Sunday, November 25, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

I wanted to thank everyone that has been checking out this little radio blog. When I started it in January, I just thought it would be fun to showcase people in Chicago radio that I respect and admire. I figured I might get a handful of fellow radio fans to check it out, but I never expected so many people to share my interest. Most of the credit for that goes to the people who have helped me spread the word, especially the newspaper columnists and reporters (Robert Feder, Eric Zorn, Rick Kogan, Ted Cox, Steve Rhodes), the radio message boards and websites (Chicagoland Radio & Media, Crow On, All Access, RadioDailyNews), and the radio shows (too numerous to mention).

I plan on doing Chicago Radio Spotlight for one more year, but I need your help. Please drop me a line (at the "e-mail me" link on the right) if you have a suggestion for a future Chicago Radio Spotlight. There are lots of radio folks who have done, and continue to do, great work in Chicago. Unfortunately, I may not know all of them, especially the up and comers. Also, if there are some Chicago radio pros from the past that you'd like me to track down (or even better--that you have already tracked down for me), let me know that too.

I've had a great time talking to everyone so far. I knew some of them already, and hadn't yet met some others, but every one of them had great stories to tell. It's a fascinating business filled with fascinating people. Below this note, I'll be answering some of the frequently asked questions I receive.

The number one question I get: "Why don't you answer any of our questions on the blog?" is the inspiration for this week's post.

Thanks for your support,
Rick Kaempfer

Frequently Asked Questions

I do try to answer every question via e-mail. If I haven't answered yours, you might have gotten trapped in my spam filter. I apologize.

Q: Why don't you allow comments on this blog?

A: I answered the phones at radio stations for a long time and I know that there are a lot of people out there who like to bash people. I wanted this site to be a totally positive place.

Q: Has anyone ever turned you down for an interview?

A: Yes. Four people. I won't embarrass them by mentioning their names. One told me that something new was going to be happening to him soon and he wasn't ready to announce it yet. He promised he would do it in the future. Another one has been out of the business for awhile and didn't want to talk about "the good old days" anymore. Another one is a good friend of mine who hates the spotlight. I'm still working on him. And the last one was an old boss of mine. I knew that was a long shot before I asked him.

Q: What is your radio background?

A: I worked in radio for twenty years as a producer (Steve Dahl & Garry Meier, John Records Landecker), a music jock (The Loop FM), and a talk show host (AM 1000).

Q: Would you ever consider going back to radio yourself?

A: Never say never, but I honestly don't see it happening. I'm really enjoying my new life.

Q: Why don't you ever tell some of your radio stories?

A: Check out some of the links on the right there. I've previously written about my days with Steve & Garry, and John Landecker, and about the celebrities I encountered in both jobs (Celebrity Snippets), and of course there many additional stories in my book "The Radio Producer's Handbook." I just don't tell them on this blog, because it's about other people's stories.

Q: Why did you write your producer book?

A: I wrote The Radio Producer's Handbook because I wanted to give something back to the business. When I started as a producer, no one trained me. There was no such thing as a job description. They just kind of tossed producers into the deep end of the pool and expected them to figure out how to swim. That always bothered me, so when my co-author John Swanson ("Swany" from the Eric and Kathy Show) approached me about writing a book about producing radio shows, I thought it was a good idea. It came out in 2004, and it's being used to teach radio production all over the country. We owe the publisher an update in two years, so I guess I'll be diving back into that soon.

Q: Aren't you afraid of ticking off the media giants with your novel $everance.

A: Not really. I'm small potatoes to them. The only time I had to deal with them was when I was pitching it to publishers. Those media giants also own all the major publishing houses, and they certainly didn't want to publish a book about the dangers of media consolidation. That's one of the reasons you won't find $everance in every book store. (But you can get it directly from my publisher at

People working in the media, however, have been very receptive to the message in my book. They've been dying for someone to tell this story.

Here's a small sampling from people you may know...

"Rick cuts the modern media conglomerates to the quick in his alternately hilarious and disturbing Severance. Some readers will think his moguls and media personalities are exaggerated. I'm here to tell you they're pretty dead-on."
--Roe Conn, WLS Radio

"It's about time somebody told this story. $everance certainly captured the world of radio, warts and all."
--Legendary broadcaster Clark Weber

Severance is a black comedy that would be funnier if its darkness weren’t so true. And it crackles with the insights and cynicism that made Network and Broadcast News the seminal cinematic treatments of today’s dumbed-down news business. Move over Christopher Buckley----Rick Kaempfer is in town!”
--ABC-TV News Reporter Andy Shaw

"Other than 'love', 'Severance' is the sweetest word in the English language. This really made me laugh."
--WGN Radio's Steve Cochran

"Told with the keen insight of a veteran insider, it's a humorous indictment of an industry that has lost all sense of purpose -- except for making money, of course."
--Chicago Sun Times media columnist Robert Feder

"A hysterical critique of corporate morality"
--WGN-TV Morning News Anchor Larry Potash

"I think it’s a great, funny, sarcastic, entertaining and thought provoking book…that really shows how broadcasting has changed over the last few years.”
--Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Records Landecker

"Brilliant satire! I got a paper cut from the sarcasm. I wish I could say it was great fiction, but having worked in radio, I think it’s just really funny non-fiction. The reality in between the laughs will scare the hell out of you."
--Longtime radio personality and playwright Spike Manton

"I thought this novel was just going to be an amusing story about radio. But the way Kaempfer has woven in elements of all media and politics is masterful, to say nothing of insightful, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny! It’s a brilliant first entry. I can't wait for his next page-turner!"
--Legendary broadcaster and programmer Bob Dearborn

"Too bad Zagorski (the main character) is fictional. Today's media could use someone like him to shake things up. He's the personification of fairness with just enough wicked cynicism to make him completely irresistible. The thought that a team like Zagorski and Lawrence might actually exist should make some big bosses more than a little uneasy."
--Leslie Keiling, WGN Radio

"Rick Kaempfer’s “$everance” is whiplash-fast, choke-on-your-coffee funny, and ultimately frightening. Kaempfer has seen it all in the radio business, and has some dire predictions for the rest of the media, too. It’s the summer’s must-discuss beach read – and probably a sign of the apocalypse."
--Paige Wiser, Chicago Sun-Times columnist

"I laughed out loud many times while reading it - yeah, it's that funny! If you work in the radio business you'll love the inside view of the industry and if you're not in the media you will certainly learn a lot of eye-opening trade secrets."
--Cara Carriveau

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Roe Conn

UPDATED 9/4/10


Since we last spoke, Bill Leff is gone from the show, Cisco Cotto has come and gone, Jill Urchak has come and gone, and Christina has come and gone and come back again. Now on the show: Richard Roeper, Jim Johnson (who never left) and Christina Filliagi. I asked Roe how he likes the changes that have been made to his show...

Roe: What a difference a year makes. In 2009, our company (Citadel) was going bankrupt, management panicked and adopted a "try anything" approach that relied more on stunts and controversy than content. The audience was left whip-sawed and confused.

With Michael Damsky and Drew Hayes at the helm (and Citadel successfully emerging from bankruptcy) the environment changed. Damsky had an actual business plan that put WLS back on offense, the centerpiece of which was repairing afternoons.

He brought in Drew, brought back fan-favorite Christina Filiaggi and let us rebuild a show around current events that uses entertainment instead of anger to make a point.

It's easy to piss people off. Outrage is cheap to produce and hard to sell. Entertainment is harder to produce but much easier to sell.

Mike and Drew understand that and were very supportive in allowing me and Jock Hedblade our Executive Producer to do whatever we needed to do.

Our first job was to get Richard Roeper on board. He was close to signing with WGN, but was hesitant about their direction. They have fallen into the trap we nearly did. Build cheap controversial programming and hope for the best. That has never worked in Chicago.

Richard, Jock and I have crafted a show that plays to all of our strengths. It's packed with information, but fun. It doesn't rely on the tactic of pitting people politically. It has an edge without being predictable.

And apparently it's working. We are up 110% 25-54. We are back in the top 10 with adults 25-54 and the top rated show on AM with women 25-54. But most importantly, we're having fun again.

The original interview follows...

Roe Conn hosts one of Chicago's highest rated talk shows. His show airs every afternoon on WLS-AM 890.

Rick: Were you really an anthropology major?

Roe: Denison is a liberal arts college and I could have been a basket weaving major--it didn't really matter there. 2/3 of the classes are core requirements anyway. They do have a really good anthropology department though, which focuses on cultural anthropology. I think that kind of an education gives journalists (not that I am one), a pretty good situational awareness of the world. I'm really happy I did it. It's not like I was going around digging up bones. I only took one course like that, and believe me, that was enough. I'll never forget this one professor who came back from a dig in Cameroon with malaria, and she ended up missing a whole semester while she recovered. That cured any thoughts I had of getting my PhD in anthropology.

Rick: You started as a producer (in radio and television). How did that experience shape what you've become on the air, and how does it affect your relationships with your own producers?

Roe: That's a great question. The truth is that really great producers know that they're producers, and I was never a really great producer. I always knew I wanted to do this, so I was impatient, which is just about the worst trait a producer can have.

As for how it affects my relationships with producers, I try remain cognizant of how difficult the job is. Everyone always tells me that they could do my job, but go in and spend one hour answering the phones at a talk show. It gives you a bent view of the world. Extremists on every side are calling you. They'll argue with you if you say the sky is blue. It's mentally exhausting. About half the people that call, don't even want to go on the air, they just want to vent. Listening to that, and trying to wade through those people to get to the calls you can actually use on the air is really wearing and draining on a producer. I really try to remain cognizant of that while I’m doing the show.

Rick: I've heard you talk with obvious affection about Don Vogel. Describe what it was like working with him at WMAQ, and what did you learn from that experience?

Roe: I was so lucky to work with him. My whole career has really been that way, I've had some really good breaks, but the first big break was working with Don. Because he was blind, his ability to listen was second to none. He was shut out of any other stimulus, even smell and taste really, because he smoked so much, so his listening was legendary. He was hyper-focused. He did this bit called Swami Don. He taught me the tricks of listening to the voices, to hear their stress points, to know what they were thinking. And he was also a great mimic—the best I've ever heard. His vocal impressions were dead on, because he heard the little nuances.

Rick: Let's talk about your pre-Garry WLS career for a second. I've always been curious about it. How did you go from being a producer at Channel 2 to doing a talk show on WLS?

Roe: I was working at Channel 2 when WLS changed over to the news/talk format in 1989. They called me the first week they were on--asking me if I would be up for doing a weekend show. I had to clear working there with my bosses at CBS, which I figured wouldn't be a big deal. They actually said no. I guess it was an ABC/CBS issue. I took the radio job anyway, and did both jobs for almost a year before my bosses at Channel 2 found out. It's not like I was trying to hide it. I went on the air with my real name, and even billed myself as TV producer Roe Conn (laughs). I'm not sure what insults me the most about that.

Anyway, when they discovered it, I was called into the big office of the head honcho over there. He had this beautiful office with big plush chairs…exactly the opposite of the crappy surroundings I was working in at the time. He said, "You know son, there's no future in radio. We really need you to stay here in TV and work with Walter (Jacobsen)."

And just for a second, as I looked around, and listened to this guy making the pitch, I actually considered staying. But WLS was offering me $10,000 a year more to be the fill-in/weekend guy and the executive producer of the station. I said "Can you match their offer?" And he said no. So I left.

And once again my timing was just right. I got to WLS just as Rush took off, and the midday host they had, Stacey Taylor, wasn't clicking in Chicago. I didn't have to bide my time long before I got a shot at that midday slot, and I jumped at it. Then they brought in Ed Vrdolyak and Ty Wansley to do afternoons, and the whole station sort of took off. Shortly after that, OJ Simpson had the decency to kill his wife, and I was hired to do an OJ wrap up show for Court TV and ABC Radio. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rick: So how did you and Garry get paired up in the first place?

Roe: After the OJ Trial ended, WABC was looking for a nighttime host, and they offered it to me. It would have been a big transition, but I decided to take the job. This was January of 1996, and I was supposed to start in March.

Just after I said yes, Drew Hayes walked into the studio one day and said that he had run into Garry Meier on the street. Drew knew I wasn't crazy about going to New York, so he said "I've got this crazy idea." He wanted me to do the show with Garry on a trial basis. He said "try it for a week."

I was already filling in on WABC via satellite and getting my head around the move to New York, but this was something I couldn't pass up. I was a HUGE Steve and Garry fan since the very beginning. I even hosted a Disco Demolition night at my school in 1979. It was such a thrill to do the show with him, and from the very first minute, it was great. I loved it. It was everything I ever wanted to do in radio. I knew right away that I wasn't going to be going to New York, so I called the program director there and told him. They hired Sean Hannity instead.

Rick: Really?

Roe: Yeah. I know. It's funny.

Rick: Looking back on it, with a few years of hindsight, how do you view those years with Garry now?

Roe: Great. Absolutely 8 great years of radio. It was a great experience. I learned a lot from him, but I think he learned some things from me too. The last time he got to do a solo show (at the Loop in the mid-90s), his only real prior experience had been with Steve. I think the difference between his show then, and his recent solo show on WCKG, was that he learned something from our experience together, from the talk radio format.

Professionally, as an on-air relationship, working with Garry was clearly a great experience. As a business relationship, as it turns out, it was clearly a bad one. He is a little lost about the way this business operates. I know I've gone over this a million times before, but I really was with him all the way to the very bitter end.

Rick: Were there any other offers at the time?

Roe: Yes, there were. But the offer we had on the table from ABC was clearly the best offer, despite the interest we received from other stations.

Rick: Let's talk about your current show. How do you see the roles of the other members of your show?

Roe: Jim's role has remained consistently the same. He's the wisecrackin' news-guy. And he's an excellent news-guy too. Really solid. Of course, we drag him out of the role quite a bit. At the beginning we were constantly told not to do that, because most news guys would have trouble switching roles, but Jim is one of the best ever at sliding out of his role while still maintaining his news credibility.

Bill is the consummate comedic reactor. He's a very different kind of voice than you hear a lot of other places on the radio dial. Sometimes I'll be driving and listening to a best of bit, and hear his line that I hadn't heard the first time, and just be amazed. He's like a guy with a silencer, and it's very funny stuff…

As for Christina, what can you say? People always ask if she is really like that. Normally in radio you figure that people add about 10% to their real selves to make it more interesting, but those of us in the business know it's even more than that…like say 60%. Christina is different. In some cases we're actually pulling her back. She really is just like she sounds. We went to the Bahamas and people on the flight home said "We thought you were making that up about her." They couldn't believe it was true.

Rick: You've talked to just about every Chicago dignitary. Are there any that have really impressed you or that you really enjoying having on the show?

Roe: I like the guys you don't hear all over the place, but really know how things work. The ideal place to find people like that is in the business community.

Before he entered the public eye with this Olympic bid, Pat Ryan was one of those guys for us. Eddie Vrdolyak has always been one of those guys. Our legal analyst Mike Monico is another one of those guys. He is such a widely respected legal mind…the very top of the legal game. People come to Chicago just to hire him. When the Michael Vick story broke…he literally picked up the phone and talked to Vick's lawyer to get the story for us. He's that connected. When he calls, people listen.

I like hearing the real conversations of the insiders who make the city tick. I love hearing how they really talk to each other. Chicago really is a big small town in that way.

Rick: What about nationally known celebrities?

Roe: I used to listen to Steve & Garry, and they had all those celebrities come into town and hang out with them, but I really think that time in history is gone now. The big celebrities are much more careful, more managed, more cognizant of the information getting out around the world. I haven't really made a personal connection with any of them.

Rick: You've done some television the last few years too, including guest stints on Glenn Beck's show. Do you see your career heading that way?

Roe: Glenn took the short money of television and created the long money of radio. That was his plan and he executed it beautifully (he just signed a $50 million radio contract). I enjoyed being on his TV show, but I couldn't commit to flying back and forth, which is what I needed to do. It was just too much. It impacted negatively on the radio show, and it was killing me, so I decided to move on. Glenn would call me up and say, I need you to fill in for me tomorrow on the radio show, and I would do Glenn's radio show, and his TV show, and my own five hour radio show. It was too much. Since then, I've been concentrating on my radio show. The ramp up to people meters has been a big deal, and WLS has been working on being at the forefront of changing the mechanics of radio. That has been exciting, and I look forward to doing it for a long time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Melissa Forman

Updated 8/29/09


I've interviewed Melissa several times over the last few years, including this interview from two years ago. Just a few weeks ago she was let go by the Lite, which was a pretty surprising move. I got in touch with her the other day, and as you might expect, she isn't at liberty to talk about some things (contractually), so I asked if she had anything to say to her fans (who she wasn't allowed to say farewell to.) She replied...

Melissa: Thanks, Rick! I appreciate all the great support and emails from everyone! It means the world. A new website will be live soon at You can email me there at anytime. I'm really excited about moving forward and will definitely talk to you soon!

The original interview follows...

Melissa Forman does mornings and afternoons on The Lite, WLIT 93.9 FM.

Rick: I feel like I should start a conversation with you after November 1st with "Seasons Greetings." It's the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?

Melissa: (Laughs) Yes it is.

Rick: How is the Christmas format going so far?'

Melissa: To be totally honest with you, people genuinely love the holiday music. They're really passionate about it. If that's what they want, I'm totally cool with it. I'm a little Jewish girl from the suburbs, so it's kind of ironic that I'm playing these songs, but I didn't really know them that well. I really do like them. My favorite part about it, though, is the reaction of the listeners. I hear from these rough-and-tumble guys, like firefighters, and they'll say something like that, "Yo, Melissa, I really need to hear O Holy Night." I love that. It's a nice thing to hear people really connect with those feelings of being a kid.

Rick: Are they giving you profit sharing yet? Mornings AND afternoons? I know you're voice-tracking afternoons, but has anyone ever done both mornings and afternoons in Chicago before?

Melissa: It's so ironic. Here's some great advice: Be very careful how you behave when you exit a place. I'm not only back, I'm back twice. I heard that someone else has done this before, although I'm not sure who it was. My first reaction was-- you know, this kind of makes sense. I think of myself as a carpooler. I drop them off at work and say have a nice day. Then I pick them up after work, and ask them how their day was. In the afternoon, I keep it really casual. It's been a lot of fun. I don't profess to be a music jock or anything, but it's a unique thing to try, and it does give the listeners a familiar voice.

Rick: How's it going—just in terms of your schedule, your work load, etc?

Melissa: Between 8:30—9:30 we run mostly music on the show, so I stay and talk to people, record some calls, and decompress a little bit, and then I'll start getting the afternoon stuff together. We do have a live traffic guy (Dave Hilton) in the afternoon, so if anything really important happens, we're totally covered. So sometimes I lay down the tracks right away and leave by noon, or sometimes I'll sit back and regroup. For the afternoon show, it's more of a music intensive thing right now. We may be doing more interaction as we move forward. The door has been opened for that, but right now, we're taking it slow.

Rick: I thought it was absolutely great that your boss actually publicly apologized to both you and the listeners when he finally pulled the plug on Whoopi. That must have made you feel pretty good. I can't remember ever seeing a radio executive apologize before. I think my mouth literally dropped open when I read it in Robert Feder's column.

Melissa: What you just said is my exact reaction. I opened up my e-mail the day before and saw the rough draft of the press release, and I thought it was totally a prank. Never in my entire career have I ever seen a program director be that honest, that frank, and ever admit, you know, "I totally screwed up." I wrote to Darren and said – "expect a ton of calls from people wanting to work with you." It's unheard of. He was shocked that people responded that way. I was humbled and so glad to be on his team. Wouldn't everybody love that? I learned a lesson about grace and accountability from him that day.

Rick: Tell us a little bit about your show, and the other key members of the team there.

Melissa: Rick Zurick is our news guy (in Cubs shirt in the photo), and I have two producers Tony Lossano (wearing hat in photo) and Jim Gronemann. Jimmy was my original producer when we did mornings last time, and Tony was running Whoopi's board, and became part of the show again when I went back to mornings.

Rick: Tony is the Nude Hippo Guy, right?

Melissa: That's him.

Rick: I love the video of your first day back in the mornings. He's the one sitting next to you in the studio there.

Melissa: As for what we're trying to do with the show, I want the people that listen, especially the women, to think "that's how I want my day at work to be." The reason I say that is because it's rare that you find a woman running things with all these guys around, where you can just tell the guys are perfectly fine with it—they actually like it. They're having fun. It's a subtle thing, I know, but we're really just trying to have a good time. I hope they look at us as fun and funny and sometimes sentimental, and I hope they go to work today and have that kind of respect and camaraderie and fun in their own workplace.

Rick: When I was working with Landecker in the 90s, he told me "Look out for this Melissa Forman. She's going to be a star," and this was years before you came to Chicago. I think you were still working in Champaign at the time, but he could tell that you possessed a special quality. I know this is tough for you to answer, but what do you think is your greatest strength as a radio performer?

Melissa: I don't pretend to be anything other than I am. If they love me, it's great. If they hate me, it sucks. But at the end of the show, I know that I did the best I could, and I said and did what I really believed. Chicagoans appreciate that and relate to that. That's always the biggest compliment I get. People feel like they know me. You mentioned Landecker (photo), and I just have to say that John has been a great mentor to me over the years. He asked me to be part of his morning show at WJMK, and was so gracious when I said no to him. How many people would do that? John understood what I needed to do to have a longtime career. One time at a Morning Show Boot Camp, John was the featured speaker and a woman asked a question about why women don't get paid as much in radio, and he said "Where's Melissa Forman?" I was so embarrassed. He made me stand up and said "Melissa said no to working with John Records Landecker. And do you know why? Because she wasn't going to accept anything less than she really deserved, and she always knew what she really wanted, and that's how you do it." I'm still touched by that.

Rick: You grew up in Chicago. Who were some of the radio personalities you listened to, and how did they influence you?

Melissa: Landecker was one. Johnny B was another. His timing, his honesty, his sense of things. And Patti Haze, I always loved the way she carried herself and presented herself on the air. But to be honest, I wasn't really listening, I mean really listening, until I started to do a radio show myself. When I was in college at U of I in Champaign, there was a show called the John and Maura show. The co-host was Maura Myles, who is in Chicago now too. She was the first great female co-host I heard who wasn't a giggly side-chick, and she had great chemistry with her partner. I wanted her job, I wanted that feeling.

Rick: You're one of the very few radio performers of your generation being given a shot on the air in Chicago. Richard Roeper mentioned this in his column the other day, and I have to agree. There doesn't seem to be a new generation of performers coming up to replace the older generation. Why do think that is?

Melissa: My agent pointed that out to me not too long ago, and I didn’t even realize it. I don't know. That's a good question. I never really thought about it before. I was only 28 when I started in Chicago. Maybe it's just because of technology and how easy it is to bring big name talent into smaller markets, but to be honest I haven't been to a small market lately to listen. Maybe they're out there but we just don't know them here in Chicago.

Rick: Of course, it was big news this week that WCKG unveiled a new A/C format to go after your audience at WLIT. Are you worried about Fresh FM?

Melissa: Anyone who really listens to us knows that we haven't been Grandma's Lite for a long time. It's not the same anymore, so I'm pretty confident in our product. I like the music we play, and the way we present it, and I'm in the demo we're trying to attract, so what can I say? It'll be fun and exciting.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Todd Manley


Todd Manley

When I interviewed Todd in November 2007, he was the creative director at WGN. He has since moved to St. Louis and is the program director of KTRS. I asked him how he is liking his new gig...

Todd: I’m lovin’ the work. The team here is full of energy, and can do it all. You’d dig it, because that’s your background. Sling sound. Host. Book. Package. Kiss babies. I just got our FIX-IT guy booked as the builder on the St. Louis episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition !!

August 18th we re-launched our morning show – I reunited our current star with his former partner and they’re really a great combo platter of jib and jab and have a taste of Bill and Wendy(aka Q101 days). I always loved those two. It will be a re-freshing way to do News-Talk. Also very proud of our web-site – – Our PM drive star has a tremendous blog internal to the site. I sure miss Chicago – but this has been a really rewarding adventure.

Below is the original interview...

Todd Manley is the Creative Director of WGN-Radio (720 AM)


Before Chicago:
"I'm a Saluki. SIU grad in Communications and Fine Arts. Worked as features producer for NPR/WSIU-FM. By my 'second sophomore' year at Southern, I was working full-time doing high school football play-by-play, hosting mornings, nights, producing spots, and sweeping the floors at WCIL-AM & FM. Basically whatever they asked in order to pay my tuition. My theater scholarship got chewed up by Reaganomics. Basically, two ad agencies and seven sets of call letters took me from Carbondale to Champaign to Indianapolis to Chicago. In Indy I had a weekend show and did imaging for a hip hop station. My agency work was mostly as a writer/producer for radio campaigns. The highlight was a series of spots I produced with Lorenzo Music(aka Garfield the Cat/Carlton the Doorman)."

In Chicago:
1989-1990 WYSY-FM -- Production Director
1990-1992 WPNT-FM/The Point -- Morning Traffic Reporter
1992-1994 WPNT-FM/The Point -- Nighttime Jock
1994-1996 WPNT/FM 100 -- Production/Imaging Director
1996-1998 WCKG-FM -- Production/Imaging Director
1998-2000 WGN-AM -- Production/Imaging Director
2000-2004 WGN-AM -- Production Director & Asst. PD
2004-present WGN-AM -- Creative Director

Rick: Anyone who listens to the Cubs on the radio has heard your voice hundreds of times sending everyone back to the "Pat & Ron Show." It's time for full-disclosure. Are you, in fact, a Cubs fan?

Todd: I am absolutely a Cub fan. My grandma worships Ernie Banks, and I still listen to her. Although I am not a southside basher. My best friend in high school was a Sox fan so I actually had been to the Old Comiskey more than Wrigley before I came to WGN. I even crawled under the demolition fence to swipe a white-washed brick from 35th & Shields.

Rick: You're the Creative Director at WGN. What does that mean exactly for the uninitiated?

Todd: The Creative Director role just expands my responsibilities some. In addition to overseeing the commercial production staff, and producing the station imaging -- I work with the PD, marketing director and sales managers on how our products are merchandised and produced in podcasts, specials, streaming, print, and events. The reality of all our gigs -- how do we increase revenue without adding commercial inventory.

Rick: Working at a station like WGN, someone in your position has the opportunity of working with all sorts of shows and all sorts of different personalities. Do you have any favorite stories from your years in the job?

Todd: Is this where I tell you about the fist fight over Henry Kissinger between Milt Rosenberg & John Williams' producer? Or how Wiser has to wipe the cheek of the Elvis on Velvet pic that Spike kisses for good luck every morn on the way to Studio A? There was the look on Mayor Daley's face when I asked him after a Bob Collins interview to come into my studio and say 'GO SOX' a couple times to use for a Cubs ticket giveaway.

Generally, I relish the innocence that climbs inside our jaded biz. Especially, when it comes to Santo. One night during the 2001 season a streaker ran onto the field during a Cubs game in KC. He jumped the wall on the first base side, raced across the infield and slid into second. Ron was in shock. Not that the guy was naked, but that he chose to go head first into what Pat called a 'very painful encounter with the bag.' Ron replied: "I thought I'd seen it all Patrick" Hughes: "You've never really seen it ALL Ronnie".

Rick: You also produced that excellent tribute for WGN's 80th birthday a few years ago. What did you learn about the station that you didn't know before you began the project?

Todd: In terms of what I learned on the WGN Gold 80th anniversary CD project ... the Colonel (photo: Robert R. McCormick) started out truly committed using the radio station as a non-commercial entity. He went to great lengths in the 20s to produce long shows which were historical recreations. He drew clear lines between the public's airwaves and the profit of the press. I also learned that Roy Leonard had an incredible gift for knowing when artists were on the cusp of something great. Reference: an incredibly prophetic interview with the Star Wars cast one week after the first movie was released.

Rick: Before working at WGN, you held the same title at WCKG, and worked with the likes of Stern, Brandmeier and Dahl. How did that experience prepare you for WGN, and how was it completely unlike what you're doing now?

Todd: The difference between 'CKG & 'GN for me is mainly what I knew going in -- the major shows at 'CKG when I left were Stern in the morn, Brandmeier in mid-days, and Dahl in the afternoons. Each of those shows were islands unto themselves. Howard (photo) would not allow sound to be lifted from his show for we were left to snag pulls from "PRIVATE PARTS". Johnny was brilliant at packaging his show from day one, but he was in LA. Stever was the one show of those three originating from the Pru Two. He was as insightful and poignant and funny as I have ever heard him during the time I was there. It was the height of the Lewinsky scandal at the White House and I thought Steve was in the zone.

At 'GN everything was live and local. I needed to thread the soul of the station throughout the day in promo form(but I had complete access to each show in order to do it), and it was/is a challenge that gets me pumped. When push comes to shove I'm a sucker for a great storyteller. I dig using the words of hosts to write copy on a hard drive.

Rick: I know you spent most of your life in Chicago. Now that you've been working in the industry for as long as you have, and with the legendary talent that you've worked with, you've probably met just about everyone. Who were some of your radio heroes growing up, and how did they measure up to what you thought they would be?

Todd: My radio hero is Ken Nordine of Word Jazz fame. People would know him from the COLD STEEL ON ICE commercials for the Blackhawks. I've gotten to meet him, but never worked with him. My use of filtered voice was inspired by him -- he used the concept as an alter ego. The second voice that could call someone's bluff and then note some 'amazing thought' in a self-effacing way. Ken's gifts hit two of my passions, twisted prose and bebop.

Rick: What's the best and worst advice you ever got in the business?

Todd: Advice doesn't usually play well with me. It is so absolute. I like to keep my options open...which means I occasionally fall flat on my face, but the one thing I'm really great at is getting back up again--so that seems to work for me. I do collect adages, though. My favorite is: Do what you love, and the rest will follow.