A program following several Chicago radio personalities and examining the business of radio in Chicago. The program contains footage of the personalities at work (both on the air and off the air) and follows some of them during their time outside of work. Other people interviewed include various station managers and executives and Chicago radio critic, Robert Feder. Some personalities featured include: WGN 's Bob Collins, WGCI's Tom Joyner, WBEZ's Dick Buckley, WXRT's Terry Hemmert, WLUP's Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, Kevin Matthews, and Jonathon Brandmeier.
1:01Copy video clip URL WTTW Journal opening.
1:26Copy video clip URL John Callaway opens show with monologue about how radio is under-appreciated: “Since Pearl Harbor, radio has had impact on every day of my life.”
2:30Copy video clip URL four fifty four AM. Bob Collins arrives at work. His shift on WGN-AM runs from five thirty to nine thirty AM.
4:14Copy video clip URL Montage of radio billboards and radio clips.
5:06Copy video clip URL Collins talks about his start in radio at age 14 and the trajectory of his career. We cut back to the station where Collins is on the air. Caller prefaces his comments with “I’ve been listening to you for about 5 years and every time I listen, I find out you’re just a good old boy.” This caller is upset about people who don’t support handgun ownership, claiming they’ve never owned a gun and don’t know about them. Collins claims he is in favor of gun control. Later Collins tells us he tries as much as possible to be honest. Collins reads a quiz question to a woman who answers correctly and wins a trip to Tahoe.
8:48Copy video clip URL Lorna Gladstone, program director for WGN, talks about Collins’ fan base. Apparently he has polarized his audience. Collins claims: “I would like to be not necessarily universally loved, but universally believed.” Collins ringing Salvation Army bell. He does radio show from outside there with the Salvation Army band. He talks about how there are things he could do 20 years ago that are impossible for him to do now, seemly referring to things that are just in bad taste for an older man to do.
11:43Copy video clip URL Tom Joyner of WGCI-FM, 2-6 PM, arrives at work. We had learned from Callaway that Joyner does a morning show in Dallas and then flies to Chicago for an afternoon show. Joyner has fun using the lyrics of a rap song to make jokes – “Don’t believe the hype.” We see Joyner in a limo to O’Hare Airport, going back to Dallas for the night. He talks about a disc jockey of old who inspired him, Father Rock. This man would say anything he wanted to on the radio, including fantasizing about “Spitting [watermelon] seeds up at George Wallace’s window.” Joyner says there are no more personalities, that’s why he can hold down two jobs. He says he came around at a time when they were still encouraging DJ’s to be a personalities, to really say something. Marv Dyson, general manager of WGCI, talks about the success of his station. “Fun” is his motto. Joyner: “I don’t really consider what I do work. I’m a DJ. I play music and I have fun twice a day. I’m not an air traffic controller… that’s a job. I’m no brain surgeon… that ‘s a job. I’m playing music and I’m having fun.” Dyson says that black people are their base audience, but they are trying to be the station of choice for all Chicagoans. Joyner says his day starts at three thirty AM. He wakes up to a milkshake. He goes through his whole schedule, which is packed until his seven PM flight back to Dallas. “I have a problem with ‘more music, less talk’, because that puts me out of business. I’m the exception because I bring personality to the afternoons. Chicago is the exception. Most radio stations don’t have morning guys doing afternoons. That’s what I am, a morning guy doing afternoons.”
12:31Copy video clip URL Steve Dahl, 2-7, WLUP. Dahl talks about the traffic backups due to security surrounding the visit of Dan Quayle. Dahl makes fun of Quayle, saying he doesn’t need any security because no one would want to bother assassinating him. Jim DeCastro, manager of WLUP. His people are part of the success of the station. “None of the successful stations in Chicago are successful because of luck. It’s pure warfare out there.” Jonathon Brandmire, five thirty to ten am, WLUP, talks about DeCastro. He shows us how easy it is to do his job – he just has to push one button to put on a commercial. DeCastro says Kevin Matthews is the next big guy. We see Matthews (ten to two thirty) at the station. He imitates Larry King for a caller. “If it weren’t for the Loop, I’d honestly be out of radio. Because I hate radio. It’s idiots that run it.” DeCastro says that the reason they get such good DJ’s is that they take care of their employees. He says that WGN is not a competitor because their audience is mainly over 50 years old.
26:51Copy video clip URL Ed Schwartz, 11-3 WGN, reacts sharply to DeCastro’s statements. He thinks there is a big enough market in Chicago for every body.
27:21Copy video clip URL People in the street say what their favorite radio station is.
27:43Copy video clip URL Terry Hemmert of WXRT-FM. 6-10am. She says she quit sleeping, since she didn’t want to give up her nightlife – concerts, theatre, etc. She goes to bed around 11 or 12 and gets up at four thirty AM. On being a woman in a male-dominated field: “I was little miss jock when I was a kid, and I think that prepared me to deal with sexism.” “I like being in a position of exposing new music. I was the kind of kid that was always inviting people over to the house saying, ‘you gotta hear this new record’… I’m like Santa Claus in a way… People will say ‘I’m in to Roxy Music because of you’… and that’s a nice complement. At most stations, the DJs don’t program their own music… they don’t spend three hours the day before lovingly programming their slot… The DJs here are here because they love their music… In one hour we have Elvis Presley, Flock of Seagulls, UB40, the Smithereens… My style is I try to cover a lot of different things… I try not to be on my soapbox every morning, but i think there is a segment of the audience that wants to know what’s going on. As long as Mort Downey’s on the air, I think I should be heard from. But I don’t think I should do it every day… My first job is to entertain.” “I always wanted to be a priest… One time I stood up at the pulpit and said this, and a nun chimed in, ‘You got my vote!'”
33:28Copy video clip URL Larry Schrierer, WGN-AM. Leslie Kierling, shadow traffic. Buzz Kilman, new director, WLUP. Chris Berry, WBBM-AM, director. He talks about logistical details of presidential visits. Bernie Tafoya, producer. Bob Crawford, city hall reporter. They talk about Ronald Reagan’s visit to Chicago, which was occurring at that moment. Carleen Mosback, senior producer. We see the reporters trying to cover the story as it occurs. We see Reagan on TV, throwing the first pitch at Wrigley Field during a Cubs-Pirates game.
39:14Copy video clip URL David Perlman, manager WMAQ. Nancy Turner, 10-2, WUSN (US-99). “I’m just a happy person, and I guess that co mes through on the radio”.
41:13Copy video clip URL Dick Buckley, WBEZ, eight to ten thirty PM. Jazz. “If you have a low voice, it’s like an athlete, you keep checking the competition. If you hear a lower voice… When I was smoking, I never heard anyone with a lower voice… I have been embarrassed, a few times, nobody’s noticed, but two or three notes are gone, it’s not as low since I stopped smoking.” “All the jazz stations that you can name in the past 25 years that have gone down the drain have not gone down because they were not making money… They’ve gone down because someone got an idea that they could make MORE money with whatever pop music there is that day.”
44:07Copy video clip URL WNUR, student operated station from Northwestern University. Jason Cohen, Scott Rutherford, Dirk Vanden Heuvel. They are not a talk station, they’re here first and foremeost to play music, not to be an entertainer. They try to predict what the cutting edge is going to be. However, once something gets big, then they stop playing it, “because then we’re not living up to our ideal of being alternative.”
47:11Copy video clip URL Info about radio finances. Robert Feder of the Chicago Sun-Times. He is an expert on this topic. Feder says: “Commercials are part of what Bob Collins does as part of his show. He reads them himself. He is the quintessential pitchman.” “The ultimate product of radio stations is not the programming. The real product is the audience. Radio stations are in business to deliver listeners to advertisers. It’s designed to bring them to the station so they will be there when the advertisements are played.” Gladstone says WGN is the most expensive kind of station to run, since they have so many employees. Feder: “The saying that ‘a license to operate a radio station is a license to print money’ is true. You have to try hard not to turn a profit, especially in Chicago.”
51:11Copy video clip URL Fred Winston, mornings WLS.
51:26Copy video clip URL Collins at Roma’s Italian Beef on north Cicero Avenue. He says that the food there is the best in the world. “We come here minimum once a week, sometimes 2-3 times a week. I could wear Brooks Brothers suits, and eat at Le Francais, but that’s not my lifestyle. I make my living talking to people, and if I lose touch with them, I can’t do that.” He talks about how he doesn’t have to do his job because he already has enough money, but he likes to do it. He talks about how he has no desire to be more famous, because he couldn’t just go to Roma’s and enjoy a lunch without the place becoming a madhouse.
54:01Copy video clip URL Joyner. “I was with Muhammad Ali, traveling with him. It all started with the radio. I would call him up. He was amazed that I could find him. I didn’t care where he was, I would call him and have him on the radio. I ended up leaving the station to follow him full time. [Ali was going to do a regular show with Joyner, but he backed out at the last minute, after Joyner had already quit his job]. He said, ‘You be my PR man. You just line up things for me.’ How do you be the PR man for Muhammed Ali? He just lines things up for himself. I did that for a few months, and then I crawled back to the radio station… ‘Please let me have my job back!’ I was out of work for a long time because I couldn’t get my job back.” “It’s really sad, but I see us (black radio) killing our selves. Because black radio was built on personality, and without personality, we’re just another station on the dial.”
57:03Copy video clip URL Radio Faces closing with shots of DJs.
58:16Copy video clip URL End of tape.