Posts Tagged ‘Emmis Communications’

Spike’s Big Night

July 22, 2013

Sunday July 21st, 2013 – Evanston, IL

   I can’t think of too many things that feel better than a friend remembering a birthday, so that’s why I try to do it whenever I can. It’s not all that difficult, but it really makes a difference. I love the beaming look of joy on someone’s face when they are truly surprised, and it never gets old.

   Today was my friend Spike Manton’s 50th birthday. He’s a very low key guy when it comes to any kind of celebrations, and I learned from his wife Tami that he’d made specific instructions to NOT under any circumstances have any kind of party or make a big deal of it. That’s how he is.

   As luck would have it, our mutual friend and fellow member of the morning show on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago Max Bumgardner was going to be in town for a Monday business meeting so I suggested we go over and pay Spike a surprise birthday visit – especially since he didn’t want it.

   Spike, Max and I are like brothers, and I’m sure it will be that way for life. Being on a morning radio show tends to bond people together, as it can be such an intense experience. I can’t think of many jobs other than an astronaut where that much intimacy between workers exists constantly.

   How many spouses speak to each other four hours a day, five days a week from 5-9am? I doubt if there are many, and those that do probably have some epic battles. Spike, Max and I got along extremely well, and we enjoyed each other’s company on air and off. We had a rare chemistry.

   The human dingle berries of the vaunted Emmis Communications happened to be way too full of themselves to know what they had, so they chose to blow us out the door when the station was sold in 2004. They proceeded to make stupid decision after stupid decision, and now they’ve lost the station and their stock is worthless. I can’t say any of the three of us have ever shed one tear.

   What I can say is that we’ve remained friends, and every time we get together it’s like we were never apart. I’ve heard pro athletes talk about that feeling, as have military veterans. The bonding in intense situations lasts for life, and believe it or not a morning radio show can be very intense.

   There’s no use bitching about what went wrong, but the bottom line is that we got a bloody red raw deal and it’s too late to do anything about it now. What we have is our lasting friendship that will continue as long as we’re alive, and I thought it was important to visit Spike on his big day.

   I met Max at his hotel in Schaumburg, and we had about a half hour drive to Spike and Tami’s house in Evanston. We stopped and got a card, and bought him a Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificate because he used to suck down their coffee by the gallon every morning. It was the perfect gift for him, and I had some obscure sports books I knew he’d like so we threw those in to top it all off.

   We arrived at 6:30 – to the minute when Tami told us to be there. He was in the basement with his daughter, who was distracting him so he’d stay down there so we could surprise him. It was a perfect plan, as we walked downstairs and ambushed him with his gifts. He was truly surprised.

   Even though Spike is very dry and non emotional, we could tell he was glad to see us. The look in someone’s eyes in a situation like that never lies. We had a wonderful dinner, and had a lot of laughs to go with it. Spike and Tami’s kids Mickey and Samantha have grown into beautiful and well behaved teens, and that also reminded us how time waits for nobody. Spike is a great friend, as is Max. Was it worth losing our jobs how we did for their friendships? I say absolutely yes.

Radio Karma Lives!

February 11, 2010

Wednesday February 10th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

I’ve been involved in standup comedy, professional wrestling and radio in my lifetime, and by far it’s radio that has had the biggest number of snakes. For some reason, there are backstabbing maggots in that business who are always looking to get by at the expense of others and they don‘t care who gets burned. I’ve seen it in comedy too, but not like radio.

Life is difficult enough without having a certain few malicious bung holes adding to the degree of difficulty, but there always seem to be a few who succeed. They always seem to show up at a low point in time, and instead of trying to bring healing they bring napalm.

One name that comes immediately to mind is Eric ‘Mancow’ Muller. He’s a loudmouth on the air, but never really said anything. When Howard Stern made being a ‘shock jock’ fashionable, Mancow copied him and didn’t do a very good job, but there were slots that needed filling because radio is a business of copying success and redoing it elsewhere.

Mancow made a lot of money for many years, even though everyone I knew who was in the business couldn’t stand him on air or off. He was brash and rude and treated people as if he was better than them, and just became a total pain in the ass to deal with. But, he had those almighty ratings, and that meant he was able to keep up the illusion for a long time.

When I worked at The Loop in Chicago, the station was sold to the same company that Mancow was working for, Emmis Communications. We were forced to go to a ‘Welcome to Emmis’ party and it was a horrific experience. We all felt like step children and it what made it worse was it was on their turf. We were in their building and it was humiliating.

The new GM introduced Mancow who pompously got up and said a few words and we felt even worse when he came up to us afterward and allowed us to kiss his ring. Nobody likes to be talked down to, and that’s exactly what he did. We knew our days were few.

A few weeks later when those fine folks at Emmis blew us out the door the week before Christmas, Mancow went on the air and apparently started bashing us mercilessly with no real reason for it. We were already gone, and the threat to his little babblefest was over.

I never listened to it because I never found his verbal diarrhea worth wasting my ears on, but I heard it from a lot of people so I don’t doubt it happened. I know my partners Spike and Max didn’t appreciate it very much and there really was no reason for it except spite.

I remember mentioning it to our then ‘boss’ at Emmis, who only served as that to blow us out the door, and he just laughed and said “Hey, that’s ‘Cow.” I wanted to jump over his desk and strangle him, but I needed the severance pay. He was fooled by the illusion.

Spike and Max and I got boned, and it changed all of our lives for the worse. We’re still recovering from it several years later, but we’re all still in there slugging and living life as best we can. We all resented how Mancow’s antics went unpunished, but we moved on.

Then, conservative talk radio became the hot thing and Mancow once again lacking any vision of his own decided to copy that trend and try to ride Rush Limbaugh’s coat tails so he stumbled in that direction. He’d blown his morning show with Emmis and was trying a new direction. As fate would have it, he ended up replacing Jerry Agar’s shift on WLS.

We’d all heard some rumors about how he got that shift, but nobody would confirm any of them. What was confirmed was that Jerry was out of the dream job he’d spent years of his life working to get. He had ratings and seemed to be on his way, but he too ended up a victim of the Mancow’s mean spirit. Mancow bashed him on the air too, and it got ugly.

Jerry said he called him and they talked about it, but then Mancow denied that and said all kinds of things that apparently weren’t true. I have no reason to doubt Jerry’s word, as we’ve known each other over twenty years. The whole thing stinks, and it’s a very similar stench to the one that happened years ago at the Loop. And again, none of it was needed.

I’ve talked about my competitors in radio on the air quite a bit. It’s a strategy. It’s like a professional wrestler trying to drum up business for an upcoming match. I’ve blurted out all kinds of things over the years, but it was part of the game. I had no malice toward any of the people personally, it was an act. And, in the end, I lost. They had jobs, I got fired.

This is not the same thing. I’m not the only one who has a Mancow story and neither is Jerry. Time after time he would get a little too personal, and it was ALWAYS when there was no chance of retaliation. Jerry and I were already fired. There’s no reason to do that.

I guess I blame the stations to some extent, but as a human being there’s no reason to be that damn mean spirited, especially to those who can’t fight back. Jerry got screwed over big time, and he still hasn’t recovered from it. He’s piecing each month together and has a family and a mortgage, just like my partners Spike and Max did at the Loop. Life is hard.

All that being said, I heard the news today that Mancow was fired after his shift at WLS and I can’t say it made me sad, even a little. I know I shouldn’t rejoice in the downfall of others, but he’s a guy that’s had it coming for a long time, not only in my opinion but SO many others in radio who have had to endure his cocky prattle for so long. Karma lives!

I don’t wish the guy bad, but I absolutely DO wish him to have to feel what it’s like to have to struggle to pay the mortgage every month and have the experience the stress of a wife and kids breathing down his neck wondering when and where that next gig will be.

Mancow is a mean spirited bully, just as my father was. At one time, my old man was a  big mean evil ogre that everyone was afraid of. Then, he died a shriveled up pathetic loser and there weren’t enough people who cared to have a funeral. He’s gone and isn’t missed.

I doubt if very many people are taking Mancow out for dinner tonight to lament his fate, and as for me I wouldn’t piss on his teeth if his mouth was on fire. I have enough faults of my own to work on and I’m not claiming perfection, but this news was LONG overdue.