Posts Tagged ‘talent’

Radio Rage

September 21, 2013

Friday September 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I had breakfast with my web designer Mark Filwett today. He did outstanding work on my site http://www.schlitzhappened.com and he’s about to redesign my personal site http://www.dobiemaxwell.com as well. If you know of anyone that needs web help, contact him at http://www.lakecountygeeks.com.

Mark is nothing short of brilliant in his creativity, and he and I have developed a solid synergy since we’ve been working together on web projects. I must admit I was a bit reluctant to hire him at first, as we were friends from having worked together in radio for years. That can be a minus.

I have often found it’s best to hire a total stranger, as then if there’s a problem sugarcoating it is not an issue. Doing business with friends can be very delicate, but we’ve had no problems and I don’t foresee any. I’ve paid up front to date, and even though it’s not as much as I’d like to be able to pay he gets it and has done stellar work in my opinion. I’m very satisfied with everything.

What neither of us is satisfied with is how poorly the radio business operates and why we have to do other jobs to scrape together a living in the first place. We both have paid our radio dues in full, and have roamed all time zones in America learning our craft in strange cities and towns we likely never would have set foot in had we not had the sick inner compulsion to be on the radio.

There are only a few ‘naturals’ I’ve ever heard on the air, and Mark is one of them. He’s full of both talent and passion for the business, and I always saw him as a big market personality had he chosen to do that. If I owned a radio station, he’d be one of the first people I’d hire to be on air.

Mark put more effort into his shifts than anyone I’ve ever seen. Once in a while I’d be hanging around the station doing something when he’d ask me to be a caller or help him put together a bit of some sort. That always impressed me, and it still does. The guy loves to be on the radio, and it shows. The sad part is there are a lot of Mark Filwett types who aren’t working, while idiots are.

Radio is the one industry I’ve ever seen where the biggest non talents can keep their job for far too long. In comedy, if someone stinks it’s very evident by the consistent silence from audiences. If it’s not working – everyone knows it. In radio, people can sit in a room and not have to see the audience as it’s scattered all over. One may think he or she is doing well when in fact they aren’t.

Any entertainment field is full of insecurity, but radio is the cake taker. I’ve never seen such an insane bunch of self important backstabbing liars, but often they’re the ones that are able to keep their job for twenty years while fresh creative talents get shown the door. Why? They’re a threat.

I could name a long list of dolts, but I won’t. Mark and I listed quite a few at breakfast, and we were both nauseated to the point we could barely finish eating. The only talent these snakes have at all is managing to keep their jobs as long as they do. It’s not right, but it’s common in radio.

There’s no reason Mark or I shouldn’t land a solid job at a major market station other than both of us are more concerned about doing a quality broadcast than impressing an idiot nipple tweaker in charge who has two first names like ‘Mike Michaels’ or ‘Steve Stevens’ and couldn’t produce an original creative idea with a funnel and a magnet. Bitter? A smidge, but we’ve earned a right.

Need computer help? Call Mark Filwett. He's not half as geeky as his logo.

Need computer help? Call Mark Filwett. He’s not half as geeky as his logo.

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The Funniest Broadcaster

April 5, 2013

Wednesday April 3rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL  

   I was listening to the Milwaukee Brewers broadcast on WTMJ radio today, and I’m still blown away by the greatness of Bob Uecker. That guy is FUNNY. Period. I remember listening as a kid when he was just starting, and I thought he was a riot then. All these years later, he’s still got it.

I do think funny is an inherent trait for the most part. I know I had it from an early age, and had the ability to make both kids and adults laugh almost at will. I don’t know how I knew how to do that, but I did it whenever I could – usually to the extreme dissatisfaction of an authority figure.

Not many teachers were impressed by my rapier wit, and even fewer bosses liked it when I got out in the working world. I was anything but funny to them as I cracked off line after line, but no force on Earth could stop me from going for the laugh. Like a pig enjoys mud, I enjoy laughter.

I really do think it’s an addiction, but what a wonderful one it is. I can’t see there being a wing at the Betty Ford Clinic for smart asses any time soon, and if there is I don’t want to go. I’m only happy when I can go for the laugh in most situations. Whatever normal is, it doesn’t interest me.

That being said, it has always completely baffled me at how many shoot for a career in comedy that aren’t the least bit funny off stage. It’s been that way since I started, and I have no doubt it’s been around a lot longer than that. For some reason, some people feel a need to pee in the pool.

A guy like Bob Uecker would have been funny if he worked in a funeral parlor. He’s just got it in him, and he can’t help it. I can’t either. I tried being quiet in school and an employee who was ‘on the team’ and all that, but I just couldn’t do it for long. My true colors came out and stayed.

Unfortunately, funny is a subjective thing and not everyone agrees on what does or doesn’t fall into said category. When I was a kid, there were some older kids in my neighborhood that would constantly shoot lines from Jerry Lewis movies back and forth. They thought he was the funniest thing ever, and I never got what they thought was so funny. I still don’t. He does nothing for me.

I guess it’s like a favorite band or restaurant. Once a taste is acquired, it can be enjoyed by the person who acquires it and it becomes the desired standard. We all have individual taste buds, so it’s all over the board as to what’s considered good or not. Nothing is ever liked by everybody.

I know a guy who can’t stand Bob Uecker, as hard as that is for me to grasp. Whenever I bring up how funny I think he is the guy goes off in six directions how he’s overrated and shouldn’t be on the air, blah blah blah. It reminds me how humble we all need to be, as we all have detractors.

I’ve seen more than my share of people walk past me after a show and not even look me in the eye. Those that do have a look of either disappointment or disgust, and I always try to smile wide and make it extra uncomfortable for them on their way out. I find it hilarious when that happens.

It’s a numbers game, and always has been. Life itself is a numbers game from the time that one tiny sperm cell makes it to the egg first and the billions of losers never get to see the light of day. It’s a cruel and vicious world sometimes, but I didn’t design it. I’m just trying to figure it all out.

Before it’s all over, I’d love to get a chance to meet Bob Uecker and tell him how much I have always enjoyed his immense talent. It doesn’t have to be long, a quick handshake and hopefully a picture would do it. I have friends who can make this happen, and it’s time to ask for their help.

Paying It Forward

January 12, 2013

Friday January 11th, 2013 – Shakopee, MN

   I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude, but it’s not easy. That speeding ticket yesterday was a kick in the lug nuts, not to mention the wallet. I don’t know why money has to be such an issue in life but it absolutely is. Some find a way to master it, while others inherit more than they need.

The latter are usually the first to say “Don’t worry – it’ll all work out.” It’s easy not to have to worry when there’s a trust fund in place or a rich relative available to help bail one out of a cash pickle. I’d love to be able to count on someone when times get bleak, but I’m a one man band.

All I want is enough to not have to worry about stupid stuff like speeding tickets. Whatever the reason, it was my turn and I will have to pay up. I would guess I drive about five times more than the average driver, so it’s inevitable I’ll get more speeding tickets over the course of my lifetime.

Still, yesterday was not when I needed it. I’m trying to come out swinging this year and get my financial ship righted to get out of debt. I don’t expect any free rides and I’m willing to pay what I owe, but that one materialized out of nowhere and urinated my flickering candle of hope out.

Plus, it happened at the beginning of the trip to put a damper on the whole weekend. I tried not to think about it last night in Eau Claire and tonight in Shakopee, MN, but I couldn’t help it. I did this run for the money, and now not only won’t I be making any I have to pay out of my pocket.

It is what it is, and I’ll shut my mouth and keep slugging. I’m working with a young kid named Dan Ronan this weekend and he’s got big time written all over him. He’s 23, and has spectacular upside potential. I was able to bring him along on this run and if nothing else at least I can enjoy a chance to mentor someone who appreciates it. I’m unbelievably impressed with his raw ability.

Dan lives in the Chicago area, and we crossed paths a few years ago at the Zanies Rising Star Showcase. He was only 19 then, but I could see his talent immediately. He’s stayed with it and is starting to come up the ladder and it was my pleasure to help him by including him on this run.

He’s got a great work ethic, and he’s a student of the game just like I was at 23. I see a big part of myself in him, but I think he’ll take it a lot farther than I ever did. He’s got a great look and an unusual delivery and I see him all over TV in the not too distant future. This kid is a big leaguer.

Hopefully, I can plant some of the nurturing seeds in him that comedians like Gary Kern, Kyle Nape, Danny Storts and others planted in me when I was his age. Those guys showed me how to be a comedian both by their words and their actions. Now it’s my turn to pay some of it forward. I don’t need a run like this for anything but money, but Dan needs the stage time to get his chops.

He came through with flying colors last night and tonight. He was nervous beforehand for both shows, and perused his set list like it was the winning lottery numbers. I used to do all that, and it made me smile watching him do exactly what I did all those years ago. Having a chance to act as a mentor to a talented kid like Dan is a treat, and I’ll focus on that. He’s got a very bright future.

Radio Blood

September 16, 2012

Saturday September 15th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI  

   No matter how many times it screws me over, kicks mud in my face or bites me in the ass, I’m always going to have a soft spot in my heart for radio. Not only is it intensely fun to be on the air and get paid for talking, the people who gravitate toward that career field and I get along nicely.

I’ve worked at or been associated with more than a dozen radio stations in a variety of formats all over North America since the mid ‘80s, and I maintain contact with people from every single one of those places without exception. I might not see or hear from everyone every week, but we do cross paths on occasion and it was radio that brought us together. I cherish each one of them.

Tonight there was a 20th anniversary reunion and get together for everyone who ever worked at 95.1 WIIL in Kenosha, WI. Other than having the most appropriate call letters in radio, (it stands for ‘Wisconsin’ and ‘Illinois’) it has been a place I have been associated with for the long haul.

I never worked all that much for WIIL per se, but I was on the air there. I did weekend and fill in work on and off for years and also worked as the morning guy at the country station that used to be in the same building. WLIP is also there where The Mothership Connection originates, and in fact it’s in the very next room. I’ve been associated with the building in some way since 1992.

Even through numerous ownership and staff changes as is common in radio, there has been an outstanding sense of family maintained in that place. Most of us have come and gone more than once and/or worked at more than one station or job title, but the sense of community remained.

I was brought into the fold by John Perry, who used to do overnights on 93QFM in Milwaukee when I was on the morning show. There’s another station with a wonderful sense of community, but that’s another story for another day. I’m telling you, radio talents as a whole are sweethearts.

John Perry has had an amazing run at WIIL, and we talked about that tonight. He’s survived in the volatile mine field that is the radio business, and that’s no small feat. We have always gotten along very well, and have helped each other out many times. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

It was great fun to reconnect with a lot of the old faces I hadn’t seen in a while, and I marveled at not only how much I liked them personally but how much big time talent came out of there to go on to bigger and better things. It really was a launching pad for a crop of gifted individuals.

Brian Sherman was there, and he’s a prime example. He was at Q101 in Chicago for a solid 11 year run until he was unceremoniously blown out by those fine folks at Emmis Communications, the same group of slithering serpents that showed me the door at The Loop. That’s radio. Yuck.

Brian is very talented, and a good guy to boot. We talked about how many people who worked at WIIL advanced in the business, and there was never a sense of jealousy when someone moved on to bigger things. It was more of a feeling of hope like someone else was next. It was healthy. I was always happy for Brian, and he has nothing whatsoever to be ashamed about. He did well.

Another big time talent and total sweetheart is Mindy Novotny. She’s been up in Milwaukee at 102.9 ‘The Hog’ for years, and I have always been a fan of hers on air and off. Like Brian and so many others who worked at that place, she fit right in and did the job. She deserves her success.

She’s very smart, and we talked about how little security there is in that big radio meat grinder. I think that’s part of the reason the on air people tend to get along so well. We all know we could be the next one to get the ax, and we tend to cling to each other for support. Whatever the case, it was great to see Mindy. She talked about going back to school, which is never a poor decision.

Nothing ‘stable’ is a poor decision, but all of us in radio have that side of our personality that is only satisfied by walking on the wild side. Being on the air is what makes us feel alive. It’s a fun rush, just like a comedian feels on stage – and I’m hooked on both. I need to go to double rehab.

Brian Sherman has a family now, and he’s going to be selling cars. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of by doing that, but it’s still not radio. Even with all the insecurity and insanity, it gets in a person’s blood and stays there for life. Everyone in that room tonight had ‘radio blood’.

Steve Perks was also there. What a funny and talented guy he is. He and I stay in touch as he’s a web developer now and is helping me get my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ website together. I’d love to do a morning show with that guy, but jobs are just not there like they used to be. It’s depressing.

We didn’t get to visit much, but I see him quite regularly so we’ll catch up later. Tonight was a chance to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and there were many. People like Mike Sweeney and Cliff Johnson were there – again just fantastic people all around. Mike worked his way up to being a program director in Dectatur, IL, but got gassed on a whim by a total halfwit.

Everyone in the room has these tales, and that really pisses me off. The imbeciles who do the firing in radio have never been on the air themselves and wouldn’t know talent if they bought a ten pound box of it at a rummage sale. Like the clueless bookers in comedy, radio management monkeys are cold hearted and clueless to the fact they adversely affect the livelihoods of us all.

The thing that really burns me most is that both in comedy and radio none of the talented people are looking to harm anyone or do anything but entertain others and make the world a better place for everyone. I don’t think that’s so bad, but way too often the turds in charge just can’t see that.

Terry Havel was there too, another person of whom I am a huge fan. He’s not only a passionate radio guy, but a mentor to many. John Perry credits him, as do many others. I’ve always enjoyed Terry’s passion for music and radio, and he’s a huge sports fan too. Even though he’s a Cubs and Bears fan, we still had a great conversation. If I owned a radio station, he would be my first hire.

But I don’t own a radio station, and unfortunately none of us in that room did. If somebody did, we’d all have jobs and hopefully be able to scratch our creative itches. We all have them, and we all understand the feeling of needing to be on the air. It’s a passion, and I love to be around those who are passionate. It was a well spent evening reconnecting with friends I respect and admire.