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!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chet Coppock

Chet Coppock has been working in radio and television in Chicago for the better part of 40 years. He's currently working at WLS Radio, covering Notre Dame football and basketball. His first book "Fat Men Shouldn't Be Dancing at Halftime" is now available.

Rick: Let’s start off with a fastball down the middle. Why a book? Your dime, your dance floor.

Chet: I was first approached about writing a book 18 years ago, and I decided then that I didn’t have that much to say, but then I was approached again by Triumph Books last October. The original idea was ‘100 sports things that every Chicago fan should know or do.’ I thought that was too limiting, so I took it upon myself to take it in a different direction. Each chapter is basically based on a premise. For instance, the 12 worst sportscasters in the past 25 years, give up the addiction to the 85 bears, etc. There are people I jab, there are some I put the dagger to pretty good, Crane Kenney (of the Chicago Cubs), among them. If the Ricketts family is crazy enough to keep Kenney on the payroll, his greatest days of buffoonery are still down the road.

But I gotta tell you, once I signed the contract, I was scared to death. Geez, you mean, now I really have to write it?

Rick: Did they give you a word limit?

Chet: Yeah, they basically said we want about 500 words per chapter. Well anyone who knows me knows that I can barely say my name in less than 2000. So, I remember going home that night and writing a chapter about Neil Funk. And the essence of that chapter is I don’t know how you can broadcast for 5 championship teams in the 3rd largest market in America, playing to sell out crowds every night, and have a profile as low as Neil Funk. I just don’t get it. So I gave it to the publisher and they liked it, but I could tell by their reaction that they didn’t quite get where this 275 pound Bohemian nutcase was going with this.

But I started getting into a rhythmic groove after that. It’s basically bang, bang, bang, one liner. Pretty soon I was on a roll. It was gratifying as all hell.

Rick: How long did it take you to write it?

Chet: 98 days. 98 straight days. I wrote on Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years Eve. New Years day. I had written before, for NFL game day, a chapter for Bert Sugar’s book-- a really lousy book called “Why I hate the Dallas Cowboys” that sold maybe nine copies, and I was a columnist for the Sun-Times for about a year, but that was kind of a hustle because I was just taking quotes from my radio show and throwing it together with a few one-liners. That column could have been written by some guy sitting in Cook County Jail. So, I was really a rookie writer.

Rick: Were you nervous?

Chet: Not drowning myself in Johnnie Walker nervous, but hell yeah. I mean I gave up drinking 25 years ago. I never got the shakes or anything like that, didn’t wake up in the morning and have a shot of vodka, but Johnnie Walker and I were getting a little too close back then. There’s nothing I like better than a seedy little shot and a beer joint, with good conversation, and a juke box playing the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, if you want to get contemporary, U2—but once I started drinking, it was Katy bar the door. I mean, I can’t have just one beer. Who the hell has just one beer, anyway? So, when my wife got pregnant, now my ex-wife, who remains a drain on the ol’ salary cap by the way, I was talking to my waiter, a fella named Guido, who always brought out a Red Label on the rocks and a Budweiser chaser for me. I said Guido, take ‘em away. I’m done drinking. I thought ‘well that’s gonna last about 15 minutes’, but I haven’t had a drink since.

Rick: So you’ve never been in the program or anything?

Chet: No. Never took the 12 step program because I figured I’d probably fail. (laughs)

Rick: Do you write about stuff like that in the book?

Chet: No, that’s going to be the follow up. The follow up is going to be more auto-biographical, a critical look at my career. I’m not at all displeased at my career, but when I look back I realize that if I had been willing to play the game a little bit more with the upper echelon, I’d be a multi-millionaire today. There’s not a doubt in my mind.

But you know, I had too much too soon. You gotta remember, at the age of 20, I was working for WFLD-TV. At 21, I was doing the Bucks, who won the NBA title. At 22, I waltzed into Channel 44 and talked them into letting me do a talk show. At 23, I’m back at WFLD as a staff announcer, and I’m the national TV voice of the roller derby (photo). I go to Indianapolis at 25 to do sports with Jane Pauley. I remember Channel 5 came down to Indy to scout me, and took one look at me, and said, “Why we do want that slob? Let’s hire Pauley.” But I had so much success so early in life.

Conversely, some things didn’t go as well. I specifically remember tag-teaming with Norm Van Lier, who I still dearly miss by the way, at Fox Sports Net, and if I had just been a good boy and done what I was told...if I just understood what their position was...that they’ve got to be protecting the franchise. Got to keep Bill and Jerry happy. But I just couldn’t play that game. That cost me a lot of money over the years.

Rick: My old boss Steve Dahl used to say “the pioneer is never appreciated.” You’re a pioneer yourself. In many ways, you’re the father of sports talk radio in this town. What are your thoughts about those early days of sports talk radio and were there opportunities missed in that area too?

Chet: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. There were. Remember, Coppock on Sports was created only because I got waxed from Channel 5, so they farmed my contract out to WMAQ radio as part of the settlement. I was sitting there doing 3:20, 4:20, 5:20 reports, which is about as inspiring as watching a couple of goats f***, and I said, listen, your 6:00 hour is a bore. I have an idea for sports show. They told me ‘Nah, we don’t want one of those shows where Johnny calls in from Naperville and bitches up and down,’ and I said, no that’s not my idea. It’s going to be 60 Minutes comes to sports. We’ll have three or four live local and national guests and me. And we’re not going to take calls. It was the Howard Cosell principle. The intent was to make news. That was always the intent.

Rick: And the mistakes?

Chet: I made a couple of mistakes. The Score talked to me before they went on the air.

Rick: If I remember correctly, you were the first person they talked to.

Chet: I was. But we went back and forth, and I’ll be honest, one of the things that turned me off was that Seth, the fella that pitched me, took me out to breakfast at the Golden Nugget on Diversey. Not exactly Gibson’s. All I could think about was, boy, if I give this guy a ten dollar expense account from a game in Milwaukee, I’ll be going through red tape for years.

But to be honest I was loyal to the Loop. Think about what we had in those days. We had Brandmeier and Buzz Kilman, Kevin Matthews, Jim Shorts, and Shemp and those guys, Steve & Garry and you and that crew, and Coppock on Sports after that, with our incredible boy-quarium. I really believe for a four or five year period there we had the best radio station in Chicago radio history.

We were cutting edge. Every day was a thrill. We were treated like royalty. It breaks my heart to see the way the business is going when you look back at how it was then. Now we’re chewing up our young and spitting them out. We’ve got these producers who are working their asses off for maybe nine bucks an hour. I mean, who can live on nine bucks an hour?

When I hired Dan McNeil as my executive producer, I was desperate. We were going to go on the air on Monday, and I needed somebody, so I pitched de Castro and Solk and said, look, “hire this guy, and within a year he’ll be able to fill in on the weekends and knock people’s socks off.” I didn’t actually know whether or not it was true, but I knew he was going to bust his hump, that he had a great desire to succeed. It turned out to be true. But you know, we hired him at $18 grand a year, and that was 20-plus years ago. These guys today aren’t even making that, and that’s a crime.

Rick: I think a lot of people don’t realize how deep your roots in Chicago sports go. Talk about your Jack Brickhouse connection.

Chet: Well, Jack was my dad’s best friend. They were regular gin rummy partners. My dad traveled with Brick and Rosenberg. I would sit in Jack’s den and listen to him tell stories about sports for hours, in this den surrounded by plaques and trophies, and all these great mementos, and think to myself--look at the life this guy has lived! When I got hired by Channel 5, he was one of the first people that called to congratulate me. (Photo: Jack Brickhouse, a young Chet Coppock, and Ernie Banks in 1959)

Rick: Did he ever give you advice?

Chet: I had never done commercial work in my life, and he said “Why not?” Now I know this is going to sound ridiculous coming from me, but I said, “I just don’t think a sportscaster should be doing that sort of thing, it’s not appropriate for the role,” and Jack said “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” (laughs)

Rick: I’ve always thought that the sportscaster’s degree of difficulty isn’t appreciated. Athletes are notoriously bad interview subjects. I know that part of the reason you used to do those three minute long questions was because the guy on the other end of the phone was likely to give you nothing in return. Who are some of the athletes you’ve interviewed over the years that didn’t fit that stereotype—the really good interview subjects?

Chet: Guys who were a romp in the park—just too easy, you could do the interview in coma, were guys like Kevin Butler, because you knew somewhere along the way he was going to bitch about the lack of dough. Mongo McMichael. Once you got him going, look out. Mike Ditka. Dan Hampton. Pete Rose. Denny McLain (photo). By the way, Denny McLain and I did a podcast demo together called Two Angry Men. I’m telling you Rick, this is going to be a smash. We talk about Obama, we talk about Iraq, Sarah Palin, and occasionally we talk about sports. It’s just two guys who have been friends for a long time—in and out of the joint. (laughs)

Ditka was something special. I did his radio show with him for three years. The great thing about Mike was all you had to do was find the hot button. That would take no more than 3 minutes. I remember the day after we won the Super Bowl, we were both back in Chicago. My first question to him was “You scored 46 points. In the second half you basically just ran the ball. Did you call off the dogs?” And I remember him saying “You know, I never liked those guys to begin with—I would have scored 60 on ‘em.” I mean who else says that? Nobody does.

Stop and think about this. Here it is twenty five years later. If Lovie Smith was walking down Michigan Avenue on one side of the street, and Mike Ditka was walking down on the other side of the street, and there were a hundred other people there, 99 of them would go up to Ditka, and the other one would go up to Lovie and say, “Look over there. Isn’t that Mike Ditka?”

Rick: What about the interview subjects that were really difficult, that were like pulling teeth?

Major Harris, the quarterback of West Virginia. He got me so mad one night, I just couldn’t’ stand him. Willie Mays. He was a living breathing son-of-bitch. Miserable guy. Good Lord. I’d put Willie Mays one notch lower than Osama Bin Laden.

Rick: Wow.

You know, I would also rather interview Hulk Hogan than Michael Jordan.

Rick: Was Jordan a bad interview?

Chet: No, he was just predictable. But Hulk Hogan was fantastic. He was like a human volcano, full of fire. That guy was unbelievable. Wind him up and let him go. He was a showman.

You mentioned the Hollywood intros I used to do, well, one of the reasons I did that, is that I always thought of myself as sort of a carnival barker, the guy who tells you to knock down the five pins. You can never knock those things down. Let’s face it. But he makes it sound exciting.

I always wanted to do that, by the way. Take a summer off and be the guy who encourages people to come on in, pay a buck and go see the freak show, or the guy who convinces you to knock over the bowling pins for a stuffed animal. That would be so much fun.

Rick: Chet, why aren’t you on the air five days a week anymore?

Chet: I should be on the air, I know that. I don’t really have a great explanation for why I’m not. I think certain people have blackballed me. Certain people that could have swung the bat for me, haven’t over the years. I think I frighten some people. But no complaints. I still make a good living doing Notre Dame football and basketball and my commercial work, and I’m having a ball.

Rick: What about that Webbio thing. What in the world happened there?

Chet: (Exhales) I don’t know. I feel bad for Mike and Beebe. I feel bad for my producer. We went into this as virgins, and we were treated like Michael Vick’s dogs. I still have my bounced checks.

Rick: Was that the first time that’s ever happened to you in broadcasting?

Chet: Oh God no. If you’re a broadcaster and you haven’t had a least a half dozen bounced, then you aren’t doing it right. (laughs)

I still think the concept itself was good. It’s the future. I have seen the future! I’m 61 years old, but with the Botox and the work I’ve had done on my eyes, I don’t look a day over 50 (laughs). I know the future when I see it.

I love going on Facebook. I love Twitter. I love podcasting. Even if I go in a nursing home and have to use a plastic spoon, I’ll never retire, and with all these new possibilities I won’t have to. I love where the media is right now. I love the ability to convey thought in all these new ways. I check out Larz’ Chicagoland Radio and Media site. I check out your stuff. I’m not sitting on the sidelines while this all goes on. I’m doing podcasts. I’m going to start writing for Chicago Now. I think with all these great new things going on, radio as we know it now is on its last legs, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s sad, but there is so much more stuff out there. I want to do it all.

Rick: Including write a book.

Chet: By the time you write it, then do a rewrite, send it through legal, promote it, tell everyone you know, get on your on hands and knees begging people to buy it, if you’re lucky, really lucky, you’ll make about 34 cents an hour. (laughs) But the tangibility of it. To hold this thing in your hands. It’s been incredibly satisfying. In the last year I’ve done a book and a cameo in a major motion picture with Dennis Quaid. How many sportscasters can say that?

Rick: I can’t wait to read the book.

Chet: It’s outrageous. It’s going to make people laugh. People are going to want to bang me over the head with a frying pan. Crane Kenney gets whapped until the referee stops the fight. I dish out a fare share of praise. But I will say this. Because I’m Chet Coppock, and my style is so far off the charts, it’s somewhere between Jupiter and Pluto, it’s without question the most original book ever written about Chicago sports. I’m not saying it’s a great book. I ain’t Capote. I ain’t Hemingway. I didn’t live in Baltimore—I ain’t Edgar Allen Poe. But people are going to look at this book and say one of two things. This son-of-a-bitch is a misunderstood genius, or this guy is a son-of-bitch (laughs).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rick Kogan

Rick Kogan hosts "The Sunday Papers" on WGN Radio every Sunday morning, but he's also a well-known author (12 books) and reporter (Chicago Tribune).

To avoid confusion, since both of us are Rick K, I'm going to use our last names instead of first names.

Kaempfer: I first met you twenty years ago or so when you and Dennis DeYoung guest-hosted a show for Steve & Garry at the old AM Loop. I ran the board for that show. I remember you were both understandably nervous because 4 1/2 hours is a lot of air time to fill. But before the first hour was up, it was obvious that you were a natural. Do you remember that day?

Kogan: I remember that day very well and can’t believe you thought me anything other than in over my head. Dennis kept me afloat and could not have been a better co-host. I do remember taking call after call after call from his fans and relatives. We did it as a lark, never imagining it might lead to anything else in radio.

Kaempfer: I was a fan of the "Media Creatures" show you hosted a few years later on AM 1000 with Richard Roeper and Kathy Voltmer, and then later brought to television on Bob Sirott's Fox Thing in the Morning. It was the first show about the media that I can remember. How did that show come about, and what are some of your fondest memories of it?

Kogan: Media Creatures was the creation of Mitch Rosen (program director of AM 1000 at the time). I knew Richard only to say hello before Mitch put us in a studio and let us have at the microphones. It was an instant click, with me skewing, I think, a bit older than I was and Richard a bit younger than he was. Kathy (photo) was a delight to work with and I do think the show, 10-2 weekdays, was a valuable addition to the airwaves. Thanks to a great producer, Michelle Carney, we snagged a lot of good and high-profile guests.

Sadly, the station changed format and we were gone after six months. Bob (photo) was a huge fan of the show and had us come in the Fox studios and do a couple of live segments. I had done a considerable amount of TV work as an on-air entertainment reporter for WBBM-Ch. 2 in the late 1980s but didn’t like the in-studio format for “MC” and so, somewhat cavalierly, I suggested doing weekly remotes from the Billy Goat. Thanks to the astonishing talents of producer Jim Wiser, we were able to pull it off. Richard didn’t much like my smoking, on air or off, but we both loved doing those segments and the special that won an Emmy. We quit when Bob left the show. He was an essential element.

Kaempfer:You're currently hosting the show "Sunday Papers" on WGN Radio. It must not be easy getting up that early on a Sunday morning--especially for a night owl like yourself. (Full disclosure: I have shared a late-night cocktail or two with Rick in the past). I know you do a lot of the prep work for your show during the week before you arrive, but how hard is it to get up and going at that hour?

Kogan: When former WGN program director Mary June Rose asked me to host a Sunday morning show I had to be convinced that someone other than those who had just closed the 5 a.m. bars would be listening. Having done that many times myself, I did have to alter a bit my Saturday night activities, trying to get to bed by 10 p.m. It’s probably added a few years to my life and, frankly, it’s not difficult getting up because I look forward to meeting new people (guests).

Kaempfer: How would you describe your show to the uninitiated?

That’s a tough one. An eclectic cultural mix; a gathering of writers, artists, actors, poets, musicians and other creative types, built on the foundation of a deep affection for Chicago and its history.

Kaempfer: I can tell you one group of people that are huge supporters and ardent defenders of your show: Authors. I have several author friends that have appeared on your show, and we've all come to the same conclusion: Sunday Papers is the most author-friendly radio show in Chicago. You even read the books! Sad to say, but that's almost unheard of in this day and age. Has your own experience as an author (doing the publicity tours) affected the way you treat the authors on your show?

Kogan: That’s very nice to hear. I learned a valuable lesson many years ago, after Studs Terkel (photo), as a favor to my father, Herman, his great friend, interviewed me about my 1979 book “Dr. Night Life’s Chicago,” a guide to local taverns and saloons, with an introduction by Mike Royko. It was a magnificent show. I was humbled that Studs read from the books and selected all manner of appropriate music. I was stunned afterward and asked, “What’s the secret? Why was that so damn good?” “Read the book,” Studs said. “Read the book.” And so, that’s what I do. I read the books. My own experiences as a traveling author don’t really play into it. I don’t expect others to have read what I write, sadly.

Kaempfer: I'm currently researching Chicago history for my next novel, and it seems like every book about Chicago has a Foreword written by you. I know you've written 12 books, but have you kept count of how many Forewords you've written? And are you working on another book yourself?

Kogan: I have not. I never have taken any money for such chores and will only do so for books and authors I admire. I am currently writing, and am humbled to be doing so, an introduction for the University of Chicago Press’ republication of Royko’s first collection, “Up Against it,” first published in 1967 with an introduction by Bill Mauldin. Charles Osgood and I (photo) have a brand new collection of our Sidewalks columns coming out soon, cleverly titled “Sidewalks II” and I continue to slog away on a novel.

Kaempfer: I thought the obituary you wrote for former WCKG host and Tribune writer Terry Armour was beautifully written. In the last ten or fifteen years in addition to Terry, we've lost some of Chicago's media treasures, many of whom were also your friends. Mike Royko, Tim Weigel, Gene Siskel, Kup, Studs Terkel, Bob Collins, the list goes on and on. Do you think there is a new generation of writers and broadcasters that can have the same kind of impact they had, or are they part of Chicago's last great media generation?

Kogan: I do think we have seen, and may even be part of, the last great media generation in this city. Those you mention, and I wrote the obituaries for all of them except Collins (I did an in studio piece about him the morning after his death), and you could certainly add Ann Landers to that list, were devoted to varying degrees to the business and I have watched too many talented young people walk away from the what has become a relatively homogenized radio world, a gasping newspaper industry, a fractured TV market. Those you mention were people of great character, and thinking about them now I am not sure any could find jobs (no college, not attractive enough…etc) now in the fields in which they became giants.

Kaempfer: You were there for the sad demise of the Daily News in the late 70s. Do you think Chicago is destined to be one-newspaper town, or is there a chance we can save both of them?

That was not a good time, the folding of the Daily News, and I fear that I might live to see a no-newspaper town. I am confident that journalism, reporting, narrative storytelling and all the other elements that are stuffed into the daily miracle that is a newspaper will remain but as for picking up a paper on the corner for a few quarters, I have my doubts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bob Sirott

I previously interviewed Bob Sirott when he first got the Noon show at WGN Radio. (You can read that interview here.) I spoke to him again this summer just after he left Channel 5. Portions of that interview appeared in Shore Magazine. The full interview is below.

Rick: Sorry to hear the news about you leaving Channel 5. What happened there?

Bob: I chose to leave the station when I noticed the small print in the new deal said I'd be required to eat tarantulas during the 10 PM News.

Rick: What was your favorite part of that Channel 5 job?

Bob: The favorite part of the job was the requirement that I sit very close to charming, beautiful women like Allison Rosati. (Don't let my wife know--she thinks I'm a lawyer)

Rick: You've been doing this TV and radio thing for a long time now. Of all the people you've met, who have you been most impressed by?

Bob: It's a three way tie: I was impressed the most by Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and Paul McCartney. Hard to top a president or a Beatle. The way they handle interviewers is fascinating. President Obama (I interviewed him when he was a Senator--just before becoming a presidential candidate) was exactly the same off the air as he was on. Carter disarmed you with that great, big smile that preceded every answer no matter what the question. McCartney has the ability to turn on the charm as though every interview is his first. You know it's a studied technique, but he's so good at it that you would swear it's 100% genuine.

Rick: You're an institution in this town, which means you probably get recognized wherever you go. What's the most unusual place you've ever been recognized?

Bob: At a funeral for a relative. That wasn't so bad, really. It was the fact that the person wanted an autograph as I was walking out of the chapel.

Rick: Tell us something about you that your listeners/viewers would be surprised to hear.

During the 70's, I rarely listened to the lyrics to any song I played. I knew the first line and the last, but that was about it. Ask me about a record I introduced on the radio ten thousand times and I probably couldn't recite more than two lines.

Rick: You've done just about every job in the media. Is there one job that you'd still like to do?

Bob: I'd love to do Cubs games on the radio. My nephew Judd is living my fantasy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Les Grobstein

Les Grobstein has been an integral part of the Chicago sports radio landscape for thirty years. He currently hosts late nights at the Score, 670AM. He also hosts a weekend show at WKRS-AM.

Rick: First of all, congrats on being back at the Score. How does it feel to return to that frequency and that time slot?

Les: You can go home again. This is the second time I’ve done that. I was with WLS almost the entire decade of the 80s and they dropped the music and went all-talk, then 2 years ago they did the Memorial Day Rewind and brought me back again. I did a show with Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards and another one with Fred Winston (photo), and then we did it again in ’08. I told Robert Feder "you can go home again," but that was nothing compared to this. This is really being back. Even though we're not on Belmont anymore, the studios are in a different location, this really feels like home.

Rick: How have you been received by former/current colleagues?

Les: I’ve been received well. It's been great seeing so many people that are still here from before. But to tell you the truth, I'm still on a bit of an island because of the time I'm on the air. I’m not ever there during the daytime, unless we have a meeting or something.

Rick: I almost don't know where to start with you because you've done so much and been involved in so many interesting radio moments. But there is one thing I don't think I've ever heard you speak about: your first job in the business, with Sports Phone. That wasn't technically radio, it was a phone recording, but it was done as if it was a radio broadcast. For people that are too young to remember that, would you mind talking about what that was, and give us a few of the names of people that worked there?

Les: Dick Gonski, the former Bulls color commentator, was our GM. I had the daytime shift. Ron Gleason was the nighttime guy. Tom Greene, who later did sports huddle on WMAQ, was also there. Pat Benkowski was there. Ted Robinson, who went on to be a big time play by play guy, was there. We also had George Ofman, David Schuster, Fred Huebner, geez, I know I'm leaving some people out, but the list goes on and on.

I was on the daytime shift by myself and didn’t have to alternate like some of the other guys. I got to do quickie quizzes every day, which I’ve always been good at it. We even had a quickie quiz hall of fame. The others at nights and weekends were basically a scoreboard. During the daytime there wasn't as much going on, the Cubs were the only ones playing day games, everyone else played at night, so I was given much more leeway.

Some days I would go to the game and do the updates from the game, but what really helped me was I was allowed to do creative stuff. It really was more like a show. When Rick Talley left for the LA Times, they went looking for someone to replace him at WLS, and Bud Miller said that hearing what I was doing on Sportsphone helped me. I also knew two people at WLS--Bob Sirott and Tommy Edwards, who was already doing the Bulls public address. So, they asked me to come into the station. I met everyone else there, including the program director John Gehron, and they all liked what they heard, but Bud told me, yeah, we’ll get back to you. We’re looking at 50 other people.

I didn’t think I had a chance. In the interim, I was called in by Reed Pence at the Loop and a couple of other people over there, and they were interested in having a sportscaster too...and we were in the same building as they were (the Hancock) that seemed like it could really happen. That chance died when they put together their deal for Disco Demolition. Part of the deal was Mike Veeck would come in and do what was basically nothing more than a promotional announcement for the White Sox. He did that for about a week and a half before the actual event. Obviously after it blew up in their faces, they dumped the idea. Mike Veeck was out.

Now we're in early fall, and I'm traveling to cover the 1979 World Series; the Baltimore Orioles against the "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates. I got a call from Bud Miller saying "we want to put you on the air tomorrow with Lujack and Sirott, and we’ll see how it goes for a few weeks." I did those first few reports from the World Series. When I got back from the World Series, the very next morning my son was born. At his wedding a few years ago they played “We are Family," as a sort of remembrance of what was happening when he was born.

As for WLS, I did my first in-studio thing with Bob Sirott (photo), and they called me into a meeting right after that, and offered me a 5-year-contract. I stayed there for the next ten years.

Rick: You’ve done play by play (WNBA, UIC, Northwestern, The Sting, etc.), talk shows (WLUP-FM 97.9, WMVP-AM 1000, WSCR-AM 670 and WCSN-AM 820), and sports reporter, live on site. What is your favorite and why?

Les: I like play by play and doing shows. Those would be Favorite A and 1A. I’m still doing the Chicago Sky play by play. I love hosting talk shows too.

I did my first remote since I'm back at the Score at this year's All-Star Game and that was fantastic. I love doing those. I’ve done shows from Super Bowls and World Series too, but one of my favorite shows was at the Wyndam Hotel, right across the street from Delta Center in Utah the night of the last Bulls Championship. MJ hit the game winning bucket over Bryan Russell of the Jazz. That all night show was a blast thanks mostly to the listeners and callers. All that week North and Jiggets were doing their show from there too. When the Bulls won the game and the championship, it was amazing.

I love doing those shows, but I love the play by play too. I think I've folded seven or eight teams. The Chicago hustle owed me about 13 grand when they went out of biz. (Photo: Les with Chicago Hustle President John Garrity). I did the first ever broadcast from the UIC Pavilion and the Rosemont Horizon. The Horizon game was an indoor soccer game, and it was the same night as the famous "Who Shot JR" Dallas episode, a show I'm proud to say, I've never seen.

Rick: You're one of the many sportscasters in town who have done the sports radio shuffle, going from one sports station to the other and back again.

Les: Greg Solk was the first guy who put me on overnights on WMVP. I'll always appreciate him for that. At the time they were mainly going syndicated. Larry Wert was the GM there then, and I really like him--we get along great--but when he signed the Fabulous Sports Babe, I told him: "You just signed our death certificate." They put her up head to head with North & Jiggets, and those guys kicked our butts.

Rick: I know you’re best known for getting that Lee Elia tape, and I’ll get to that in a second, but you were also one of the select few live witnesses to one of the most compelling moments in Chicago radio history. Tell me about the day that Larry Lujack burst into the Steve & Garry studio and challenged him to a fight. You were right there in the studio when it happened.

Les: I thought I was going to have to break up a fist fight. It was Thanksgiving eve, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, and the office was almost totally empty. Steve was ripping Larry on the air, which he did nearly every day. Garry had a broken foot. Larry (photo) was hanging out at the station, which is something he did on occasion, long after his show was over.

Well, Larry walked into the studio and wished Steve & Garry a happy Thanksgiving. It was very tense. They went back and forth, and back and forth, and one of Steve’s kids was there, and he started crying. After that, Larry left. After Larry was gone, Steve said "If he ever comes back in here, I’ll break both of his legs."

Well, things continued in the days to come. I flew to Miami for the Dolphins-Bears game (1985), because Steve & Garry were doing the show from Miami Beach. I got a lot of Bears players live on the air with Steve and Garry. We had Fridge, Fencik, etc. So anyway, I'm doing a sportscast from there, and at the end of the sportscast, Larry came on from Chicago to say “Hey Les, did you hear about my new feature? It's called 'Whose afraid of the big fat pig? The truth about to Steve Dahl.' Needless to say, this got back to Steve.

So, we're back in the studio in Chicago, and I'm doing my sportscast, talking about the Bears, when all of a sudden the door opens and Larry comes in and my mic is still open and I say “Lar, why couldn't you do this when Jim Johnson was in here?” Of course, he came in while I was there on purpose because I was on both of their shows. Jim was a Steve & Garry partisan, but I wasn't allowed to choose sides.

Steve says “Larry get out.” But Larry says, "I heard what you said the other day, so I just wanted to see if you’re going to break both my legs before I throw your head through the wall." It wasn’t a bit. It wasn’t fake. Then Larry says he is going to promote his new feature, so Steve and Garry leave the studio, and Steve says "Let’s leave Mr. Insane alone in his insane world." Garry, who has a broken leg remember, hobbles out of the studio. Lujack sits down at the console and says "So, I guess I’m finishing the show. He said 'Les, we were talking about football, right?' I did the sign off and got the f*** out of there.

About ten minutes later three Chicago coppers got off the elevators and most of the employees were gone. I greeted the cops and they said they got a report that a riot had broken out at WLS, and I told them there was nothing to worry about.

The next morning I was in studio with Larry for what was supposed to be the "Whose afraid of the big fat pig" thing, but he didn't do it. He said that he and Steve had a nice chat and had resolved their differences. Of course, within two days Steve was ripping him again and the war stayed on for the rest of their time there.

Rick: You were also in the middle of that Bears Super Bowl controversy regarding the alleged Jim McMahon comment about women in New Orleans. How did that go down?

Les: That was just a few months later. I was covering the Bears in the Super Bowl. We were doing the show down there in New Orleans, and Catherine Johns called to say, "Les, what’s the story about Jim McMahon calling the women of New Orleans sluts? It supposedly happened on Fred's show." I said it didn’t happen. He wasn’t on our show. First of all, McMahon would never have gotten up that early to do the show.

Then Fred says to me, we're getting calls from all over the place. Toward the end of Fred’s show, and leading into the midday show, I was leaving Tony’s House of Spaghetti (where we doing the show), and was heading over to the Hilton. We were carrying Ditka’s news conference live on the air at the time, the first station to ever do that. Today anyone could carry it, but not then.

Anyway, I get there for the news conference and Mark Giangreco (photo) comes up to me and asks about the McMahon thing. Again, I denied it ever happened. So he says I gotta interview you. They roll, turn on the lights, and I said that it wasn’t true, he wasn’t there, blah blah blah. I said 'Mark, this is a bunch of bullshit.' They bleeped it out.

Suddenly there were three of four writers floating around, and Jim Rose of Channel 7 says I gotta get you next. By the time he turns the lights out there were 40 writers around me asking questions. Then Johnny Morris says that Jeannie needs to get you next. Channel 9, ESPN, CNN, a Boston station, a Providence station, you name it. By the time the last one ended there were 150 writers around. Ditka was being interviewed by maybe 3 people.

Buddy DeLoberto was the guy that had "broken” the story and started up the whole firestorm. The Bears got calls from a redneck threatening to bomb the hotel, and DeLoberto had told women to show up and give McMahon a hard time by throwing toilet paper at him. There were 150 women outside the hotel, armed with toilet paper.

So, I was brought into a room with Paul Tagliabue (who was Rozelle’s right hand man). The McCaskeys were there, a Bears PR person, and a few others, and they start grilling me, so I said what I had already told the press: “DID NOT HAPPEN.” Then they got Buddy's station on the phone, and they admitted that their guy had made a mistake. Tagliabue says "Do you know what kind of liability you’re facing?” The station calms him down by telling him that they’re suspending Buddy.

After it was over, the NFL folks thanked me, and Ed McCaskey thanked me, but the one person that looked unhappy was Mike McCaskey. I'm convinced he was disappointed that McMahon was off the hook because he hated McMahon and wanted him suspended. He knew they could win that Super Bowl without him.

I got to my room and there were like 20 messages. I did a bunch of interviews and this thing just didn’t want to go away. McMahon in his book said he was going to the ballroom to deny it, after being tipped off by his agent Steve Zucker, "and I see Les Grobstein looking like an unmade bed surrounded by reporters."

I didn’t get to talk to him about it until the next year and he thanked me for what I did. He said “As far as I’m concerned, you’re alright.”

Rick: OK, finally, I want to hear about that famous Lee Elia moment.

Les: That tape was on every continent of the planet in three days. Only Antartica we’re not sure about, but they probably heard it there too.

(YouTube clip of Les' Lee Elia tape. Warning: This one is unbleeped.)

Tommy Edwards on AM and Steve & Garry on FM were the first two shows to actually play it on the air. But the Cubs announcers heard it first. I played it for them in the press box. Vince Lloyd, said “Geezus Lou, he's going to get his ass fired.” Lou said, "You may be right, Good Kid." And Harry couldn't believe it was really Lee at first. I said: "I have a feeling the Lee Elia pre-game show is going to be canceled." They didn't fire Lee right away, but he was gone before the season was over.

Speaking of the Cubs, I'm pulling into the Wrigley Field lot right now.

Rick: Have fun. Thanks for your time, Les.

Les: Any time, Rick. Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Mark Giangreco

Mark Giangreco appears every week on the Waddle & Silvy show on ESPN Radio AM 1000. He's also the ABC 7 Chicago sports director and primary sports anchor for the number-one-rated 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, and is one of the most recognizable faces in Chicago television. I interviewed him this summer for Shore Magazine, and an edited version of that interview appeared in the magazine. The unedited version is below.

Rick: What's more fun? TV or Radio?

Mark: Radio! I love the freedom to rant and rave and be an idiot without the time constraints and more rigid P-C rules of TV.

Rick: What is the biggest story you've covered?

Mark: I’d say chasing the ‘85 Bears as they terrorized New Orleans before Super Bowl XX…(with going live in a jam-packed closet of a locker room out in L.A. as the Bulls celebrated their 1st NBA Title a close second)

Rick: Of all the people you've met covering sports, who has impressed you the most?

Mark: Muhammad Ali (of course) and former Blackhawk, actor, golf pro and ski instructor Eric Nesterenko. He could be ”The most interesting man in world.”

Rick: How has technology changed your job since you started in this business?

Mark: When I broke in, we were making the transition from film to video tape (Man, I’m old!) Now, it’s all about the internet. If you have a phone you know everything. That’s why local news has to bring something else to the table like real human beings with intellect, presence and personality.

Rick: What is the biggest misconception about television sportscasters?

Mark: We don’t just roll in and read a teleprompter. We actually work long days…and while many anchor teams try to CREATE a sense of family...very few actually have real off-air relationships with one another. I’m lucky to have genuine, 25 year friendships with my colleagues and I think it shows.

Rick: What do you consider the most embarrassing moment of your TV career?

Mark: I don’t know if embarrassed is the word but I’ve been suspended for everything from making fun of downtown Detroit, to calling Don King a murderer, and inferring that the NBA playoffs are fixed.

Rick: Every TV person has a good answer to this one--What is the most unusual place you've been recognized?

Mark: I was in Rome , sitting at a sidewalk trattoria when as bus load of tourists pulled up and a bunch of elderly women poured out screaming “Oh my God, everybody over here looks like Mark Giangreco!”

Rick: Tell us something about you that your viewers would be surprised to learn.

Mark: I went to art school as a kid and worked a lot with pen and ink, charcoal and watercolors. I’ve designed sports logos and had a few cartoons published.

Rick: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the job?

Mark: My favorite part of the job is putting the shows together. My least favorite part is being blown off by some moody diva 2 hours after he agreed to do an interview.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Another Chicago Radio Spotlight Update

Brand new interviews return next week, but first I wanted to catch up with a few more of my previous interview subjects that have undergone changes in their careers since we last spoke.


I interviewed my old boss and pal John Landecker several times for Chicago Radio Spotlight (and he has even interviewed me). Since we last spoke, however, he has begun broadcasting the afternoon show on WIMS Radio in Michigan City, Indiana (he also does a weekend show on WLS). I called him up the other day and asked him to tell me more about going back to his roots and doing small-town radio...

John: I love it. I love it. Are you kidding? It reminds me of my early days in Ann Arbor at a station in the country under the transmitter, but it’s also totally unlike anything I’ve done before. It’s a talk show, first and foremost. To use a term Paula Griffin (my co-host) coined, it’s “go with the flow” radio. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, and taking that attitude, it can go anywhere. Any topic, any off-hand comment can lead to a new direction, going on line, Googling things as we talk, finding movie clips. I don’t worry about content. If I want to blast something locally in the news—like the local school superintendent, I do. Or the shooting downtown at Randolph and Michigan—that's what I do.

We don’t take a lot of calls because there’s only one phone in the studio, and it rings while you’re on the air (laughs), but when we do take a call it's kind of reminiscent of Boogie Check in a way because I have no idea who is calling and what they're calling about. That has been so much fun. We get great calls, but it’s mainly us. My co-host is Paula Griffin and she is a native of the area and has worked here in radio for quite awhile. I still do some of the stuff I've always done, like the little quicky parody songs, and what not, but this is local radio so, literally, anything goes. And the commute! The commute is rough. (John lives in Michigan City). There was a truck on the road the other day and it made my commute 12 minutes! You probably can't pick up the signal in parts of Chicago, but you can listen on the internet. Just go to


I interviewed Steve Dale just before my summer sabbatical, and he had just been let go by WGN Radio. He didn't remain on the sidelines for long, and is now back on the air at WLS. I got in touch with him the other day and asked him about his turbulent summer, which included switching stations, having the Mayor declare "Steve Dale Day" in Chicago, and a terrible personal loss...

Steve: I was able to come out of the closet at WLS, and admit that for years I've been listening to Roe Conn. His knowledge base on every topic on the planet is incredible. I spoke with Roe on air about Michael Vick, and he spouted off how dogs evolved - geez, who knows the latest theory on that. He does! Students don't need to go to Columbia to learn to be a talk show host, just listen to him. And Don and Roma are sort of, kind of, today's version of Bob and Betty Sanders. I'm not talking about content, as much as the interplay between them. I met them briefly - if they only knew how thrilled I was. The thing about Don and Roma is that magically they are able to speak to listeners one by one, as if they are only talking to you. It's truly a rare talent. And I also have the pleasure of being a guest with Pat Cassidy, an absolute pro. I'm kind of afraid but hoping to go head to head with Mancow on topics where we don't agree, such as breed bans. I've yet to meet him.

I'm on WLS Saturday afternoons at 2 (for now), but when Notre Dame sports hit, I'll be on at 6 a.m. Saturdays. Well, at least I'll be doing morning drive on a 50,000 watt giant. I'm honored to be at WLS. We've built a ginormous amount of content on our pet pages, with more to come. We even have videos on the site, and link to a Blog - and much, much more. An we do an hour of On Demand radio, available each week, anytime with some of the most noted pet personalities in America, I'm treated well, and most important, I hope I'm able to help individual pet owners, and talk about relevant issues. My challenge is finding a way to communicate to my old littermates at WGN, that I've moved up the dial. We even had billboards around town. That was cool.

Unfortunately, my dad passed away just 2 days after the 'Steve Dale Day' was scheduled. I was staying with him in hospice. I had to phone the Alderman, and explain I could not attend. My dad sparked my interest in animals. Interestingly, when he was around 20, his goals were either to work in radio, or become a zoologist. Well, ever since I was 20 (or even younger, actually), I've worked in radio in one way or another. I never became a zoologist, but I do work with animals. That's why from here on out, as long as I'm on the air, I'll thank my dad at the end of every show.


I interviewed Andrea two years ago when she was doing news on the WGN Morning show with Spike O'Dell. She's still doing the morning news on WGN, but has since worked with two other morning hosts; John Williams and Greg Jarrett. I caught up with her again this week and asked her what that experience has been like...

Andrea: It's true! I have had the good fortune of working with 3 different "major market" personalities in the past year. I think each of our hosts brings with him/brought with him to the table something unique, and hopefully enjoyable for our listeners.

Spike was "the guy next door," someone everyone could relate to! He was-- and is-- one of the nicest, most down to earth, humble people you would ever want to meet. Spike had a unique way of blending current events with fun and humor into his show, and it showed... he was "KING" of morning radio during his reign! We keep in touch several times a week via email, facebook, etc, and he STILL makes me smile every time we talk!

John Williams brought a whole different persona to the morning show. As a morning show host, John was much more serious and much more into current events and the news of the day. But, John also has a very DRY sense of humor and -- like Spike-- John doesn't mind "throwing himself under the bus" every now and again to get a few laughs!

Greg Jarrett is kind of a combination of John and Spike. Greg is a total "News Guy"...he's been around the world literally "in the trenches" covering all kinds of interesting stories and is able to bring those stories to the show and incorporate them into his interviews. But, he's not "all news".... he has a great sense of humor, too!

I think the biggest similarity they all share is that they, like all of us, are very proud to be affiliated with WGN because the radio station has always been such a staple in the Chicago area!


I first met and interviewed Jerry shortly after he arrived in town, and was doing the midday show at WLS. He was moved out of that time slot to make way for Mancow and Pat Cassidy, and then a few months ago, made the move down the dial to WGN Radio. I caught up with him the other day and asked how the transition has gone...

Jerry: All is well. I am doing up to three shows on the weekend, depending on the Cubs schedule. I also do fill-in for various weekday shows. I was on for Cochran a few times and I will be doing the over-night soon.

I was the guy who did the first several weeks in mid-morning after they let Kathy and Judy go, so I took the hits and the hate for the radio station. No problem - as an opinionated host, I am used to that.


One of the contributors to Jerry Agar's show is Dobie Maxwell. He's a part of the segment known as "Jerry's Kidders." I first interviewed Dobie last year when he was doing that segment on WLS. Dobie had a big summer. He made his national television debut as a comedian (on Craig Ferguson's show). I recently caught up with him and asked him how that went, and what it's like to do "Jerry's Kidders" on a different radio station...

Dobie: Getting on national television was like my whole life flashing in front of my eyes. I thought about all the horrific gigs I had to endure to get there and starting out in Milwaukee and my mentors over the years and it was like going down a waterslide of my entire past. It was also like an out of body experience in that I felt like I was watching it from afar rather than living it in person. I'd heard that from others who did their first shot and wasn't sure what it meant. Now I know exactly what they meant and they were 100% accurate.

It was also important to add legitimacy to an entire lifetime of struggle. The very first thing anyone asks when they hear someone is a comedian is "Ever been on TV?" Now I can say yes and not have to fudge something like Good Morning Albuquerque. Craig Ferguson's show is very credibile and it was a terrific experience and one I won't soon forget.

Jerry's Kidders is a little different only because we have to watch out for kids on Saturday mornings when that wasn't much of an issue on WLS, mainly because of the day and time we're on. WLS was Mondays at 11:30. Most kids are in school or at least not listening to WLS in the summer. WGN is on Saturday and there are a lot more kids. We don't try to do an off color show but once in a while when something approaches 'the line', we now have to push that line back a little, or at least we choose to. We're not trying to push any envelopes other than one with a paycheck in it. Other than that, it's been great fun. We all love to have the studios on Michigan Avenue because people can watch us perorm, and that's what we're used to so we don't mind at all.


I interviewed Mark two years ago when he was in California programming a few stations out there. He has since returned to his hometown of Chicago, and I had the chance to catch up with him recently to ask him what he is doing these days...

Mark: I left my position as High Desert Broadcasting Rock Programmer (KLKX and KKZQ) in June of 2008. I came back to Chicago, and re-branded my production company (formerly named Zanderadio Productions) as 4C Studios. In addition to producing The Rockin' 80's (we just celebrated 5 years as a national show!), this past March we launched another national show, The Rockin' 70's. We continue to produce other national content for various clients, and soon will launch a new and unique podcast aimed at a very specific and passionate audience. I have recently done some fill-in work at WERV for Next Media, and have gone back to teaching at Illinois Center For Broadcasting, where I previously taught for ten years.


I interviewed former WLUP Program Director Jack Silver earlier this year, just after he was let go by his radio station in Los Angeles. He got a new gig this summer, so I checked back in to find out more...

Jack: I'm back with CBS Radio Los Angeles as Director of Integrated Marketing and Promotions for Classic Hits K Earth 101 and Smooth AC 94.7 The Wave. It's a chance to use my sales skills while integrating clients into live events, broadcasts and other non traditional revenue ops. I like it a lot and both stations are huge in Southern California.


I interviewed former WLUP and WXRT veteran Dave Benson two years ago for Chicago Radio Spotlight when he was the program director of KFOG in San Francisco. He was let go in the spring, and re-emerged in Seattle over the summer. I asked him to tell me about the journey, which I have been following on Facebook. He handled the situation in a way only Benson would handle it...

Dave: Well, things at KFOG came to an end in mid-April. Cumulus told me I'd done a great job (KFOG was # 1 in demo in April) but that I "just wasn't their kind of guy," so they didn't offer me another contract. That was fine with me. Over the 3 years of Cumulus' ownership the company's priorities and capabilities had become clear. Cumulus is a broadcast property consolidation company. Quality, localized programming isn't something they excel at or seem to aspire to. And the reality of their precarious financial position just made them more and more desperate, which lead to even more screw tightening and fear-based decision making. I had a great run at KFOG and hated to leave those good folks behind but I also looked forward to a break. I hung out a bit, walked the dog, rode the bike and just enjoyed living in my home during daylight hours.

I decided to take the kind of trip that you can only do when you've got enough time, so I got ready to go and then got a call from the good folks at Entercom. They were interested in having me join them in Seattle and they were willing to be patient while I took my trip. We made a deal and I took off for about 6 weeks, going to New York, London, Paris, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Japan. I landed in Seattle on a Friday in late July and went to work the next Monday. I feel very fortunate to be able to go back to work with a company that aspires to quality broadcasting. And the move to Seattle feels great. I'm among friends and talented radio folks once again and I look forward to the work and life in this area."