WELCOME TO THE SAMPLING OF EXCERPTS FROM MY BOOK “RAISED ON THE RADIO” WHICH I WILL BE RELEASING LATER THIS YEAR.
Producing for Stefanie Miller and John Howell at WCKG was a hell of a ride. We shared plenty of laughs and nutty times on and off the air.
In January of 1989 we gave away some listener trips to Ocho Rios, Jamaica in preparation for live remote broadcasts we were set to do there in February. The WCKG personnel going on this trip included Stefanie, John and me, along with Program Director Tim Sabean, Marketing Director Dan Michaels, his wife Laura and Account Executive Donna Blanke. It was a week of fun morning shows and serious partying the rest of the day.
Party time was all week in Ocho Rios Jamaica.
While in Jamaica, I supported the Ocho Rios weed merchants and all of us guzzled truckloads of Red Stripe Beer. I don’t recall seeing any other brands of brew down there. This was the one time in my radio career where every night of the broadcast week was a party night.
At the end of our seven days, upon returning to O’Hare airport, the only member of our group to arouse suspicion of smuggling contraband was John Howell. The security staff zeroed in on the guy right away. He was beet red from lack of sun block sporting a loud Hawaiian shirt topped with a huge pith helmet made of palm leaves. John didn’t look like a drug dealer but he didn’t look right either. Howell was detained and checked out in private by the airport officials while the rest of us were doubled over from laughing our asses off!
On the subject of over indulging while at WCKG, I should belly up to the bar. After daily morning show meetings, John and I would head down to Le Bordeaux which was the restaurant and bar in the sub-level of our building. Some days we’d order omelet breakfasts, other days it was drinking time. John downed beers while I opted for screwdrivers. We hung out at least a couple of weekend nights each month and would prowl Chicago’s bars and clubs with Jim Volkman and sometimes Mitch Michaels. John also had a habit of solo weekend bar excursions that would have him waking up in the morning to look over time stamps on Cash Station ATM receipts in his pants pockets to decipher all the places he visited the night before. I told him that was like a modern day trail of bread crumbs ala Hansel and Gretel.
The beer and booze pounding I did with radio co-workers was something new for me because during my WLS days the air personalities pretty much ended their crazy partying and drinking years before. (Save for maybe John Landecker) At WLS, jocks were on their second or third marriages and carousing as a group at local bars and clubs was in their rearview mirrors. I more than made up for this void at WCKG.
The drinks flowed while working at WCKG. Burp.. Good times!
One Saturday night I met up with Howell downtown as the two of us and Dan Michaels were going to see Rod Stewart at the Rosemont Horizon, now known as the Allstate Arena. By the time Dan and a stretch limo picked up John and me at a bar, we already had several beers in us. More drinking went on during the ride out west and when they poured us out at the Horizon ticket gates John and I were piss drunk.
Rod Stewart takes the stage and we are going nuts in a luxury suite owned by the Chicago Sun Times who spent lots of money airing commercials on WCKG. Howell and I were the rowdy idiots that night, inviting women sitting in front of the suite seats to come back and join us and fetching them beers. I’m screaming and singing to Rod’s hits and being the kind of guy you don’t want to sit near during a concert. We went too far when John staggered by Mr. and Mrs. Berger, the bigwigs from the Sun Times and spilled a huge bucket of popcorn all over the suite’s floor. I howled with laughter at this sight. The Bergers were not amused. It was a debacle in front of two heavy hitting sponsors. After the show, John and I, playing the parts of drunken stumblebums, slept the whole ride back to his place while Dan Michaels just threw his hands up at our shenanigans.
Rod Stewart in concert, circa 1988.
The following Monday after our post-show meeting, Tim Sabean kept John and me in his office for the requisite “Don’t act like drunken asses in front of clients” speech. He wasn’t so much mad as he was just shaking his head saying we knew better, which we did. It was like a lighter version of “Animal House” when the Delta frat boys caught flak for their ‘Roman Toga Party’ that went nuts. Things that night with John and I just got out of control. So after Tim scolded us for a few minutes and we promised to rope in our behavior, it was all good again. Then our boss smiled and asked for more funny details of how stupid we got.
Tim was a responsible radio guy, but also a closet knucklehead. He liked to show folks a picture in his wallet of his “Pride and Joy.” Yes, it was a photo of dish detergent products Pride and Joy. It was great having Tim on that trip to Jamaica, otherwise he’d be calling every day wanting to catch up on the fun we were having down there. Tim had a wacky alter ego he called Bobby Magic. Bobby Magic was the carefree nut-job side of Tim Sabean and I learned plenty from all sides of my boss. Despite the intense alcohol intake during my WCKG days, my liver survived.
Working hard and playing & partying harder at WCKG was a load of fun. By the way, if anyone sees the brain cells I lost during that time, would you please return them to me? Thanks!
Me, Tim Sabean aka “Bobby Magic” and Mitch Michaels partying at John Howell’s wedding, 1991.