Behind The Radio Curtain Pt. 2

Here’s another excerpt from my book “Raised on the Radio” which I look to release later this year.  There’s lots of work that goes into putting on a personality based morning radio show and here’s a glimpse at some of that.

The morning hours I worked most of the time had me arriving downtown to pick up newspapers and start the show prep around one a.m. each weekday. I quickly acclimated to those hours and enjoyed working in solitude until the rest of the show members came through the station doors a few hours later. Plus, I rarely dealt with any traffic problems going to or coming home from work.

Working in the early a.m. hours meant no traffic.


I was always on the hunt for show material, reading three newspapers cover to cover seven days a week along with magazines like People, Time, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly. (This was pre-internet days)On weekends, I would often come to the station for a couple of hours to edit audio tape and set up other plans. Coming up with show ideas was a constant and the collaboration of these ideas with others was one of the best parts of being in the business.

Here’s an example of looking for things to cover on a show. During a Bears home game against the Packers on a Monday night, some guy jumped from an end zone aisle seat to catch a football that was kicked through the uprights. The problem was where he jumped from was way up in the stands and his drop to the ground was about fifteen to twenty feet! He leaped to his side and caught the ball in mid air then landed safely on the concrete below that led to the player’s tunnel. It was crazy to see! The Monday Night Football announcers were commenting on it and they interviewed the leaping fan. I wrote down his name and info then called the guy to get him on the air the following morning. People talked more about this ball catching jumper than the Bears game and we had him on the air before anyone else did.

Here’s a screen shot of the Bears fan who leaped from the stands to catch a ball kicked for field goal.

When Michael Jackson talked about having the rare skin lightening disease Vitaligo on a prime time network interview, guess who was leaving messages that night on the answering machines of local dermatologists? I had to set up an interview so our listeners could know more about this skin affliction Michael claimed to have. That’s what it takes to be on top of things.

Michael Jackson claimed to have the skin disease Vitiligo.

Remember when Pee Wee Herman’s alter ego Paul Reubens was charged with indecent behavior in a porno theatre? I quickly called and recorded the theatre’s phone message telling the plot of the movie shown there that week. Whatever your listeners are hearing and talking about, you need to be all over it ASAP. You need to OWN things and soon your show will have the reputation of being the place to turn when cool stuff is happening.

A radio producer also has to be a jump or two ahead on coming trends so that when those trends reach mainstream popularity, you’ve got your show already covering it. I was always pretty good at this but there’s one big craze from TV I missed the boat on.

It was during the late spring into the summer of 2000. I got network calls each week asking if we wanted to talk to stars of this brand new weekly TV series and I would pass. My CBS contact person was shocked. “Are you SURE you guys aren’t interested?” I calmly said “Yes, it’s nothing to us.” Every week, the same answer, the same “No thank you.” So what new big deal was I blind and deaf to? A little reality show called “Survivor.” It was off my radar and I wasn’t catching on to the buzz that grew red hot. Finally, when they got down to the last four contestants I woke up and we joined in on the “Survivor” craze, a little late and behind the curve.

The initial craze of “Survivor” was a trend I was late to catch.

Being behind the initial wave of “Survivor-mania” isn’t the worst of mistakes. It’s not like I passed on signing the Beatles or Taylor Swift to a record deal but it was a miss. I also never thought the Celebrity Reality TV show thing would become an American phenomenon. Watching shows like “The Osbournes” and Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie’s “The Simple Life” I figured these stars knew we were all laughing AT them. Guess what? They didn’t give a shit! The paychecks cleared and those imbeciles got richer. In more current times, the Kardashians craze is something I NEVER would have predicted. I couldn’t fathom that kind of narcissism, idiocy and shallowness becoming so popular. I was definitely guilty of giving the American public too much credit for having class and brains.

I never would have forecasted the popularity and success of the Kardashian goofs.