNiro Award Rescinded

=Robert DeNiro made the news this week when he appeared outside of the NY courtroom where Donald Trump was being tried to make several political (anti-Trump) statements. DeNiro had been scheduled to receive a special award from the National Association of Broadcasters on June 4th. After his speech in New York, they rescinded the award. More details are here.

 *Wolfman Jack show coming to WGN

=Yes, he’s been gone for many years now, but the Wolfman recorded a ton of great radio shows in his day. According to an on-air announcement on the John Landecker show this week, the Wolfman show is coming to WGN soon. It will air from 2-5am on Sunday mornings.

*Media Jobs Report

=A new service for people looking for jobs in the media, including radio. Here’s the link for the radio openings.


*Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame

=The induction ceremony will take place in September of this year. One of the inductees is WMAQ-AM veteran Scott Herman, who is now the chairman of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. Full list of inductees is here.

*Worst Decade of Radio Ever?

=According to this recently released poll, we’re currently living in it. The same poll says that the 1990s were the best. See the results here.



*May 26—Brent Musburger birthday

=Brent has had one of the most successful sports television careers of all-time, and it all began right here in Chicago. Brent turns 85 years old this week.


*May 26—Candace Jordan birthday

=The former Playboy model writes the weekly “Candid Candace” column in the Chicago Tribune.


*May 27—Misty Callahan birthday

=Misty is a radio producer in Chicago (Salem Media) and is married to fellow radio producer (and Eckhartz Press author) Keith Conrad.


*May 27—George Castle birthday

=For decades George covered the Chicago Cubs for the Northwest Indiana Times. He has also written quite a few Cubs books, and in 2022 contributed to the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year finalist “Chili Dog MVP” (about Dick Allen)


*May 27—Pat Hughes birthday

=The baseball Hall of Famer is the reason I still listen to the Cubs on the radio whenever I can. I got a chance to interview him for Chicago Radio Spotlight back in 2010. 


*May 28--Lisa Fielding birthday

=Afternoon news anchor/reporter/host at NewsRadio 780.

*May 29—Felicia Middlebrooks birthday

=The former morning co-anchor at WBBM NewsRadio is also an author and an award-winning filmmaker 


*May 30—Dave Eanet birthday

=Dave is the sports director at WGN and can heard daily on Bob Sirott’s morning show. He has also been the radio play-by-play man for Northwestern University football and basketball for decades. (Photo: Dave on WGN-TV for Cubs World Series postgame. Far left)

*May 31—Jerry Agar birthday

=Jerry had stints at both WLS and WGN in Chicago. I got a chance to interview him during that time. He’s currently working north of the border in his native Canada.


*May 31, 2005—Watergate source Deep Throat revealed

=Did you watch The Plumbers on HBO? Mark Felt, the deputy director the FBI, is one of the characters. A minor one in the series. A major one in real life. He was 91 when he revealed the news to Vanity Fair.


*June 1, 1974—WCFL Chart

=50 years ago this week. The Watergate scandal dominated the news. Larry Lujack was the star DJ on the station. And this is the list of songs WCFL was playing (courtesy of Chicago Radio Timeline)

*June 1, 1980—CNN Debuts as First All-News Network

=This was Ted Turner’s brainchild, and it was widely mocked at the time. (Who is going to want news 24 hours a day?). The husband/wife team of Dave Walker and Lois Hart were the first anchors. The headquarters was in Atlanta, but the network also had bureaus in Washington, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.




*Premier League Scores Record Ratings at NBC

=For years I felt like the only soccer fan in America. The ratings for this past season’s Premier League broadcasts show that I’m not alone. The numbers are here.

*MeTV Toons

=The network starts on June 25th, but the schedule was released this week. All times are Eastern.

 *Jimmy Kimmel’s Son Undergoes Open-Heart Surgery

=It’s the 7-year-old boy’s third open heart surgery. ABC-7 has the story.


*Cable News Corner

=Smartmatic accuses NewsMax of destroying evidence in lawsuit. NBC reports

=Former Tucker Carlson producer fired by Fox News hired by NewsNation. Find out more in the Daily Beast.


*Rest In Peace

We lost quite a few notable entertainment legends this week…

=Bill Walton

Basketball legend. Long-time broadcaster. Dead head. He was 71. Former WMAQ-AM broadcaster Dave Pasch worked with Walton the past dozen years on Pac-12 games. He remembers his broadcasting partner.

=Albert Ruddy

The Oscar-winning producer of “The Godfather” and the subject of the TV series The Offer

=Richard Sherman

One-half of the Disney songwriting team who wrote the songs for “Mary Poppins”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and more. He was 95.

=Johnny Wactor

General Hospital Star. Shot while trying to defend his catalytic converter. He was 37.

=Morgan Spurlock

The documentary director of “Supersize Me”. He was 53.



*Farewell Freedom Center

=This tweet says it all…

 *New York Sets Aside Money to Help Journalism

=The state of New York passed a bill to give tax credits to struggling local news outlets to help keep them afloat. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

 *AI Companies Bypassing Partisan Media

=Semafor has the story of the AI agreements made recently, and how they are not including partisan outlets like Breitbart and the Daily Caller.

=But they did sign deals this week with The Atlantic and Vox Media. That story is here.

*Ramaswamy Making Waves at Buzzfeed

=To say his suggestions to hire people like Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson, and Aaron Rogers didn’t go over well would be an understatement. New York Magazine reports.

*Did the British Tabloid News of the World Pay Women to Sleep with Celebrities?

=That’s the charge made by James Blunt. The Guardian has the scoop on this one. 

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, May 30, 2024

20 Years: Free Excerpt from Back in the DDR


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.

This week in 1976, there was a bombing at the IG Farben Building/Complex in Frankfurt, West Germany. In real life, my father was there when this explosion occurred, and for several hours we had no idea if he was OK or not. I incorporated this event into the pages of my coming-of-age novel "Back in the DDR"

That portion of the novel is excerpted here...

When it got dark, and we got the fire going, it was really peaceful out in nature. The fire crackled, the crickets chirped, and the frogs croaked. Major Starkey made dinner for all of us. Hot dogs on sticks have never tasted better.

               At one point David wowed all of us with something from his wallet. The US Mint has just started issuing $2 bills. He passed his around the campfire.

               “Woah, Thomas Jefferson,” I said.

               “OK boys,” the Major said, holding back a yawn after handing David his $2 bill back, “I’m hitting the hay. You can stay up a little later, but I want everyone in the sack by 2200 hours. Got it? The alarm goes off at 0600. Mike and Mark are in charge of putting out the fire.”

               “Yes sir,” they both replied.

               Major Starkey disappeared inside the tent. The five of us exhaled. From that point on, everything we said was whispered.

               “Are you guys going to crap in that hole?” I asked.

               Mark and Mike both gave the thumbs-down sign. Dwayne and David whispered some variation of “not a chance in hell.”

               “Dwayne,” Mark whispered. “Do you still have those cans of food?”

               Dwayne nodded. Mark’s voice got even quieter.

               “Do you want to see something really cool?”


               “Go get one of your cans and bring it out here,” Mark said.

               Dwayne tiptoed back to the non-Starkey tent and rustled around inside for a few moments. When he came back out, he was carrying one of the cans of beans. He handed it to Mark, who threw it directly into the fire.

               “What are you doing?” David whispered.

               “Just keep an eye on that can,” Mark whispered. “It’s going to get hotter and hotter. The pressure inside the can is going to keep on building because there is no way for the ingredients to escape. You know what will happen?”

               David smiled. He was following along. “It will explode.”

               Matching evil grins on Mark’s and Mike’s faces confirmed his theory.

               We watched the can turn black and expand for a few minutes.

               “Let’s get behind the tents,” Mike said. “Just in case the explosion sends metal shrapnel through the air.”

               I felt like we were in a war zone as we hunkered down behind the non-Starkey tent. We could hear the can making weird noises. It felt like the time was near. Another few clinking noises of the metal expanding. And then it happened.


               Baked beans flew through the air. We heard some of them splash into the river, and we saw some of them splatter the nearby trees. It was glorious.

               Unfortunately, it was also loud.

               Major Starkey came out of the Starkey tent dressed only in his white underpants.

               “What the hell are you boys doing out here?” he demanded. He lifted his right foot in the air and stared at it. “What the hell did I just step in?”

               “Baked beans,” Mark replied.

               “God bless it,” he said. “How many times have I asked you boys not to blow up the provisions!”

               “Sorry dad.”

               “To bed, all of you.”

               When I nestled into my sleeping bag that night, I had a big smile on my face. We have three more nights, and Dwayne has three more cans.

Wonder what the Spaghetti-Os will sound like.




In the middle of the night I heard the first drops. There’s nothing quite like the sound of rain falling on a canvas tent. It has a way of sharpening the senses. I rustled Dwayne awake.

               “It’s raining,” I said.

               “I hear it,” he replied.

               “Tomorrow’s going to suck,” I said.

               “I know,” he replied.

               We awoke a few hours later to a torrential downpour. The plan had been to wake up at 0600, make breakfast, pack up, and resume our canoe trip. This didn’t sound like a good plan anymore. The non-Starkeys were not water-proofed, and we had no idea what to do.

               “Boys are you awake?” Major Starkey called from the next tent.

               “Yes sir,” David replied.

               “Is the water coming into your tent yet?” the Major asked.

               I didn’t see any, and didn’t feel any, so I responded in the negative.

               “OK, good,” he said. “My boys and I will take down our tent, pack up our stuff, load up the canoe, and then we’ll help you with your stuff. In the meantime, pack up your backpacks.”

               “Maybe we should just stay here until the rain stops,” I suggested.

               “Negative,” Major Starkey replied. “The river is rising, and we’ll be underwater in a few hours if we don’t keep on moving.”

               “I guess they’ve never heard of levees here,” Dwayne muttered.

               I had heard that word once before, but never really considered what it was. I only knew that Don McLean drove his Chevy to the levee and the levee was dry. Dwayne explained the whole levee concept to me. Growing up in Louisiana along the Mississippi, he knew all about the embankments along the river that helped prevent flooding. It did seem strange that there weren’t any along the Lahn River, but then again, this area has been around for centuries. They must not need them.

               By the time we got into the canoe, we were soaked to the bone. So was all of our stuff. David’s scout shirt clung to him like it was his skin. Dwayne’s corduroy pants were no longer beige. I was slightly less wet because I had shelled out the extra $1.50 for the Boy Scout baseball cap. It was keeping the rain out of my eyes. Meanwhile, the Starkeys were wearing rain ponchos over their scout uniforms and seemed unfazed by the situation.

               In the morning Major Starkey was still trying to pretend like it was fun to canoe in a rising river that moved much faster than yesterday. By lunchtime he was looking at his wet map, trying to figure out which town was going to be our stopping point. He decided we would stop in Limburg and try to find a hotel. The tents were not usable under the circumstances.

               The rain was still coming down, but we saw the town in the distance. A beautiful castle or cathedral was beckoning us. Major Starkey had done his research.

               “That’s the Limburger Dom,” he told us. “If you’re ever lucky enough to get a 1000 DM bill, it’s on the back. I visited this town when we first moved here. Great museums. The old town is from the medieval times. Some parts of the castle are almost a thousand years old.”

               “Is there where Limburger cheese comes from?” David asked. I was thinking the same thing. The Little Rascals were always talking about how disgusting Limburger cheese is.

               “I don’t think so,” Major Starkey replied. “There’s a Limburg in Holland too. The Netherlands has more of a cheese culture.”

               We found a place near the bridge to dock our canoe and made our way into the town.

               “I stayed in a hotel near here,” Major Starkey told us.

               He trudged the five boys through the cobblestone streets, and we entered the lobby of a hotel in the shadow of the Limburger Dom. The hotel was opulent. We were not.

               “May I help you?” the lady at the desk asked the Major in English. I guess it was pretty obvious that we were Americans.

               He explained our situation to the lady, asked if we could have two rooms for the night, if they had driers for the non-Starkeys to dry the rest of our clothes, and if they had robes we could wear while the clothes were being dried. After getting answers in the affirmative, he looked me in the eye.

               “What’s the Boy Scout motto?” He asked.

               “Be Prepared,” I answered.

               “Were you prepared?” he asked me and Dwayne.

               “No sir,” we replied.

               “Were you prepared?” he asked David.

               “No sir,” David replied.

               “I’m charging your parents for this room,” the Major said, “and any costs incurred laundering your stuff.”

               “Yes sir,” we replied.

               Mike and Mark were smirking behind his back. They were clearly enjoying this.




Our room had two single beds pushed together to make it into a bigger bed, with two huge feather comforters. This was going to be much more comfortable than the floor of the tent last night, even if the three of us had to figure out a way to fit into the bed and share the blankets.

               The view from our hotel window was really interesting. We could see portions of the medieval wall that used to surround the town, and the quaint half-timber buildings on the other side of the wall, plus the red and white St. George’s Cathedral. On a sunny day, the view probably took your breath away. Today, it was gray and rainy and foggy. It was like being on the set of Young Frankenstein.

               The robes they gave us were way too big, especially for Dwayne and me. David almost looked normal, so he volunteered to go back into the lobby and see if he could find anything interesting for us to do while we waited for our clothes. When he came back to the room, his face was pale. He was holding a newspaper in his hand.

               “The IG Farben building has been bombed,” he said.

               “What’s that?” Dwayne asked.

               “That’s where our dads work,” I said.

               “You can read German, right?” David asked as he handed me the paper. “What does this article say?”

               I translated as I read it.

               “Two time-bombs exploded at US Army headquarters in Frankfurt, formerly known as the IG Farben building. At least seventeen people are wounded, a few of them critically. The victims are American Army officers and civilians, who were dining at the Officers Club within the complex.”

               “That’s where our dads eat lunch every day,” David said.

               “Oh my God,” Dwayne said. “What time of day did this happen?”

               I skimmed the text looking for an answer. I didn’t like what I found.


               “Oh my God,” Dwayne said again.

               David was quiet. Tears were forming in his eyes behind his thick glasses. I kept on reading, hoping for good news.

               “Violence was expected when Ulrike Meinhof died in prison under mysterious circumstances. The Red Army Faction had bombed this facility two years earlier, claiming that it housed the CIA, and that it was instrumental in the war crimes of Vietnam. Interior Minister Werner Maihmfee said that ‘pseudo-political motivations are once again assumed’ and that three people are in police custody. None of the victims have been named. Twelve of the seventeen are in the hospital, and three of them are in intensive care.”

               David went straight to the phone and picked it up.

               “Major Starkey said ‘no phone calls’” I pointed out.

               David didn’t listen. He dialed his home number and waited. And waited. Seven rings.

               “Nobody is answering,” he said. I could see the panic starting to form in his eyes.

               “Let me call my house,” I said, grabbing the phone from his hand. I dialed my home number and waited. And waited. Five rings. No answer. Six rings. No answer.

               “Oh my God,” I said.

               I gently placed the receiver on the phone.

               “Do you know your dad’s work number?” Dwayne asked both of us.

               Neither of us did.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Studio Walls--May 29, 2024


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.

May 26, 1994—Michael Jackson marries Lisa Marie Presley. 

=Rick writes two parody songs about it, including "Use Your Glove" 

May 26, 2006—Keytar Jeff Abbott debuts on YouTube. 

=He appeared on this episode of Minutia Men Celebrity Interview

May 30—Gale Sayers birthday

=Sportswriter/author Fred Mitchell told a few memorable Gale Sayers stories in this episode of Minutia Men Celebrity interview. 

May 30—Jake the Snake Roberts birthday

=We had a great chat with Jake last year. 

May 31—Mitch Weissman birthday

=Who is Mitch Weissman? He was one of the original members of Beatlemania, which debuted on Broadway this week in 1977. He told us a few great stories when we talked to him.  

June 1—Pat Boone birthday 

=Pat Boone came out with a heavy metal album in 1997, featuring covers of classic metal tunes. We had him on Landecker's show and played our heavy metal cover of a Pat Boone song. (Will we play it on the show this week?)

June 1, 1991—NBA Finals begins/Bulls-Lakers. 

=Mark Giangreco was there and told us some wild behind the scenes stories. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Publishing Portal--May 28, 2024

The latest news from Eckhartz Press, and a chance to peek into some of the great previous offerings from our humble little publishing company.

Happy Birthday!

One of the key members of the team that brought you Chili Dog MVP is editor George Castle. George is ironically best known as the author of several excellent Cubs books, but he is also the man who introduced Chili Dog MVP authors David Fletcher and John Owens to Eckhartz Press. That book is an ode to White Sox great Dick Allen. It's George's birthday this week (May 27). Happy birthday George!

Righteous Might

=This week in 2020, Keith Conrad's novel Righteous Might was released. The science fiction thriller about time travel and the attack on Pearl Harbor is still available at Eckhartz Press. In fact, exactly one year later the audio book of Righteous Might was released as well.

Wicker Park Wishes

=This week in 2021, Wicker Park Wishes author Margaret Larkin sat down for this Q&A about her recently released book. (

Records Truly Is My Middle Name & Everything I Know I Learned from Rock Stars

=Steve Nicks celebrates a birthday this week (May 26), and she is featured in two Eckhartz Press books. John Landecker hung out with her one night at the Playboy Mansion on State Parkway in Chicago (photo below), and Bill Paige interviewed her for Illinois Entertainer, which is featured in his book of interviews, Everything I Know I Learned from Rock Stars.

The Daly News

=When Joel Daly passed away in 2020, WGN Radio posted a few of the interviews he did on their airwaves over the years. One of them was with Steve & Johnnie from this week in 2005 (May 26). You can still listen to it here. 

The Unplanned Life

=This week in 2020, Roger Badesch was making the rounds promoting his new memoir. Among his media stops, Matt Bubala's show on WGN Radio (May 26). 


=A few key Cubsessions birthdays this week. Cubs announcer Pat Hughes (May 27) rates an entire chapter in the book with his account of what it was like to announce the World Series winning moment. In addition, two Cubs greats made appearances at Cubsessions book signings, Carlos Zambrano (June 1) and Randy Hundley (June 1). Both are shown in photos with Cubsessions co-author Randy Richardson below.

Life Behind the Camera

=Who wouldn't want this endorsement? It happened to Life Behind the Camera author Chuck Quinzio this week (May 27) in 2014. Yes, that is Sting.

We Have Company

=It's a big week for rock star birthdays for some reason, which means it's a big week for Bobby Skafish's book We Have Company. Three rock stars celebrating birthdays this week get the full chapter treatment in Bobby's book. Crowded House's Neil Finn (May 27), guitarist Gary Brooker (May 29), and Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood (June 1). That's Ronnie on the left, and Skafish in the middle of the photo. Bernard Fowler is on the right.

Your Dime My Dance Floor

=Chet Coppock attended every Chicago Bears opening day game for 68 years in a row. Naturally he became acquainted with the great Bears running back Gale Sayers. He writes a whole chapter about him in his book Your Dime My Dance Floor. Gale was born this week in 1943.

Always a Pleasure

=Sad news over the weekend. RIP Bill Walton.

=Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan obviously deals with Chicago Bulls radio play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky on a regular basis. It wasn't a big surprise that Billy also appeared in Chuck's book Always a Pleasure. It's Billy's birthday this week (May 30)

The Write City Review, Volume 1

=This week in 2018 (May 31), the Chicago Writers Association came to us and asked us to publish their literary journal. Little did we know this would just be the beginning. Since then they have asked us to publish three more! Volume 4 just came out recently.

Signature Shoes

=One of the pioneers in the world of Signature Shoes was New York Jets star quarterback Joe Namath, who is celebrating a birthday this week (May 31). He is featured prominently in Ryan Trembath's book about the celebrity shoe craze.

Monkey in the Middle

=Dobie Maxwell's incredible book about a real-life bank robbery has gotten praise from across the spectrum. One of the biggest fans is Toronto radio personality Jerry Agar (May 31 birthday boy). Here's what he said about the book...

  • “It is a sad fact of the human condition that we are entertained by the misfortune of others. That is why Dobie Maxwell calls himself “Mr. Lucky.” He takes the body blows that life has dealt him and makes them into stories for your amusement. None is better than the story told here of two life-long friends – guys who counted on one another – gone wrong with bank robberies, the FBI, police lineups and all the intrigue of crime story fiction which became all too real for Maxwell. If your best friend’s actions had you in the crosshairs of the FBI, what would you do? Read the story, for Dobie’s answer.”

    Jerry Agar/Talk show host/News Talk 1010—CFRB Toronto

Truffle Hunt

=This week in 2015 (June 1), Brent Petersen made a recipe featured in his foodie novel Truffle Hunt at the farmer's market in Austin Texas...


=This week in 2021, Rick Kaempfer appeared on John Landecker's show on WGN Radio talking about the update of his book EveryCubEver. He even recites a poem he wrote for the book. Worth a listen. Of course, Rick and John go waaaay back. Here's a photo of the two them doing a live radio show together on WJMK more than thirty years ago.