Artie Kennedy has been a producer, technical producer, production director, and creative image director in Chicago for twenty years.
Rick: This summer ESPN Radio made some cutbacks behind the scenes and one of the victims was one of my favorite blade men in the city--Artie Kennedy. Am I still allowed to use that title "blade man" or does that make me sound a thousand years old?
Artie: Um, yeah kind of old Rick...since I haven't used a razor blade and grease pencil for about 10 years. (Now, many radio people will laugh at my statement of 10 years since most radio editing folks have been digital since like 1990ish.)
My favorite blade man, to steal your terminology Rick, is The Wizard...Matt Bisbee. I learned so much from Matt over the years, whether he knew it or not. Biz is with Bonneville now but many might recognize Matt Bisbee from The Old Loop...he's awesome and the voice is unmistakable...."On The Loop".
By the way, my partner and friend Ernie Scatton was also a victim of those cutbacks so if someone needs a good voice over man, he’s a good guy to know.
Rick: You had been at the station for 11 years in various different capacities, including the last several years as the Creative Image Director. ESPN listeners might not know your name, but they've certainly heard your voice and your work. For those people that don't follow the business too closely, could you explain what that position entails?
Artie: Basically my job was to make fun of myself and everyone else that held a microphone. I wrote scripts, voiced some myself and used a voice over guy/friend, Jim Cutler and his wife Dawn for promos, bumpers, liners, and many other things on the air or on the ESPN website. I produced all of it and had a lot of fun doing it over the years.
Rick: You also did your share of producing/technical producing for many of the shows at the station, including several that are no longer there (like The HUGE show, Harry & Spike, and the beginning of Mac, Jurko & Harry). I don't think there are many people that witnessed more happenings at that station than you. Tell us a few of your favorite stories from your years at ESPN.
Artie: I think one of the most memorable moments...and I apologize ahead of time to Danny Mac and Harry Teinowitz for this little ditty, but one story that absolutely stands out is when Mac and Harry got in a bit of a scrap in the studio while Mac, Jurko and Harry were live on air...(Mac always made fun of that phrase by the way, of course we're live, what are we dead?) Mitch Rosen, Program Director at the time, came running down after my call to him saying "you'd better get down here...cuz someone just hit the floor from a shove."
The other story that stands out was during The Huge show with Bill Simonson (photo) and Chicago's very own Lou Canellis. We were all at the Sox/Cubs game on a Friday night back in about 99 or maybe 2000 that went 14 innings (the Sox won). Bill asked my wife and I if we wanted to head over to Jimbo's for another beer...but we decided that Bill might have already had toooooo much and we took a pass.
That's the night he got that broken nose from fending off like 15 or 20, or maybe it was a 100 teenagers, that attacked him while walking through Armor Park in Bridgeport. The next few weeks on the air were an absolute circus. Now you can believe what you want about the validity of that story but I have my own sources that contradict the events of that night...but what do I know? I wasn't there.
Some of my other favorite moments are when I would appear on air as John "Jurko" Jurkovic's alter ego "Blocko" on the Mac, Jurko and Harry show (in Jurko speak "sweet momma seata, Artie's making fun of me doll.") Jurko is one of the coolest and naturally funny people on the air or off.
Rick: We met almost twenty years ago when we both worked at the Loop . You replaced John "Swany" Swanson as the technical producer of the Jonathon Brandmeier show on a Monday--and I just happened to be the jock on the overnight show. In those days it took almost two hours to set up the studio for Johnny, and it was done around the overnight jock--stacks of carts all over the place. I can still see your face setting up the studio that morning. I can only imagine how terrifying that must have been. It was your first radio job. Do you remember that morning at all? I've never seen anyone sweat that much in my life.
Artie: Well nervous would be an understatement...I do remember Rick Kaempfer, Wendy Snyder or Terry Gibson jocking overnights at The Loop. Wendy was always so much help because she knew everything that happened on Johnny B.'s show. Not that you weren't Rick. Your readers may not realize how calm you were/are, but nothing seems to phase you, dude...(oops, I used DUDE right there, how Buzz Kilman of me. Buzz loved the word dude. He once told me that after I asked him, 'Buzz do you know that guy?' He said 'Nope, but thank God for the word DUDE, Artie.')
Anyway, yes, I remember that 1st day. I was just out of college and here I was working for one of the biggest names in the radio business, not just in Chicago but in all of radio. Everyone in the business knew Johnny B., Steve and Garry, Kevin Matthews and Danny Bonaduce; at that point I was just hoping to not F things up for the fast moving train of the Hyper Rooster that was/is The Johnny B. Radio Showgram. Johnny (photo) taught me sooo much about this thing we call radio.
To answer the question you really asked me Rick...yes I was sweating a whole bunch and I still do! I sweat blinking, I leave salt rings sometimes on the pillow, most of my baseball caps have sweat stains but surprisingly I don't have that big person stank to me. My wife doesn't understand how a larger individual like myself with all the sweating I do, is somehow active as well. Go figure!
Rick: Long time Brandmeier listeners will remember you because you really did become a big part of the show. What are some of your favorite moments from those Johnny B years?
Artie: I always loved Christmas time on the Johnny B. Showgram because Johnny played the over-served Santa to my clean and happy Artie the Elf, which was as high pitched as a 275lb man could be. Johnny thought I must have tied something around my junk to get my voice that high, but no. We had so much fun messing around with the kids on the phones and everyone was happy because the holidays were right around the corner. (Photo: Artie from the Johnny B days)
I will always remember my time as Mike Tyson on J.B.'s show...he loved that stuff...just to make fun of me. But some people actually thought it was Mike Tyson in-studio or on the phone. The one time that really stands out is the time Johnny had Mike Tyson (me) in-studio and Jimmy Page of Zeppelin showed up too (not really--it was a great impersonator, Jimmy McInerny, the other audio wizard on Johnny's show...wow, what an egomaniac I am...the OTHER audio wizard!) Listeners kept calling in thinking they were speaking with Tyson and Page, but not fully sold, they kept quizzing Jimmy Mac (photo) on Zeppelin trivia...there is no stumping that guy on Zeppelin history.
The last memory on J.B.'s show I'll speak of is when Mickey Rooney was in-studio and Carol Harmon (great executive producer with Johnny and still with him in another capacity) and I were laughing at a funny Mickey story about one of his like 8 wives when he suddenly switched into this sentence: "Of course you know my 5th wife Barbara was murdered." Well Carol and I were still laughing about his other wife story and he looks in and sees us laughing and says, "That's not funny...someone was murdered!!" I mean, I got yelled at by Mickey Rooney…a living legend! When Johnny and I e-mail each other these days, one of us has to mention MY 5th Wife Barbara!
Rick: After you left Johnny's show, you switched to the Danny Bonaduce show. You ran the board for him, and worked as his technical producer, so you really saw how Danny operated close and personal. He always appeared to just be going with the flow, but he was crazy like a fox, wasn't he?
Artie: Danny would do anything for the entertainment value....ANYTHING! He once had the staff, including Danny himself, Haji (Neil Sant...Kevin Matthews gave him that name), Shemp (Kevin gave HIM his name too), and a listener or two eat some of the most vile things, like a ducks eye, a goat's junk…yes that junk, a birds heart and some other things all in the name of entertainment.
He use to play “CarEokee”...which was Danny driving a listener as fast as he could down the John Hancock Building's spiral parking garage ramp while the listener sang a song without stopping until the bottom. If the listener would stop singing....no prize, buddy. The problem was Danny would drive like 25 MPH down it. Most drivers could do like 5 or 10 MPH because the spiral was purposely made tight.
Danny was slightly nuts, but he was fun, and a great entertainer. I'm sure he still is at his radio station in, I think, Philadelphia.
Rick: I didn't even realize until I researched for this interview, but you were also a producer for Richard Roeper and Steve Cochran during their brief AM 1000 days. Tell the story about the day Richard Roeper more or less quit on the air.
Artie: Oh thanks Rick, you didn't even know I was on those shows...I guess you wouldn't be considered a P1 to those shows (P1 basically means you listen all the time to a certain show because you set your 1st radio preset button on your radio to that station...i.e. P1).
Richard was always on...on the air, in the breaks, in the bathroom...that’s a joke right there. Yeah, Richard got wind that they were bringing in Steve Cochran and said to Jen Weigel (photo) and myself that he "wasn't keeping that seat warm until they brought someone else in." So he left...we thought he was kidding but an intern confirmed that he got on the elevator and left the building. I liked working with Richard because he is funny, but that one kind of left us in a trick bag. Jen and I took calls, talked about Richard leaving and calmed down the Program Director, who was slightly upset. I don't even know if Richard remembers it at all but that’s how I remember it. I don't see him much anymore but he is a good guy.
Rick: If I'm not mistaken, a very personal moment in your life took place live on the air on Steve Cochran's show.
Artie: Steve Cochran (photo) was doing mornings on AM 1000 and I was his technical producer, Dorothy Humphreys was doing our traffic for the show, and another guy Jeff was doing the sports. Steve knew that he was not going to be invited to stay at AM 1000 when the all sports ESPN took over in October of 1998 and so did I, so I came up with a plan.
On September 11, 1998 I called in sick, for like the first time ever calling in sick. The other producers, Steve Grunwald and Ron Lange, had no idea that I was faking it. I headed over to my then girlfriends townhouse and broke into her place. (I originally met her at the Kevin Matthews Toga Party in April of 1997 at the Willowbrook Ballroom.) I told her the night before to set her radio alarm for 6:45AM because we were going to make an announcement about the fate of the AM 1000 station.
So as I was about to break into her place I called back to the station exactly at 6:44AM and asked the producer to put Cochran on the phone, he said, "he's on the air"...I said "I know, just put him on!" Steve picked up the phone on the air because he was the only one that knew what I was doing. I broke in and walked upstairs at my girlfriend's place, her radio alarm went off and I took a knee and asked her to marry me live on the Steve Cochran Show. She was confused because she was just woken up on a 50,000 watt radio station by her idiot boyfriend of a year and a half...but she said ABSOLUTELY...never yes.
We just had our 10 year anniversary in July and have two little girls who are cute and funny. I have no idea where they get that sense of humor.
(PHOTO: Artie and his daughters)
Rick: And they said it wouldn't last. Congratulations. And congratulations on your radio career too. You've been working in Chicago radio for the better part of twenty years now. Can you believe it?
Artie: I cannot believe it at all. I've worked with some really great talent over the years like: Johnny B, Bonaduce, Steve Cochran, Mac, Jurko, and Harry. Producers like Jimmy McInerney, Adam Delevitt, Jeff Hoover, Brendan Sullivan, Ben Finfer, Danny Zederman, Vince Argento, Tommy Seritella, Carol Harmon, of course the great Rick Kaempfer and many others. General Managers who believed in me like Larry Wert, Bob Synder, Jim Pastor and John Cravens. Program Directors like Mitch Rosen, Len Weiner, Jeff Schwartz (ok, Spaceball) and many more. Creative Image Directors like Matt Bisbee, Ernie Scatton, and Mikey Bratton.
Rick: I know it's a rough time for radio, and it's a rough time to be looking for work in general, but I imagine there must be a station out there that can use the services of an Artie Kennedy. Are you available if someone's looking?
Artie: Oh yeah. I’d love the opportunity to stick with radio here in Chicago and if you have something for me, drop me an E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much Rick for this opportunity to talk about my 20 plus years around radio.