Sunday, October 27, 2013

City of Brotherly Love...

City of Brotherly Love...
...and the sisters weren’t bad either!

I fled the Castro Cuban invasion in Miami for the calming shores of Philadelphia.
My Boston and Chicago friend, Jerry Williams, was Program Director of the country’s first FM all talk station there...WWDB 96.5.
All talk that is...except for Sid Mark and the two Sinatra shows on the weekend...Friday with Frank and Sunday with Sinatra.  Sid played only Frank’s records...and made a mint doing it each week.
At last report he was still doing it on a different station.  He let me fill in one weekend and I was honored.  It was a gas.  Of course I had told him about the Sinatra phone call when I was in Peoria and he was impressed more with Frank making it than me getting it.  But that’s ok.  
I never discussed my business plan about one of the rat pack members buying a Vegas radio station.  You don’t use that term... “Rat Pack” with Sidney.
Jerry was doing afternoon drive and then Howard Eskin (still going strong in Philly) did a sports show and my turn came after that.
I rented a brand new townhouse out on what is called the “Main Line” the city of Paoli.  The drive back and forth was great...huge historic settings.  
Aah... to live near Valley Forge, Bryn Mawr and shop at the King of Prussia Mall!
I’ll give credit to Larry King who dubbed this area “undiscovered” and it seemed so.
DB as we called it had good folks on board. 
A nice (most of the time) lady named Dolly Banks owned the place.  Jerry ran programming and his News Director, Betty Bernamen were an “item”. 
Betty was class from head to toe. And very good at what she did....the news. You can sum up Betty by quoting actor-singer Robert Goulet. Upon meeting her he said  “I’d love to have you for lunch.” True story.
Irv Homer was rascal doing the Jerry Williams “warmup show” for three hours beginning at noon.
Susan Bray (see earlier postings) was the late morning gal and comfortably handling the morning drive slot was the incomparable Dominic Quinn....and the worst smelling Jamaican cigars he could find!
Jerry Williams left not too long after I arrived (no connection). I think they were into heavy pay with Jer.....he usually negotiated well.
Upon my recommendation he went almost directly to work with Neil Rogers at WNWS Miami.  And he hated it!
His afternoon slot fell into my hands.
Dom Quinn got the title of Program Director and I became Operations Manager.  Dom went home after his show so that, of course , left me to run programming.  
We had a good staff on and off the air and ratings were going up.  
The Sinatra shows were sold out at a premium each weekend and that helped offset any losses in sales for talk.
We promoted like the on air “stars” out in the city and some magazine and newspaper ad trades were helping us get on the map.
Richard Hayes drove in each night from his Long Island home to do our overnights...and God himself could not have found a better man. After the show...Richard would hit the turnpike and morning drive traffic in New York City.  That was in rain, snow, and ice.To this day I don’t know how he did it!
I promoted my afternoon drive show by doing some good deeds. (see early postings about Russian vodka and Vietnam Vets)
After a few months I was invited to the Reagan White House for a lunch with the President...along with about a hundred or so “out of Washington” news people.
The Reagan administration loved reaching out to press folks other than the dozen or so networks, NYC or DC news types who attended the daily news briefings.  
We would attend one or two briefings from top administrations officials...then be served lunch with the President..and then he would make a few remarks and take questions for a short time.  We’d spot the well known net names standing at the open doors getting the info just as we were....but they weren’t allowed in.
After the lunch...I went out of the huge dining room and looked around.  We were now on our own.  As we came in to the White House from the west entrance we had be “escorted” by individual types and were not allowed variance.  
But now I just wandered around the lower floor of the White House and enjoyed the moment.....taking my time...before exiting the famous front door and walking down the sidewalk to the gatehouse on Pennsylvania Avenue.
On the programming side I wanted DB to be more like WGN in Chicago where Wally Phillips had every female in Chicago and suburbs listening each morning.
I instituted the WGN policy of giveaways for good callers...laid a bunch of Phillies tickets to Dom, Susan and Irv plus other goodies to get the good callers paid off so to speak. It seemed to be working well.  Our ratings numbers constantly moved up while the AM talk stations were dropping or staying the same.
We worked a good trade with Disney World in Orlando and Susan and Irv would do a show or two from the Magic Kingdom.
Mickey Mouse actually came up to Philly to appear on Irv’s show to help promote the forthcoming broadcasts from Florida.  
Now...think about this...Mickey does not talk. 
Ha!  Irv really loved it...and he worked around that by getting Mickey to nod yes or his questions. It was a gas!
King of the cowboys, Roy Rogers dropped in on Irv. (see early posting about Roy’s arrival an hour early.)
Stuff...good stuff kept happening and WWDB the Talk Station was humming right along and guess what.  Dolly Banks put it up for sale.  Or at least...she was being approached by outside parties to sell.  And money, big money, was tempting her.
This was after I had worked my butt off for a few years...and now had to wait for the ax to fall.
I loved Philadelphia and did not want change but I had to check if anything interesting was happening in talk radio.
Then a new General Manager came in and I saw the writing on the wall.  
Tom Lykis (see earlier postings) was programming KFYI in Phoenix...a really red hot talk station in a very HOT market.  Tom had heard me in Miami and wondered if I would be interested in a late morning shift there.  I flew out for meetings and was surprised at what they offered me...including a hefty salary and a no cut contact.
I signed on and left Philadelphia after giving my notice. 
I’ve been back to Philadelphia several times in the subsequent years...taking my new Miami family on vacations there.  I will always love it.  As Larry King is an undiscovered paradise!

No comments:

Post a Comment