Thursday, December 15, 2011


Perhaps the biggest surprise I encountered at CHUM was Mike Cooper.  Mike couldn't have been much over 18 when he started. He came to us from Hamilton, about 20 miles away, and was well versed in the CHUM approach to radio, having listened to it his entire life.  Mike was a surprising choice to most of us who'd never heard him.  Normally Bob Wood would look for a long-time radio vet to fill a position on the station, not a fresh faced kid with a permanent deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face.  I mean it... you could never tell if he was thinking of something to say, or had just that moment woken up and couldn't figure out where he was.  Any concerns about how the kid would fit into the lineup were resolved the second he cracked the mike, however...this guy wasn't just good, he was spectacular.

Coop was a natural on the air the way certain athletes are naturals in a given sport, to him it came easy.  At least you would think so watching him.  He'd clamp the earphones on and hold them tight to his head. When it came time to do a break, he'd gesticulate wildly with his hands like an Italian mother bragging about her “son who's a priest.”  He had (and still has) impeccable timing.  Not only that, but he was gregarious and enthusiastic.  If there was a get together of the usual, rambunctious bunch of CHUM bums, he'd be there every time.   He became a family member immediately!

Coop was not only a great formatic DJ, but had a major love of wacky, publicity stunts.   One year during the Canadian National Exhibition, Coop managed to set the Guinness World Record for riding a Ferris Wheel . He ate, drank, slept and lived on the thing for over 21 days . He was allowed to get off for a few minutes occasionally to stretch his legs and attend to... ahem... personal business, but other that that he was on it constantly.  The station built him a special, enclosed seat that kept him out of the elements.  It didn't protect him from vandals however, at one point some punks sneaked into the CNE grounds at night and roughed him up.  We had to hire a security firm to protect him.  At the end of his ride he was awarded the keys to a brand new car, which he immediately sold, then pocketed the money.

However the most significant contribution Mike made to Toronto radio was what I think of as the greatest publicity stunt in history, he had himself assassinated on the air!   Here's how it went down.  It was April Fools day, 1976.  Coop began to talk on-air about some strange phone calls he'd been getting, some guy was calling him repeatedly and making threats.  Coop played it off saying the guy must've had a fight with his girlfriend, but as the calls supposedly continued he began to feign some concern on the air.  Then, right in the middle of a live commercial, you could hear the door open and Mike talking to someone, presumably in the room.  There was a heated exchange, then the sound of a gun going off several times, Mike screaming and then the thump of something hitting the ground.  Listening to the tapes of this I get chills to this day, it was that realistic.  After a few seconds passed, Mike came back on the air and said “April Fool!”

Great bit huh?

It was, except that the Toronto Police Precinct down the street didn't get to hear the “April Fool” part, they were already on their way to the station and had called for backup.  Coop later told me he was getting ready to intro a record when he saw the business end of a rifle sticking through the studio door.  The cops were NOT amused, especially since by now there were cars from several precincts surrounding the place.

The next day Bob Wood called Coop in.  He played a tape of the bit, looked Coop in the eye and told him “That was the greatest bit I've ever heard on the radio.  Unfortunately I'm not sure I can save your job.”  Coop wanted to say “Tell me about the greatest bit part again!” but thought better of it.  That day Coop was given his walking papers.

But the story has a happy ending boys and girls.  No one in their right mind would've let a talent like Mike Cooper get away, and sure enough Bob had a backup plan.  He'd leave Coop at home for a couple of days and invent some excuse to bring him back.   Maybe a jock was “sick” and he needed someone on the air.  YEAH, that's the ticket!!!   Within a few days Coop was back in the air chair, having accomplished what is now known as the “Great April Fools Day Assassination.”

A few years ago Coop, Sandee and I got together at a bar in Mississauga to hash over old memories.  When Coop relived this incident his eyes lit up, his hands gesticulated wildly. and for a few seconds he was once again a 20 year old kid who pulled off one of the greatest stunts in radio history.

They said at the time that radio was for fully grown men who hadn't grown up.  I can state unequivocally that, even after 40 years, most of us STILL haven't grown up.  Thank HEAVEN for that!

Bruce Marshall adds:

I was the op on that little stunt. I'd worked in radio a grand total of weeks at that point. I was 17.

Coop told me that Woody had said the, "best bit in radio..." part. But he didn't tell me the, "job in jeopardy..." part.

So I saw Woody in the hallways a few days later and said something about, "hey, what about that great bit that Coop did, huh...?" I'd never seen steam come out of Woody's ears until that point. I was told something along the lines of, "if you are ever involved in anything like that again," he'd make sure I didn't work anywhere in Canadian radio. Owww...

...And the cop cars had NOT come from the local division. They came from every corner of the city. You've never seen so many cop cars at a cop car auction. And one of the things that pissed the cops off was that they had responded to trouble at CHUM the same way they'd respond to one of their own in trouble... And to find out it was a stunt got them pretty upset.

2 o'clock on a weekday morning in 1976 Toronto... There were HUNDREDS of cups of Timmies that got tossed out the window as the cavalry started a'comin' from every corner of Metro..

Looking out the newsroom window to the north - all you could see was cop cars skewed every which way where they'd drifted to a stop... Looking south.. The same... The cop cars with flashing lights as far as you could see faded in the distance down Yonge Street.

...But a HELL of a baptism into radio!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Duker's Got You Covered!

That was the phrase that most of us identify with “Big Bob Stoehr” aka “Duke Roberts”, who began his second run at CHUM (he'd been “Gary Duke” in the late 60's) in 1973.  Duke was from Scranton, PA, I believe his family owned some furniture stores there.  He brought with him an impressive resume which included some of the premiere stations in some of the top markets of the day.  Stations like WIBG in Philly, CKLW in Detroit, KFRC, San Francisco and many others.  He had a BIG voice, and was considered quite a catch when Bob Wood convinced him to return to CHUM.  Even with the track record he brought to the station, he fit into “The family” like a glove.  No ego issues with this guy, he was one of the gang from day one!

Duke was cut from the same mold as Terry Steele, a straight ahead, no nonsense kind of performer with an uncanny knack for communicating with listeners on a one to one basis.  The most important quality a top-40 jock could have at the time was the ability to “tune in” to what the listener might have been thinking or experiencing at the time, and to paint word pictures in their minds.  These are qualities that are sadly lacking in today's radio environment.  Duke was a master at saying just the right thing in as few words as possible.   He could communicate one-on-one and get his message across over the 10 second intro of a song every time, and do this over and over again.  To sum it up, Duke was the perfect afternoon drive radio personaality!

Duker didn't hang with the rest of us much.   He didn't drink as far as I know, so he never attended the many beer soaked “meetings” at the Red Rooster.  Likewise he never showed for the post staff meeting get togethers at Seniors restaurant on Wednesdays.   With anyone else that would've implied a prima donna attitude but not with Duke, the guy was friendly and approachable at all times, and we all thought the world of him.  Duke was never seen without the company of a gorgeous babe on his arm.   He was a good looking, personable guy who attracted beautiful women like a magnet, but eventually settled down and married his Canadian girlfriend Betty Lou.

Duke could be a little weird, though.   He had a Doberman Pincer he called “Little Duker” that he used to bring with him to the station for some reason.  My old op Rick Murray swears that, when Little Duker was a pup, he stepped outside to encounter Duker teaching the dog the proper way to take a leak on a bush!  Hey, I'm just telling what I was told!

Duke has always regarded his time at CHUM as the best of his long radio career.  As he told the “Rock Radio Scrapbook” website:

“1050/CHUM was the finest station and company that I ever worked for, both before and after.  And that's looking back from today, both as Gary Duke and Duke Roberts, just three years apart in 1973.  When I see Warren's List mail and CFTR jocks talking about all of the fun they had on the air, all I can say is WE at CHUM had fun and discipline and we all treated it like a business.  Maybe they weren't as blessed as myself, getting to work for JRW (J. Robert Wood) and 1050/CHUM more than once."

All that is true, we were a disciplined bunch and damned happy to be there as well.  But Duker, for cryin' out loud, the dog could've taught himself!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bear... Terry Steele

My best friend at the station arrived on the heels of yet another Rivers departure. I'm trying to remember, and I think it was when Tom took his detour to San Diego.   Bob Wood was meticulous when it came to choosing talent for the station.  It was not unusual for a shift to be open for a month or more while he carefully evaluated the many tapes that he'd accumulated from monitors in various cities across North America.  With Terry, however I'm told the decision was reached very quickly.   Bob liked what he heard, and brought Terry in as soon as possible. It was the right move, Terry was a one of a kind talent.

Jim Stromberg hailed from the Washington, DC area.  He'd apparently spent some time in the Navy, was discharged due to an injury and wound up getting a job back home on WINX radio in Rockville, MD.  From there he made his way south to the legendary WNOR Norfolk, and eventually to CHUM.  He was a big guy, with a bushy beard... everybody called him “The Bear” because he was as hairy as one.  He had a great sense of humor, and would break out in uncontrolled laughter at almost any ribald comment.   When I met the guy he shook my hand so hard it damn near came off.   He had a high energy, no nonsense approach on the air and impeccable timing.   These are GREAT talents to have when you were working a fast paced, night-time show.

Terry took Rivers' old 6-9 slot, and preceded me on the air.  One author at the time referred to us in his book as “The greatest one-two punch in rock radio.”  We owned the Toronto market from six until midnight.  There was barely a single teenager who didn't know our names, most of them listened to us every night and even took their transistor radios to bed with them, such was the power of the CHUM brand.

Unlike Tom Rivers, Terry was somewhat reticent when it came to personal relationships with other air staff.  He was unlikely to wade into a friendship until he was very certain.  Many people in the radio industry are like that, perhaps because of the volatile nature of radio employment or the fact that very often someone who seems like your friend will turn around and stab you in the back.   I consider myself fortunate that Terry and I became best friends very quickly.

Terry didn't focus on humor or schtick like most of us, he was a straight ahead, balls-to-the-walls, rock-n-roll DJ.  CHUM's former Production Director, Warren Cosford says of him "On the air, Terry may not have been as funny as Jay Nelson, as creative as Tom Rivers, or as flashy as Scott Carpenter.  In the studio on tape, he wasn’t as smooth as Walter Soles and Ron Morey, or as versatile as John Rode.  But Terry Steele was consistent and solid.  He was the quarterback when everyday was the Superbowl!  He was "Terrible Terry, The Bear in the Airchair from the Big House on Yonge Street".  Working with him made you better.  He had a kind of Majesty."

I don't know about “majesty”, but he sure as hell had a sense of humor!  We concocted a kind of rivalry on the air... a constant, running bitch-slap back and forth.  We were often asked, privately of course, if we hated each other.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Kind of like professional wrestlers, we'd cook up our latest slew of insults over beers at the Red Rooster.  We'd carry the ruse over to appearances where we'd dish out wise cracks to one another in front of 20,000 people.  It was HUGE fun.

Terry and his wife Leslie bought a cabin on Six Mile Lake in the Muskokas.   I'd occasionally take my mini-houseboat up there and hook up with them and Brad Jones who later became Program Director of CHUM, but at the time was known as “The King of the Muskokas” with his hopped up, Sidewinder sports-boat.   We'd toss back brews and cook up new, improved ways of getting on Bob Wood's nerves!

Terry was Jewish, but you'd never have known it.  At our weekly, post-meeting breakfasts at Senior's Restaurant he'd order up the biggest plateful of bacon and eggs you've ever seen.  When asked about that he'd respond “Who the hell do you think I am, Hymie Lipschitz?”   The guy had a laugh that could shake a mountain off it's foundation.   He was definitely one of a kind.

Like many people in the business, Terry seemed to lose his way in the 80's.  He left CHUM in 1985, and never again attained the kind of profile he'd had while there.  None of us did, really.  Some of us were luckier than others though, unfortunately Terry was one of the unlucky ones.

He began to drink heavily, and wound up at one point driving a cab in Honolulu.  Bob Wood brought him back to Toronto and offered to pay for rehabilitation.  Terry told Bob he couldn't do it.  In 1993, while in Tucson, I got a call from Warren Cosford.  Terry had been found dead in his bathtub.   The story at the time was that he'd fallen and hit his head, family members told me otherwise.  Apparently his liver just gave out and he died right there.   Terry's family was extremely close.  I knew his cousin Millicent Stromberg quite well when I worked in New York, when I called her to express my condolences she was inconsolable. Terry's death had an enormous impact on his family.

The call from Warren served as a huge wake up call for me back in '93.  The best friend I'd ever had in radio was dead, and I was certain it was radio that had killed him.  I knew then and there I had to get out.

But back in 1972, there were a few adventures yet to come!

Some comments on this post from other friends of Terry Steele:

The Bear was one of my mentors. He wasn't as actively a mentor as Mark Dailey and John Majhor where. But he had a knack for saying just the right thing that would make you feel on top of the world and brimming with confidence in your performance.

I can tell you there was one respect where Terr Bear wore his Jewishness on his sleeve. He always made sure he was working Christmas day so the other guys could have the day off.

It was tragic to see his decline and then his death. I was at his funeral... Which, of course, being as he was Jewish, happened within 24 hours of his death.

The first times I ever was heard on CHUM was with Terry Steele and another time with Scott Carpenter. CHUM ran a school spirit thing where Metro schools competed to raise money for the United Way. CHUM aired reports from students of these schools and I was chosen to do two reports for my school, George Vanier Secondary in North York. I still have cassette tape of both reports around somewhere.

That piece is a fantastic memorial to Our Bear, Pat.

Posted by Bruce Marshall

I have a picture of the Bear and I sitting on the verandah at my family's cottage. It sits right behind me here in the studio and I look at it EVERY day. That weekend Jimmy and I taught his older daughter Nicki how to waterski. Strommy was often over at our house...or I was over there at his. My 5 year old son just called him "the Bear". "Hi the Bear." Jimmy thought that was hilarious.

On Sunday morning of that cottage weekend we got up early [for us] and putted around the shoreline of the lake at about 4 or 5 miles an hour waving to everyone we saw...whether I knew them or not. All the while we assured ourselves that *they* were all beyond overjoyed to see us...because...we were *US*.

We weren't Terry Steele and Lee Marshall....we were just two guys that enjoyed the heck out of our little 'schtick'. "We're *us*...and *they* all wanted us to stop so that they can give us a drink...or introduce us to whomever that is in the bikini on the dock. I guess you had to be there...but were roared with laughter way past the point of our bellies hurting.

One time at his cottage we got on the cb radio and pestered some poor truckers down in the Southern U S of A. If any of those guys had ever found us...we'd have paid a heavy price. Gawd we laughed.

Then there was the fishing expedition up to the French River. That weekend included a huge poker game. Finally I got a good hand. But I had to a racehorse. Jimmy and I both loved those rums and cokes. Too much I guess. He wouldn't let me put my cards down in the middle of the hand. I either played it out...or I had to fold. I pissed my pants. [but I won]

Jimmy was the best man at my wedding. He had a heart the size of all outdoors. He was warm, funny and like me a wrestling fanatic who also loved to hop on a motorcycle and tour the smaller highways north of Toronto. We bowled together on Saturday the only "goyim" in the entire league...and always headed out with our ladies for a post bowling feast at some nifty restaurant.

When The Bear moved to was like a major void fell over my day to day living. When he returned to Toronto I was overjoyed. He always matter matter when...even if we don't talk all the while..."we're US." "Lad and Son."

VOICE 1 was a real mensch. I loved him...and I miss him terribly.

Lee Marshall

Terry and I worked together briefly at KEY 590 in 1991. I found him to be very warm and open, not to mention talented (I of course had listened to him sporadically when I was in Buffalo and he was at CHUM), but with one interesting "quirk." He hated non-broadcast types in the studio or control room watching him on the air. Unlike many of the rest of us who are uncontrollable hams and love performing for an audience, Terry was quite the opposite, and when I had a close friend from the U.S. visiting one night, he asked me to have her wait in the lobby until he was done with his shift (which of course I did).

Posted by Don Berns

That comment reminds me of the one time I encountered him. It was also the early 90's when he was doing drive on KEY590 and the promotions guy was touring me and a buddy around. As we entered the studio area we could hear his raucous off air remarks to his producer accompanied by that aforementioned laugh. He then asked the promotions guy if he was bringing more of those "damn sales types" in and when told we were on air people, he bellowed "Well then, come on in!" We did and he actually spent quite a few minutes chatting with us between breaks. Too bad his personal demons ultimately got the better of him but he did give many people within earshot some great radio during his time.

I was Terry's traffic chick/co host at EZ...his last gig. He was a wonderfully funny guy and I loved going to work every afternoon to hang out with him. I was going to Montreal for a long weekend and before I left I told him that he didn't look so great - he was looking a wee bit yellowish and I was worried. We said our goodbyes, see you on Monday yadayayda. I got a call Sunday night that Terry had died. I always wonder what would have happened if he went to a Dr. to check himself out. I still miss Terry too.

While at Humber College I made an appointment to see Roger Ashby at CHUM. It was a cold somewhat snowy afternoon, Roger met me at the reception then took me on a tour of the station. First stop? 1050 studios..and I met "THE BEAR, LIVE ON THE AIR". Indeed he was so pleasant to meet and speak with. Probably because, as has been mentioned before here, Terry didn't seem to mind if you were in the biz..if you weren't? Oh well.
He was asking me about if we were using gated compression and other technical things. The fact is..Terry was a REAL gentleman to me, a 19 year old wanna-be. This was 1974. I will never ever forget that meeting. Terry was first class. Thanks to Roger for giving me his time, that day, as well. All the folks at CHUM were first class. Anyone tells you otherwise, tell em' come and see me!
Cheers everyone.

Terry was one of the many greats at 1050 CHUM. It was a privilege to do newscasts on his shows and he'd always sit in the booth and listen and react to what I was doing.
He called me "triple-scale" because as did he , I did a fair amount of voice work, both on the CHUM year enders and for other stations in the chain.
He told me before he died that when he was gone, I could have his "voice one" identity and I honour him by using that as one of my email addresses.
I remember plenty of fun nights at Jingles and the "Crimson Cock" as the CHUM jocks and newsies got together to "hoist a few."
One of the unique and talented people with whom I've had the good fortune to know and to work with, he'll never be forgotten.

Posted by Mike Cleaver

Cheryl and I hosted a house party on the Saturday of Victoria Day weekend, circa 1987, maybe '88.
We had friends visit from Ottawa and when I posted a notice on the bulletin board at CKEY that all were invited, we were secretly hoping maybe a dozen or so would show up. Instead, we had more than twice that number (we had one clique at 'EY and everyone was part of it). Even though we worked opposite shifts of the clock, were delighted the Bear attended -- and he was larger than life all night long (and the next day, as he crashed on our sofa)!

Another time, the Bear, John Rode, Don McDonald and I decided to dine at an Indian restaurant on Yonge St. Terry sent his order back THREE TIMES because the curry wasn't hot enough. He was melting like the Wicked Witch of the West but loved every minute of it!!

I was in California when I heard of his passing. I miss his laughter and do-anything-for-ya attitude to this day... 

Posted by Chris Mayberry

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Meester Reevers

People often ask me about the CHUM environment.  After all here was a station that could influence thousands of record sales simply by printing the name of the song on the CHUM Chart.  They inevitably want to know about the promotions, the contests, the physical layout of the place... they're usually shocked to hear that I couldn't care less about any of that.  To me the secret of CHUM's success was “the family.”  A close group of people who were far more than colleagues, we were best friends... lifetime friends, really.  I have never seen this in any other radio station.

Tom Rivers was the first person I met at CHUM.  As I was touring the place for the first time, I encountered him in the hall. He was tall, well over 6 feet, and had the goofiest grin I'd ever seen on a face in my life.  He had a way of looking both quizzical and amused at the same time, as if he was thinking “I have no idea who this person is or what this person is saying, but it's funny as hell!”  Tom was as irascible as he was talented.  Many consider Tom the best air talent they'd ever heard.  For most people, that would've been plenty but not Tom, nooooooo Tom had to be the omnipresent thorn in the side of management.  Name a management directive and Tom would break it.  Name a programming rule and Tom would ignore it, all the while grinning that goofy, quizzical grin of his as if to say “You CAN'T be serious!”

Let's take the “proper dress” episode for example.  One day, for whatever reason, Bob Wood decided that we were to wear dress clothes to work.  Since this was radio and not TV nobody ever figured this one out, but the dress code was imposed anyway.  Now imposing a dress code on Rivers was akin to planting a boot in an attack dogs ass.   We knew it was a matter of time until the battle of wills began.  Sure enough, one day I was relaxing at home when the phone rang.  “Ahhhhh, Scotty?  Rivers isn't dressed properly for his shift, can you get down to the station right away?  I'm pulling him off the air.”  I found some “proper” clothing and high-tailed it down to the station.   This scene repeated itself for an entire week with Rivers showing up in jeans, being shown the door, and me having to come in to do his show.  One day I heard Rivers on the air, and hurried down to the station to see who had won.  There he was, in jeans, sloppy Tee-Shirt and flip flops with that damned, stupid grin on his face.   The “dress code” was never addressed again.  Good thing too, since Rode was threatening to come in wearing a pinstripe suit, flowered tie and a fedora!

Then there was the “no eating while on the air” edict.   Apparently Bob had read that digesting food caused a person's energy level to drop, which shouldn't have been too surprising to anyone who'd ever downed a Big mac and tried to stay awake.  At any rate, Rivers was not about to concede to THIS ignominy.  Devouring large orders of food from the “Crow's Nest” across the street was akin to a religious ritual with Rivers.   They'd answer the phone and as soon as they knew he was on the other end say “AHHHHHH, MEESTER REEVERS!!!!”   They knew they were going to make some serious cash, three hamburgers and a HUGE order of “chips and gravy” were a daily habit with him... he was a junkie!  No sooner was the edict issued than Rivers settled into his seat, picked up the phone and ordered a 7 course meal delivered from the gourmet restaurant down the street.   As Tom was relishing his feast, Bob stuck his head in the door and saw the massive number of plates on the desk.   “Enjoying your meal Tom?”  Tom smiled his goofy grin in response.  The “no eating” order soon hit the skids too.

Next was the legendary “Parking Lot Caper” in which Wes Armstrong, the station's sales manager decided that he'd had enough of Rivers' constant violation of the rule which forbade jocks from parking in the station's, tiny lot.  Only management and sales people were allowed spaces there and Wes would dutifully patrol it, attaching stickers to the windshields of offenders.  The damned things were nearly impossible to get off, and naturally Rivers had accumulated about 100 of them.  One day Rivers parked in the lot as usual, but this time climbed up to the roof so he could see Wes come out with his handful of stickers.  As soon as Wes opened the door, Tom signaled to his partner in crime... I believe it was a jock called “Smilin' Jack” something or other... to yell out that Wes had a phone call waiting.  Wes went back into the building only to find that there was no call after all.  Instantly, he knew he'd been had.  He ran out back to discover River's car gone, and his own car plastered from front to back with stickers and all the air let out of his tires.

During the "American Graffiti" inspired 50's craze I ran dances at local schools.  Rivers played the iconic personification of 1950's ethos, "Commander Grease."  He'd dress up in Chinos, and an ESSO shirt with a pack of Players rolled up in the sleeve.  With the spotlight on him, and the refrains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" roaring in the background, he'd light up a smoke, pull out a tube of Brylcream and proceed to dump the whole thing on his head, ending with a flourish just as the last notes played triumphantly.  Then he'd stand there in the light with his dumb-assed grin as the crowd went berserk!

Rivers either quit, or was fired 5 or 6 times from the station.  Once he decided he wanted to move to California, so he “borrowed” one of the CHUM News Cruisers and drove to San Diego where he called Bob to resign.   Roger Ashby had to fly out to recover the car.

Tom's life went into decline in later years, at one point he filed a wrongful dismissal suit against CHUM.  At the 50th reunion, I recorded some bits with him, I was shocked at his appearance.  The bottle had definitely taken it's toll, he was unkempt, was missing a couple of teeth, and seemed out of touch.  Within a year he'd turned his life around completely.  He looked healthy, clean and well groomed.  He'd beaten the bottle, married his long-time sweetheart Nancy Krant, and been hired for a talk show at an Oakville radio station.  I appeared on the show with him a couple of times, and we fielded calls from many former listeners.  Sandee and I visited with him and Nancy at their cottage near Peterborough.  Ultimately Tom landed back on the air at CHUM.  The last time we spent time together was at a Chuck Berry Tribute show back in 2004, a few weeks later I learned that Tom had passed away from cancer.

Everybody that knew Tom loved him.  You couldn't help it really, he was the kind of guy that you couldn't dislike.  I remember him writing how he'd visited his old nemesis Wes Armstrong in the hospital just before Wes passed away.  He wrote how he'd left Wes' bedside and cried all the way home.

I'm sure that Wes, back in 2004, looked down on Tom from Heaven and shed a tear or two himself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Birth of the Boogieman

The question I get asked the most by CHUM fans is “How did you come to be known as 'The Boogieman'?”  Well, as with most of the events in my professional career, it wasn't my idea at all.

The ultra high energy, nearly frantic presentation I used wasn't new by any stretch, any number of Djs had adapted the approach for years.   From Dick Biondi... first in Buffalo, then Chicago... to “The Real Don Steele” in Los Angeles, radio personalities had been tearing up the airways and driving responsible adults nuts since the beginning of Top-40 radio.   Indeed, Toronto had experienced it's own wild man in the personage of Dave Marsden, who as “Dave Mickey” made me look like a somnambulist.  The fact of the matter is, I didn't really care for that kind of radio at all.  I wanted to be the hippest guy on the block.  I've always had a propensity to use “Jive” or street talk.  In the sixth grade I'd refer to teachers as “Daddy-o”, much to their chagrin... especially the women.  Well to the best of my knowledge I'd never heard the term “Mommy-o” so what was I supposed to call them?   "Maam” I guess.  Fat chance!

At any rate my approach on air was “up” but not “frantic, until one day I got a call from Bob Wood.  I was sick with the flu, but had come in to do my shift anyway.   It was a Saturday, so I had a long, 5 hour airshift.  If you don't think 5 hours on the air in a fast tempo station like CHUM was exhausting, try it some time!  Anyway, as my energy was giving out by the second, the “Batphone” lit up, Bob Wood was on the other end.

“Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...”

I knew what was coming, whenever he used the phrase “Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...” there was criticism on the way.

“Uuuummmmm... I noticed you energy level is a bit low today, is something wrong?”

“No Bob, other than the fact that I feel like a skunk that's just been run down by Vito Corleone's Cadillac everything is just ducky!”

“Uuummmmm, well.... Could you pick it up just a little bit, the station is starting to drag?”

“Sure Bob”

“Thanks Scotty.”

Now I was pissed.  Not only was I sicker than a dog, but I had to pick up the pace which would probably make me sicker.  A devious plot began to take shape in my mind, if I went on the air screaming like a lunatic at 100 mph, maybe he'd decide he liked me better the old way.   I decided to give it a shot, I cued the op for the next song and let her rip...”


I sat back and waited for Bob to call back and tell me to crank it back down.  Sure enough, seconds later the Bat Phone lit up again.

“Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...”

“Yes Bob?”

“That's JUST EXACTLY what I want!”

I thought of my experience years before with Lottie The Body.  I should have NEVER tempted fate like that!

As for the name “Boogieman”, I didn't think of that either.  It was pretty common in the early seventies to use "boogie" in conjunction with music, dancing, partying etc.  In fact it still is.  I was on the air one day, and using the word copiously as usual... “We're gonna boogie tonight” “Dis' is the baddest, boogienest jam I have EVER heard”... etc.  when my op, Bob Humenick, piped up over the talk-back.  

“Hey, you're “The Boogieman!”  

“Hmmmm”, I thought. “Boogieman”... yeah that's the ticket!!!  So “The Boogieman” was born.

I originally conceived this persona as a kind of character.  The Boogieman was a somewhat egotistical, but likable dork who had visions of grandeur but a ton of self doubt.  In other words, he was not unlike the teens who made up the bulk of my audience.  I would constantly share with my audience the many ignominies foisted upon me by my employers, who obviously couldn't see what a gem they had in their midst.  On one occasion I was to see how powerful this image had become.

I came up with the plot that I had asked for a raise, but the company didn't believe I deserved one.  If I could convince them what an enormous asset I was, maybe they'd give me some more money.  I furthered the plot along by forming my own fan club, the “Screaming Night Creepers”, and encouraging listeners to send letters to the station to join.  I also put listeners on the air to take the “Scott Carpenter, World's Greatest Disk Jockey” oath.

“Do you solemnly swear that you will always listen to the Boogieman, support the Boogieman, and love the Boogieman forever?”  

All pretty lame stuff, and intentionally so since The Boogieman wasn't supposed to be all that bright anyway.  What happened next was a bit of a shock.  I assumed that a few letters might trickle in, and the whole thing would be forgotten by the following week.  Imagine my amazement when the letters began to arrive by the bagful... hundreds of them... stacked in the conference room.

The phone rang at home... “Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...”

Uh oh

“Scotty... the station has been inundated with requests for this fan club of yours.  You need to come down and pick up the mail, since this was your idea the station isn't getting involved.  However I expect that every letter will be answered."  

I ordered up hundreds of membership cards, and sent them out on my own time and at my own expense.   I figured I'd done my career some good.

Flash forward years later.  I am now a systems admin at the US Dept of Energy in Washington, DC, my radio years far behind me.  My phone rings and Scott Jackson, a radio personality whom I'd influenced to get into radio years ago, is in town.  He and his wife would like to meet me for lunch.  We have a nice visit, and just before they leave his wife pulls out her “Screamin' Night Creepers” membership card from 1972, over 35 years ago!

If only I'd known then what kind of impact we'd had on so many people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Best Buddy FARTHEAD!!!

Fart Head as I remember him!!!
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I recall the moment as if it was yesterday.  I'd been in Toronto for about a month, and had recently moved into Place Du Soliel.  I'd met a few people, even had dinner with a couple of folks but had not yet formed any firm friendships.   Frankly, I was feeling a little lonely.  Deb had attended a marriage counseling session with me, but her heart wasn't in it and she had returned to Toledo for good.  I knew the papers would be arriving any time now.  As fortunate as I felt I'd been in coming to Toronto, I missed her terribly.

And then...

As I was walking down the hall to my apartment I noticed the door of the place across the hall was open.  The sound of a hockey game could be heard coming from the TV inside.  As I peeked into the door I saw what could only be described as a drunked up, deranged hippy sitting on the edge of a couch with a Labatts 50 in his hand, yelling at the screen like a lunatic!  You've seen those old photos taken in Haight Ashbury back in the 60's of half-stoned weirdos with long hair, beards and a wild expression in their eyes?  That was this guy 100%!  Eventually the ref blew his whistle, and the wild man turned his head.  It must've taken a moment for his eyes to focus on the door, but as soon as he could make out my outline a grin began to form on his face.   His eyes lit up as his smile became bigger and bigger until finally he began to gesticulate wildly with his arm, I could see he was trying to invite me in.

“Whasss' yer namefffph?”

“Ummmm Pat Bergin” I replied

“Bourbon?  Pat Bourbon? BLAH HAAAA HAAAA... Pat Bourbon!!!”

“No... Pat Bergin!”

“OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH BERGIN!!!!! Lessee... BERGIE, that's it BEEEERRRRRGGGGIE!!!!  Here have'a 50!”

His demure and beautiful girlfriend was popping corn at the stove.   She put cinnamon in it, and it had the most delicious aroma I'd ever smelt.  Without blinking an eye she grabbed a 50 out of the fridge while stirring the popcorn with the other hand and deftly handed it to me... she'd obviously done this kind of thing before!  The crazy man on the couch handed me an opener, waited while I popped the top on the 50, then started pointing at himself.  I wondered what the hell he meant.

“You're Bergie... I'm Randy, but you need to give me a name!”  He said, still grinning like a deranged Cheshire cat.   I knew I had to come up with a fitting nickname for my new found BFF.  Something that was not only descriptive, but memorable as well and I had to do it before the game started back up or I would lose him for sure.

“Ummmmmmmm... FART HEAD!!!!!!!”

His eyes lit up even more, you could tell he was mightily impressed by my ingenious nickname... obviously nobody had ever called him that before... I can't imagine why not!

“HAAAAAAAW, HAAAAAWWWWW, HAAAWWWWWW... FART HEAD... GOOD ONE EH!”  he shouted at the top of his lungs, his girlfriend looking on with a mildly maternal look on her face as her man proceeded to go ape shit over his new found friend!  I later learned that Randy was a drummer, and played professionally in clubs around town, his girlfriend Carrie had briefly sung with his band, but was now a full time homemaker.

In the coming months I would meet and become fast friends with Fart Head's other pals... Tony Carr, a former Mr Dominion of Canada and circus palm reader, “Too Tall Mike” a local small-time hustler who spent as much time in the clink as he did at home, Don “Burr Head” Weir, one of the greatest singers I'd ever heard, Owen "The Beard", “John The Boot”, “Accordion Vince”, “Pizza Dave”, and an entire assortment of wackos with whom I would spend many a beer soaked evening carousing, laughing and raising hell.  And right now I was seated next to my new pal Fart Head, watching the Leafs lose as usual, and munching on the most delicious, cinnamon popcorn I'd ever tasted.

Life was GOOOOOOOOOD again!

Monday, October 3, 2011


 "Glamor Puss"... 
Actually these ladies worked at the station, they had zero interest in me.
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Got your attention huh?

Here's the part that people have been bugging me to write for years.  They've heard the stories about the debauchery, the all night orgies, the nubile maidens willing to do anything, any where, anytime.  

OK, I'm finally going to spill the beans.  After keeping this to myself for all this time I've finally decided to tell the whole story, so get the kids out of the room....

Are they gone?  OK good, here we go...

Are you ready?

Sitting down?

You sure you want to hear this?

OK, here goes...

It never happened!!

Oh, for sure there were ladies who would occasionally make themselves available to “entertain”, but that's true for almost anyone.  As far as the lines of scantily dressed young tarts waiting at our beck and call, those stories are mostly a bunch of hooey.   At least they are as far as I'm concerned, unless the rest of the guys had something going on that I never knew about I didn't see any of that.

Now it's true that we'd occasionally throw a wild party, and we weren't exactly shy about participating.  It's also true that, due to the endless CHUM marketing, we were exposed to far more ladies than we likely would've been otherwise.  We were constantly on the front of CHUM charts, of which hundreds of thousands were dispensed weekly.  The station was careful to use professional photographers in order to make us look good.  We were asked to appear on TV, at city functions, and promotions... basically we were everywhere all the time.  There were certainly more opportunities than there would have been otherwise.

But contrary to the prevailing view there were very few “hook ups”, either with fans or with the various young ladies that the station would hire from time to time as “CHUM Chicks”.   Despite the politically in-correct name, these were highly professional young ladies for whom we had an enormous amount of respect.  While it's true that we could often be found in the company of gorgeous young models at “The Red Rooster”... the official CHUM watering hole next door to the station... these were people that the station had hired for promotional purposes, in other words colleagues.  We'd sit for hours telling jokes and raising hell, but as far as heading back to someone's pad for a little humpty-hump later... well let me just say, if it happened at all it sure as hell didn't happen for me!

Also, Canadian ladies are actually a bit more conservative than their American counterparts.  Although they seem to have a healthier attitude about relationships and intimacy than American ladies, I never saw any of them wearing see through dresses like I had in Toledo.   They had a maturity about them that was sexy of and by itself.

During my seven years at CHUM I was often seen around town in the company of some of the Walter Thornton Agency models that we'd brought in for promotions.  The fact is that these folks were friends of mine.  Once I got off the air I'd take whomever was doing kiosk duty at the station down to George's to catch Mo Koffman's last set.  We'd order up some Italian chow and drink wine until they closed.  Also some of them would babysit my little, one year old from time to time.  I often joke with Dorian how he was pampered and fussed over by some of Toronto's most beautiful women, and now that he's an adult he can't get a date!

All of us were respectful of the ladies, whether they were in house personnel or fans.  Especially the fans since they were our bread and butter so to speak, without them we'd be nothing.  The women that worked there know the real story and so do the listeners who later came to be our friends, and in some cases CHUM employees themselves.  I'm hoping some of them will read this, and post some comments of their own.   It's time the wilder rumors were put to rest once and for all.  These folks were, and in many cases still are some 35-40 years later, good friends.  One of them is sitting next to me right now as I write this... more about my wife Sandee and her wacko family later.

Now I hope I didn't disappoint too many people with this confession, it would've been easy to let the stories continue on ad infinitum and just wink and say “no comment” when someone asks, but that would be unfair and disrespectful to some really great friends who deserve a hell of a lot better.

The ladies, fans and colleagues, who brightened mine and Dorian's lives and remain our pals to this day.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The CHUM Way

This sign hung over the main studio door at CHUM
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All kidding aside, life in Canada was a vast improvement from what I'd been accustomed to in the States.  Toronto was a clean city, nearly crime free and filled with people who couldn't imagine why anyone would want to declare war on anyone else.  There was an active amnesty movement there which worked with various US groups to shield American war objectors from US authorities.  Draft Dodgers were usually welcomed, and many stayed in Canada.  I know of quite a few Yanks who decided to renounce their American citizenship.  I didn't begrudge them a thing.  By this time I'd begun to sympathize with them, if it had been me and I was being told to go fight an illegal war I'd have headed for the border too.

The general tenor of daily life was far different in Canada.  Canadians seemed to possess a more cosmopolitan, less confrontational attitude than their Yankee neighbors.  The police were friendly, helpful and didn't even carry guns.  Sadly, that is one vestige from the old days that didn't make it to the millennium, the crime rate there has rocketed over the past 30 years.

As Spring arrived in Toronto I'd settled in nicely at CHUM.  I'd drop by the station for a few hours each day to record some spots, promos etc, then head home.  I rarely worked more than 4 hours a day, 6 days a week and got paid for a full day.  Pretty cushy stuff!  I found an apartment at “Place Du Soliel” near the intersection of Mt Pleasant and Broadway, a funky, hip part of town where the Davisville streetcar terminated.  One of the most comforting sounds in the world to me was the screech of that streetcar as it rounded the stop for it's return trip.  Don't ask me why, I just loved it!  There were lots of small, family style restaurants including a burger joint which also had a small steak house downstairs.  You had to know it was there or you'd never find it, but once you did you'd be having a steak dinner every night for $1.  I kid you not, steak and baked potato, one buck!

CHUM was far different from any other station I'd ever worked for, or any I've worked for since.  The CHUM philosophy, as my former colleague Warren Cosford referred to it, went "Good enough is never good enough."  I don't know if that phrase was ever written down in any corporate handbook, but from what I recall it seems about right.  Alan Waters, the stations owner was said to have remarked to Bob Wood "if the jocks need a solid gold chair, buy it!"  Well we never got a solid gold chair, but we got everything else.  CHUM was an intensely people oriented environment where everyone was valued no matter what their position might be.  Jerry the janitor was as well respected and valued as the highest billing sales person, or the highest rated jock.  Mr. Waters... we all referred to him that way, and still do out of respect... lived quite frugally.  He could have bought the biggest house and driven the finest car in town, but instead lived a few blocks from the station in a typical, Toronto style bungalow.  He drove a Dodge Dart and walked to work.  I recall seeing him from time to time as I cruised in for the Wednesday morning meetings in my Mercedes sports car.  I should have learned a lesson from him about the value of living an inauspicious life style.

When the station was challenged, as it often was by an upstart operator, we pulled out the stops and blew them out of the water.  I recall a campaign that one competitor, CFTR, started which involved buttons that they passed out to listeners.  We countered with the CHUM Starsign promotion, which involved passing out hundreds of thousands of buttons, each imprinted with one of the signs of the zodiac.  We set up kiosks in locations all around Toronto, hired models whom we dressed in custom made uniforms, and tied our giveaways to them.  It was a sensation in Toronto, everywhere you looked people were wearing CHUM Starsigns.  We demolished CFTR in a matter of weeks, but kept the promotion going for months eventually incorporating CHUM Carsigns too.  That was one of the bigger promotions, but we had something on the air all the time.

Summertime was our major promotional push since we targeted the teen audience, and they were out of school.  We'd show up everywhere, running concerts at Nathan Phillips Square, hosting free shows at the CNE bandstand and promoting the huge CNE grandstand shows.  If a major group was headed to Toronto, they were on CHUM and we were always on hand to share the stage with them at the CNE or Maple Leaf gardens... wherever!  From The Guess Who to the Osmonds to The Jackson 5, Three Dog Night, Chicago, T Rex, The Bay City Rollers... anyone who was anyone in the music biz found their way onstage with a CHUM DJ.  I recall on many occasions walking out at the CNE and hearing 20,000 people cheer.  It was unreal, and a little unsettling to be standing there knowing that every one of those people listened to me every night.  My wife recalls how she, her sister and everybody she knew in school would take their transistor radios to bed with them, put them under their pillows and listen to my show.  I have never experienced that kind of recognition since.

The perks of working at a station like that were tremendous.  Everybody wanted to have a CHUM DJ in their restaurant, at their show, wearing their clothes, having their hair cut... you name it, chances are we'd get it.  I recall one Toronto, exotic car dealer dropping a Ferrari Dino off for Jay Nelson to drive around town with the proviso that he return it after a week or so.  If we wanted tickets to a show or reservations at an exclusive restaurant, one phone call and we were in... just like that!  For years I had standing reservations and a private wine stash at Toronto's premiere jazz club, Georges Spaghetti House.  There would be a line a block long to get in, but my date and I would simply saunter to the front and walk straight to a private table.  What a huge departure from my experiences in other towns where they'd just as soon throw me out!

And of course there were other perks as well.  The Toronto gang has been wanting me to write about this, so coming up next... THE GROUPIES!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning to be Cana'jun

  The flamboyant "Slave To Fashion" Don Cherry
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Moving to Canada was a fairly painless process.  It's not really like you're going into a different country, more like dropping by your Aunt Gertrude's house.  She's your aunt all right, but she's... well... a little different.  With Cana'juns the differences are subtle, but distinct.  For instance the local delicacies might confuse a Yank on a visit to the Great White North.

Poutine is a particularly important Cana'jun staple, right up there with Tim Horton's and Swiss Chalet Chicken it's part of the Essential Canuck Food Group.  "Poutine" is a French word which, in English, roughly translates  to "Pile of Glop."  Poutine began in Quebec, when a group of French Cana'juns were trying to figure out what to throw at English Cana'juns during a “Vive Le Quebec Libre” rally.  They thought of using horse manure, but being polite and all decided to use gravy instead since it looked just like manure and didn't smell as bad...  well, usually anyway.  One French Cana'jun demonstrator accidentally dropped his gravy stash into a plate of French Fries and VOILA a new delicacy was born.  They added the cheese later because... well, because Cana'juns add cheese to everything.

Canucks don't say “oooot and abooot” they say “Awot and abawot”   This linguistic aberration began when a Canuck mother asked her adolescent son, who was chewing on a mouthful of Poutine at the time, where he was going.  He replied “Ah sfhhaid ah'm goin' awot and abawot”   It just caught on.

There are different words for everyday things in Canada, and it can be confusing to an uninformed Yank.  For instance, if a Cana'jun says “Have a Blue eh”, he's offering you a beer.  If he says “Have a Blue and sit on the chesterfield eh”,  he's offering you a beer and inviting you to have a seat on the couch.  If he says “Have a Blue and sit on the chesterfield, but don't spill it on the broadloom eh”, he's offering you a beer, inviting you to have a seat on the couch but wants you to be careful not to spill any on the carpet.   If you ask a Cana'jun “What's up eh?” and he replies “SFA eh” he's using an acronym for “sweet fuck all” which in Cana'jun means “nothing."

Cana'juns use “eh” as a delimiter for every kind of sentence.  Interrogatory, as in “Nice day out eh?”   Exclamatory, as in “The Maple Leafs really suck this year eh!”  Or as a substitute for a period, as in “I'm doin' SFA at work eh” “ Eh” is the quintessential Cana'jun expression, it can be used in any circumstance, at any time, and any Cana'jun will understand.  Try it yourself, walk down the street in Toronto, pick out someone at random and just say “Eh.”  They'll nod their head in agreement.  They know exactly what you mean!

Although they have banks in Canada, nobody uses them to get money.  Unlike the US and the rest of the world where you go to a teller window or an ATM to withdraw some cash, in Canada  you just go to the Canadian Tire Store and buy a bottle of brake fluid.  They give you back a pile of money!  Weird huh?

Hockey is NOT the Cana'jun national sport, at least not the ONLY national sport.  For years Lacrosse was.  Problem is nobody knew how to play Lacrosse let alone spell it, so in 1994 they decided there would be two national sports.  Hockey would be the Winter national sport, and is played in the Winter.  Lacrosse would be the Summer national sport and is played in the... ummmm... Spring, which in Canada is from July 31 to August 3.  So much for Lacrosse !!!

Most stores in Canada are just like the ones in the States except for one thing...  

Did he just say they have stores that only sell beer in Canada?  


In Toronto... or Tronna, as it's properly pronounced by natives.. there are lots and lots of stores called the "Brewer's Retail".  Years ago the major brewers in Canada cut a deal with the government to control all sales of beer themselves, thereby insuring that there would be plenty of "Blue" available to quench the thirst of every person above the age of 19 in the country.  That's the theory anyway.  Tell you what...  stop by a Brewer's Retail when Hockey Night In Canada is on.  HAH... good freakin' luck!!!

Which brings me to the final idiosyncrasy of life in Canada, they LOVE Don Cherry!  Don Cherry is a commentator on Hockey Night In Canada, and does the Coach's Corner show.  That's well and good, but what's especially endearing to Cana'juns about Don Cherry is his wardrobe.  He wears the most outrageous get ups since Rupaul, and has no excuse for it... he's definitely NOT a drag queen!!   A former player and coach, he played in one professional game in 1955 where he was tragically hit on the head with a puck, and he's been dressing that way ever since.

 That's about all I can think of that's different in Canada

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scott Carpenter Is Born

Don't you love that page boy haircut?  What the hell was I thinking?

When I called Alden Diehl and tendered my resignation I assumed he'd be a bit angry, after all I hadn't been with the station very long but I was surprised when he congratulated me and said it would be a great move.  It seems that everybody except me was well aware of CHUM and it's stellar reputation.  All that remained was to jump on a plane and head to Toronto.

When I gave Deb the good news she seemed a bit distracted, not exactly thrilled to be moving to Canada.  I'd been staying in Detroit and returning to Toledo on weekends, I couldn't help but notice how quiet she was when we were together.  She dutifully accompanied me when I drove up to Toronto, but returned immediately after I settled in to a hotel.  After she left the fact finally began to sink in, she and her boss were an item and I was a third party.  Deb had been my best friend, I wondered if best friends should ever get married.  Of course my own behavior was far from stellar, let me just reiterate... I was a SERIOUSY naughty boy.  But now as I sat alone in a luxury hotel room in what was surely the greatest city on earth, about to embark on a career at one of the worlds greatest radio stations, I also had to recognize that within 2 years I'd seen two marriages go up in smoke.

I'd arrived on New Years Eve 1970.  That afternoon I met with Bob and we tossed around what name I'd be using at CHUM.  Dean Scott, it seemed, was the name of a Canadian jock that Bob had known so he wanted to avoid any confusion.  “I know... how about Scott Carpenter?” he suggested.  Scott Carpenter was also the name of a Mercury 7 Astronaut, but that didn't seem to concern him so Scott Carpenter it was and has been ever since.  Scott Carpenter today is one of the most recognizable names in Canadian radio history.  People always ask me how I came up with the name, I always tell them “Ask Bob Wood!”

I was scheduled to go on the air the next day so naturally I hit the sack early.  About 12 O'Clock I was awakened by the sounds of people partying in the street.  My first instinct was alarm... “What, are these people NUTS? It's midnight, they could be killed out there on the streets like that!”  Then it dawned on me, I was no longer in Detroit.  This wasn't “Murder City USA” where even the baddest of the bad would refuse to go after 10PM.   This was Toronto, Ontario Canada... a whole new country.  No, take that back... a whole new world!  I began to realize how lucky I was, and what a wonderful opportunity had just opened up to me.  I'd been pretty depressed when I'd gone to sleep, but now I felt on top of the world!

My first night on the air at CHUM went well. I quickly learned that Bob Wood was what you might call a “hands on” programmer.  The “Bat phone” lit up constantly, and he'd always have a comment about something I'd done.  Mostly positive reinforcement, Bob Wood was a genius at making you feel good about what you did with comments like “That was a great set Scotty keep it up” or “I love the energy you project on the air!”  Bob was particularly impressed with the funny nicknames I gave to various Toronto institutions.  Toronto became “Big Funky.”  The Yonge Street subway became “The Yonge Street Cannonball” etc.

One day Bob called me into his office and said “You've got the basics down great, but you need to take it up a notch.  Around here, you need to become a personality, not just a top-40 announcer.  We'll help you, but ultimately if you're going to succeed here you have to be special.” What the hell was he saying?  For years programmers had been pounding into my head that the music was the star, I was to be part of the background.  Now this guy wanted ME to be the star! Well that's what John R did after all, but how was I supposed to do it?  Bob lent me his collection of Robt Orban one-liner books.  “Use these for inspiration, a one liner is the purest form of humor, you can do anything with it.  You can slip it in over the intro of a record, or you can make a longer bit out of it since the beginning, the middle and the end are already there."  Bob had an extensive network of people he could call on to tape some of the greatest jocks in the country... Charlie Tuna at KHJ, Dr Don Rose at WFIL, Robt W Morgan at KHJ... the list was endless.  We had jock meetings every Wednesday at 9AM and everybody... that meant even the “star” of the station, the morning guy... was expected to be there too.   As a matter of fact, there was no single “star” at CHUM, every jock was treated exactly the same and every show was treated as morning drive.  The quality control at CHUM was amazing!

The staff was amazing too.  Bob Wood, and Larry Solway before him, had assembled the most diverse and talented group of DJs in North America.  In AM drive was Jay Nelson, well known in Toronto from his days in Buffalo as “Jungle Jay” on TV.   He was amiable, funny and plugged in.

Following Jay we ran the only pure talk show on any top-40 radio station in N. America. John Gilbert was a former carny barker who'd quit school in the 8th grade.  Imagine the illegitimate son of Jerry Springer and Rosie O'Donnell and you'd have Johnny.  He'd get tongue tied over words he never learned to use, but the audience loved his unsophisticated yet intelligent approach. When Pierre Trudeau was in town he ALWAYS stopped by John's show.

Johnny Mitchell was another Yank brought in from Grand Rapids, Mi. Johnny was smooth and funny. He had impeccable timing and was a perfect entertainer for that show.

In the afternoon was John Rode whom Bob had hired from WRKO in Boston.  He was well versed in the Drake formatics, but was brilliant with situational comedy.   He saw “funny” in places most of us would never think to look.

Evenings were the realm of Tom Rivers a full-bore, top-40, hit-honkin', joke tellin' bad boy who LOVED to do things to piss Bob off.  He was a great big kid at heart, and there wasn't a malicious bone in his body.  Don't you KNOW that Riv' and I became FAST friends, and we remained so until he died in 2004.

Late nights belonged to Chuck McCoy.  “The Chucker” and Bob had been friends back in Winnipeg, and Chucker followed Bob to CHUM.  He was great on the air, but really wanted to join the management team.  He eventually did, first with CHUM, and now as a vice president of Rogers Broadcasting.  Chuck was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame in 2009.

Roger Ashby held down the overnights.  Roger came to CHUM as a teenager in 1969 and has been there ever since.  Today he is the most successful morning man in the country, and was inducted to the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame.  Roger has spent over 40 years at one station, that's unheard of in the revolving door world of American radio.

And finally there was the new kid on the block, Scott Carpenter who wondered how in the daylights he'd fit in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

1050 CHUM, Toronto

The iconic sign at 1331 Yonge.  It remained there for nearly 50 years, and adorns CHUM's new home at 250 Richmond W.

Some context might be in order at this point. It's always said that one should describe the ambiance as well as the action of a particular scene in order to provide context, so here goes.  It was the Fall of 1970, and a restless time in this country.  Richard Nixon had been President for a year and a half.  Many of us were not happy about this, I regarded Nixon as a slime bag and a crook.  Additionally, the Vietnam war had invaded just about every nook and cranny of our daily lives.  One couldn't watch the news, listen to the radio, or engage in conversation without some vestige of the war making itself known.  Whether in the style of clothing we wore or the choice of vernacular, the choice of literature or the choice of music, and most importantly the choice of friends the war was THE definitive event of the age.  One was either pro-war (establishment) or anti-war (everybody else). I was definitely part of the “everybody else” crowd!

I think that anyone who ever put on a uniform retains a defensive point of view about the country and fellow soldiers years after their service.  Viet Nam was, to me, an abomination.  I felt betrayed by the country's leaders, first Johnson and now Nixon.  With Johnson, I felt he'd done the honorable thing by refusing renomination.  Nixon on the other hand was the opposite, a sleazy political hack who represented the worst of this country.  Also the brutal attack by Daly's Pigs on protesters at the Democratic convention made me sick to my stomach.  These people had every right to assemble and protest,  Daly had NO right to turn his storm troopers loose on them.  I was disgusted with what I saw, and like many former Viet Nam era vets began to think that my country had lost it's way.  To add insult to injury I was living in Detroit, the murder capital of America.  What a complete change from my experience of years before, a time when a 14 year old musician could spend the entire night there in complete safety.  Since the riots, you could get killed just walking down the street.  It didn't escape my notice that life in Windsor, Ontario was 180 degrees the opposite.

All of this came crashing home to me one night as I was crossing the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor.  Going into Windsor was always a pleasant experience, I'd say hello to the guard, exchange some pleasantries and drive away occasionally promising to play a song for him.  The trip back to Detroit could be a trying experience however.  The U.S. Border Guards were constantly on the lookout for pot smugglers and draft dodgers.  I'd had my car inspected more than once coming back from work.  Also the guards were not well trained or supervised, and unlike their Canadian counterparts, occasionally showed a bit of attitude.  One of them had a particular distaste for me for some reason.  He was a heavyset guy with a silly looking pencil mustache, and he'd always give me the run-around whenever I came through his station.  He knew I was an Air Force vet, we'd established that weeks ago when I showed him my discharge papers, but that didn't stop him from harassing me and running my name through the computer every time he saw me.  One night he went too far:

“Park over there, I'm gonna check your car and put your name in the computer” 

I guess he figured the Air Force might have rescinded my discharge.  Once inside he sneered at me and said “Can't be too careful, we get a lot of draft dodgers through here.”  Now for someone who had subjugated 4 years of his life to cover this little prick's ass, being called a draft dodger was about the worst insult in the world.  My ears were turning red, he could see I was pissed and he seemed to relish the thought. I'll bet he never thought I'd do what I did next.  In two seconds I was across the top of the desk, and had the bastard by the collar.  I slammed him against the wall and screamed “Listen you son of a bitch, if I ever hear you use the words 'draft dodger' again in my presence, I'll tear off your Goddamned head and pop it like a f^%$ing pimple!!!”  Exactly how I was going to do that is a mystery even now, since the guy outweighed me by about 70%,  I was about 130 lbs soaking wet.  The guy pulled loose and glared at me, ready to do battle when behind me I heard “Break it off, break it off... go ahead man, just leave... just leave man get out of here!”   It was the shift supervisor, a much younger guard whom I'd dealt with before.  I could have been in seriously deep shit grabbing Mr Mustache, he was a federal officer after all, but the supervisor must've understood the situation.  I drove to work fuming, and went through the incident time after time in my mind the following day.  How could I live in a country like this?   I began to search the Windsor want ads for an apartment. Canada was beginning to look better and better all the time.

The next night Neil and I were discussing the impending departure of Don Regan to CHUM.  Neil opined how CHUM was a hugely successful station, but he didn't understand why. “They have tons of money, but they sound kind of old fashioned. Kind of loose.”  I answered that I'd only heard of the station, and didn't know much about it.   “You will” he said.  At the time I had no idea what he meant.  I arrived home that morning and hit the sack, intending to grab some snooze time then look for a place in Windsor.  At about 11AM the phone rang waking me from a sound sleep.  “What the hell is this?”  I thought as I said “Hello?”  “Dean? This is J. Robert Wood.  I'm the program manager of CHUM radio in Toronto.  Perhaps you know of us, we just hired one of your colleagues, Don Regan.  The reason I called is, we have an additional opening here and wondered if you'd be interested in it.  Don brought up a tape of your show, I think you'd fit in nicely here.  If you're interested I'll make arrangements for you to fly up and have a look at the place.”

I was most definitely interested! I'd heard that Toronto was the greatest, most cosmopolitan, progressive city in the world.  The next morning I was on that plane to Toronto.  A limo was waiting for me at the Airport, I asked the driver to turn on CHUM.   Neil was right, it had a sort of old fashioned quality to it. Kind of loose... not a lot of production value.   When we arrived at 1331 Yonge Street, I was ushered into Bob Wood's office.  “Dean, we start everybody off here doing weekend fill-in and production.”  The gears started turning in my head.  The week-end stuff was always a part-time job at the stations I'd worked for, here they pulled a full-time salary.   Neil was right about something else, they had money all right.   “You'll pull a 5 hour shift on Saturdays and Sundays.  During the week you'll be expected to come in for a few hours each day and record commercials.”  Sounded good so far!  “How about I have Esme (Esmeralda Vaughn, Bob's secretary) show you around town a bit?”

We jumped in the Limo and visited Yorkville, the Toronto equivalent to Haight Ashbury, at the time all head shops, record stores and alternative culture flats.  We went by Toronto's beautiful City Hall complex, and watched the people skating on the public rink.  We went downtown and dined at Winston's, one of the finest restaurants in town.  Compared to Detroit, or any American city I'd ever seen, I thought I'd landed in paradise.  When we returned to the station I told Bob I'd think it over.  He said that was fine, but he'd like a decision by the end of the week.  When I got back from work the next day I called Bob back and accepted the job.  “That's GREAT Dean, I know you won't regret it.” he said.

Over the years Bob and I have often discussed how right he was.