The Glowing Green Crystal


Christmas time at age eight is when I saw TV commercials advertising the ‘Say It-Play-It’ tape recorder. The ads showed you could record your voice or a song on a weird looking yellow plastic cartridge stuck in a small red console and listen back to it. I had to have this! In 1969, this was mind blowing technology. The tape cartridge was smaller and shaped different than traditional cassette tapes. Once it was in my hands I couldn’t get enough of my tape recorder. I’d record conversations at the dinner table, tell jokes into it, sing along to records, track audio of TV shows, you name it, I taped it and played it back.

(pictured above- The Say-It Play-It Tape Recorder) 

 That recording magic in the “Say-It Play It” was the genesis of my love and quest to work in media. To me it was what the glowing green crystal was to a young Clark Kent in the “Superman” movies. You know the story, a teenage Clark finds a green crystal that appeared to call out to him and it starts him on the journey to find out who he is and why he’s on the planet Earth.

My recording devices progressed from the Say-It-Play-It to a small reel to reel tape recorder with hand held microphone and then a basic cassette tape recorder. I also had free reign of my sister’s stereo and by age twelve tuned into and recorded radio shows hosted by a sarcastic sounding afternoon disc jockey named Larry Lujack on WCFL AM 1000.


Larry Lujack didn’t sound like your typical every day radio host. If he didn’t like a record, he’d say so. When he thought some celebrity was a nitwit, he nailed them or when a listener wrote a silly letter to him, he’d mock it with his “Clunk Letter of the Day.” I liked Larry’s sarcasm and found his bemused attitude aligned with mine. Larry’s name and face was all over Chicago for many years during his stints at WCFL and WLS AM 890. Billboards, newspaper ads, TV commercials, movie theatre public service advertisements helped make Larry a major presence. Most everyone in the Chicago area, age forty and under woke up to Larry Lujack and knew him well. He was smart enough to trademark his moniker of “Super Jock” so that no other radio host could use it. (Stealing names and bits is commonplace in the radio business.) Larry even released a book about his life aptly titled “Super Jock” which was co-written by local newspaper columnist Dan Jedlicka.

If I loved radio by listening at home or in the car and got hooked on the line by watching shows unfold in the WLS studio viewing area, then hearing Larry Lujack say on the air, “Here’s a story sent to us by Mick Kahler” had me reeled on the boat, in the bucket and over to the skillet, hot to make a career in broadcasting. Most people who work in radio can attest to the draw of that first time their name is said on the air or they actually get to speak on air via a phone call with an on air jock. It’s an acknowledgement of you and your contribution to a show. Forget about it! I heard the siren’s song and was a radio goner.

Larry Lujack, the king of morning rock n roll radio in Chicago

I sent Larry a great “Police Beat” item from my local paper about a guy who was arrested for sniffing other people’s toes. Lujack tried to be serious when reporting the police blotter stories but my toe sniffing tale cracked him up big time. Another time Larry read a letter from me inviting him to join Willie C and me at a Ramones concert. I sent the offer because he said he liked the punk band. I knew Larry would never say yes but thought he might read the invite on the air. He did. I managed to catch some of my on air mentions on tape and with each hit of recognition I got, I could feel myself getting closer to finding my own version of radio nirvana.

Parental Guidance



Personality-wise, I was more like my mother, social and outgoing. She was a patient and excellent listener who people trusted and often came to for counsel and advice. Dorie Kahler became an Elmhurst City Council Alderman in the mid 70’s. She was asked to run for higher county office but four years of small time politics was more than enough for her. My mom once won a large thermal cooler at a Drive-In movie theatre for being the fastest to melt a snowball by rolling it up and down her arms and legs. She found herself in situations like that and just rolled with them; sometimes literally. The sass in Dorie Kahler was inherited from her father as an occasional yell of “Asshole!” to a bad driver on the road was part of her repertoire, sometimes doing so with my friends in the car, we loved it!

My favorite “mom story” comes from my teen years when I told her an off color joke that she passed on to co-workers at Good Samaritan Hospital where she was a secretary in the psychiatric ward. A few days later mom learned the joke went ‘viral’ all over the hospital, on all shifts with everybody cracking up laughing.

Alright, I’ll give you the joke. A mom bakes a cake for her three young sons and decorates it with those little silver balls, smaller than a BB that you can digest. After eating some of the cake, her first son goes to pee and comes out of the bathroom screaming “Mommy, mommy! I wee-weed a BB!” She asks, “Are you O.K.?” “Yeah” he answers. “I guess it just scared me coming out like that.”   The second son goes to the bathroom, comes running out, “Mommy Mommy! I wee weed a BB!” She asks “Are you O.K?” Yeah, I guess it just scared me coming out like that.” Ten minutes later her third son comes running out of the bathroom, “Mommy! Mommy!” She nods her head and says, “Yeah yeah, I know. You wee weed a BB.” He says, “No, I was playing with myself and I shot the dog!”   Mom tells fellow staffers that joke at the hospital and the whole place is rolling on the floor.

My father had a dry wit but it wasn’t something he shared with many outside the family. My passion for movies came from him. Pop had an encyclopedic knowledge of films dating back to when he was a teenager. He knew the stars featured in any major film released to theatres and his taste in quality movies was impeccable.

The most valued trait I got from my family was their ability to do extra special things for others. When a birthday came up, it wasn’t “Do we get our son/brother, another shirt or some money?” It was more like “What can we do that’s REALLY outstanding?” Mom, dad and my sister Mary lived for bringing out cool gifts that were extra special and I was often on the receiving end of these. An example would be when I was seventeen and dad surprised me with tickets to see comedian George Carlin. He knew I listened to Carlin’s albums, found out about a Chicago area appearance Carlin was making and took me out for a night of hilarity. Seeing George Carlin in concert when I was still in high school, how many teens can say their father treated them to something so cool?




When I was in high school, the legal age for drinking beer and wine in Illinois was nineteen and to drink hard liquor you had to be twenty one. My friends and I began social weekend imbibing at age sixteen.   Some of us, myself included, started shaving so it was easy to look nineteen and buy beer at liquor stores in neighboring towns. We rarely got into the hard booze. A few cans of Old Style or Olympia beer at weekend parties would do just fine thank you.

My parents had a liberal attitude towards alcohol. They told me to call them if I was ever too liquored up to drive, get a ride home from someone sober or just stay over where I was until the morning. By age seventeen they allowed me and my friends to drink at our house. My mom would fill us up with snacks and keep an eye out to make sure nobody went too nuts with the suds. The idea from the folks was, “He should learn how to handle drinking at some point and if it happens under our roof, so much the better.” And yes, there were a couple of times when I had to bunk at a friend’s house due to being over-served and on occasion I hosted buzzed pals at my house for the same reason. One friend filled up half a laundry sink with beer and pizza puke then passed out on a cold basement floor with his head resting against our cat litter box.  Hey, we were young and sometimes stupid.

Senior year, during our Christmas break, we had a huge kegger bash in my basement and one of my teachers and his wife came by to say hey. One guest was the daughter of the assistant superintendant of our school district at the time. In our underage drinking days, if you got caught by the police with alcohol, it was rarely a big deal. Elmhurst cops just made you pour out all your beers and if you weren’t drunk they’d send you on your way. No arrests or police reports, no tickets, no court dates or alcohol counseling. Back then things were much looser than today.

Some weekends, I had baseball teammates over for poker and beers. One time someone stole a ham that my mom planned to serve us for Easter. That was the same weekend when our cat Squeaks delivered a freshly killed rabbit to our back porch on Easter Eve. The next morning I awoke to find no basket of candy waiting for me. My first basketless Easter! My parents thought I outgrew the whole treats thing but I hadn’t. So I asked my mom why I didn’t get a basket full of candy. She calmly answered, “Sorry Mick, Squeaks ate the Easter Bunny.”

Outside of the beer guzzling, the rest of my partying history wasn’t anything too out of control. Put it this way, the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles was asked about his band’s past drinking and drug use habits. Glenn said, “We weren’t the Stones but we weren’t the Osmonds either.” Well for me personally, I wasn’t straight like the Osmonds but I wasn’t as crazy as the Eagles either.

Young Love: Stuck in Neutral



You might be wondering about girls. I sure did, getting my first kiss in 5th grade from a classmate named Gloria. Moving on from there, girls were the best part of Friday night Junior High School dance class which was a way to be introduced to the social graces of male/female encounters. Years later, our dance instructor Mr. Morgan got busted for having inappropriate relations with some of his female students. These were thirteen and fourteen year olds and this guy was in his 60’s. Ugh.

The fall of 1975 thru the spring of 1979 might’ve been a sweet spot in the sexual revolution but for most of us guys at York the farthest we would go was a few stolen kisses in a paneled rec room at someone’s house with a young lass after a few cans of beer. We weren’t afraid of girls, just a little slow to get out of the gate. It’s no wonder movies like “American Pie” and “Superbad” resonated so well with me. We were curious and lustful, just stuck in neutral. Bob Seger best described what us wannabe studs and the fairer sex were up to, “Working on mysteries without any clues.” The good news is things got better as time went on.

The first time I would “know” a woman was three years out of high school. It was cliché, on a Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach I met a bartender named Candace who was twelve years my senior. That’s probably why I’ve often been attracted to older women. The influence of films like “Summer of ‘42” and “The Graduate” might factor into that fixation as well, so here’s to you Mrs. Robinson.

While in high school, some of us would get together for all night poker games at my friend Freddie’s house. After the card playing, we moved past the occasional glimpse at a Playboy centerfold as our carnal interests took a more literary turn. Freddie owned several of the books written by famed former prostitute turned Madame Xaxiera Hollander who went by the nickname ‘The Happy Hooker.’ We’d divvy up the books and lounge around the rec room basement on sleeping bags and couches reading the nutty exploits from the Happy Hooker’s days as a call girl. It was like Oprah’s Book Club but for horn-dog teens.

One morning I got home from one of these sleepovers and Freddie called all frantic. The Happy Hooker books were missing. All of us who stayed over assured him we did not take them. He was in a total quandary about what happened to those soft core porn tomes. Fast forward a month later, Freddie is with his family opening presents at Christmas. Mom, dad, older sisters, brother and their eighty year old grandmother are on hand to watch him open a box from his father. So what’s inside? All the missing Happy Hooker books! His dad says, “Why don’t you show what you have there, son?” Poor Freddie wanted to die on the spot. While we were asleep that fateful night, his father came downstairs, spotted the books and collected them for a holiday surprise. Years later I got to relate that stolen book story to the Happy Hooker herself, Xaviera Hollander during a radio interview.  From reading about the exploits of the famed hooker/madam to telling her this story, you gotta love it when things come full circle!