Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lise Dominique

UPDATED January 2012


Rick: Lise, you've been there since the beginning too.

Lise: I joined FM News in June as an Anchor and Reporter. I saw it as a terrific opportunity to work full-time in radio as I had been working part-time at WLS-AM and WILV-FM for the past couple of years.

Rick: Rob and Charlie have both talked about the bumpy early ride. What have been some of the pros and cons of being part of this radio experiment.

Lise: Pros: The people that I work with are hard-workers, and dedicated professionals. There are no egomaniacs. It's just a really great group of people. Also, when reporting, I have been given an incredible amount of creative freedom to pursue the stories that I am passionate about. That makes it so much fun! Andy Friedman has been a positive and motivating force who has challenged us to do our best. (Photo: Lise with Sam Sylk on the left, and Andy Friedman on the right. From GazeboNews)

Cons: The confusion about format was stressful and the constant changes were exhausting. The only saving grace was that we were all in it together. This is a start-up and I didn't know what to expect since I've never been involved with the 'birth' of a station before. Starting from bare bones has been a tremendous learning experience and I wouldn't trade what I have learned the past six months for anything.

Now that the format is close to gelling, it's time for the station to put some money into promotion and let Chicagoland know that we're here!

The original interview follows...

Lise Dominique was a news and traffic anchor in Chicago for stations like WLUP (AM & FM), WTMX, and WLS-FM in the 80s and 90s, and has recently returned to broadcasting after a few years away from the business.

Rick: I know you were with Brandmeier's show a long time ago, but I bet you still get a lot of people come up to you and sing that song he used to play for you "Dominiqua, niqua, niqua." My wife actually did it to you when she met you a few months ago. It's been almost twenty years since he played it for you, but it obviously clicked with people. How do you look back on those old Loop days now?

Lise: Oh, it happens all of the time and just makes me smile. When your wife started to sing it, I am pretty sure that I started to laugh because for the most part, I have nothing but memories of that time of smiling, giggling, and laughing until my guts ached. What a fabulous and golden time in broadcasting that it was for all of us. Those 'wacky weenies' that listeners would create for Johnny's show and send in for Johnny, Buzz and me were amazingly creative and it was most flattering to have somebody take the time to do something like that for the show with you, in particular, in mind.

I still have a cassette tape of about 20 of them about me that Wiser kindly ran off and gave to me. I came across it in 2008 in a shoebox of tapes that I thought had been drowned in a basement flood several years ago. After listening to them ( after spending about a week trying to locate a cassette player!), I was flooded with the warm feelings of the good times that we all had together on the Loop and AM 1000.

In the rosy glow of years gone by, that is how I remember it. Truth be told, even as it was going on each and every day on-air, I always felt that we were all a part of something very special going on in radio entertainment. What a collection of talent lined up on both stations.

While I was primarily involved with Brandmeier's show doing the traffic every morning and news fill-in for Buzz when he had the day off, I also did all news and traffic fill-in on Kevin's and Steve and Garry's show. So, I was fortunate enough to be involved with each and every daytime talk show on both stations and got to know the very different rhythms of all of them. Oh boy, were they all different!!! It was a great fun and a great challenge to fit in on all of them. Loved it!

I got to know Chet Coppock in passing as his sports show was on after Steve & Garry's . I will never forget the day that he begged me to walk on his back in my high heels because his back hurt. ( yeah, right!) That is just a snapshot of some of the funny behind the scenes stuff that may or may not have made it on the air!

Well, as Steve & Garry's producer at the time, Rick, I think you know exactly what I am talking about! By the way, worth mentioning are three of the most amazing producers that I have ever worked with in Chicago radio..Jim Wiser, Swany ( from my time at WTMX, he's still there) and you, Mr. Kaempfer. The shows would not be what they are without the producer's wizardry. That's a fact. (Photo from left to right: Swany, Wiser, and Loop promotions wizards Anne Marie Kennedy and Dina Travis)

When I left in 1992, the atmosphere could be described as a sea of change, and not necessarily in a positive direction. I was really okay with not being there anymore. Egos, drugs and drinking had begun to lead to some pretty unsavory behavior and the on-air product had begun to deteriorate. It made me sad at the time but I was movin' on.

Rick: You're one in a long line of former WPGU alums (Urbana-Champaign) that made a career working in Chicago radio. Who were some of your contemporaries there (that we may know), and how did working at that station prepare you for the bigger opportunities that followed?

Lise: Charlie Meyerson and Gene Honda were there at the same time as I was and they were two of the most dedicated guys at the station. They are the ones that made an impression on me. The day that I wandered down to the basement of Weston Hall where the station is located ( and one floor below where I was living!) , Gene was right there to take me under his wing and to tell me that I could probably be really good on the air. I recall thinking that he must be crocked to say that but he was so sincere, and such a helpful and patient tutor that I believed him. What a kind man with a big heart. He really gave me the confidence to push forward and to get down there whenever I could to work. It was kind of tough to put in as much time at 'PGU as I would have liked as I worked 20 hours /weekly at a waitress job ( Kam's!) to pay for college and WPGU didn't exactly put money in your pocket.

Charlie Meyerson was just larger than life. So talented and so smart. I was a little bit intimidated by him and just tried to learn by listening. Now, look where he is and what he is doing. No surprise to me!

WPGU was an excellent training ground because most of the students there took the job as serious prep for a career that they had already decided to pursue. I can't believe that I lived above it in Weston Hall for a year before I realized it was there. Of course, I had to declare a major and a friend suggested radio since she thought I had a good voice. So, I checked it out, took a deep breath and wrote "Communications-Radio -TV" in as my major.

Rick: Over the past year or two you've been popping up on the radio dial again after a dozen or so years working in sales. I've heard you on both Love-FM and WGN. How does it feel to get back in the saddle again?

Lise: IT FEELS GREAT! It's like re-discovering the love of your life and wondering why you had ever left. Seriously. The 13 year detour that I took to work in pharmaceutical sales for a Fortune 100 firm and in corporate telecom sales for another Fortune 100 corporation were a necessary step for me to regain my financial and emotional equilibrium. I got divorced in 1994 and by 1995 when they fired all of us from WLS-FM when Disney bought ABC-CapCities, I was in big money trouble. Hey, you do what you have to do and I was actually very fortunate to land what were, at the time, very coveted corporate sales positions. They eventually sucked the creativity and the joy right out of me.

2008 marked an epiphany of sorts and after a few interesting chance encounters with radio management from my past, I made the decision to JUST DO IT! From the moment that I made that decision, I felt liberated and light. The support from listeners has been incredible and absolutely buoyed me to continue.

My former program director from WTMX-FM in the early 90's, Barry James (photo), is now the PD at WILV-FM. Barry contacted me through a mutual radio friend and offered me the opportunity to do Morning Drive news fill-in at the station and I leaped at the chance. It is a really lovely place to work and a great atmosphere. Bonneville treats their people pretty well. At least, that has been my experience so far. After 13 years away from "live" air, I sat in the chair, wrote the news, slapped on the cans and delivered the news update and felt as if it was 1995 and I had never left the air. That was all that I needed to know. Complete confirmation that my decision to go back into broadcasting was on the money.

Then earlier this year, after email conversations in 2008 with Tom Langmyer and Randy Michaels of WGN-AM, they referred me to Kevin Metheny, the new PD in town. Kevin and I exchanged some emails and voicemails that eventually turned into a challenge to co-host the next day with Jerry Springer. He probably thought it would scare me off. Puh-leeeze! After all of the different air personalities that I have worked with and adapted to, and tangled with, was that going to intimidate me??? I don't think so.

So, that next afternoon, I co-hosted with Jerry Springer. That was March of this year and was an absolute blast! Jerry Springer was a gentleman and a pussy cat. It was pure joy. We had an instant connection even after I brazenly told him that I had never and would never watch his TV show. He laughed and said that he liked me even more because of that. From there, it was just a cool breeze! Then the next week Kevin offered me a couple of days co-hosting with a jock from Kansas City, and that was also fun.

Rick: If someone came to you and asked if you'd like to get back into it full-time, are you open to the possibility, and under what circumstances would you return?

Lise: Absolutely, in a heartbeat, yes! I work best in an ensemble as a co-host, second seat, sidekick, whatever you want to call it, or with somebody I can play off and who can do the same with me. I mean, I have worked with every different kind of personality and in every kind of format in both Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. While I am open to doing news or co-hosting on nearly any station, Talk Radio is the way to get the best out of me. Doing morning drive for fifteen years in a variety of formats with a bizarre array of personalities has prepared me for almost anything!

Rick: Before this, your last full-time radio gig was as the co-host to Robert Murphy back in the WLS-FM talk era. There was a lot of talent on that station; including you and Murph, Richard Roeper, Turi Ryder, and Jay Marvin, just to name a few. Why do you think that station didn't catch on?

Lise: The demise of that station was truly a heartbreaker for me and certainly figured in to why I left radio in 1995. The PD, Drew Hayes, a true visionary, had a tremendous idea and I was just honored to be recruited to work with such an array of talent on a station of that stature. Outside of minimal promotional dollars to even make the public aware that we were there, looming large in the background was the specter of the eventual takeover of ABC CapCities by Disney, which is exactly what happened. That's really the only thing that I can point to because as you point out, each person is an incredibly talented on-air standout. Talk about a golden lineup! We were poised to take off and Drew had the right ideas and direction. I blame the lack of promotional bucks and lack of time on the lack of success.

Co-hosting with Robert Murphy was a delight, a true wit and a pure gentleman. Every morning I looked forward to whatever craziness we would tackle. He was incredibly gracious and so respectful of my intelligence as well. If he weren't retired and happy as a clam in his current situation, I would leap at the chance to finish what we started at WLS-FM.

I was also on with Richard Roeper during the first hour of his show which came on right after ours, and so thoroughly enjoyed working with him. What an intellect and what a broad base of knowledge! We had a lot of silly fun and I would love to work with him again, as well.

Rick: I know you never actually left the business completely because you've been doing voice over work the whole time, but were you burned out on the biz when you stepped away from it back in the 90s?

Lise: True, I have been blessed to be remembered by so many people who have continued to call me for voice-over and even on-camera jobs. I had to keep that really under the radar when I was working the corporate sales positions but it's open season now!

While I wouldn't say burned out completely, I would say that I became disheartened. Day after day, I would read about the consolidation of stations and it was dismal and depressing. Unless you were one of the corporate heads making money on the situation, there didn't seem to be a lot of happy people involved. Certainly, the talent began to be under-appreciated for all that they contributed. It just seemed like a good time to NOT be a part of radio so I focused on what I was doing and tried to quell and redirect the passion and creative love that I have for the radio into other areas.

Rick: You've worked with some of the biggest stars in Chicago radio history. Was there ever a time that you felt intimidated working with someone? If so, who and why? If not, how did you manage to overcome the pressure?

Lise: (laughing)....Let's see, Jonathon Brandmeier, Kevin Matthews, Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, King "B" Ron Britain on WTMX, Catherine Johns ( I did news fill-in on WLS-AM), Brant Miller on WTMX, Robert Murphy and Richard Roeper, Jerry Springer....all stellar, all dynamic, all very different. All very nice to me. Even Steve, when he was drinking, would sometimes feel guilty about snapping at me and apologize off the air. When all is said and done, he's a good guy. Working with Garry was always a pleasure and I am so pleased to hear him on WGN-AM. I adore him and would be over the moon to work with him again.

My answer to your question is no. The only person might be Johnny , while not intimidating, was very exacting in the response that he would want from me in certain situations, and I was not always sure what he wanted from me so I would feel a little bit nervous on occasion. It is very difficult for me to be anybody but myself and to hold back all of the time so I think we may have butted heads a few times. Not really sure, since we really only every met face-to-face twice in all of that time.

Rick: I see that you have also become an author. Tell us all about "The Adventures of Harvey the Wonder Dog-Harvey the Hungry Dog" and when and where we can get a copy.

Lise: Yes, I have and it has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life thus far! It's a book for children ages 3-8 and based upon my living, breathing bundle of fur and love, Harvey the Wonder Dog. The book is a lighthearted look at his first year misadventures and lust for life. There are very subtle healthy 'life lessons' incorporated into each page and the illustrations are captivating and all original. Talk about a radio connection....! I was introduced to my illustrator through her ex-husband who is also a major rock radio personality. I am not sure if it's okay to use his name so I won't. Seriously, how freaky is that? Chrissie is a wonderful and whimsical illustrator and I would have never found her if it weren't for knowing him from The Loop!

Harvey the Hungry Dog is due to be published mid-October 2009 by State Street Publishing. I have had hundreds of requests for the book already and I have been working diligently on creating and perfecting the website so that it can be pre-ordered. It should be up and running for previewing: "The Adventures of Harvey the Wonder Dog."

Harvey is my muse and one of the main reasons that I made it through 2008 wiser, better and smarter. Dogs are pure love and deserve our respect. On that note, I have got to say buh-bye and get this website up and cranking!