Posts Tagged ‘WIIL’

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.


Righting My Exercises

June 2, 2010

Tuesday June 1st, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

Nobody can change the world in a day, so I didn’t try. My goal was to put in as solid of a work day as I could, and I think I did. I got up extra early and my main focus was to get back in the mall and start walking again. I haven’t done it in way too long and I need to.

I know I can walk in my neighborhood and get the same results, but I like the process of doing laps in the mall because it feels like I can measure it better. Gurnee Mills is a larger than normal mall, and it’s mostly on one level. Stairs are minimal, and it just feels right.

I let my mind go as I start walking and ideas start bouncing around like ping pong balls in a tornado. I’ve learned to keep a pen and at least a couple of 3×5 cards with me because when I start getting a flow going, I have to write notes down or I’ll lose some good ideas.

It’s been a while since I’ve had any kind of an exercise flow going and I really thought I was going to die about ten minutes into it. My days of endless youthful energy are finally over, and I don’t see them coming back any time soon. I’m going to have to earn any and all acceptable levels of physical fitness with plain old hard work. I resign myself to that.

I had many years of eating whatever I wanted, and I sure didn’t cheat myself. I’ve eaten some of the best food in North America, and it was delicious beyond imagination. Now I need to work it all out of my veins and colon or I’ll be a statistic a lot sooner than later.

I’m totally fine with it, and am not complaining. I let myself get this far out of shape by not putting any effort into my health for years. I can’t expect to turn into Charles Atlas in a week, or even a year. This has got to be a life long pursuit, even if my life ends in a few days with my heart bursting like a pimple. A half assed effort is just not going to do it.

The weather was great and I drank a water in the car as I drove to the mall. I didn’t have the radio on, and I just thought about not only my day, but what I want to do with the rest of my life. Every facet of my life can use a major overhaul, and I tried to put a razor sharp clear picture of the finished product in my head. It felt great that I even got to the mall.

My goal was to do at least two complete laps, but I was about ready to keel over and die after only one. I’m a lot more out of shape than I thought, and I felt it after that first lap of torture. I tend to lose myself in thought as I walk, but I drifted in and out and felt my heart pumping and my legs aching and I didn’t want to push it. One lap was enough for today.

I was scheduled to meet up with my old radio buddy Steve Perks, who I’ve known for a long time from my days at 95 WIIL in Kenosha. He’s very funny, and a talented radio guy and he’s got the itch to get back on the air. In my opinion, he should have his pick of jobs.

But alas, radio is just as much or more political than comedy and he’s in the same boat a lot of us radio geeks are – not in the good old boy network. Radio, more than any other field I know, is totally about kissing the right ass of the right person who hires air talent.

That’s just how it is, and I’ve never been good at it and neither has Perks. We’ve never even tried to suck up to management, and that’s probably the main reason we’re both not working right now. We’re interested in creating entertaining broadcasts, and management is interested in selling commercial spots to car dealers, restaurants and anyone who pays.

It is what it is, but neither one of us like it. We both bitched and moaned about it over a healthy breakfast at the Golden Corral in Gurnee, my favorite place. There are all kinds of hottie waitresses there, and I focused on eating fruits and fiber and not bacon and gravy as per usual. I forced myself to be good, and it worked. One day down, the rest of life to go.

Let’s see if I can keep it up every day for three months. This is the time of year when it should be easiest, even if I don’t get to the mall. There are sidewalks and even some trails near where I live and the weather will be warm enough where I have NO excuses for not getting my ass out there and exercising. Even in the rain, I need to do this EVERY DAY.

This afternoon I shrunk a substantial number of emails off my pile, and that felt great as well. I took care of the booking issue with Northern Lights Theater and am now rebooked for the week of September 11th. I also was asked to do a private show earlier that Saturday so I’ll end up having a nice week. It’s down in ink, and the booker and I are both in sync.

I also had to submit a press release to some media outlets in Louisville, KY where I will be next week, working at The Comedy Caravan. I made contact with the local newspaper, and they asked for a picture and said they would run something in next Friday’s edition.

The club also asked if I’d record some radio spots, which they’ll run next week. I asked Perks if he’d help me record them, and he said he would. He’s got a studio at home like a lot of radio people do, and he lives about five minutes from me so we’ll do it tomorrow. I know he’ll do a great job, and I think we can do some other recording in the near future.

Tonight I taught a comedy class at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort. I’m experimenting with some new exercises for the students and I laid some of them on a nice group of six people tonight. They’re hungry students and I like working with people like that. We were able to get a lot of  solid work done, and it was worth everyone’s time.

I’ve still got a hell of a lot of things undone, but I don’t want to focus on that right now. I made a nice effort today on many levels with many people. That’s what I want to focus on, and keep doing it day after day after day until my entire life has improved by leaps.

One day does not a life make, but many days like this will make life better. I put in my time, and made very good choices. I interacted with quality people, and I felt good about everything I did. How much better can a day get than that? Now I need to keep it going.

That’s always the hard part, but better one day good than just think about it and not do anything to make it happen. I took action today, and I’m proud of myself. I’m starting to put a picture in my head of what I want, and without that I’ll never get anything done.