Posts Tagged ‘WLS’

War Scarred Testicles

June 27, 2013

Wednesday June 26th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   My friend Jerry Agar rolled through town today on a cross country motorcycle trip, and we had a chance to sit down and catch up over a delicious lunch at The Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We’d originally hoped to have all the members of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ from WLS and WGN reunite for a party, but we couldn’t hook up everyone’s schedules. People were out of town, so it was just us.

   Jerry and I have been through a lot together, and even more separately. We met in the late ‘80s when he was working at a tiny AM station in St. Charles, IL and I was working for the new club Zanies was starting in the Pheasant Run Resort at the time. It started as a one shot interview, but we kept in touch from that day forward. Today we looked back on all of our tangled adventures.

   Both of us ended up moving all over the country to pursue the radio dream, and that came with a heaping helping of hurt. Rarely have we lived in the same town or even same time zone, but we still managed to stay in touch by phone and email. We’d help each other with various projects or radio bits, and when one of us got fired – again – the first call we’d make would be to the other.

   Jerry had the additional pressure of a family to support, and his wife Ann should easily qualify for first ballot sainthood for all she’s had to endure with this mine field of a business. They have three fantastic kids who I consider to be surrogate nephews and a niece, and every time they had to pack up everything and move one more time Ann would hang in there and keep it all together.

   That’s the kind of family relationship I’ve always wanted – at least the together part. It’s not in the cards, and when I really needed it it was never there. I was always of the mindset it was cruel and unusual punishment to drag a wife much less kids through the treacherous jungle of radio.

   Comedy is no clam bake either, but at least it’s a predictable instability. As a comedian, I know I will be somewhere else each week. In radio, one never knows when the next time bomb will go off – only that it will. Stations get sold, GMs and Program Directors move on, so who can say if a job will be there tomorrow? It’s always been that way from my experience, but now it’s worse.

   Jerry is currently working in Toronto, and he has really made an impact on the market. He does talk radio, and does it extremely well. He’s found his niche, and few can do what he does with as much skill as he does it. One would think that would go hand in hand with total job security – but one could not be more mistaken. The planets could align against him and he’d be out on his arse.

   Jerry told me his station is in the process of getting sold, and my bung hole puckered. That puts everyone at the station on edge, and I’ve gone through it more than once myself.  Two other pals in radio “Stone and Double T” in Rockford, IL are going through the same hell. Their station just got sold as well, and the standard company line is always “We expect there to be NO changes.”

   My war scarred testicles. I wish I had a free lunch for every time I heard that splattering pile of verbal manure emanate from behind the desk of some greasy radio snake – only to get shown the door a short time later. Then to make it worse, they themselves are blown out a short while after that and it was like none of us ever existed in the first place. It’s a vicious never ending cycle.

   It was great to hang out with Jerry, but I can’t help feeling for him and his family. He’s settling in nicely in Toronto, but he was doing the same thing in Chicago before he got axed for reasons I still haven’t been able to figure out. If there is a hell, there’s a whole wing for radio management.

Clearing The Air

May 16, 2013

Wednesday May 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I got up much earlier than I had intended to this morning to do a comedy segment on the ‘Stone and Double T Show’ on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I really like those guys, and we usually do a weekly call in bit on Monday mornings. We missed this week, so they rescheduled it today.

   I have mixed feelings about doing that show, but it’s fun so if they keep calling I’ll keep doing it. The guys themselves are great, but I’m not sure if anyone who listens to that station likes what I do. It’s really hard edged rock, and that’s just not my audience as a rule. I try to be entertaining, but I’ve never once had anyone come to any show I’ve done saying they’d heard me on ‘The X’.

   Does that mean I should stop doing it? That’s a tough call. It doesn’t hurt to get radio exposure, but it’s not helping either. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on the wrong radio stations, and I think some of my best work has fallen on deaf ears. It’s discouraging, but that’s how it’s been.

    I still can’t believe I’ve worked for THREE country radio stations. Yikes. I’m not a fan of that genre at all, even though I grew to respect it during my tenure. That’s not my audience either, but those are the stations I was able to get jobs so that’s where I went. It makes me have doubts as to the competence of radio in general if they’d hire me three times at country stations, but they did.

   I’m also experiencing serious doubts about continuing to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Again, it’s great fun but who’s listening? It’s a small station in Kenosha, WI with a weak night time signal. We do have a certain amount of loyal listeners every week who hear us live and a few more on the net, but is it enough to keep doing it? I’d think not.

   I wish the show came with a paycheck, but it doesn’t. How can I generate one? I don’t have the slightest idea. I have a meeting with John Perry from the station tomorrow and we’ll either come up with a plan to earn some money or I’ll shake his hand and thank him for the fun opportunity.

   The ultimate goal is to get on a station that fits my personality, and find a way to stay on the air and get paid. That’s proven to be a whole lot easier said than done, but unfortunately being taken off the air has not been my fault. If I could manage to put together a nice run somewhere that has a listener base in my wheel house, I’ll be set for life. But I’d also be set for life if I hit the lottery.

   Unfortunately, the odds seem to be about the same. Every time I get on a station that would be a fit, something happens to end it prematurely. ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was a perfect fit, but just as we were starting to get some legs we got fired. Then I was part of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ with Jerry Agar, Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle on both WLS and WGN in Chicago. That was also a winner.

   Had Jerry not been blown out the door, we’d still be on the air and have that coveted following I’ve not been able to attain no matter how hard I’ve tried. For some reason, I just haven’t had the chance to gel at a place that fits. I love being on with Stone and Double T, but they’re not where I’m ever going to get any mass recognition. If they were Bob and Tom, I’d be a national draw.

   I have a hard time figuring out where the radio business is headed as a whole. It’s always been insane, but there was a certain air of mystery about it. Local programming was plentiful and of a high quality. Now everything is pre recorded in another city and it’s very impersonal. I’d love to have a steady job somewhere, but I don’t know of any that exist. The Stone and Double T shows of the world are becoming rarer and rarer, and that’s a shame. Radio’s best days are behind it.

Kipper And Kidders

June 23, 2010

Tuesday June 22nd, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

Jerry’s Kidders are back together…even if it was only for a single lunch at the Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We hadn’t seen each other in way too long, and even though Jerry Agar wasn’t able to join us, it was still great to see the Kidders. We still have a solid chemistry.

The reason we chose the Brat Stop is because it’s in between Milwaukee where Kipper McGee lives and the far south side of Chicago where Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle happen to live. I’m right in the middle so I had the shortest drive of all, and of course I was late.

The guys started busting my chops before I even got a chance to sit at the table, and that reminded us all of why we had so much fun for two years. We enjoyed being on the radio but the lunches and hanging out were always a huge part of the deal. It was our own little tree house, and everyone felt welcome. We all knew immediately how much we miss it.

Kipper McGee was our program director at WLS, and I told the guys then we’d never have such a supportive situation as far as radio goes. Kipper was in our corner and still is. He gave us the chance to grow as a team on the air, and he never squelched the creativity like way too many other clueless control freak program directors love to do. He got us.

It’s such a shame that radio is so trigger happy to fire competent people and allows the goof balls to remain employed. Kipper McGee is a brilliant radio programmer with a soul to boot, and he gets blown out the door of WLS while the corporate honcho named Farid or Farouk or Farout or Feng Shui or whatever his name is continues to ruin the company.

That story is WAY too common in radio, and I’m sick of it as are Kipper and the other Kidders as well. We got booted off the station when Jerry did, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t still be there. Now he’s had to split up his family and go work in Toronto.

We didn’t dwell too much on the negative though. We knew we don’t get the chance to see each other in one place much anymore so we spent most of our lunch looking back at the fun times we had and laughing uproariously. There were some real moments with us.

We also talked about how we can keep the project going. It’s a lot of fun to sit around a studio and fire off lines about news stories of the week, and when we were on our game it was pure electricity. None of us want it to end like this, but what do we do to reignite it?

Jerry is going to be in Toronto for the foreseeable future, and that’s just how it is. We’re not angry, we all know he needs to turn a buck. We all do. How can we do it with a show that does current events jokes for an hour each week? That’s a tall order and we know it.

Still, there’s no reason we can’t reinvent ourselves and that’s what we bounced around the table. Kipper knows a lot of people in radio, and he still believes in us as a team. He’s of the opinion we should try to stay on in Chicago, and we all agree. But where? WGN is the logical choice, but Jerry hasn’t been on so neither have we. Still, it was a fun lunch.

Monday Money

May 5, 2010

Monday May 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Speak of the devil. Yesterday I read of Jay Leno’s difficulty having to perform in a very awkward situation, and lo and behold today I get to do it myself. Again, nothing new. I’ve been doing it my entire adult life. It goes with the territory of being a full time comedian.

Money comes when it does in comedy, but it’s always welcome. Most shows happen at night in some sort of venue that’s hopefully done comedy before. Even those can be a bit tricky at times, but then there’s the other kind of bookings that have no parameters at all.

Those can and do occur any and everyplace from a flimsy tent to a garage to who knows where? I still recall the time I had to stand on a diving board of a swimming pool in some lawyer’s back yard in Madison, WI for a performance that ended with me walking off the ‘stage’ after a drunken oaf in the pool kept splashing me while I was trying to do my act.

Another time I had to perform in the hallway of a hospital floor so people in the rooms could look out and see the show. One guy started groaning in pain, and they ended up just closing his door and telling me to ‘ignore it and finish my skit’. It was a major disaster for everyone, and I had to do thirty minutes as I remember. I’d rather be in bed as a patient.

I’ve worked on moving buses, floating boats, and on top of a picnic table in 100 degree heat at a sleazy carnival in Tucson, AZ not far from the tilt-a-whirl. Why did I attempt all these insane stunts? I needed the money. Still do. I thought I’d have it figured out by now.

Today I was asked to do a show for the business operators of Orland Hills, IL. They had a luncheon meeting and somehow word got out they wanted to hire a comedian. I heard of it from my friend Dennis Ross who lives in New Jersey of all places. How he got the gig I have no clue, but he asked if I wanted it and of course I said yes. Monday money is sweet.

That’s one day of the week most comedians don’t get paid, so any time anyone can turn a buck on a Monday, life is good. That’s the reason I host the shows at Zanies and also try to schedule comedy classes, so I can save the rest of the week for other work that doesn’t always come as often as I like. It’s a common struggle for all performers to stay working.

The people of Orland Hills were very friendly, from the mayor to the Chief of Police to all the other people who went up before me. The audience was diverse, mostly over thirty and needed to get back to work. I had to hit them hard but keep it very clean and stand on a podium with a short microphone leash and a less than stellar sound system. That’s hard.

I’ve learned to deal with these situations over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to kill every time. I have very high standards and if someone hires me I want to give them as good a show as humanly possible. Yes I like being paid, but I really do want to earn my money. I feel bad if anyone would feel cheated, but in these kind of gigs it’s very difficult to get a true roll going, only because there are too many obstacles in the way from having to deal with bad sound to being in a room where there are windows and sunlight shining.

The person who buys the comedian is always the one I try to please, and this time it was a very nice lady who was very easy to deal with the whole time. I know she had to present the idea to a committee, who in turn had to find some alternate choices, and then they had a vote and I won. That’s usually how it works, and I never want to let those buyers down.

If even ONE person complains, it can be a disaster for those people. I’ve gotten several over the years, but all comedians do. There’s a very fine line with some people as to what is considered entertainment and what is considered offensive. Usually the people who are the most offended are the ones who had nothing to do with the process of hiring anyone.

The mayor of Orland Hills set the tone, and luckily he was a very laid back and likeable gentleman named Kyle Hastings. He wasn’t the typical stodgy boring mayor type and he’s a natural on stage. I was glad that he brought me up, but he attended to local business first so it got to be a little longer than expected. The degree of difficulty was extremely high.

I wanted to represent Dennis Ross proudly, because he’s a good guy and didn’t have to call me for this gig. I wanted to please the lady named Karen who called me because she was very nice and booking entertainers isn’t her job. I’d hate to make her look bad. I also thought the mayor and Chief of Police were good laughers and wanted them to enjoy it.

I saw some blank looks on some of the rest of them, but I kept on going. I know most of them had never been to a comedy show before, and they had no clue I was going to be on the docket for their meeting. I don’t blame them, but I still wanted them to have some fun anyway. Nobody was mean, and I did my best. I closed on my regular closer and got off.

I usually try to stay and at least thank a few people who don’t avoid eye contact with me but today I was in a hurry to attend a meeting with the other guys in Jerry’s Kidders as we haven’t seen each other in a while as Jerry has been filling in on a big station in Toronto.

Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle live way south so as long as I was in the area it was wise for us to reconvene and reassess where we are as a group. We agreed that we’re probably in a position of transition right now and the possibility exists we could be finished as an entity especially if Jerry gets a full time job offer. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to use us up there.

We’ve still got the play “You’re On The Air” we wrote with Vicki Quade and if Jerry is not here we can still rework that, but it will take lots of time and money and effort to get a quality product polished and ready to sell. I don’t think we’re ready to do that at this time, but we definitely could do some standup shows in the WGN listening area as the Kidders.

Ken and Tim are really good guys to work with, and we all have fun doing the Kidders. We all wish we could have a steady local outlet in Chicago like we did at WLS. We were on Mondays at a set time, and even though we didn’t make money it was still a sweet gig.

We put ourselves in a position to earn money, but it never came. We were yanked off the air at WLS when Jerry got fired, and then WGN started moving Jerry all around and that in turn moved us all around. Now we’re sitting around waiting to go back and do it again.

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.

Opening Night Fever

January 18, 2010

Saturday January 16th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Tonight was the big debut performance of our play “You’re On The Air” at the Beverly Arts Center and we all agreed it was a smashing success. We’ve been working for months for this night and it’s here and gone. Nobody can take this away from us now – we did it!

What an absolute blast it was to pull this off in front of a live audience. Was it sold out? Were people camping out for tickets like Grateful Dead fans? Were tour buses coming in from the hinterlands packed with rabid followers? Frankly, we’re not ready for that yet.

This was a first time run through in front of a live audience and that was enough to keep us more than occupied the entire evening. We’re all new at this and we’re working out the bugs. I’ve read that the smart restaurants never have their grand opening on the first night they’re open. They make sure they have the details worked out first, THEN they let it rip.

That’s exactly what we’re doing, and it worked out perfectly. We had a very respectable crowd and it wasn’t just our friends and family. We had fans that came especially to show support, and we couldn’t be more grateful. We felt like stars, and who wouldn’t love that for a first time doing something? The audience was right there from start to the very end.

We’ve got three especially enthusiastic fans that have supported us from back when we were on WLS and continue to show up no matter what we do. We love all three but we’d never be able to rank them in order because they’re all fantastic people in their own way.

One is named John Vass. He has been a huge supporter of Jerry’s on the air to the point of building a fan page on Facebook. Another is Fard Muhammad, (pronounced Fa-ROD) who always shows up to see us and tells all his friends how funny we are. How flattering.

The one who stole the show this time was Shoshana Weissmann. She’s a teenager who lives in New York and heard Jerry when he was on WABC and became a huge fan. She’s been a supporter of the Kidders too, and not only is she a sweetheart she’s brilliant to the point of genius. For her birthday she asked her father to bring her to Chicago to see us.

How amazing is that? Shoshana and her father came by train and were there to see our debut performance. Before the show she came back stage and met us all and got pictures. She was shaking like she was meeting the Beatles, and we all made her feel special, and she is. We love John and Fard and all our fans, but how many come from New York?

This was just a wonderful night all around. The people who were there were there to see US, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted as an entertainer. We gave them our best, and it really was a solid show. We’ve got a few things to work out, but nothing big. We’re on target.

How many people in life get a chance as adults to do something this much fun? Not too many, and we all knew it. Problems can wait, this was our big night to go out and pretend to be thespians. We all savored the laughs and applause and it was a magnificent evening.