Friday, December 03, 2010

Ron Santo

Sad, sad news. Ron Santo passed away at the age of 70. Full details are here.

He never got to see the Cubs win the World Series. He never made it into the Hall of Fame. And there haven't been many people in the world that more desperately wanted both. That's the first thing I thought of when I heard he died this morning. I'm sure most Cub fans thought the same thing. That, and it's not going to be the same listening to the Cubs on the radio without him.

I met Ron once about ten years ago and he was very nice to me, but I don't claim to know him at all. I did, however, talk to a few people the past few years that were among his closest friends.


One of them was his broadcast partner Pat Hughes.

We discussed Ron...

Rick: Your chemistry with Ron Santo is really amazing—it’s like yin  and yang. He is pure emotion—and you are the voice of reason. I’m sure  that’s part of the secret to your chemistry, but there’s obviously more  to it than that. It seems like you also have real affection for each  other. Would that be fair to say?

Pat: Yes it would. We have amazing harmony, very few bad vibes.  Forget baseball, he’s just an extraordinary human being. I’ve never met  anyone like him. Beyond baseball, he’s an icon for diabetics everywhere.  What he’s been through! What he’s accomplished! Ron’s an inspiration.

Rick: Have the two of you ever had a fight?

Pat: (laughs) Hell no. Anytime you work together as long as we  have, you have a few minor little disagreements, but nothing bad. Never.

Rick: I used to love when you did the attendance game with him and  you beat him every day. Even for something like that—his emotions were  on his sleeve—he would get so upset. I know that’s what Cub fans love  about him. As much as it hurts us to lose, we can hear in his voice that  it hurts him even more. Do you ever worry that the strain of that is  having a detrimental effect on his health?

Pat:  I used to, but not anymore. The man is 70 years old. He’s had diabetes,  and cancer. He’s lost his bladder and his legs. He’s gone through  everything you can imagine. Why would you worry anymore? He’s like a  superman, a man of steel. Plus, I think it’s better for him to get it  out of his system, than to let it build up inside him.


Todd Manley was the WGN production director for years, and he beautifully captured the spirit of the Pat & Ron broadcasts in his promos...
PAT AND RON PROMO--The Marrying Type
PAT & RON PROMO--I Dream of Jeannie


I also interviewed Andy Masur, his former colleague at WGN, now the play by play man of the San Diego Padres...

Rick: The years you were at WGN were a roller coaster ride for Ron  Santo; from the lows of his health problems and the Hall of Fame snubs,  to the highs of the day his number was retired, and the Cubs 2003  playoff run. Was that time an emotional time for the rest of you in the  booth too?

Andy:  First off, I must say, that Ron Santo is one of my heroes. Not for his  play on the field, but for his work and passion off the field. He was a  great player, no doubt, but he’s an even better person. Ron is one of  the toughest human beings I have ever met. With all the physical  problems he’s encountered over the past 8 or so years, I never once  heard the man utter the words “why me?” Never. That’s a quality few  people have. I think about Ron every day.

As far as 2003 goes, I’m just now finding that I’m able to talk about  the year and how it started and finished. Ron’s Hall of Fame snub in  February of that year was devastating to all of us in the booth. He  really felt that it was his year. It didn’t happen. The Cubs played  remarkable baseball that season, and I’ll never forget after they  clinched the division with the double header sweep of the Pirates, how  many of the players I interviewed in the clubhouse, were saying “this is  for Ron”.

I remember the next day, when Ron’s number was retired, looking at the  sign on the fence behind the bleachers in left field “Ron Santo a  perfect 10” and thinking, this has to make him feel 100 feet tall. It  did. An honor well deserved.

The shame of it all though, was Ron didn’t get to enjoy the playoffs in  the booth. Another health scare kept him out, and all of us in the  booth, from Pat to Matt Boltz, were devastated that Ron wouldn’t be with  us. I’ll never forget Pat’s call at the end of the Braves series, “Ron  Santo this one’s for you!”, I still seriously get choked up just  thinking about it.

So to answer your original question, yes, it was a great year, but a very emotional year for all of us.


A few years ago the Associated Press did a story about Ron, and they interviewed me as part of the piece, to get a fan's perspective. Here's a portion of that article...

People around Santo have gone to him and suggested he "detach himself a little bit," said Bob Brenly, a former broadcast partner who is now an analyst for the team's television broadcasts. "But it's not in him," he said.

Even fans have taken notice.

"When he's not on the broadcast I'm actually worried about his health," said Rick Kaempfer, a lifelong fan who has a website ( devoted to the Cubs.

Santo also has something that fans like Kaempfer value above everything else. Hope. No matter what happens, no matter how many years and how many ways the Cubs fail, Santo does not give up hope.

"I heard him talking about how the Rockies won 21 in a row a few years ago (at one stretch they won 21 of 22 games), hanging his hat on that, saying it could be us," Kaempfer said.

It is Santo's devotion to his team and his optimism that he will see the Cubs win a World Series title that helps explain the attachment that fans like Kaempfer have to Santo.

"It unifies Cub Fans," Kaempfer said.


What kind of a man was he to Cub fans? This story about meeting Ron in the summer of 1963 captures it about as well as any story I've ever heard...


As for me, I remember watching this game from the summer of 1970. The game he hit three home runs. Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd had the call.

That's the way I'm going to remember him.

Rest in Peace, Ron Santo. Cub nation already misses you. To be honest, I'm getting a little choked up just thinking about it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ed Tyll

Ed Tyll was part of the legendary Loop AM 1000 lineup in the early 90s. He is now hosting middays 12-3 (ET) in Orlando at WEUS 810 AM.

Rick: I was telling a friend of mine that I was going to be talking to you today and he sang: “Ed Tyll, you may not like what he says, Ed Tyll. But he’ll say it anyway, Ed Tyll.” Now that song is stuck in my head. You don’t still use that jingle do you?

Ed: (laughing) I’m still using it. I have seventeen other jingles, but that exact version—which is the original-- is still in the rotation, one of out every 18 times that will song play when I come out of a commercial break.

Rick: In Chicago, people remember you from your time at the Loop. I regularly get e-mails from people asking me to track you down. Now that I have, why don’t you tell everybody what you’re up to these days?

Ed: I still do a radio show, and it’s really the same one I’ve been doing since kindergarten. I love to tell the sensational tales of reality and how great and disastrous it is, and then see and hear how people respond to that.

I’m based in New York City, which is my home town, but the station I’m on is in Orlando. In a world of recession and catastrophic destruction in the field that I love, out of nowhere, some guys that used to love my show in Orlando—which is where I went first after Chicago, called up and said: “We own this radio station now, and we want to make it an authentic talk station. You can do the show from your apartment. We’ll have producers and board ops down here in Florida, and it will just be like you’re in another room from them.”

Plus they had these syndication plans with my show and another personality that was big in the market after I left. They said to me: “If I grab the two of you and have you back to back, we can eventually syndicate both of you (both of us have been syndicated in the past). We’re a showcase market here in the tourism capital of America.”

And that sounded pretty good to me—a non-corporately owned father-son operation.

I went on the air in October, and they flew me down there for a few days to do the show there, and make a few appearances, and reacquaint myself with the market and the listeners there. It’s now in it’s sixth week. I’m on every day from noon to three Eastern Time. I haven’t had this much fun since the 90s.

Rick: You’ve always done what I considered to be a fairly serious talk show. That is, you discussed serious topics in a serious way. It may have been controversial, but it was never really wacky. But you’ve obviously got another side to you. Since you left Chicago you’ve become a stand up comedian. How did that come about?

Ed: The comics wanted to know that too. My original idea of big time entertainment in my childhood came from those Bill Cosby albums. You don’t go out of the house in New York in the winter--you stay home, and if you’ve got a few Cosby albums and a few friends to come over and listen to them while you’re mom makes you hot chocolate, that’s what you do.

After you fall in love with a business like I did with broadcasting, and then that business changes as much as it did, you feel like your wife has cheated on you. And I'd run into these stand up comics like Richard Jeni, and they still had total freedom to say what they were thinking. They’d say, well, I’d love to say this on Leno or Letterman and I can’t, but when I’m on stage in a club, I can say whatever I want. I have total freedom. And that really appealed to me. That’s where I found my niche. I was never a Henny Youngman-type of joke teller. I never submitted jokes to comedy services or anything like that. I created this one-man show.

Rick: How would you describe your comedy act?

Ed: It’s called “Sacred Cowburger,” and it’s a sociological shredding to laugh by.

Rick: Can we see any examples of this on YouTube or anything.

Ed: Yes, you can on YouTube, but I must confess that’s not current material, and it’s definitely not the whole show. I’m not big on this Youtube/Facebook lifestyle. I do participate, I suppose, but it’s not like I’m constantly doing Facebook updates. I’m not even sure why I’m on there. Well, let me take that back. I do know why. My girlfriend got me on there.

Rick: Back in the Loop days I would have classified you as a conservative—I remember you being a big Ronald Reagan fan. So I was a little surprised when I was researching your career to see that Reason Magazine called you a “left liberal” talk show host. Have your politics changed over the years, or has the left-right paradigm moved that far to the right in the last twenty years?

Ed: Here’s a confession. I’m still excited about that crazy little girl from Alaska. I was thrilled that she excited all these woman last year at the convention. Now I know she’s crazy, but I do sense that she’s authentic, and the support for her is real. I’m not sure where exactly you’d place me on the left-right paradigm. I suppose conservative would be accurate, but Republican definitely wouldn’t be.

As for Reason Magazine, I don’t know where they came up with that, other than the fact that on any given day they might have tuned in to something that didn’t fit the exact dogma. For instance, I’ll do a tirade on the scandal of America’s homeless, which certainly isn’t the typical conservative topic. I was raised Catholic. That’s part of who I am.

Rick: Do you think the fact that you’re a little difficult to classify is one of the reasons you’ve moved around so much during this political talk radio era?

Ed: That is exactly correct. You have really put your finger on it there. There is a stubborn independence about me that resists easy classification, and we are definitely living in an oversimplified era.

I’m definitely not swept up in the hyper partisanship, and you know why? I don’t think most people are like that. We’re not that easy to classify. Nobody believes, and nobody should believe, every single thing that a political party stands for. That’s ridiculous. My show is more reflective of reality and I resist the caricaturing of people that has been dominating talk radio the last ten years. When people ask me about my brand, I say my brand is four letters—T-Y-L-L.

Rick: I know you’ve always had some pretty strong opinions about freedom of speech and censorship. You’ve probably even lost a job or two along the way for something you’ve said. What do you think about some of the recent stories in the news;  Juan Williams, Keith Olbermann, Rick Sanchez, or even Don Imus?

Ed: It’s very troubling. It’s an awfully dark cloud hanging over our industry. Calling Williams a bigot for what he said? You’ve got to be kidding.

Suspending Keith Olbermann for what? You’ve got to be kidding me. I'll tell you what happened there—somebody in a position of authority wanted to put a thumb on him, to better control what he said, to shut him up. Shameful!

Our founding fathers talked about an unmolested public dialog being a crucial component of our democracy. What would you like us all to be? A soft marshmallow? It’s contrary to Darwin and our greatest moments as a nation. The marketplace of ideas needs to be unrestrained.

Rick: Since this is called Chicago Radio Spotlight, I do need to ask you about your time here in Chicago. You were part of that incredible AM Loop lineup in the 90s, doing nights, and overnights. Do you have any favorite memories of your Chicago days?

Ed: Oh God, I do. Working at the Loop was like working on radio's Mt. Rushmore. I even got to interact with Johnny B, because I stayed late after my show working on stuff, and so I was still there when the caravan would arrive. Johnny B introduced me to Gary Busey once. After my first show on the air at the Loop, Steve and Garry crank-called me out of bed the following morning—they got a big kick out of that. I was in the station during the day for meetings and what have you, and would run into Kevin Matthews. He and Shemp and Jim Shorts, that show was just magical.

These are the flashbacks, and positive ones too. What about Chet Coppock! (Photo) Chet’s intro to my show used to be three minutes long. It was a riot. He would wind up this huge buildup by calling me BIG ED TYLL, and in would walk in this 5’6, 115 pound guy.

Working on the Loop was like being on tour with all famous guys, all the time. I do remember one night when all of us got together for an event on the same night, and it was awesome. They did a poster for Budweiser with all of us, and we came out on stage at the same time. That was something.

Rick: When you were doing overnights on the AM, I had my fair share of overnight shifts on the FM, and heard quite a few of your shows. I remember being amazed that you would just sort of crack the microphone, and pontificate without notes for like 45 minutes. I’m guessing you did your fair share of preparation before you came into the station, but how in the world did you manage to do that?

Ed: (laughs)  Yeah, I still do that. I still don’t use notes. Whenever I do the stand up show and I have the right audience, and they’ve let me run over, I’ve been known to do as much as  two hours and 45 minutes with a live audience. The best radio comes without notes, channeling what is going on in your head, and from your heart--just spilling it on the air.

Rick: Do I remember also, and forgive me if my memory is hazy here, but didn’t you also briefly work at another station in Chicago?

Ed: At the end, after the Loop gig ended, in the summer of 1993, I was surveying what was next, and I had become close to Scott Loftus, and he said I could come on his station, and so I did. I got in like four or five months there. That was fun too. It was out in the suburbs somewhere.

Rick: You’ve worked everywhere now. Probably more places than anyone else I’ve ever interviewed. I think you have a pretty unique perspective on Chicago. What are the pros and cons of working in this city?

Ed: The cons are minimal because I’m biased to big sprawling cities. I love clean, and Chicago is clean. I love polite, and Chicago is polite. I love well read, and Chicago is well read. I love people that are protective of their identity and culture, I’m very pro-provincial, and I love that about Chicago. I still get excited every time I see the city on TV-- the Water Tower, the Wrigley building, the Hancock (Hey I worked there!), the Drake. I lived on Wabash.

Best of all, Chicago has small town values in a big city. I hope to come out there shortly after the new year with the comedy show, and don’t be surprised if I pop up on an affiliate there in the near future too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is the afternoon news anchor on WLS Radio's Roe Conn show. He has been with the radio station in one role or another since 1968.

Rick: If you don't mind, I'd like start at the very beginning of your WLS career. You started in 1968, which couldn't have been a more exciting news year in Chicago. What was it like reporting the news during that tumultuous era?

Jim: 1968 was a life changing year for me. Not only had I just started as a newswriter-editor at WLS...but some of the biggest stories of my career happened soon after I arrived. Martin Luther King was assassinated (followed by the west side riots in Chicago.) Bobby Kennedy was shot. The Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago and the anti-war protests and riots broke out.

Although I was a rookie reporter, the new news director at WLS, Bob Benson, decided I should become a street reporter and cover these events. Little did I know that these stories in my first year were some of the biggest stories ever. I was only 23. In addition to filing reports for WLS, the ABC network began using my reports on a regular basis. I was used as a fill in network anchor on ABC network newscasts. I covered the clash between anti war protesters and the police at the corner of Balbo and Michigan. It was pretty "heady" stuff for someone my age.

Rick: WLS was a music station then with a news room much bigger than the newsroom you have now in this news/talk format. Describe the size and scope of that newsroom and how the labor was divided amongst you.

Jim: Yes the newsroom grew to a point where we had up to 17 people including reporters, news anchors, and editors. (Photo: WLS Newsroom, 1979, L-R, News Director Bud Miller, Catherine Johns, Jeff Hendricks, Jim Johnson, writer Ira Johnson, Linda Marshall, Harley Carnes, Karen Hand, producer Lon Dyson....and Bob Conway in the clock.)

I was a newswriter and editor who doubled as an on air reporter (belonging to two unions for awhile). I later became a full-time on air reporter and anchor covering city hall and breaking news and also filling in for various news anchors on vacation. I was also the “assignment editor" for awhile. I did not like being a so-called boss and eventually got rid of that chore.

In the late 1970s I also worked as a weekend on air reporter for WLS TV. The late Sixties and Seventies were like a scene from the TV show Mad Men....three martini lunches with the sales department and the older city hall reporters were quite common. And the Women's Lib movement had barely begun back then. There were more than a couple scandals involving on air people and young women who worked as assistants and secretaries. (My lips are sealed)

Rick: Throughout the 1970s, you worked with some of the biggest stars in Chicago radio history. Who were some of your favorites during that time?

Jim: Well, of course, Larry Lujack, John Landecker, Fred Winston, and Bob Sirott jump to mind.

Rick: You were a big part of the Steve & Garry show in the 80s, and that was probably one of the most stressful and dramatic times of your time at WLS. The struggle between management and talent was very real. You were probably caught in the middle of it. What was it like from your perspective at that time?

Jim: These were wild times. I was a big listener and fan of Steve and Garry and was happy to fill in for Maggie Brock (their news-person at the time) when she was on vacation, or filling in for Catherine Johns on the am side. At first Steve was not thrilled with my being thrust into their show, but as time when on we got along fine and I eventually became their full time news guy. It was a blast!

I was at ring side for some of the most interesting clashes between on air talent and management in history. Steve and Garry were eventually forced to move to the AM side of WLS which they at first resisted. As it turns out, they had huge ratings on AM and even Steve admitted that "huge transmitter" put him into a lot of homes throughout the Midwest. After a year though, their contract was up and WLS lost them to the Loop ...and I stayed at WLS.

Rick: In 1989 when I was producing Steve & Garry's show at the Loop, they were celebrating their tenth anniversary together. One of the things I did was contact people that used to work with them, and have them call in as a surprise, and you were one of the people that called in. I remember that so vividly because you were actually on-the-air at WLS during that same time slot, and just walked into another room to call the competition. Do you remember that, and did you ever get in trouble for it?

Jim: Of course I remember that...I thought it was fun to call in ... I even remember what I said when you put me through (without telling them who it was). I said "Hey guys let's roll out the Canarble wagon."

Actually as I recall, the bosses didn't mind. Drew Hayes was our program director and is back now. He had a flair for the dramatic and knew it was all good publicity. I'm having a blast with Drew back at the station. Drew and Michael Damsky (our general manager) have brought a breath of fresh air to the station…and made some changes for the better. WLS is thriving again.

Rick: During the Roe and Garry years, you worked with Garry for the second time. There was obviously a comfort level there between you two, and that show had a great run, but when it blew up it must have been extremely awkward and difficult for you. What was going through your mind during that era?

Jim: Everyone involved probably has their own version of what happened. When Drew Hayes (in a brilliant move) brought Garry back to WLS to join Roe as a co-host I thought it was a pairing made in heaven. On the first day Garry started joking about the Canarble wagon and we were off and running. (Photo: Garry, Roe, Jim, and the Canarble Wagon)

Roe and Garry clicked from the beginning and once again I came along for a great ride. Then a few years later when Garry turned down a huge final contract offer from WLS, I was shocked and sad...but life goes on.

Rick: There have obviously been quite a few changes on the show since that time, but the one constant other than Roe himself, has been you. He obviously thinks very highly of you. How would you describe your relationship with Roe?

Jim: Its as good as it gets. Roe (photo) and I have worked closely together for more than 20 years. In addition, we are close friends, and have shared countless professional and personal family moments. Sometimes during the show I swear we can read each others minds! If I get off track ..he lets me know with a glance. I honestly cannot remember ever having a serious disagreement. I’m free to chime in when I want, but most of the time I try to stay out of the way and let Roe and Roeper do their thing. One thing we all agree on is that nothing (and I mean nothing!) said on the show is taken personally.

Rick: What are some of your favorite moments from the Roe show years?

Jim: Oh my god…you’re asking me to remember highlights from what has been a feast of fascinating guests, current events and wacky topics? Not possible. We have had a front-row seat to history and all the compelling events in the past 20 years…including the 9-11 attacks. News-makers, politicians, top show business personalities and gangsters have been in the WLS studios with us. I think some were either drunk or on drugs.

The dozens of “live shows” we have done outside the studio in various locations around the world have been and continue to be a blast. If I ever write a “tell all” book I will have to go into a witness protection program .

Rick: How do you think the latest lineup of the show, with Richard Roeper, is gelling?

Jim: This was another great move by our bosses Michael Damsky and Drew Hayes! (Photo) Can I suck up any more than I have already? He has fit in beautifully. He brings a lot to the table with his own huge resume (columnist, radio and TV host, and author to name a few things). I have listened to a lot of radio and TV in my lifetime and I have never seen anyone fit in to a new show more smoothly and naturally. Simply put, “he gets it!"

Rick: The news business is really in the Johnson blood, isn't it? Your dad was a newsman, you're a newsman, and your daughter is a television news reporter too. What is it about this business and your family?

Jim: No doubt about it I was blessed to be raised in a family with a great Mom and Dad, although their marriage was a constant storm due to my Dad’s drinking and occasional womanizing. Despite their stormy marriage I always knew I had their unconditional love.

My father. He was a brilliant writer and newsman who also loved the outdoors. He started in Chicago at the City News bureau, which was supported by the newspapers in the early days. He eventually went to the Sun Times as a city hall reporter and outdoor sports columnist (odd combination but he loved both).

He quit his good job at the paper and dragged his family up to the North Woods where he and my mother built and operated a hunting and fishing lodge for many years. The politicians, judges, policemen, and firefighters that he covered vacationed there. (Including the original Mayor Daley and his young sons including one who also became mayor). John Callaway the wonderful reporter and TV host here in Chicago was friends with my father and also came up to fish and relax. I felt like I was living in an Earnest Hemmingway novel and loved almost every minute of it.

I assume my daughter Alexis and I inherited my Dad’s journalism blood and my daughter also got my wife’s looks and common sense.

Rick: As someone that has been around the news business literally his entire life, what are your thoughts about the future of news?

Jim: Actually in the past couple of years the business has changed dramatically. Of all the things I’ve witnesses in the business, the explosion of information on-line and the all-news channels have really changed things. Twitter and Facebook are not only social networks, people use them to break news! They didn’t even exist until recently. How did that happen?

I actually like the changes…there’s more out there than ever before. As I tell broadcasting interns, ”Life is change…either get with it our get out of the way.”

Rick: What else do you tell them?

Jim: Try not to let a bad boss drive you out of a job you really like. He who speaks first in a meeting usually loses. Be patient and you will get most of what you want. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, and up is better!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Brian "Whip" Paruch

Brian Paruch is the morning news anchor on the Eric and Kathy show on WTMX. Since he started in Chicago radio he's been also been known as "Whipping Boy" or "Whip" (which is what Eric and Kathy call him on the air).

Rick: First of all, congrats on the new gig. You must be pretty excited stepping into a ratings powerhouse like this.

Whip: When I started part-time at the Mix in '06, it did cross my mind that this was a job for which I'd be a good fit, especially once I started filling in (either for traffic or news) occasionally. But I thought Barry Keefe would be here forever, so I didn't really allow myself to think about how great it would be to join the show; then when Barry left and Mark joined right away, I REALLY didn't think it would ever be in the cards. So when they approached me with it, I was extremely excited and surprised.

Rick: I know you filled in for Mark Suppelsa when he was on vacation, so you already had a relationship with the morning show gang, but it's never exactly the same thing as doing it full time. How has it gone, and how are you adjusting to returning to the grueling morning show schedule?

Whip: It's gone fine so far, as far as I can tell. I'm having a great time, and they haven't kicked me out or told me to change anything, and those, I think, have to be good signs. The schedule of waking up that early is bringing back some memories...but it's not as though it's a strange concept to me, so it's not too bad. Plus, when I was working here and at the Score, there would be a lot of days when I would pull double this is very much a bright side, and could even be considered easy, compared to that.

Rick: You've obviously done the news before, but you're following in the footsteps of some pretty heavy hitters there; Mark Suppelsa is obviously a household name in Chicago after his many years anchoring television newscasts, and Barry Keefe before him was the morning newsman for thirty years. How is your approach similar or different than those two guys?

Whip: I think I'm different than both of those guys, in that my credibility is about a three on a scale of one to ten, whereas they'd both be considered tens. I really just try to write the news the way I speak, and try to think in terms of what our listeners would care about when I select stories. When there's an obvious lead story, like the elections, for example, I'll do that; but on other days, I'm not afraid to lead with, say, Charlie Sheen....while giving the "important" stuff its due, too.

Rick: I really enjoyed listening to you when you were doing sports talk on the Score--I could tell that you had a real passion for and knowledge of the subject matter. You've been doing sports since your days at WPGU at the University of Illinois (yup, another plug for the ol' Alma Mater). Was that difficult for you to give up? And what will you miss the most about doing sports talk?

Whip: It was a little difficult to give up sports, because I'd always wanted to do it before I did it. And it most certainly was fun, most of the time. The only thing I didn't like about sports talk was that sometimes there was some flat-out meanness and/or craziness from listeners, and while I know intellectually that thick skin is a must in this business, sometimes some of the Score callers would actually get to me to the point that I would be driving home, having like a pretend argument with Jim from Evergreen Park in my mind. I know that's not good. I will miss, though, the ability to sit there and talk about the Cubs and/or White Sox for hours straight, especially when things are going well.

Rick: I've known people throughout the years that get stuck with a nickname early in their careers. Some embrace it, some grow to loathe it. You've been known as "The Whipping Boy" or "Whip" since shortly after you started in Chicago radio. How do you feel about it now all these years later?

Whip: I have always thought that the "Whipping Boy" thing was a very distinctive identifier, something that really stuck in people's minds. In other words, a positive.

Rick: Where did you get that nickname?

Whip: Bill Gamble (photo) actually gave me "Whipping Boy," which, from what I understand, was a name that a couple of other guys on alternative stations in different cities at that time (1994) had. I think Heidi Hess was the first person to shorten that to "Whip," then Wendy and Bill changed it to Brian the Whipping Boy, because Bill Leff refused to call me by the wacky radio name.

Rick: Wendy and Bill actually did a show that was similar to Eric and Kathy's show. Has that experience helped you make the transition to this new job?

Whip: I also did news on that show, so in that way it was similar...but it was also different in lots of ways, namely: they had been on the Loop previously, and I had already been on Q101 for awhile, so I think my presence was meant to sort of give Q listeners a familiar presence on this new show on their station. Here, I'm joining an already-established group and trying not to get in the way or harm it. But certainly that experience helped me know when to jump in, when to hold back, etc., all those things that are essential with several voices on the air.

Rick: You're also one of the many Chicago radio graduates of the Mancow show. I've heard the pros and cons about that whole Mancow experience from some of my previous interview subjects (including Mancow himself--who, not surprisingly--gave me mostly the pros). How do you look back on that experience now with the benefit of hindsight?

Whip: Mancow (photo) was a lot of fun a lot of times...but was also very stressful, because you sometimes didn't know from day to day what might pop up out of literally nowhere to cause a problem, or a headache, or an explosion. It also taught me unequivocally to be able to adjust on the fly, and to try not to derail where a host was trying to go. Also, I was kind of the voice-of-reason guy on that show, so I was able to develop some devil's-advocate sorts of skills there. But mostly it was just weird and surreal, and sometimes looking back, I can't believe that it actually happened, or that we actually talked about some of the things we talked about, or that people in the studio actually did the things they did (which, mostly, I just watched in amazement instead of participating).

Rick: I think one of the things I respect the most about your career is that you've really done it all. You've been a music jock, a newsman, a sidekick, a producer, a talk show host, and probably fixed a copy machine or two. Of all those gigs, what's the most satisfying, and which one is the most difficult?

Whip: I think a talk-show host is both the most satisfying and most difficult. It can be tough to come up with compelling topics, especially when you're literally in a studio by yourself, except for a producer and a phone. It takes a special kind of person, and some would say, one who has the qualities of a self-absorbed blowhard, to do that really well consistently. But there are few things more satisfying than presiding over a thoughtful, quality discussion...even if it's only about something as irrelevant as whether or not Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams will ever be able to patch things up.

Rick: You're a local guy--a native Chicagoan--which means you also have a healthy knowledge of Chicago radio history. Who were the guys (or gals) that you listened to when you were growing up, and who has influenced your on-air style the most?

Whip: I go back to being very, very little, and loving Larry Lujack (photo) and Tommy Edwards on WLS: I've since met Tommy, and he's a great guy. Actually, anyone from that WLS era: Bob Sirott, Landecker, etc. And Brant Miller, for some reason, growing up. He came across as very real-sounding to me. I used to call him on WLS and, later, Z-95. I also really enjoyed the Barsky Morning Zoo (in high school) and later I liked Brandmeier, and Bobby Skafish and Bob Stroud when they were on the Loop (I also have worked with Skafish, and he's also a great guy). I also really liked certain sports broadcasters, but not necessarily sports talkers: John Rooney and Wayne Hagin were a great Sox radio team, I thought, and Thom Brennaman was fantastic with the Cubs (and is now fantastic nationally, of course).

Rick: And finally, tell us something we don't know about Eric and Kathy.

Whip: Eric and Kathy actually have no idea that my birth name is not "Whip." Please do not tell them, as I feel that we have a good thing going here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mitch Michaels update

I'm in Washington this week on a writing assignment, but I do have this Chicago Radio Spotlight update for you. I've previously interviewed Mitch Michaels, but his situation has changed recently with his involvement in a few internet ventures...

Mitch: Rick had ask me to update my activities of late so here goes....I've moved from C Block to D block. The guards are much nicer over here...just kidding, but I guess it's a good thing they can't put you behind bars for things you've thought about doing (can they?) or I'd have heard the loud clank of the cell door slamming and the sound of the key being thrown away, long ago! For most of this year, of 2010, I've been the voice/host of an unique internet channel called Classic Rock Chicago. It's one of several channels available on

This all falls under the umbrella. Stay with me, I'm gonna name names. AccuRadio has over 400 channels and is a Kurt Hanson endeavor. Kurt a fellow I've know for way too many years; very bright and very forward thinking. Kurt has a vision, but you'll have to talk to him about that! There are a variety of musical treats and formats on "our" website with great Chicago personalities to match like Tommy Edwards, Doug Dalhgren, Fred Winston, Clark Weber, Danae Alexander, Connie Szerszen and many more. John Gehron, the man who ran WLS for years, and is radio wizard, is also very involved. It's a very fun and exiting project and we hope people will tune in and enjoy!

In just the past few weeks I have launched a new website called Yeah Baby Tunes ( It features my take on particular tunes with a little twist of personal outlook. We're just trying to have some fun and put out some interesting outlooks on the music "we" all love and grew up with. You can find us on FaceBook and follow us on Twitter. My master web spinner/executive producer/chef Karen Greenstein has done a masterful job on the site (all the way from New Mexico...she's good) and I hope folks will go check it out and enjoy. It's a work in progress and we continue to add new content daily. Yeah Baby Tunes has already been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to much more fun, as we grow! Yeah Baby.....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eddie Webb

Eddie Webb is the host of the nationally syndicated VH1 Classic Rock Nights, but is known to Chicago listeners for his two stints with WLUP-FM (97.9).

Rick: How are you liking it in New York?

Eddie: I miss Chicago, I tell you that. As somebody that has moved around a lot, there are some places you absolutely love, and for me, Chicago was one of those places. And there are some that are not as great. New York would be great if I was 22 years old, or making 22 million dollars.

Rick: Tell me about your VH1 Classic “Rock Nights” show. Sadly, it’s not airing here in Chicago.

Eddie: No, that’s true, it’s not on in Chicago yet, but it is nationwide. We’re certainly not reinventing the wheel, but I’m having a great time. It’s not a talk show. It’s just great classic rock played by a guy that really knows and loves the music. And because of the VH1 brand, and the fact that we’re in New York, we also have some great guests on the show. Robbie Krieger from the Doors is coming on tonight (we spoke on Thursday).

Rick: Can your Chicago fans listen on-line?

Eddie: The website is, and once you pull up that page you can go to one of the affiliates that stream the show. We have 30 stations now and we should be up to 40 by the end of the year.

Rick: How did this all come about?

Eddie: When I was at the Loop, somebody I knew reached out and said there was a big hush hush opportunity to do a national show on the horizon, but they couldn’t give me any details yet. And even though I love Chicago and the Loop, I figured I owed it to myself to investigate. It never hurts to listen. Well, I finally got some details, and it sounded intriguing. They had done a radio show for CMT. They hired this guy from Salt Lake and put him on the air and syndicated it, and discovered that the television ratings were waaay up in every market the radio show aired. So, they said: “We’d like to do a classic rock show to support VH1 Classic, and we’d like you to be the host.” They said they wanted to launch in May, and the timing worked—and it really sounded like a great opportunity—so I agreed. I moved to New York in April.

Rick: You mentioned your time at The Loop, which is where you were right before this job opportunity—and it was your second go-round there. I’m guessing this second time was a little more stressful than the first. For one thing, you were doing two jobs for awhile there. Then there was the whole financial turmoil within the company, and the programming started coming from St. Louis. Did any of that figure into your decision making process.

Eddie: Absolutely. It definitely figured in. I really don’t like to drag people through the mud, but when they started programming the Loop out of St. Louis, and consolidating jobs, and cutting back, that wasn’t a good time. Chicago is not some small market in Iowa somewhere. Chicago deserves 24-hour live disc jockeys. Chicago radio stations deserve their own programmers. These people out of St. Louis meddled and left, and we had to try to explain to our listeners why the musical accountants didn’t think we should playing this band or that band, when we knew darn well the listeners were right. Music is obviously all subjective. There are people that like Rush or Pink Floyd or whatever, but I’ve always believed that people voted with their wallets. If they’re buying it, they’d definitely want to hear it on the radio.

On top of that, the station wasn’t making any money; they were having serious financial problems. I’ll be honest with you, it was depressing to see the station become a shell of it’s former self. I was really proud to be at the Loop, I loved that station so much, that if this offer had come a few years earlier, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. By the time it did come, it was a no-brainer.

Rick: What are some of your favorite memories from your Loop days?

Eddie: Oh man, there’s a lot of them. Obviously working with a legend like Jonathon Brandmeier—what an honor that was. Doing the Loop Rock Girl...

Rick: Be careful how you say that.

Eddie: (laughs) Right. Doing the Loop Rock girl promotion. (photo) That was a ton of fun. But you know, this is going to sound corny, but my favorite memories are the times I went out to these concert events, where we were broadcasting live, and just meeting the Loop listeners. These great Loop fans treated me like I was one of their buddies—they didn’t ask for autographs, they talked to me like they knew me. They just wanted to have a beer with me and talk about rock and roll. You know, real people. I loved that. These guys really are just like me. I know this format. I live the format. This is who I really am. That’s why I could never do some of those other formats, like a Mix format or one of these AC formats.

Rick: I run into Byrd at a lot of the concerts I go to, and he’s the same way.

Eddie: Absolutely. Byrd (photo) totally is. He lives the format too. It’s a bummer that the decisions are being made now by guys that aren’t really in the audience, and don’t really understand them.

Rick: One of the things that no one ever questioned about you was your rock and roll authenticity. It just takes one second of looking at you to notice that. But not everyone realizes that you actually worked with some of the biggest bands. Talk about that time.

Eddie: I was living in Phoenix and a buddy was a tour manager for Skid Row and asked me to come out to the show—and when I came out, he asked me if I wanted to stay with the tour. I said “You mean right now?” He said yeah, and I said “What the hell?” I did that for a couple of months. When I got home, a buddy of mine had moved to LA and he was working with Madonna at the time, and said you gotta come out to LA, man. So I did, and one of my friends was working for Guns and Roses, and he heard that the guys Duff (photo) had hired were ripping him off, and taking advantage of him. So, I went over there to clean out the place. I went from feeding his dogs, to before I knew it, making appointments with contractors, and occasionally going on the road with them. I was sort of like part assistant/part security—not that I’m a badass or anything.

Rick: You must have seen some things.

Eddie: (laughs) I’ll take a few of those stories to the grave. It was the usual rock and roll stuff.

Rick: What about Ozzy? You worked with him too, didn’t you?

Eddie: That was a few years later. I got an e-mail from a buddy, asking if I’d like to do this MVP program for Ozzie. This would have been 2004, and I did that three and half years and toured the country with the band in a bus, and ran this VIP program. In select cities, Sharon Osbourne also did a platinum project. We’d bring in these ten people, and we’d take care of them, and make them feel special. I’m a small town Iowa boy, born and raised—a town of 8000, and if you told me when I was a kid, that I would end up working for Ozzy, I never would have believed it. It was a great time. After that, I got back into radio in Vegas, and then back to Chicago.

Rick: You’ve been in the rock and roll business now for a long time, and met just about everyone. Who are some of your favorites and least favorites, just as people to talk to?

Eddie: Most of them are great guys. I just recently interviewed Jason Bohnam. He was awesome. Kevin Cronin. Awesome. Skid Row was cool. Believe it or not, Donny Osmond was one of my all-time favs. He gets it, he understands who he is, and he goes with it. He was just a fun interview and a great guy. Of course, Duff and Slash are two of my all time favorites.

Rick: I met Slash once, and was really surprised that he’s such a gentle dude.

Eddie: No doubt. But compared to Duff, Slash is a dick (laughs). That’s how nice Duff is.

Rick: What about guys that you were excited to meet? Any rock and roll heroes?

Eddie: I got a chance to meet Robert Plant once, and while they were laying out all these ground rules, I almost bumped right into him. He looked at me and said: “Who do I have to fuck around here to get a cup of tea?” I said, “Dude, I hope it’s not me.”

Rick: What about least favorite?

Eddie: There are two guys I talk about on the radio—my listeners know how I feel about them. Chris Robinson (photo) was the biggest dick ever. Every time in the last ten or eleven years that I’ve played the Black Crowes, every time, I play a tape of this caller saying “That guy is a dick”

I will not interview him again or go anywhere near him.

Rick: What did he do?

Eddie: He is just one of those guys that is too cool for the room. I said, “You guys are like the ultimate garage band,” which I intended as a compliment, because I really do like their music. He said: ‘We ain’t no fuckin’ garage band!” Real pleasant.

The first time around at the Loop, I was down in Atlanta for the “By Your Side” album release show, live on the radio on the SFX network. I was the host of the show. There were people from radio stations all over the country, and we were squeezed into this little rehearsal studio in Atlanta. I was crushed against the stage, and had my notes on a music stand.

I don’t know if you’ve done a show like this before, but we were on about 200 stations—this was a live network show, and we had planned out the show very meticulously with the SFX people—I wasn’t exactly ad-libbing up there. One of the questions someone asked compared Robinson’s raspy sound to Rod Stewart, which to me, again, is totally a compliment. He said “I’m going to go down there and kick you in the teeth.”

Rick: Whoa.

Eddie: The other guy I couldn’t stand was Stephen Pearcy from Ratt—but he’s a combination of dick and stupid. So I’ll cut him a little slack. But those are really the only two bad experiences.

Rick: What about rock and roll radio? Do you have any radio heroes?

Eddie: You bet. John Records Landecker (photo). I will say this to anyone that will listen; he is the guy that inspired me to go into radio. I don’t know whether to thank him or blame him for that. I still remember this like it was yesterday. It was in January, and I was like 15 years old, living in Iowa, and WGN-TV aired this special show following John around the studio, asking him questions about the job—why he did it—what he loved about it. I was watching him in the WLS studio, doing his bit, doing his thing, and I was just MEZMERIZED. (Here’s a portion of that show)

My father owned a hardware store, and that summer his store was doing a promotion with a local radio station, and he asked me if I wanted to come to the station with him, and I did—and I see this guy talking into that same nerf ball microphone, and I thought –man this is great, this is what I want to do. And they said they needed help on the weekend, and would I be interested? Are you kidding me?

It was a beautiful music station, and I would change these tapes, and then I got to read the weather. I thought I was big time—I had visions of grandeur.

Since those days I’ve tried to listen to whatever Landecker stuff I could get my hands on; tapes, MP3s, you name it. He was tremendous. I mean he would become a part of that music—whatever he did made the music even better. I know he did a good morning show and a talk show, but for my money, if I had a radio station, I’d put him on at night, and say, here’s a million dollars play whatever, and do whatever you want. He was the greatest disc jockey ever.

I ended up having lunch with John a few years ago, and I was really nervous, more nervous than I was meeting any of the rock stars I’ve met. Meeting him was like meeting Wolfman Jack.

Rick: It seems like you’ve seen it and done it all in the business. Are there any unfulfilled career goals?

Eddie: I just want to be on a farm in the middle of nowhere and not see anyone—especially PDs. Just kidding. In all seriousness, I’m really very happy where I am now, and I’d love to grow with this show—get it on 100 or 150 stations across America. And maybe somewhere out there, another 15-year-old kid will be listening, and be inspired to do this too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ben Finfer

Ben Finfer is the technical producer of the Danny Mac Show on the Score, WSCR-AM 670. He recently joined the show after leaving ESPN AM 1000.

Rick: I know Dan McNeil has always been a big supporter of your work. When I interviewed him at ESPN six years ago, he referred to you as the unsung hero of the show (Mac, Jurko & Harry). Is he the one that lured you to join him on the Score?

Ben: First of all it was nice of Mac to say that six years ago. (Photo: Ben at work at ESPN/6 years ago.) But I think a baboon could have produced that show and it still would have been good. Although I'm not sure a baboon would have been able to stand the smell. Anyway, Mac was obviously a big part of my move. As was Mitch Rosen, our program director. But it wasn't just them. I was ready for a change of scenery after almost nine years at ESPN. Luckily I had an opportunity to make the move because I had fooled Mac into thinking I was good at my job. But I might have left even if the Score didn't come calling. In fact before they called I had checked job postings and there was a weekend host position available in Billings, Montana. I'm always looking for ways to show off my knowledge of the Northern Pacific Hockey League. For instance, did you know there is a Northern Pacific Hockey League?

Rick: How has the reunion gone?

Ben: It's gone well I think. It's not like Mac (photo) and I hadn't talked since he left ESPN. It also helped that there was already an established show in place with quality producers. Jay Zawaski and Nick Shepkowski make up the best crew I've worked with and all I had to do was not screw anything up. In fact, everyone at the Score has made it easy for me. I felt pretty useless early on as I adjusted. There was a ton of stuff I needed to learn that I took for granted at ESPN. I didn't even know where the vending machine was. By the way, in case you're wondering the vending machines at the Score are way better than ESPN's.

Rick: You bring a lot to the table as a producer. I see you in the tradition of the great personality show technical producers like John Swanson (Eric & Kathy) and Vince Argento (Landecker & Brandmeier). You're not just a blade man, you take it to the next level; voicing, singing, conceptualizing audio packages and themes. Will you be performing similar duties at the Score?

Ben: Thanks for the compliment. It's flattering to be put in the same category as those guys. In fact I've had Swanson in a few of my personality show technical producer fantasy leagues. Yeah, my duties at the Score are pretty much the same as they were at ESPN. And while I'd love to take sole credit for "taking it to the next level", a lot of my work is a result of collaboration among show members. I often rely on co-workers to help me with an idea. Then subsequently use Inception to make them think it was my idea in the first place. That's how we do it in radio.

Rick: I don't think people appreciate the amount of work that goes into putting a show together behind the scenes. Take me through a typical work day, and explain how the various different people on the show divide the labor.

Ben: A typical work day starts with me waking up at about 4:30 a.m. and hating my life. That lasts until about 5:30. Once I get into the studios I begin production on the day's library of audio. That includes a show open, game highlights, player and coach sound bytes, etc. Both hosts give a lot of suggestions about what they'd like to hear. We get emails full of weird stuff they heard on t.v. or ridiculous comments made by Lovie Smith or whatever. Zawaski is busier than I am. He's the executive producer and books all the guests for the show, plus helps with audio production. He mostly has to lock down guests the day prior because what sane person is awake that early in the morning otherwise? Shepkowski does a lot of editing and production as well. Plus he's our show researcher. If you hear Mac doing a list of the Atlanta Falcons who have made a Pro Bowl, it's because Shep looked it up. He could probably find Jimmy Hoffa's body using Google.

At around 7:30 Spiegs and Mac roll in. We do a show meeting to plan out the day's hilarity and high quality sports conversation. These meetings usually include the all-important task of sending our intern out for coffee. Once the show starts things actually slow down a bit. Mac and Spiegel work their magic, Zawaski screens callers and guides the show, I run the board, and Shep is our runner to catch anything that falls through the cracks. Somehow we make it through four hours. We wrap around 1:15, followed by a post show meeting to talk about how great we were. And then by 2:00 I'm back to hating my life.

Rick: It must have been a little difficult leaving ESPN after all this time. You still obviously have a lot of friends there. How did they take it when you told them you were leaving?

Ben: I actually haven't told them yet. They think I'm just on a long vacation. The people there were the only difficult part of leaving. But I'll maintain friendships with a lot of them no matter where I work. And everyone seemed genuinely happy for me. Believe it or not it was something I worried about. Harry Teinowitz (photo) is one of my favorite people in the business and a friend outside of it. So I was glad that he was supportive. The same with Carmen, Jurko and Danny Zederman, who I produced the show with. I received a lot of congratulatory calls and emails from people there. The generosity coming from ESPN was really nice. And that included my former bosses...John Cravens, Justin Craig and Adam Delevitt. Some real good people work at that place. By the way I also got a text from Brett Favre, let's just say he appeared to be very excited for me.

Rick: What are some of your favorite memories from your years at ESPN?

Ben: Winning the Golden Tee tournament was a personal high for me. People are still talking about my hook shot around the mountain on the 14th hole at Alpine Run. After that my favorite memories are of just hanging out in the office and laughing. There's real good camaraderie there. I mean if you put that many guys together for an extended period a lot of FCC-unfriendly stuff is seen, heard and forwarded. It's the kind of stuff that would have made us all executives with the Tribune Company. Kidding of course. It wasn't close to being that bad.

Rick: You were part of the afternoon saloon when Danny was there, and for quite awhile after Danny left. How were each of those experiences different? What was it like in the weeks and months after Carmen DeFalco replaced him?

Ben: Honestly it was a pretty seamless transition from Mac to Carm. We weren't going to just stop doing radio because he was gone. There were still plenty of crappy Chicago sports teams to be discussed. They have different styles obviously. Several people told me Mac was better, several thought Carmen (photo) was better. But that was for everyone else to decide for themselves. Things around the office didn't change all that much. That probably sounds a little cold considering Mac had been there more than seven years. I just think it's the reality of the business. On Friday he was there, the following Monday he wasn't. It was all made a lot easier by the fact that Carmen wasn't new. He had been at the station a long time and had filled in for Mac quite a bit. Which was nice because I didn't feel like kissing up to someone new. And in the end it's all about me, right?

Rick: There's no question there were some tense times at ESPN. There must have been a half dozen suspensions of various different colleagues when you were there. Then again, the Score has had it's share of tension too. Is there just something innately stressful about sportstalk that brings that out?

Ben: It's definitely not the stress. There are several jobs out there that create a lot more stress than sports radio. We're not putting our lives on the line. We're just breaking down the Bears offensive line. I think the tense times came from the fact that these are guys paid to have opinions and to express them to others. There's no switch to flip. Mac doesn't turn off a microphone and all of sudden go into a shell. He likes to say what's on his mind. As do Harry and Jurko. And I'm sure that's the case with a lot of talk show hosts. But anybody who tells you they're stressed out by talk radio is a drama queen. Passover seders with the family are more stressful. I know there's always a ratings battle staring us in the face and jobs are always on the line. But the worst case scenario is you get fired. I'm sure finding another job isn't that hard. Just ask Mike North.

Rick: You got an opportunity to host or co-host shows at ESPN, particularly on the weekend. Is the Score giving you the same opportunity?

Ben: Yes, I believe that's part of the plan. At the very least I can always call into Les Grobstein's show. That's almost like co-hosting. For now it'll be some weekend stuff at varied times. There are a lot of really good shows on our station so I appreciate wherever they can squeeze me in. That's the beauty of the Score as opposed to ESPN. We're local and live at almost all points of the week. It's tough getting air time at ESPN in between national broadcasts of the John Kincade Show and the replay of the John Kincade Show.

Rick: I know you're still relatively young, and you've got your whole career ahead of you, but what direction do you hope to take it?

Ben: Relatively young, huh? My irritable bowel syndrome says differently. Either way, I'd like to be on the air full time. I want to be the next Dan McNeil or Dan Bernstein or Marc Silverman. Or even Steve Dahl. Actually I want to be better than all of them. But I have a long way to go to get to that point in both talent and accomplishments. Plus there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other guys who want the same thing and have as much a shot at it as I do. But I really don't have any other skills. So I'm willing to be patient.

Rick: Last question. I know you're a fellow Illini as well as a fellow long suffering Cubs fan. Which happens first? An Illinois national championship or a Cubs World Series Championship, or will we die waiting for both?

Ben: Are you including all sports? Because perhaps you weren't aware that the Illini men's tennis team won a national title a few years back. If you're talking major sports I'd say an Illini basketball national championship is the most likely of the bunch. I don't think our football team will ever win one. Ever. Since the BCS began in the 90s the champions have been Tennessee, Florida State, Oklahoma, Miami, Ohio State, LSU, USC, Texas, Florida and Alabama. That's a group of elite programs much further along on the college football timeline of evolution than Illinois. And the Cubs? After the debacle of the 2008 playoffs I, for the first time, began to think they'll never win again. But that was before the Mike Quade era began. So who knows?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Danny Bonaduce

Danny Bonaduce is the morning man at WYSP in Philadelphia, but during the 1990s he entertained Chicago radio audiences on the Loop.

Rick: You’re known for all sorts of different things (including obviously, "The Partridge Family"), but it’s been more than twenty years now since you started in radio. Do you consider yourself a radio guy now first and foremost?

Danny: Well, I’ve been doing it every single day for twenty years, so I guess the answer to that has to be yes. In life I guess you either have to follow the money or your spiritual beliefs, and since I have no spiritual beliefs of any kind, I follow the money. And for me, the money is in radio.

Rick: You and I worked together very briefly when you first started on the Loop. I was doing overnights on the FM while you were doing overnights on the AM, and I remember that as a very wild time. The hallways were completely crazy every night--it was a radio free for all, and Chicago seemed to embrace you almost instantly. Did you feel the same way about Chicago?

Danny: Absolutely. If you read my book, and I’m not saying this to sell the book because it’s out of print now, but there is more than one chapter dedicated to Chicago, and not just to radio, but to the city, and the people I met there. As far as I’m concerned, my radio career didn’t start the first time I cracked the mic and said “This is Danny Bonaduce.” My real radio career started when I did talk radio—entertainment talk—which is what I do—and that happened for the first time in Chicago. That was real radio, not playing some Debbie Gibson records.

The reason you remember the craziness in the hallway is because back then, just as now, I did absolutely no preparation. I still never write anything down. I don’t even carry a pen. I just introduce the show, and I sidekick for the telephone.

I wait for the inspiration of one moment that will start the show. Let’s say I get into a huge fight with my girlfriend, just to take an obvious example of something that everyone can relate to. I tell the story on the air, and then before I even get to the phone calls of people saying I was right or I was wrong, I get the calls from other people who got into fights with their girlfriends, and that leads to a discussion about resolving the fights because divorce is too expensive, and then calls about cheating, and before you know it, you’ve got a show. I usually have one story to start, and aside from that, I don’t prepare a thing.

Rick: The bit I remember most vividly from your early time at the Loop was the bit when you drove down the parking garage ramp in the Hancock as fast as you could.

Danny: (excited) Carioke! That was my all-time favorite bit. I loved that! That was the very best thing I’ve ever done in entertainment talk radio, and the best I ever will do.

The Hancock had this eight story spiral ramp going up to the parking garage (photo), and the bit was that you had to come into the car with me and sing a song all the way down while I drove as fast as I could, and if you could do it without screaming, you’d win. No one could ever do it, because I knew something they didn’t. That garage ramp was engineered in such a way that a car couldn’t flip over. And I didn’t care if I scraped it up or dinged it, so I would hit the sides, and sparks would go flying and everybody, and I mean everybody, screamed. Nobody made it down that ramp without screaming.

One day Johnny B told me that he thought he could do it, and so I took him down the ramp too. And I went fast, but not real fast, not as fast as I could have gone, and he was singing Happy Birthday or something like that and was doing great until we got to the bottom of the ramp. When we reached the bottom, he saw a woman standing there with a baby carriage, and it was right in our way. Well, I slammed into that baby carriage at full speed, and it went flying through the air, and Johnny B FLIPPED OUT. I mean flipped out!

And then the woman, my ex-wife, got the baby carriage and showed Johnny there was a doll in there.

Rick: (laughing) Oh my God.

Danny: I’ve tried recreating that in other places, but I can’t. It was just that spiral, and the engineering of it that made it work. On flat surfaces or other garages it wouldn’t work, because it would be too dangerous.

Rick: To a lot of people, the big highlight of your time here, the thing that everybody remembers is your fight against Donny Osmond. You’ve since fought a bunch of other people, and everybody knows that you’re a tough guy now, but nobody really knew what to expect for that fight. What are your memories of that night?

Danny: I didn’t know what to expect either. I came close to losing that fight. For one thing, I was drunk. Somebody asked me on my way into the ring what I thought was going to happen, and I said, "I’m going to kick his ass then get drunker."

I mean, c’mon, this is Donny Osmond we’re talking about here. I had a girl to hold my cigarette, because you know, I was smoking three packs a day. But that’s how unconcerned I was. And I started off by pounding away at this guy for like seventy five seconds, and then I stepped away, figuring he would just collapse onto the ground. But he didn’t. He had protected himself. And I thought, “Holy shit, if Donny Osmond kicks my ass, I’m going to have to leave the country!”

Rick: But you did win that fight. And you’ve fought a few more since then.

Danny: After that Donny fight, I took training more seriously. I recently fought Jose Canseco. And that guy was HUGE. I mean the measurements were hilarious. On weigh-in day he was 6’6, 265. I was 5’6, 165. He hit me once, and I’ve never been hit that hard before. I went flying halfway cross the ring, but I happened to land on my feet. I opened my eyes expecting to see him coming in for the kill, but he hadn’t moved. I had to walk back over to him. I think the only reason I didn't lose that fight was because he was tired of being hated.

Rick: Do you still have a tattoo of the Loop logo and Larry Wert’s name on your butt? (Photo: Life Magazine)

Danny: Sure, of course. You don’t think I would have that taken off do you? It’s a hell of an ice breaker in Chicago.

Rick: And Larry really is the godfather of your child.

Danny: I know people thought I was kissing the boss’s ass when I made him the godfather, but I didn’t do that because he was the boss. We really were best friends. And plus, I was already #1 by then. You don’t kiss the boss’s ass when you’re #1. You do it when your ratings suck.

Rick: I don’t know if people remember this, but Johnny B was also critical in the beginning of your radio career. I talked to Johnny the other day and mentioned that I would be talking to you, and he told me to say hi.

Danny: I love Johnny (photo). The reason I give Johnny the credit for my radio career is because even though he never actually hired me anywhere, even at the Loop, he gave me my start with a bit he did.

An article came out in the National Enquirer that Danny Bonaduce was homeless and hungry, so he did a mock food drive for me. I got a call from Chicago saying: "We’ve got 7000 pounds of canned food, and about 12 grand in cash, and would you come to Chicago?" So I did, and you have to remember I was living in LA where everyone is apathetic. If a DJ told someone to do something there, maybe five people would show up. When I got to Chicago though, there were hundreds of people in the airport with signs and billboards. I remember one very well. It had a picture of a red-headed skeleton, and it said “Stop hunger before it stops Danny Partridge.”

I couldn’t believe it—that’s when I discovered the power a DJ could have.

And Johnny had me come up on stage with him and sing “I think I love you” and I wrote funny new lyrics to it, but while I was up there, I felt like I was being pelted with ice. I thought, "man these people in Chicago turn on you fast," but then I noticed it wasn’t ice. It was coins. It was money, and I was running around that stage picking it up. Sure, it was a funny bit, but I really was homeless. I needed that money.

So, DJs being the scum that they are, started stealing the bit. And it became so popular, I went around the country one station at a time, repeating the bit. And one station in Philly even hired me to come on their lame show and be a sidekick and play Debbie Gibson records.

And then Larry Wert saw me do stand up. He called his boss Jimmy de Castro (photo) and said “I’ve seen Danny’s show four nights in a row, and it’s completely different every night. I think he’d be great for the Loop.” So, when my contract ran out in Philly, I went to Chicago, and I got the overnight shift. One night I was on the air on a Saturday, because I worked six days a week back then, and Jimmy called Larry Wert, and said, “Is this what this fucker does? He just screams into the microphone all day?” Just as he was saying that to Larry, I guess I actually said, “What I lack in talent, I make up for in volume.”

I had a contract offer to do overnights, but before I even had a chance to sign it, they moved me to nights, and then to middays, and I never actually signed it. Jimmy finally said to me, “Is it OK if we just shake on it?” And we did. We just shook hands. They gave me a raise and gave me a great deal of money, and I worked for their company and the company it became, which is Clear Channel, for 16 years—all without a contract. The only time I actually signed a contract is the time I was fired.

Rick: And where was that?

Danny: That was in LA.

Rick: Right. That was the Adam Carolla show in LA. What is the real story about what happened there?

Danny: I liked Adam Carolla (photo) a lot, I thought he was a genius, but I heard his show, and knew that he just didn’t know how to do radio. I figured if someone ever taught him, it could be an incredible show. So I really fought hard for that job. I fought like crazy to get it. And I became his sidekick, and I was very happy to be the sidekick. I went out of my way to say, 'Hey, the sign on the wall says the Adam Carolla show.' I was very careful not to step on any toes.

We went from #18 to like #4. But Adam said he didn’t like my comedy. I said:“Why? Because it’s funny?”

He said “Yeah, it’s not my brand of comedy.”

I will say this for him, he’s not a coward. He said that he didn’t want me on his show anymore right in front of me . But CBS wouldn’t let me go. So they gave me morning show money to do a one hour show. Then they hired me to do mornings in Philly.

Rick: Which is where you are now. How is it going in Philadelphia?

Danny: Great. There were something like five different morning shows in the four years before I started here, and I just started my third year, so it’s going well.

Rick: Can people in Chicago hear your show on the internet?

Danny: Sure can. Just go to and check it out. We’ve actually got a pretty big following in Chicago already.

Rick: In addition to doing the radio, you’re also a reality television mogul these days, aren’t you? I’ve seen you in several reality shows over the years, but you’re more than just a star in them.

Danny: Every reality show you’ve ever seen me in, except the one with Hulk Hogan, I either wrote, hosted, or produced.

Rick: Do you have your own company?

Danny: Yes. It’s called Graveltone Productions.

Rick: And people probably pitch you all the time.

Danny: They do, and I would take the offers if they would fit around my schedule, but that’s getting harder to do. I’m in Philadelphia now, so it would have to take place here, because I’m not giving up the radio gig. Anyone that gives up radio for TV is out of their mind, unless you’re Ryan Seacrest or something. I’ve done a ton of reality shows, but the problem is that they are years and years apart sometimes. On the radio, I’m on the air every single day, collecting a very healthy regular paycheck.

Rick: Do you ever make it back to Chicago?

Danny: Not as often as I’d like. I come to Zanies every few years, and I suppose it’s about time for that again. If you have any ideas that will bring me back to town, believe me, I’m all ears. Let’s hear ‘em.

Rick: Are you working on anything else these days?

Danny: Yes, on October 23rd I’m playing a 1500 person shed with David Cassidy. I had him on the show recently, which is something I really don’t like to do. My biggest fear is that someone will tune in to my show for the first time at that one moment he’s on and say, “OK, so he talks about the Partridge Family all the time. Is that all he can do?”

But I did The Today Show with him and he seemed to be in a better place about the Partridge Family, so I invited him on the show. And on the air he dared me to learn to play one song on the bass, and join him on stage for the first and only time for real.

So, even though I have a million jobs now for CBS, I’ve got a bass lesson in about a half an hour.