March 2010 Archives

July 31, 1949, the Bridgeport Sunday Herald:

Little did they know.

I watched Ozzie and Harriet as a very young child, but I didn't like it. Even at that age, I sensed that nothing was actually happening on the show, nothing of note, anyway. Ozzie was always just there, not particularly amusing, obsessed with Tutti-Fruitti ice cream. Harriet was just there, too. David and Ricky were sullen teens. It wasn't frenetic like Lucy, or peppered with catchphrases and witty asides like Dobie Gillis. It didn't have a Barney Fife or a Buddy and Sally or even a Mel Cooley. It just sat there, dusty and slow.

In retrospect, I was... right, I'd say. Never liked it much, and time hasn't changed that.

This article wasn't about the very beginning of the show; that was a few years earlier, and it had runs on NBC and CBS radio. This was for the start of the radio version's final few years on ABC. The TV show started in 1952, and the rest you know.

Enjoy the ennui:

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Anybody remember this one?

"Freddy" ran in a lot of papers from 1955 through 1980. Freddie was the dirty kid in this sample, Freddy MacReady, to be precise. I used to read it every day when I was very young, although I didn't like the way the characters looked and really didn't get the premise other than that it was a kid and his friends. The girl, I believe, was named Charlene. He had a little brother named Ernest in a black cap. That was pretty much the whole deal. You don't see much recollection of it anymore.

I don't know why the paper in this case labeled it "Freddie," with an "ie." Artist "Rupe" was a pen name for Bob Baldwin.

I used to read this one, too:

There's a lot more on the Internet about "Louie," by Harry Hanan, a British cartoonist transplanted to the U.S. in 1948. In fact, Allan Holtz at Stripper's Guide has this article from 1952 commemorating the fifth anniversary of the strip's debut. It was a pantomime strip, featuring a hapless little mustachioed chap, his battleaxe wife, and his being beaten down by life. The strip ran from 1947 through 1976. Oh, and from the Bridgeport Herald on July 31, 1949:

More comics coming....

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Others have written of the mystery of this:

July 25, 1960, Sammy Davis, Jr. singing the theme from "Ocean's 11," "Eee-O Eleven." To this day, people debate exactly what the hell "Eee-O Eleven" is supposed to mean. The best educated guess is that it's how craps players called out eleven.

What did it sound like? In the movie, like this:

Click here for the single version.

The instrumental version, conducted by Nelson Riddle, behind the Saul Bass-designed credits:

It did not, by the way, hit the top 100.

This, from the same issue, was for a single that did chart:

You've heard it, I gather.

Anyone who's ever lived in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia has run into Chubby Checker at least once. My friend Joe, if I recall correctly, occasionally saw him at Costco in King of Prussia. I know I've run into him there at some point. He's just always around. You can even get Chubby Checker jerky.

Here he is!

Is it just me, or did the Twist get really, really boring about a third of the way through any song? How long could you keep that up?

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My friend and former colleague at KLSX Los Angeles, Larry Wachs, is, today, one of WNNX (Rock 100.5) Atlanta's "Regular Guys," waking up central Georgia with humor, politics, and unusual odors. In 1991 at WBSB (B104) in Baltimore, he was briefly the sidekick to a mercurial and sometimes out-of-control wacky top 40 morning man whose preferred sidekick had been fired. The jock eventually got fired himself, he and his friend landed in New Haven, the jock found sobriety and religion, and the rest is history. But here's what Billboard reported on October 12, 1991:

Chris Emry's been on and off the air in Baltimore and Washington, and just a few weeks ago did an interview at All Access. Wachs -- he gave up the "Larry Wax" spelling when he transitioned to talk radio -- is Atlanta's favorite Jewish radio personality, if you don't count Clark Howard. Or Mara Davis. Or Jimmy Baron. Or Bert Weiss or Steak Shapiro. (I kid, Lar, because I love) That Glenn Beck guy? He turned out to be, um, Glenn Beck. But you knew that.

Here he was in 1985:

You'd abuse whatever substances you could get, too.

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Back to Billboard for a couple of notes from the April 20, 1963 edition:

There was no commercial radio in England, of course, in 1963. Radio Luxembourg -- Radio 208 -- took advantage of that by targeting England with its nighttime programming and selling ads aimed at the U.K. At this stage, the station was still airing sponsored blocks of time until midnight, but added this overnight show as a precursor to the eventual change to a traditional top 40 format with commercials in competition with the pirates, who came along in 1964 through 1968, and the new U.K.-based commercial stations, which launched in 1973. 208 limped along until the end of 1991, tried to go satellite only, and finally went down for the count at the end of '92. The current Radio Luxembourg on the Internet is a classic rock station that dates back to 2005 and has sometimes been heard on digital radio as well. The French version, RTL, survives on longwave and on FM in France.

The other note is more interesting to Americans, who don't even know that Morton Downey Jr. was ever a rock jock or singer (like his father) or songwriter. He was all of that, and here he landed in the evening slot at top 40 station KUDL in Kansas City, fresh from being on the staff of Gordon McLendon's short-lived attempt at a top 40 in Chicago, WYNR. Here's how the music industry heralded "Doc" Downey's return:

Quotes and gags from label guys for an obscure nighttime jock in Kansas City? Any thoughts as to what might have been transpiring between "The Doc" and those guys?

Downey bounced around from station to station, ran the New Orleans Buccaneers in the ABA, and ended up trying to reinvent himself as a loudmouth talk show host on KFBK in Sacramento, where he was replaced by another former Kansas City guy trying to relaunch his radio career, Rush Limbaugh, before trying TV and becoming, you know, Morton Downey Jr. But you know that part.

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LOOK AROUND YOU

Many apologies. Still not 100%. We spent the day driving around L.A., and it reminded me that this is a pretty great city when you remember to spend some time out of the house. Unfortunately, it was ridiculously hot and the A/C in my car chose today not to work. (It only works when it's cool out. Perfect)

And that was pretty much the day. I missed Butler beating K-State but watched West Virginia beat Kentucky in the battle of teams with coaches you can't stand, combined graduation rate probably microscopically small. The Big East managed to get one team in the Final Four after all -- law of averages, I guess.

I have plenty of stuff for more Plundering the Papers posts, but I'll start that up again tomorrow. Tonight, I just want to get well enough to reach, say, 75% of normal. That would be nice.

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I'm feeling so awful, I don't even remember what I wrote about in this week's All Access newsletter. Hope it made sense:

How about this? A station cluster in a large market needed to replace a departing program director who'd handled two stations. They did something I didn't think radio companies do anymore: They hired two PDs, one for each station.

One PD per station. That's... wow. I thought those days were over.

Maybe they are, and this is an aberration. Two in place of one... that's not something you see much in 2010. Not in talk radio, that's for sure. I'd like to think that management doesn't think talk radio programs itself, but I get the sense that they think, well, you stick a computer in a closet and point the satellite and that's it. And, certainly, we've seen several talk stations handed over to the PD of a sister music station (or two, or three), as if there would be any time for someone whose hands are already full to add another station to the mix.

But the way things have been lately makes me wonder if management really knows what a PD does. There seems to be the assumption that all you need in that position is a warm body to make sure the spots run. It's more than that, of course. And if your GM or corporate folks are unclear about it, here are just a few things that a good program director does other than fill out paperwork and load PSAs onto the computer.

A good PD needs to be a psychologist (or is it psychiatrist? I never get those straight). Great talent is often, to use a scientific term, nuts. I mean that in a good way. Surely, there has to be something a little off about anyone who wants to get on the radio and tell the world exactly what he or she thinks for three hours. It's not just a matter of communicating with the talent, but it's also helping everyone on the staff get along. How many times do co-hosts argue and fight off the air? Hosts and producers? Management and hosts? Being able to keep everyone from killing each other is an art a good PD learns, and fast.

There's also the matter of handling sales pressures, and in that regard, I've heard some talent and managers say that the days of saying no to the sales department are over. That may be the case, but, and here I'm speaking only for myself, I wanted the sales department to come to me first before approaching the hosts with a brilliant sales idea. It's simple: What might seem like a slam dunk for the sales guy might be poison for programming and for the host's reputation. An embarrassingly small-time remote, a client as an on-air guest, an unfortunate endorsement... someone needs to manage that. And while it's not always possible, I tried to find ways to "adjust" the sales department's brainstorms so that they'd serve everyone's purpose better. The trick is to avoid being obstructionist and uncooperative and find a way to make everyone happy. (No, there's no way to make an endorsement for Colon Blow anything but, um, an endorsement for Colon Blow)

In a similar vein, a PD needs to serve as protection for the talent, a filter between the GM and the host. The GM is going to field complaints and will want to tell (or tell off) the talent. Making sure it goes through the PD not only helps soften the blow, but the PD can decide exactly what the talent needs to hear. That's right, sometimes it's better not to let the talent know that someone at the country club didn't like what he or she said about some topic or another. Getting belted with "you shouldn't say that" from the GM or salespeople or anyone else will do a number on a host's psyche. It's better to have one person handle that stuff and filter what gets through. That includes compliments, too, when they're about stuff you know isn't working.

In some ways, a PD needs to be a producer, too, not necessarily hands-on with every show, but at least involved enough to recognize when a host is off track and help fix that. It could involve being hands-on enough to sit in on show prep and help pitch, craft, and polish a topic, or as little as making the right suggestions in a post-show air-check or review. Either way, it involves listening and having that indefinable ear for what the show SHOULD sound like, and an awareness of how to get it there. And that applies to syndicated shows as well; a PD shouldn't just stick a show on and forget it, he or she should listen, make sure that the content and sound fit the station, and let the syndicator know what the station needs from the talent and the show. I've found syndicators quite willing to take feedback and work with affiliates to address their concerns. It's in everyone's interest for the show to work on your station.

Finally, the PD has to be a little bit of a showman, by which I don't mean that the PD should be a comedian or inject his or herself into the programming. It's more that the PD needs to know how to market the station with imaging and attitude. The station -- ANY station -- should have a personality. It's one of radio's advantages, and a station's projected personality often takes a cue from the person in charge as well as the talent on the air. Talk radio IS show business, after all. It helps to know how to make a show, on the air, in marketing, and at appearances.

There's more, of course, and that includes all the paperwork and sales meetings and, most critically, the ability to find and develop talent. But the former are necessary evils and the latter is something that's as much instinctual as anything else. Some people have the ear for what works, some don't. There's no test to determine if someone has the right instincts, except to look at the results.

And that's all you need in a PD. He or she just has to be a shrink, a diplomat, a filter, a producer, an entertainer, a schmoozer, and an office drone, all while possessing good instincts. Hygiene helps, too, but you can't always have everything.

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Something that can help with the producer part is All Access' very own Talk Topics column with hundreds of show prep items of all kinds -- national, international, sports, entertainment, kickers, anything any talk radio show might use. As I've mentioned here before, you can conveniently check what's new via the Talk Topics Twitter feed at twitter.com/talktopics. Just follow @talktopics and you'll be able to keep up with everything I throw in there, as soon as I write 'em up. Among this week's new items are road rage battery by, well, battery, the lost art of beer can collecting, how some folks are literally scared stiff, the troubles faced by the karaoke industry, a store with nothing but goods made in America, the Worst Birthday Party Ever, the end of "The Hills," the end of "At the Movies," how barbecue sauce may be good for you, why bees dying might be a very bad thing for you, a possible "exercise pill," why a baby was denied insurance coverage, $2,000 Jimmy Choo shoes that light up with every step, the growing legend of St. Petersburg's Mystery Monkey, a teacher accused of drinking on the job, why you can't quit a job you hate, and so much more, including plenty on health care and the economy and all that "real" news. If you're stuck for material, come on by and we'll fix you up.

Also at All Access this week are "10 Questions With..." KQTH (104.1 The Truth)/Tucson morning man Jon Justice, who's been making waves ever since returning to southern Arizona; the industry's best, fastest, and most complete coverage in Net News; ratings, columns, job listings, the Industry Directory, music charts... yeah, we got everything. And you can keep up with Net News at twitter.com/allaccess Also, go get the All Access iPhone app through iTunes, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, that is. It's free. And you can keep up with my personal stupidity at twitter.com/pmsimon and at pmsimon.com.

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One more thing: We're inching closer to the Revlon Run/Walk for Women 2010, which takes place on the streets surrounding USC and the Coliseum May 8th in Los Angeles. We're raising money for women's cancer research and treatment. Your help is greatly appreciated, especially in these tough times; just go to https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/MyWebPage.cfm?pID=533458 and enter your donation. Thank you!

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SORRY, GOTTA GO

Column delayed, time short, it's late, and the K-State-Xavier game's in OT.

In other words, see you tomorrow.

From the Vox Jox column in Billboard, August 8, 1960:

Yeah, THAT Marv Albert. Everybody has to start someplace. And that's why to always be friendly with the interns and assistants. That and it's the right way to behave.

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COLD FRONT

I could try to write something of value today, or I could go nurse the sore throat and incipient cold that's coming on right this minute. Hmm...

Pardon me.

UNHEALTHY, UNWEALTHY, UNWISE

Today, I did my Real Man thing, replacing a leaky radiator hose in the car. Victory will be declared only if the thing is still intact months from now and the car stops losing coolant. I am hopeful, but it ain't over until, well, you know.

It's been interesting to see the health care issue dominate talk radio and TV news today, because it's been a tremendous amount of talk by people who have absolutely no idea what's really going to happen. The legislators who voted on it probably don't know everything about it, either. I tried to read the thing; there's a lot of it, that's for sure. Understanding the impact is another thing.

TV news reporters and anchors cast their votes in favor of the law, it seemed. Diane Sawyer and other ABC folks took the "everyone who's against this is racist or misinformed" position. The local L.A. reporters I saw actually called seniors who voiced disapproval of the act "wrong," because, well, why wouldn't seniors be unanimously in favor? Look at what they get! Impartiality and skepticism took a holiday for this one.

It seemed like the radio hosts were mostly against the bill without a lot of specifics, just the generalized "it's socialism!" that you'd expect. The exception I happened to hear was when John and Ken at KFI Los Angeles handled the bill in what I thought was a really reasonable way (John will yell at me for suggesting that he's reasonable): The bill costs too much and we can't afford it, but will survive simply because there are a lot of people in situations where the bill will help them, and because there are those stories, nobody will dare kill it. Any time the law is threatened, there will be stories -- real stories, stories that will tug the heart strings -- about people and families who by no fault of their own end up at the mercy of the system. It doesn't matter whether the bill's really good or bad. It now just... is.

And that goes to what I've been saying about the bill all along. I'm fine with the idea that the bill costs too much. I don't want a National Health system that makes you wait for treatment, and I'm not crazy about the government getting involved in any official denials of coverage because a panel deems you not worthy. But just saying it's socialism or screaming that the country you loved is now gone forever misses an essential point: The current system IS broken. It's broken for people who have to buy individual coverage. It's broken for people with pre-existing conditions. It's broken for people who get sick, who have families, who lose their jobs. This bill may be awful, but the opponents have yet to propose anything better, and many refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem at all.

I have no idea whether this bill will help or hurt my family. I suspect it will not help, and it seems certain that this won't control premium increases and coverage gaps. It would have helped to introduce a totally open national market erasing the artificial state barriers to competition, and it would have helped to expand Medicare as a pay-in option to those who can't obtain private insurance for health or financial reasons -- the very people the private insurers don't want to cover and blame for high costs. The bill just doesn't do enough to address the problems. But the opposition has no plan to address any of the problems, either.

Doesn't matter, though. We now have what we have. Time to hope for the best, because the alternative is not pretty. None of this is pretty. Pretty left town a long time ago.

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The trip back was reasonably uneventful, except for the sharp turbulence somewhere over, oh, Ohio through Arizona. Other than that, it was fine, with the added bonus that on a Virgin America flight with what I think were just three unsold seats, two were the seats next to me. I had the half-row to myself. Nobody wants to sit next to me? Fine, I'll just strrrrretch out. And so I did.

The convention ended the way it began, which means that the panels were pretty unenlightening but the lobbycon -- the chance to talk to friends and business acquaintances and new contacts -- was worth the trip. And so was dinner with my sister Joan over in Hoboken, with a fine meal at the W Hotel topped by Rita's Water Ice, which happened to be handing out free cups of the stuff, plus some of Rita's absolutely insanely wonderful frozen custard. On a warm evening with everyone walking around enjoying the atmosphere, spending time with Joan and soaking it all in, the experience was pretty excellent.

But the trip on the PATH train to and from Hoboken was, well, special. I reached the PATH at 33rd Street and found a train about to go, and it was, hands down, the most crowded train I'd ever seen anywhere. I've been on the Broad Street Subway after sold-out Phillies games. I've been on the 7 train to and from Shea. I've taken the El to Wrigley and the T to Fenway. I've ridden the last P&W Trolley out of 69th Street in Upper Darby after a sold-out concert at the Tower Theater, so crowded in the single trolley car that you couldn't see to the window to figure out where you were. None were this crowded.

Why was it so packed? Unbeknownst to me, the local soccer team's new stadium happened to be opening last night. Red Bull Arena is in Harrison, right on the PATH route, and it seemed like everyone on the train was wearing a Red Bulls jersey, except for the ones wearing New Jersey Devils jerseys. Oh, right, the Devils were at home last night, too, at Prudential Center, which is a couple of blocks' walk from... the PATH train. Add the usual folks heading to and from the city and Hoboken, and it was beyond insanely crowded. There was no way to turn around, no place to move, and, incredibly, we picked up MORE riders on each stop between 33rd and Hoboken.

But I made it, and while I waited by the station for Joan to show up, I watched the people go by. There were the couples in Devils jerseys (he: Parise, she: Brodeur), more guys with shaven heads and Red Bulls jerseys, lots of Red Bulls scarfs, and countless Jersey girls with big hair and improbable outfits heading for a night of clubbing in the city. Guidos? Sure, "The Situation" would be right at home with the folks storming towards the train station steps.

And then there was the Line of the Night. A group of girls was heading towards the PATH when I heard one phrase pop out, just four words from one of the girls:

"He wears Ed Hardy!"

Imagine that in the most appalled tone of voice and you'll get it. That's all she needed to say. I have no idea who "he" is or what happened, but I don't need to know. "He wears Ed Hardy!" says it all. That could be the elevator pitch for a major motion picture. That could be the decisive testimony in a divorce hearing. It's the most descriptive thing I may have ever heard.

What a wonderful, educational evening it was.

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CONVENTION!: MULTITASKING

Today at the convention: I sat in the auditorium, people talked, I did some work, I watched Villanova lose via the magic of CBS streaming. Talk about multitasking.

There's nothing to say about the panels. They're all the same, every year, nothing new. These things work best as social occasions. You aren't missing anything.

Villanova? Ugh. Reynolds and Fisher were ice cold again, and the team was sloppy and pressing on both ends. Jay Wright is a good guy by all accounts, but this team seems to have gone bad several weeks ago and he did not get them back on track. That is not a good sign for a coach. The same team that beat West Virginia IN West Virginia couldn't beat St. Mary's on a neutral court? Really? Well, then, they're where they should be, heading home to the Main Line, losers. And the Big East did nothing for its reputation.

If anything actually happens at the rest of this convention, I'll let you know. Don't expect to hear anything.

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CONVENTION!: GROUNDHOG DAY

I'm in the back of the room again. I'm always in the back of the room. It's another talk radio convention, of course, and I tend to prefer lurking way in the back. Also, the only available power outlet is back here.

A friend told me the other day that he doesn't go to radio conventions anymore because he realized that the people at every one of them are the same people as ten years ago, only older and fatter. He's right. And I'm older, if not exactly fatter.

I am, however, experiencing a major bout of deja vu. This one's in the same place as the last one, the people are essentially the same people as at the last one, the panels are about the same thing as last year's, and I'm learning the same amount as last year, which is, of course, nothing. That's unfair, actually, since the thing's only a few hours old, but I'm fairly confident, judging by the agenda, that I'm not going to hear anything I didn't know last year, or ten years ago.

So, why come to these things? Simple: It's the only way to get some face time (what a terrible phrase) with people I wouldn't otherwise see, especially since I work out of my house. Without these events, nobody would recognize me. With these events, 20% recognize me, so that's an overall gain.

But it also requires sitting in an auditorium listening to an endless parade of overpopulated panels and presentations and wondering what I'll be having for dinner. Right now, I'm being told that music morning shows are like talk shows, which I was saying 20, 25 years ago. Whatever. I get to see some good people, do a little business, and get a change of scenery. If you have to repeat something, there are worse choices.

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CONVENTION!: PRE-GAME SHOW

A few thoughts in transit:

It is not too much to ask that if you make Internet access a feature of your business -- if you specifically offer it as part of your service -- it should work. I had TWO unfortunate encounters with Internet Access Fail today, preventing me from doing my work. No, I did not enjoy the day off.

In a similar vein, if you offer satellite television on your flights, how about making sure they all work, rather than having several channels off for the entire flight and others cutting out at inopportune moments, like the first five minutes of the NCAA tournament.

When you're rushing out the door to catch a flight, and you've made a list of stuff to take, double-check it before you leave, lest you make it through airport security and only then remember that you left your coat at home with no way to get it before the flight leaves. It is, on the other hand, a blessing if your destination is going through unseasonably, uncommonly warm weather, since the coat you planned to take would have ended up being too warm anyway. And picking up a cheap hoodie at a sporting goods store is good enough when you're known for dressing like a teenager, anyway.

Overhead bins are shrinking. My rolling bag used to fit no problem. Now, problem. This couldn't have anything to do with the fact that they charge to check bags, can it?

People: Do NOT take your shoes off on an airplane. Pity the poor, already exhausted and harassed radio guy who has to sit next to you for five hours.

The Villanova Wildcats were very, very lucky today. Very lucky. I would prefer they play like a number two seed rather than number two.

And that's more than enough to start us off.

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BIG STAR

Another convention has me a little swamped, so...

Alex Chilton was only 59 when he died today. Damn, damn, damn.

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THE FIXED

Okay, one more entry to make sure that I've restored everything. We all good now?

Okay, then. Actually, something changed in the New Entry field, but I'll get that later. In the meantime, looks like we're back up and running.

Whew.

(Great side note: for some reason, this entry's suggested tags include "Sports," "Recreation and Sports," "Shopping," "Clothing," "Footwear," "Business and Economy," "RSS," and "Myocardian Infarction." Who am I to argue?)

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THE FIXER

I just spent about an hour and a half trying to recover large portions of this website, thanks to Movable Type 5.

So, no, nothing today, thanks.

Aaugh.

October 8, 1973, and an ad appears in the Fredericksburg, VA Free Lance-Star:

69? What?

No, it wasn't anything rude or suggestive. (Well, maybe suggestive) The ad heralded the launch of Fredericksburg's very own TV station, WHFV-TV, channel 69, cable 11, at 6 pm that day. It was an NBC affiliate, a redundancy, considering that Fredericksburg, not far down I-95 from Washington, gets a perfectly adequate signal over the air and on cable from NBC's own WRC-TV in D.C. No matter, Fredericksburg, a city just far enough away to be a small market of its own, had its own TV station.

But not for long. On May 29, 1975, the station shut down. The article about the closing in the Free Lance-Star noted that the station had experienced "10 months of mounting bills and dwindling hopes." GM Ray McInturff pulled the plug at 5 pm that day -- 4:57:45, to be exact -- amid slim hopes that another company, Release the World for Christ Inc., would take the station over (although he said that the new company had indicated to him that they weren't taking over after all). WHFV was $200,000 in the red at the end, having cut staff and pushed all of its operations to one end of the building in an attempt to rent out the other end. And the staff said it hasn't been paid for the last three weeks of work. The end was a filmed travelogue followed by a taped message from Program Director Monty Smith.

Strangely enough, the paper did carry the program listings for channel 69 that evening, programming that never aired. NBC Nightly News at 6:30, local news at 7, "Country Place" at 7:30, NBC's prime-time lineup ("Sunshine," "The Bob Crane Show," the network movie ("Terror on the 40th Floor"), news at 11, and "The Tonight Show") after that.

One of the owners of the station was Jerry Wade Leonard, who, coincidentally, died on February 8th of this year.

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I'm a fan of comic strips, and I've read a lot of them over the years, including some really, really obscure ones. But even I didn't remember "Biddie and Bert":

This appeared in the January 1, 1963 St. Petersburg Times, and a more perfect confluence between market, time, and comic would be hard to imagine. In 1963, St Pete still had the image of being a massive retirement community, and "Biddie and Bert" were, obviously, retirees. Bert, here, is returning from his shuffleboard game, and, yes, the image of St. Pete was of old codgers playing shuffleboard in the humid Gulf Coast afternoons while waiting to die. Bert, apparently, was trying to hasten his own demise by eating to excess, hence the fat joke his wife is lobbing at him in this strip.

"Biddie and Bert" was by a cartoonist named Bob Donovan, and was syndicated by the old Hall Syndicate in 1962-65. I've seen it in several old papers, including the Milwaukee Journal and the Lodi News-Sentinel. You would think that a comic strip about retirees would be huge, because, well, who's reading newspapers, anyway? And, ultimately, the success of strips like the current "Pickles" would bear that out, but "Biddie and Bert" didn't last too long. It was, naturally, an endless parade of old-people jokes, idleness jokes, fat-lazy-husband jokes... but what humor strip WASN'T like that in 1963?

Bob Donovan, by the way, had another job at the time; he was Fred Lasswell's long-time assistant on "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith," and also did a lot of comic book work and commercial art, including a McGruff the Crime Dog premium giveaway and "Summer Fun With The California Summer Fruits." Oh, and he drew this. He passed away in 2002 at 80; here's his obituary in the St. Petersburg Times. Strangely, it doesn't mention "Biddie and Bert."

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PLUNDERING THE PAPERS: LOST BASEBALL

How much do I love these ads from 1953?

It's May 2nd, 1953. The Pioneer League. Your Salt Lake Bees are taking on the Magic Valley Cowboys from Twin Falls, Idaho at Derks Field, and KDYL-TV has its cameras there for a live telecast.

Derks Field -- look at it here -- was built in 1947, so it was relatively new in 1953. It was pretty basic -- a sort-of art deco entrance, but a basic grandstand with no roof, that's it, built in a hurry after its predecessor burned down. It housed Salt Lake teams from 1947 through 1992, in the Rookie classification Pioneer League as well as the Triple A Pacific Coast League. In 1953, the Bees were in the Pioneer League, the Phillies' affiliate, and the park was tiny, a grandstand behind the plate and some bleachers down the lines. When the team moved up to the PCL, the place was expanded, first to seven sections between the bases, then by extending the concrete stands down the line.

The 1953 Bees had nobody of whom you've heard. The star hitter was first baseman John Moskus, .317 with 28 homers. Clyde DeWitt went 19-8 and 36 year old Burt Barkelew, briefly the manager, was 12-3. THe club finished 4th in the regular season but managed to win the playoffs and the league championship. Magic Valley's one star was Dolph Camilli, the former major leaguer, but he was the manager. The game the night before was postponed due to rain.

What happened? Who won?

I have no idea. I couldn't access a paper for May 3rd. Later papers don't mention what happened. There's no other evidence, unless I go to Salt Lake and check the microfiche.

Someday, I will find out who won that game. There HAS to be a record of it someplace.

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WHERE WAS I?

So... I had to migrate this thing from a server overseas to one in the U.S., and it... didn't work. Oh, the site remained up, but I couldn't get in to post anything. That wasn't optimal.

After some detective work, it turned out that Movable Type 4.1 wasn't compatible with the new server setup. Okay, then, upgrade time. And... that didn't work, either. It kept hanging on "Upgrading Database." That was all day Friday and into Saturday.

Finally, with the help of an expert on a message board (thank you, Mihai Bocsaru), we're back in business. I think. Thanks for your patience.

This week's All Access newsletter advises hosts not to forget that the really interesting stuff is happening right under their noses:

Are you a local talk show host? Cool. That's a good thing. See, the NAB is busy telling the FCC that there's no need for any kind of "localism" mandate, because stations are already fulfilling that role, and that means you, 'cause you're talking about nothing but local issues and leaving the national stuff to the big syndicated hosts, right?

Right?

Well, now, that's a problem. I encounter this fairly often, local hosts concentrating on the same national issues that Rush and Hannity and Savage and Levin and any number of other hosts are doing. The "local" angle might be having the local Congressdrone on to parrot the party line in a convivial manner, but local issues? State issues? Small-time.

And that's a problem, too. I admit to having thought like that myself, only not in radio. In a previous life, I was an editorial cartoonist, back when there was still a future for people doing that job. I had an attitude about that, namely that local and state politics bored me. I was shooting higher. I didn't think I'd get anywhere concentrating on Philadelphia or Harrisburg when the big syndicated guys were all about Washington. So that's what I did, too, and I got lost in the shuffle and eventually decided that I'd need to find a career in which I was more likely to earn enough to afford food. (I chose radio. Whoops) Had I concentrated on commentary about what was going on right in my neighborhood -- what was directly impacting me and my neighbors -- I may have succeeded and remained in the newspaper business, and, today, I would, of course, be unemployed.

Radio's no different from cartooning or reporting or anything else. The glamour, such as it is, is in "going national." Doing that, however, means that you'll be ignoring the kind of stuff that can REALLY make you a name, serve your listeners, and make for better talk radio. There's always something going on in your city or state that you can make compelling, but that's especially true right now. In compiling Talk Topics every day, I run across stories from across the country that scream out for some talk radio host to seize on it, get angry, and make something happen. Every day, those stories are out there. Too often, I don't see any local talkers seizing the moment.

Here's what I mean: A major city takes people's homes and businesses to hand over to a rich developer to build a sports arena for his failing basketball team. Public-sector workers in several states are pulling down six figure sums in overtime on top of massively inflated salaries, even when the states themselves are virtually bankrupt and resorting to furloughs to try to save money. Legislatures and mayors are fretting about the calorie counts of school lunches and looking to slap taxes on soda and trash pickup rather than cut what needs to be cut. There are stories like this in every city, stories of inepitude and malfeasance, and they are absolutely tailor-made for talk radio, angry, pitchfork-and-torches talk radio, compelling and entertaining. It doesn't matter what your politics are, or which side you're on. There's plenty of outrage to go around.

See, the local stuff is something you can own. If everyone else is talking about national issues, you can make yourself different by taking advantage of the fact that you DON'T have to be generic. National talkers CAN'T talk about your local issues and personalities. You can. It's your strategic advantage. You can hammer on these things, get people involved, and get a lot of attention while you're looking out for your listeners' best interests. That's not to say that YOU should be organizing the pitchfork parade, but your show can be where like-minded people go to gather. And with a radio show, you have way more ability to build that community than blogs or podcasts or any other medium, because you start with a larger base. It's what talk radio can do better than anyone else.

I'm not, by the way, saying that national isn't good. From health care to Wall Street, there are major issues to be addressed and that's what the syndicated guys do well. All I'm saying is that if you're a local host, you should take advantage of the need for someone to draw attention to the state and local issues that have real impact on your listeners' lives, and make those topics your own.

Oh, yeah, one more reason to do it. There's a study that just came out, measuring how much time local TV news in Los Angeles spent on all kinds of news. They measured the eight stations that do news, and analyzed 14 random days' worth of news shows from last August and September. The result: Out of a typical half hour, 8 minutes and 17 seconds were spent on local news, mostly crime stories. News about government actions took up a minute and 12 seconds, 49 seconds of which were federal. Los Angeles-area government issues? TWENTY TWO SECONDS. TV news isn't paying attention to the mayor or council. Undoubtedly, your city's TV news isn't a whole lot different. Mwanwhile, the same study showed the Los Angeles Times, our only market-wide daily paper, devoting a whopping 6% of its news hole to local issues. See the opportunity?

====================

I mentioned earlier that some of the topics I'm talking about were encountered while writing the Talk Topics column for All Access News-Talk-Sports, and they're in there, along with hundreds of items of all kinds -- national, international, sports, entertainment, kickers, anything any talk radio show might use. Normally, in this space, I'd list a bunch of samples, but I'm not going to do that this week. Instead, I'm going to point you to the all-new Talk Topics Twitter feed at twitter.com/talktopics, where you'll find a handy list of everything in the Talk Topics column. Follow @talktopics and you'll be able to keep up with everything I throw in there, as soon as I write 'em up. And while you're at it, follow twitter.com/allaccess to get the biggest headlines from Net News first. Oh, what the heck, follow twitter.com/pmsimon too, for my personal, not-at-all-Joel's-fault comments on whatever's bothering me at the moment, usually involving Philadelphia sports teams or my cat.

=========================

I told you that I would be mentioning the Revlon Run/Walk for Women 2010 every week right up to the event itself May 8th in Los Angeles, and I'm sticking to that. Here's what it is: Lots of people gather at the Los Angeles Coliseum and walk in a big loop around the USC campus and into the stadium to raise money for women's cancer research and treatment. The walking is kind of beside the point, since the donations aren't related to how far you walk or run, but who's counting? Besides, it's always a nice day out and my wife Fran and I have a particular stake in the issue, so we do it every year. And we ask everyone who can donate to do so, understanding that, well, times are tough, but if you can do it, this is a great cause and all donations will be appreciated. Just go to https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/MyWebPage.cfm?pID=533458 and enter your donation. Thank you!

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Sigh...

TWITTER MASOCHISM

Time has gotten uncomfortably tight this week with the launch of the Talk Topics Twitter feed. That's not because it specifically requires a lot more work; really, it adds only the need for a second, more descriptive headline in a new form and that's it. Patrick and Warren did a great job setting up the new system and adding the Twitter API so we can now feed all the stories right to Twitter with links that take users right to my moronic prattling. For radio people who need material, it's useful; the one feed cuts the clutter and just peppers you with talk radio-ready stuff. I'm happy we've finally got it working.

But it comes with one added feature: pressure. Self-imposed pressure, that is. Because the thing is out there and people are following it, there's even more pressure to feed the beast. I was already working long, long hours and pumping out copy all day; now, I'm constantly thinking that I'm slacking if there's not something new all the time. I think of the followers, and I think how they're looking for new stuff and disappointed if there isn't any since the last time they checked. So, for the last two days, I've been trying to extend the day, add more stories, start earlier, end later. Since the Topics column is only one part of my work day, and I have to write other material as well, I'm now getting afraid to even leave the computer for a few minutes, lest someone someplace check in and see nothing having been added in the previous five minutes.

But I'm the only one here, so to speak. There isn't a staff writing the Topics column. It's just me, reading hundreds of websites every day, all day, and not aggregator sites, either. I put in the work. And, as it turns out, I'm human. I need a break to do other things once in a while. If I can't do that, I'm toast.

I'm also not doing a BREAKING NEWS!!! column. My BREAKING NEWS!!! work is confined to radio coverage, and that goes on another page. The Topics thing is up to date, but I'm not claiming to be first with the big stories, just quick to find stuff for radio hosts to use.

So I should be easier on myself. I figure that I'll find the right pace soon enough. In the meantime, excuse me: I gotta get back to the Topics column. Mustn't keep my public waiting.

TALK TOPICS ON TWITTER!

A little business:

Talk Topics, which is the column of news items for radio hosts' show prep that I do for All Access, is now on Twitter for your convenience: Go here and follow for updates whenever there's new material. And, while you're at it, there's always me on Twitter, too.

Another reminder, too, that Fran and I will be walking to raise funds for cancer research at the Revlon Run/Walk 2010 here in Los Angeles, so donations will be greatly appreciated. Not that I'm putting any pressure on you or anything. I know times are tight. If you can, please do. If not, that's okay. It's not a competition on my end. Every penny is better than nothing. Thanks!

PSYCHO A GO-GO

In honor of the Oscars, I... I...

Oh, right, I don't much care about the Oscars. So forget it. Someone took a movie clip and synced it with the Sonics' classic "Psycho," so here it is, far preferable to "Avatar":

And, over 40 years later, here they are on shaky phone cams doing the song in London, 2008:

Noted without comment.

Hey, how cool is this ad from the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, circa 1963?:

Those were the days of the horror movie hosts and KCPX-TV, the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City, had "FIreman Frank," a kiddie show host who doubled as the off-screen voice of "Nightmare Theater." On this occasion, the scheduled feature was the classic "Mothra." But I'm pretty sure it never aired.

I love this one, too, from the old WIIC-TV Pittsburgh (now WPXI, still an NBC affiliate):

What a lineup! Liberace AND Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali in his youth, both on Jack Paar! You absolutely would have made time to see that one... but I don't think it aired.

Meanwhile, on a rival station:

The ABC lineup that night was a waning "77 Sunset Strip," "Burke's Law" before the Bond craze swept him up, "The Farmer's Daughter" with the late Inger Stevens, and boxing, followed by a late night showing of "Sayonara." You might have been tempted to watch, but those shows didn't actually make it to the air that night.

And here's a cool 1963-style ad for a radio station:

KBEE Modesto, with the call of the annual Big Game between Cal and Stanford. That game was not played as scheduled that Saturday. The Niners-Packers game was played, amidst controversy over whether the game should have been played at all.

Why these shows didn't air can be explained by the fact that these ads are all from the same day.

November 22, 1963.

The nation had other things on its mind.

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THIS WEEK'S "THE LETTER": INVASION!

This week's All Access newsletter plays off the day's news regarding Internet audio streaming to the car, and reissues an advisory for those in the line of fire:

Pandora's pushing into cars and building a sales staff. The Mini will have a dashboard display and USB interface so you can stream Net audio from your cell phone through the car's stereo system. On and on and on it goes, more ways for more programming to compete with you where you never had competition before.

Oh, wait, you DID have competition in the car before. Or have we forgotten CD changers, cassette players, and 8-track players? Cell phone conversations and conversations with the person in the next seat? Billboards, the speaker at the Jack in the Box drive-thru, and the moron who just cut you off? You've never been without competition. Now, you just have more.

A lot more, that is. Should you be worried? If you're the CEO of a broadcasting company and you paid a lot of money for broadcast licenses, yeah, you're looking at continued valuation problems there. Pandora doesn't need a tower on Mount Wilson and a transmitter and STL and all that. They pay for bandwidth and servers. In time, as these in-car solutions proliferate and everyone's cell phone does streaming, Internet radio will be as ubiquitous as broadcast radio, maybe more so, since the signal won't cut out as you leave the market (unless, that is, your carrier has lousy 3G service; everyone thinks his or her carrier's the worst, and they're all correct). There's life in those broadcast licenses, but every shift of a listener to streaming content makes that $75 million purchase look more and more insane.

And music radio, which is presently in the thrall of programmers and advisors who, consulting the PPMs for Tuesday, March 2nd at 7:17 am, will tell you to shut up and play the music, because that's what the PPM results say. Never mind the small sample size or the impossibility of determining why a particular panel member turned the station off at that moment -- perhaps she arrived at her destination and turned the car off, perhaps she stepped into the shower, perhaps she really does hate the host. No, the Conventional Wisdom is Just Play Music. And if that's what broadcast radio does, and I can choose a Pandora Silversun Pickups channel (okay, I'm an indie-rock snob) or a Last.fm John Hiatt channel (okay, I'm old) or a Pandora Big Star channel (okay, I'm an indie-rock snob and I'm old), why would I listen to my local rock stations?

For personality. For local content. For a human voice. For the occasional news, weather, time, and traffic checks. And I'll punch around that same radio dial for entertaining talk, for something that doesn't sound like my iPod. And I don't care whether I'm getting it over the Internet or from an antenna on the mountain. Before radio completely denudes itself of every vestige of compelling (and local) content, management should step away from this week's numbers and consider a future where everyone's car radio gets every Internet stream and iPod audio. You have to differentiate yourself in the new media world. "Shut up and play the music" isn't different.

Which leads back to what I've said in this column so many times I'm tired of reading it myself: You either do something different and compelling or you're looking at a limited future. There is no escaping the fact that there will be an infinite number of audio entertainment options everywhere radio goes. And you can beat the customized jukeboxes and the hordes of people talking about anything and everything. That's something for which radio companies can actually be helpful: They have existing marketing clout, and they can help a show or talent or stream get noticed. I'm not sure, however, that they're thinking about their future quite in that fashion. There's too much invested in the broadcast model, but things are changing.

What? How are we all going to make money when there's an infinite number of choices on the car radio dial dividing advertising revenues up into tiny little slivers? Yeah, well, that's something we gotta work on. In the meantime, just create the best and most unusual content you can, and let the business geniuses figure out the math.

=========================

Part of creating compelling and unique radio is finding the best material, and sometimes you need a little help with that. Here's where to go for that: Talk Topics, the show prep extravaganza at All Access News-Talk-Sports. Once there, you'll find a long list of topic ideas with links, possible angles, and painfully stupid jokes you'd be ill-advised to borrow. Among this week's fresh material are things like kiddie condoms, Megan Fox's intimate resume, women's coleslaw wrestling, plenty of political scandals, the Worst Traffic in America (yes, it's probably where you think it is, and where I KNOW it is), a LOT of airplane and airport-related stories, the slow demise of the school photographer, the effect of winning the Oscar on your career (hint: not what you'd assume), the disappering Big Blue Mailbox, babies in bars, why to be careful where you do your ablutions, and why trendy people are keeping goats as pets and killing rabbits, plus all the "real news" of the week and more. For "10 Questions With..." this week, there's a conversation with Dan Gutierrez, the host of "The Directors Cut," a show about movies and the kind of stuff young guys talk about that's on terrestrial radio and podcasting. Check that out, then visit the rest of All Access for the latest news and columns and job listings and forums and all the resources you need, all free.

=========================

Okay, I'm forgetting something, Let's think... well, Spring training's underway and Roy Halliday threw a couple of shutout innings... um... no, that wasn't it... hmm... Ah, yes, the Revlon Run/Walk for Women 2010, May 8th in Los Angeles. Once again, Fran and I are walking around the USC campus and into the Coliseum to raise money to fight cancer, and every donation will be greatly appreciated. If you're in a position to give this year, here's the link: https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/MyWebPage.cfm?pID=533458. Thank you!

THE CAT, IN HER DOMAIN

Fran walked into the bedroom and found this:

That bed is HERS. You do not mess with Ella, the World's Most Famous Cat.

Go ahead, say awwwww. You know you want to.

How about this one, from April 19, 1953?:

The St. Petersburg Times had a whole section welcoming TV to the Tampa Bay area for the first time. Wait... 1953? Wasn't that a little late? Well, yes, it was. There WERE some hardy souls with TV sets struggling to get stray signals from Jacksonville, but it wasn't until 1953 that Tampa, surely one of the last markets to get TV, finally saw a local station fire up its signal. VHF applications had been frozen, the channels 8 and 13 allocations were being hotly contested, and the City of St Petersburg decided not to wait, putting WSUN-TV on the air in 1953 with that very test pattern and an ABC affiliation. The Times section, too bulky to reproduce here but worth a look, had ads selling every TV on the market, plus articles about the programming people would see, the ins and outs of UHF vs. VHF, and much more. It was a novelty, and everyone seemed excited.

Soon enough, channels 8 and 13 would go on the air, and 38 would quickly become an also-ran. But when channel 10 was allocated to Largo and WSUN didn't get it, and the new WLCY-TV took the ABC affiliation away in 1965, WSUN was doomed. It tried going independent, but it didn't have the budget and was probably a couple of years early for that. By the end, the station was comically on for just a few hours, and the legend was that in the last days, it aired a close-up of a clock -- that's it. (I checked, and at least in the TV listings, the station was airing some westerns, "Highway Patrol," and wrestling in its final days). On February 23rd, 1970, at the end of the broadcast day, it went belly-up. The channel is now a successful, but separate, station unrelated to the old one.

THERE WAS CAKE

I ran out of time and energy to write anything here today.

Here, look at a piece of cake:

March 2012

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Who?

    Perry Michael Simon. Talk radio guy. Editor of the News-Talk-Sports section at AllAccess.com. Editor and writer at Chris Hardwick's Nerdist.com. Former Program Director, Operations Manager, host, and general nuisance at KLSX/Los Angeles, Y-107/Los Angeles, New Jersey 101.5. Freelance writer on media, sports, pop culture, based somewhere in the Los Angeles area. Contact him here. Copyright 2003-2012 Perry Michael Simon. Yeah.

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