Meeting An Old Friend For The First Time

bob hardt and geoff fox at lunch

I had lunch with Bob Hardt today. Bob and I have so many friends in common it’s amazing we hadn’t met until today.

It’s funny how age difference shrinks as you get older. Back when I was finishing high school, Bob came to New York City where he anchored news on WABC Radio and later the ABC Contemporary Network.

I’m not sure he knew it at the time, but he came to what was America’s most influential radio station. WABC was a blowtorch. There will never be another station like it.

He sounds exactly the same. Based on the on-air kidding he used to get about being thin, his shape hasn’t changed either.

We swapped stories and commiserated about radio’s death at the hand of corporations. That part’s sad. We both love what radio was. It was a huge part of our lives.

Mostly it was a good time… a chance to connect with someone I should have known for years. And, I now have a new friend in Palm Springs.

John Rowland, Alan Freed and CBS

Once at Brass Mills Center he was mistaken for me. He gave her the autograph anyway.

john rowland 2014   Google Search

Oh, John Rowland. You never cease to amaze me.

Governor John Rowland was a moderate Republican from Connecticut. He went to prison for his thievery in office.

I met him a few times. He was charming. Worked crowds well. Likable.

Once at Brass Mills Center he was mistaken for me. He gave her the autograph anyway.

I’m not in Connecticut to really hear about this, but from what I’ve read (especially the excellent piece by Ed Mahony and Jon Lender in the Courant) he was selling his opinion and access to his radio show.

There’s nothing wrong with espousing your opinion. There’s nothing wrong with selling access and support. What’s wrong is doing it secretly.

We allow commercials. We allow infomercials. They must be disclosed as such.

Here’s why Alan Freed’s in the title. Back in the 50’s Freed was hugely influential as one of the first rock and roll disk jockeys.

Freed’s career ended when it was shown that he had accepted payola (payments from record companies to play specific records), a practice that was highly controversial at the time. There was also a conflict of interest, that he had taken songwriting co-credits (most notably on Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene”), which entitled him to receive part of a song’s royalties, which he could help increase by heavily promoting the record on his own program. However, Harvey Fuqua of The Moonglows insisted Freed co-wrote “Sincerely”.

Freed lost his own show on the radio station WABC; then he was fired from the station altogether on November 21, 1959. He also was fired from his television show (which for a time continued with a different host). In 1960, payola was made illegal. In 1962, Freed pleaded guilty to two charges of commercial bribery, for which he received a fine and a suspended sentence.- Wikipedia

Freed was the whipping boy in the payola scandal. He was destroyed. New laws and rules were implemented.

From the FCC:

Federal law and FCC rules require that employees of broadcast stations, program producers, program suppliers and others who, in exchange for airing material, have accepted or agreed to receive payments, services or other valuable consideration must disclose this fact. Disclosure of compensation provides broadcasters the information they need to let their audiences know if material was paid for, and by whom.

Rowland is responsible, but so is CBS. Guarding the public airways is part of the licensee’s responsibility. It was they who entrusted WTIC to him every day.

CBS actually signed a consent decree in a payola case in 2007. They should know the rules. They are on the hook.

This will be very complex. I hope it’s well reported. I want to follow along.

Fred Foy’s Memorable Voice Is Gone

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi Yo Silver!” The Lone Ranger

I apologize for all my obit type entries recently, but one more. Fred Foy has died. Trust me you know Fred Foy’s voice. He said this:

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi Yo Silver!” The Lone Ranger.

Has there ever been an announcer with a deeper, more powerful voice?

Fred was one of the last staff announcers at ABC. Back then there were men… always men… sitting in tiny announce booths round-the-clock. All the station and network announcements were done live. Not today.

As a kid I remember Fred Foy doing local news on WABC radio and immediately realizing it was a voice I’d heard many times before. He was also the announcer on Dick Cavett’s nighttime talk show on ABC TV.

Still it was that Lone Ranger intro that people remember. AP reports his daughter, “Nancy Foy says that to the end of his life, her father never tired of repeating the intro to anyone who would ask.”

I’m glad to hear that. So many people try to run away when they’re primarily remembered for a single thing.

Come back with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

45 Years Ago Today When The Power Went Out!

By the time the back was off the set the lights had dimmed and then – poof – they were gone.

Oops! After publishing this entry Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register noticed it was a day off. Damn you smart print guys!

All the facts are correct except the blackout was Tuesday November 9, 1965, not the 10th. My apologies for the error and gratitude to Ed.

I have changed the entry to correct the error.

I remember exactly where I was 45 years ago yesterday. I was 15 years old in 1965 and in the living room of our tiny apartment in Queens watching TV. It was a Tuesday, but for some reason my father was home.

All of a sudden for no apparent reason the TV picture began to shrink. I called my father over. Voltage regulator we guessed.

We then did what any 1960s father and son would have done–we pulled off the back of the set to check the tubes&#185.

By the time we’d exposed the TV’s innards the lights had dimmed and then – poof – they were gone.

An improperly set circuit breaker at a power station near Niagara Falls took down much of the Northeast! We didn’t know it at the time but nearly all of New York City, New York State and New England had gone dark!

This part of the world was thrust into chaos, yet order was maintained. In fact the biggest takeaway from the blackout was how nice everyone was! There was little crime and lots of helping hands. However, in that pre-cell, pre-Internet era there was plenty of confusion.

Here’s an aircheck from WABC-AM’s Dan Ingram as the power slowly drifted away. He had no idea then his voice would be the most vivid memory of the onset of the Great Northeast Power Blackout!

Addendum: After posting this I got a nice message on Facebook from Ilene Treitler Chalupski who was just Ilene Treitler when she was my next door neighbor in 1965 (She apartment 5D. We apartment 5E).

My father came home and YELLED at us because when he walked in and we were playing with the Horizontal and Vertical controls (Outer Limits stuff!) and he told us NEVER to touch those knobs. Then when he couldn’t make the tv picture stop rolling, he knocked on your parents’ door Geoff, i clearly remember it, and when your mother opened the door, your father had the television away from the wall and was trying to make the picture stop rolling, and within a few seconds the place went black!

&#185 – There were tube testers nearly everywhere including the local drugstore.

They Fired Joey Reynolds

Whereas most radio stations and disk jockeys had jingles cut in Dallas by Pams or TM (or now by my friend Jon Wolfert at Jam) Joey had a jingle sung by the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons!

Word came last night WOR radio let Joey Reynolds go. I can’t help but feel bad because Joey is one of the reasons radio attracted me so much and why I made it my career for 11 years. Though I lived in Queens and had both WMCA and WABC at my beck and call I gravitated to WKBW in Buffalo, a station I could only hear after dark.

Joey was having a party in the studio and I was invited night-after-night. As good as Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie and Gary Stevens were they were never as approachable as Joey seemed. I sent my self addressed stamped envelope off to Buffalo to get my purple membership card in the Royal Order of the Night People. I wanted in!

I remember hearing about Joey at other stations as his career bounced up-and-down after ‘KB. At one point he was selling jingles (or so I remember) made to be sung over the intro to records. There are some songs I can’t hear today without hearing some now defunct station’s call letters sung over the front!

A few years ago Joey went to WOR New York where he held down the free form all-night talk show. He’s still that party guy I remember with an infectious laugh that’s instantly recognizable.

Even in the best of times you don’t make money keeping a radio station on-the-air 24/7. Nowadays all-nights are a liability in an otherwise awful economic time for radio. Joey was replaced by a syndicated show–one host for scores of stations across the entire country.

Among the things I remember most about Joey is a jingle from his show. Whereas most radio stations and disk jockeys had jingles cut in Dallas by Pams or TM (or now by my friend Jon Wolfert at Jam) Joey had a jingle sung by the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons!

I’ll bet you I haven’t heard this in 40+ years–until now.

[pro-player height=”30px” type=”MP3″][/pro-player]

Blowing The Forecast

This entry has been edited because, it has been pointed out, most of the state was properly forecast by me… just not the city where the station sits.

I went to work Sunday night, handling the forecasting details on-the-air. A storm was brewing.

Though my call was significantly below the Weather Service and was the lowest snow prediction in the state (as usual), the forecast busted on parts of the shoreline&#185. Thankfully, my low number call was good for most of inland Connecticut.

After two hours of sleet and mixed precipitation, New Haven had six straight hours of snow at the airport… but no accumulation. The ground was too warm or too wet and the snow was already close to melting as it approached the surface.

Schools were closed. People cancelled appointments. There had been snow in the sky, but without impact.

Here’s part of an email I received:

I’ve been watching WTNH more years than I care to remember. I think the habit you have of hyping a storm coming our way is unacceptable. I’m at the point now where if I watch the weather forecast and you are the weather forecaster, I can rest assured it won’t happen. May I make a suggestion, refrain from the excitement you seem to possess, when a storm is headed our way make sure you are reasonably correct before you announce the worst scenario. With all your modern equipment you are no more correct than my father was when he went outside and looked up at the sky.

My first words at 11:00 PM were, “My wife asked me not to scare everyone,” which is what I tried to do. Of course with the Weather Service’s “HEAVY SNOW WARNING” in effect, it was tough to avoid.

Yesterday, I went on the air and apologized. I don’t know if it will make the viewers feel better. It helps me.

Bill Evans from WABC was quoted in the NY Daily News today:

“I feel like I let the public down. We didn’t get it right. At the same time, we worked as hard as we could to get it right.”

Exactly, though Bill’s bust was orders of magnitude bigger than mine.

It’s not just the forecast was wrong. It’s that it was wrong in spite of doing everything we could do to get it right. Going back, I probably would have made the same forecast. In fact, a meteorologist friend was giving me reasons to raise the numbers just before air time (I resisted).

This is the most frustrating part of what is normally a fun job. I want people to trust me. No one wants to drop the ball. No one wants to get those emails. No one wants to be quoted in an article, as Bill Evans was, titled “Now that was a flaky weather forecast

&#185 – The rest of the state’s forecast – covering 90% of the landmass and around 75% of the populace, was accurate.

I Hate Writing About Dead People

Scott Muni died today. He was 74.

I’m going to write about him even though I write about entirely too many dead people. It makes me seem old. It’s depressing. Still, these are people who have influenced my life and, in a blog that revolves around my life, they should be mentioned.

You may or may not know Muni, though I’m sure you’ve heard his ‘gargling with razor blades’ voice. When I was growing up, Scott Muni was a larger than life figure on WABC, a larger than life radio station.

The fact that he survived for over 40 years in New York radio speaks volumes by itself.

Scott was in radio when radio had amazing power. The best example of that is what happened when the Beatles came to the United States.

Whatever you know about big rock stars, the Beatles were bigger. When they came to New York for the Ed Sullivan Show they stayed at the Delmonico Hotel on Park Avenue. The streets surrounding the hotel were jammed with young girls. They were there by the thousands.

Scott Muni was there, in the hotel waiting for an exclusive interview, and broadcasting live on WABC. When he said, on the radio, that the Beatles had arrived, you could hear a roar – a huge roar from the assembled crowd. Many of those girls outside the hotel had come with transistor radios and they were listening to WABC.

It was very impressive. It’s probably the most impressive example of radio’s immediate power in the 1960s that I have heard. It represents a golden age of radio which will probably never reappear.

As FM radio began to take hold, Scott went with it. He was associated with nearly every rock group of any import over the last 30+ years. He had been with WNEW-FM for 31 years before they finally let him go.

How do you fire a legend?

I heard his show late in his time at WNEW. At that point, to me, he no longer sounded like he fit. He was a 70 year old man playing music for people in their teens and twenties.

My memories of Scott will always be those years on WABC when radio spoke to me and Scott was one of its strongest voices.

Now, I’m asking nicely. Please, no one else die.

Two Friends in the Times – And They Didn’t Shoot Anyone!

The New York Times did a wonderful profile of a friend of mine, Jon Wolfert. Jon is to radio jingles as Janet Jackson is to wardrobe malfunction. What makes it even cooler is the gratuitous mention of our mutual friend, Peter Mokover.

Jon is responsible for some of my favorite jingles – including a few he did for me. I am responsible for sneaking him into the Kennedy Space Center to watch John Glenn’s launch.

I’ve attached the article to the link below.

Continue reading “Two Friends in the Times – And They Didn’t Shoot Anyone!”

Finally – The Final

Usually these tests get graded right away. Since I was apprehensive about how I had done, it took a little longer. How do they know?

In Satellite Meteorology, the one I thought was tougher: 92. For Synoptic Meteorology: 86. So, “A” for both courses.

My only objection is some of what was taught is wrong. That’s because some of the course concerned operational weather prediction models. As you might expect, the models are improved or changed over time, and the material we had didn’t reflect that.

This was part of my downfall in college the first time. Some friends still remember me jousting with a teacher and then storming out of the classroom because she was trying to convince us WABC radio was strong up and down the East Coast because they had a number of strategically placed transmitters.

There’s still smoke coming from my ears on that one.

Now, on to summer school. Two course to be finished by August. It’s a shorter period, so seven day weeks will now be five day weeks. Same material, less time.

I’m done next summer. Well, I’m done with the courses. Then I have to actually visit Mississippi (or someplace close like Birmingham, AL) and be personally questioned to make sure it was me tapping at the computer all this time.

Happy New Year Dick Clark

It’s a family tradition that we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. There are a few really simple reasons for this. First, I usually work. Second, we don’t drink.

Years ago, the last time we really went out for New Year’s, a drunk guy started making a pass at my wife. In fact (though we laugh about it now) we almost broke up on our first pre-marriage New Year’s Eve together.

This year, we stayed home with Steffie and watched some of the goings on in Times Square. Helaine said she wasn’t, but I was very worried that some masterstroke terrorist act would take place in Times Square while the World watched.

Though we moved back and forth between Fox, MTV and ABC, we mostly stayed with ABC. Sure, I work for an affiliate, but there is also a tradition with Dick Clark. Again this year, for at least the second year in a row, Dick was inside a warm studio above Times Square. I’m sorry. He needs to be outside. And last night, the weather wasn’t all that bad.

I was also upset at the use of Steve Doocey – who represents Fox News Channel’s morning show – as ‘talent.’ This is not to say Steve isn’t good… he is. But, this is another case of cutting your nose to spite your face. Why would ABC want to shine such a bright spotlight on someone who is trying to eat their lunch? Doesn’t anyone in the company realize that using talent from other networks is the equivalent of dumping the Disneyland live shots for Six Flags or Universal?

There was a pretty tough article on Dick Clark in Newsday recently. I’ve attached it to this link.

Maybe because I knew most of this before, or maybe just because it’s becoming more obvious now, I have trouble finding Dick warm and likable. His interaction with others, especially on ‘tosses’ from live shots, or look live taped pieces, is forced and a little too staged.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to cede New Year’s Eve to Ryan Seacrest or the stable of hosts on MTV (none of whom stick out in my mind).

Happy 2004

Continue reading “Happy New Year Dick Clark”