Real Life in the Fire Zone…

new porch front

Our house is one canyon over from Topanga. For a week now we have lived on the edge of the big fires in Southern California. The Hill Fire started less than 2 miles from us, the Woolsley Fire started five miles from our house. Our only advantage? We are upwind from both.

fire 3

The fires were driven by the Santa Ana winds. They blow in from the desert this time of the year and they blow long and hard. Until late yesterday the Santa Ana was blowing 25-30 miles an hour with gusts as high as 50. Imagine that kind of wind lasting for days, six days to be exact. Then add fire.

fire work 2

The fires started a week ago, Last Friday we lost power, no power, no cable, no internet. Then we lost cell service. Complete digital isolation, we were in the dark.


I dug out an old boombox, unused for years. I put new batteries in it and the little red light on the front lit up. I dialed around, lots of music on FM. I switched to AM and found what I was looking for. News. News about the fires.

kfi 2

KNX and KFI gave me what I needed and I assume they were doing the same for tens of thousands of other people in SoCal.

KNX teamed up with KCBS TV and KCAL 9, effectively tripling their coverage ability, KFI did the same with Channel 4. KFI dumped all their paid and syndicated programming for the weekend and got out of politics, they concentrated on the fires. Both stations did a superb job. It seemed to me as a listener they had people everywhere, constant updates, traffic and weather. They covered and carried news conferences, community meetings. The actualities were outstanding. The stations would cut live to a reporter in a helicopter describing the inferno below.
The anchors and reporters on both stations were filled with emotion and energy, they asked good questions and the pictures they painted with their words were vivid and true. The worked almost around the clock and never stumbled. They did their jobs and the stations fulfilled their obligation to the community. It was radio doing what radio does best.

KNX and KFI did what radio has always done during times like this, they were the voices of Southern California.

fire 2

The fires were far from containment on Monday, but KFI went back to its regular programming, they still did excellent news coverage, but the local shows started back on politics, the politics of the fire and the syndication was back as well.

KNX continued, they focused on the fires, the disruption and the destruction.

As I said, we were upwind of the fire, then on Monday morning, I looked out my office window and saw smoke. I went outside, the sky was dark. I turned up KNX. I found out I was downwind from a fire that had broken out a few miles from me. It was moving fast. I heard helicopters in the air.

A KNX reporter was on the scene. He described the situation. The freeway was jammed with cars, the fire was burning rapidly up to the highway. I heard a play by play of a water drop right on the roadway, then another. There were teams of firefighters nearby. The firefighters moved in, then the wind dropped. The water drops by helicopters continued along the road, then moved to a nearby suburban neighborhood. Within three hours the fire was killed. The freeway was reopened, and small mop op operations continued the rest of the afternoon. My tension broke with the news. I was relieved.

Reflecting on the past few days, I think about what it would have been like for us without KNX and KFI to rely on. Our “wired” world was out of commission. No cable, no internet, no cell phone, no electricity to power them anyway. I did find a working phone cell a few blocks away, I did hump down there a few times to update family and friends on how we were doing.

Back at our old house up in the canyon, we were as isolated as we would have been when the house was new, 96 years ago. We have gas for cooking, we have camping lanterns, we keep plenty of batteries on hand. And we had the old boombox and we had good old AM radio doing what it’s always done in times of emergency. KFI and KNX helped in more ways than they may know.

Good job KNX and KFI AM radio. Thank you.



Story tellers, Uncategorized

The Story Tellers…

Let’s talk about storytelling, here’s one, it’s true and I lived it the Halloween I was in the 8th grade.

A local doctor had a gorilla costume, Hollywood level quality. Little kids would come up to his door and he’d run out from the side of the house and scare them so much they’d pee in their pants, I know this for a fact because my sister did pee in her pants one Halloween, after seeing the gorilla..

My 8th grade friends and I were doing Halloween for the last time, there were 4 of us. One of my friends Ron was one of those 13-year-old boys who was already a grown man. Ron had hair on his chest and he shaved every day. Ron was around 5-9 and weighed 165, you can imagine what he accomplished in Jr High football, nobody wanted to or could tackle him.

We followed a group of little kids up to Dr. H’s door, he came out from the bushes beating his gorilla chest and the little kids started to scream, maybe they peed their pants. Ron took off as he did on the football field, the doctor turned to run, halfway across the yard, Ron tackled him. Ripped off the gorilla head and came back like Conan the Barbarian holding up the King Kong head. Ron tossed the gorilla head out in the street and left to the adoring cheers of the little kids holding their trick or treat bags. The Doc never did his gorilla act again.

George, I’ve given that true story to 4 different jocks over the years. Each one of them used it to great effect. One used the story to generate calls from his audience about their great Halloween moments, he got almost 2 hours out of it from 8 to 10 AM

Another pre-produced it with music and sound effects and narrated it like an old-time radio drama.

The other two told it and sold it as a stand-alone.

The story worked every time, no matter how they used it.

Good air talents are the kind of people you want to sit next to on a long airline flight or strike up a conversation with at a bar. In short, storytellers.

Bobby, it’s like you and I talked about. The moment you buy a lottery ticket, you start fantasizing about what you’re going to do with the winnings. Unfortunately, it’s only the buying of the ticket that kick-starts the dreams so I would suggest when the money gets enormous, the whole morning crew buy a ticket and start sharing their fantasies. It won’t be long till the listeners will chime in, and now you’ve got a whole show.
jeff and jer

One of the best ever storytellers was Jer of Jeff & Jer fame. I always loved coaching them because their show was so fun to listen to. The thing about Jeff & Jer was that they didn’t hang out together so when they saw each other every morning they always spent some time catching up.

Jeff was the marrying kind with a bunch of kids and lived modestly. Jerry, on the other hand, was also married, but lived a totally different lifestyle. He lived in the hills of La Jolla overlooking the ocean and dined out each night with superstars.

The premise of Jef & Jer’s act was that they only had a few listeners and they didn’t make a lot of money so Jerry was always looking for bargains. (highest paid un syndicated talent in the biz) Jerry, of course was reluctant to talk about his real personal life but Jeff was genuinely intrigued by whatever it was Jerry did the previous night which always led to a great story.
On one of my visits, I remember hearing Jeff ask Jerry how his family reunion went back in Michigan over the weekend. Jer said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Jeff said, “You don’t want to talk about it, you drove us all crazy for months about how excited you were about seeing all your aunts and uncles and cousins again, and now you don’t want to talk about it?” Jerry then proceeded to say “I didn’t go.” What,” Jeff says, “You didn’t go, why not?” Jerry replied, “I told you, I don’t want to talk about it.”
They got an entire show out of Jeff slowly prying the story out of Jer. They did their regular radio stuff but then Jeff would keep coming back to his inquiry which was hilarious. I won’t bore you with it all because there is no way a blog can reflect how they did it on the air. However, Jer finally confessed to Jeff that a friend of his who worked for the airlines had given him a buddy pass. The way a buddy pass works is that as long as the flight isn’t sold out, you’re on the plane. Jer supposedly was at the airport for the whole day but was getting bumped off of every flight. Only Jeff & Jer could do a whole show out of being bumped off an airplane.

Bob, as the saying goes, “Great morning hosts are great storytellers and their listeners tell great stories about them.” Geo


Boston Wins!


The World Series ended last night, a win for Boston and a loss for the Dodgers. It was a remarkable World Series in many ways, but let’s leave that for the sports guys.

How does a World Series affect a community? Here’s one way, my car has a Red Sox license plate frame, my wife gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago. I love living in California, but I’m still a Sawx fan, Until this week, nobody ever said a peep about it. Last Friday, Cakes was at Von’s (SoCal Supermarket) a guy gave her some good-natured shit on her way into the store and a woman parked next to her did the same when she was leaving.

The Series was the topic of conversation during brunch, on the lips of folks at the gas station and convenience store, I saw Dodger flags on car windows. Dodger hats and shirts on men.women and kids. Massive TV ratings. Front page stories in the LA Times, all over every LA TV station.

Other than the news and sports stations, If you listened to LA radio you wouldn’t have known the World Series was being played at Chavez Ravine. Other than the low key ticket giveaway for Friday’s game on the, IHeart stations the World god damned Series was non-existent on LA music stations.

Who decided this was a good idea? The air talent? The god damn Brand Managers? The exalted Market Manager? Some highly placed corporate programming guru ruling from afar?

It’s as if there was a huge parade, you were invited to ride in a convertible in the front with your name on the door. You turned it down because you’d rather play a Maroon 5 song for the 900th time and attempt to make a big deal out of it.

Show me the research that says it’s a really good idea to NOT reflect events in your market!

One last thing, a couple of guys from LA did the ultimate sports thing, we had 6 professional sporting events in LA yesterday. The Kings played at Staples early, the Galaxy had a game at the Home Depot Center, the Rams played at the Coliseum, the Word Series at Dodgers Stadium and the Clippers played last night at Staples. They went to every game. You know who else did it? Lance Bass of N’Sync. You didn’t know that either did you? It was in the online edition of the LA Times at 3 this morning. You should have given Lance a call this morning, he’d love to have talked to you.

lance Bass

Now that the World Series is over, here’s another thing people of all kinds are talking about. There is only one UNDEFEATED football team in the NFL, are you aware of that?  Given your track record, probably not.
rams logo

You all blew a great ratings opportunity!

What a couple of weeks of radio listening huh Bobby? Last week we listened to Boston radio and the week before to LA and found out that the Boston air talent must love Boston because they talk about it all the time. Using the same theory in SoCal one could surmise that they’re all either trying to escape LA or hide there because they never hardly mention it.

Your plan to do both markets together because they were battling each other in the World Series was a good one. I expected to hear the morning folks from Boston on the air in LA and vice versa making a friendly bet of some kind, but no! Hell in LA you could hardly tell that the Dodgers were even in it. In fact, if the radio stations weren’t forced to give away tickets, I doubt that they would have even mentioned the World Series being in their town for three games.
Boston, on the other hand, was all over it ao not only did they win the World Series, they also won the radio wars.

And the parade is Wednesday, George. Duck boats and all!


Boston vs LA on the field and on the air

So, Bobby, I listened to KISS, MYfm, and KOST in LA yesterday to see how they were handling the World Series.

la skyline

Ryan Seacrest on KISS only mentioned the Dodgers when he was promoting the fact that KIIS was giving away tickets to all the home games. Every time he brought it up though he mentioned that they got the tickets from their AM sister station (KLAC) that was carrying the games so it must be a cross promotion.

I like the traffic on KIIS much more than on the rest of the I Heart stations in LA even though Ginger couldn’t make it in Boston. She doesn’t have a lot of character but at least she’s understandable. The news department, however, seemed to be the only on-air people into the World Series.

Speaking of Ryan Seacrest, Matty at KISS in Boston made a snide remark this morning about the fact that they were forced to carry Seacrest’s syndicated show on KISS.
When we were in Boston together Bob, Matty was just a kid, now he sounds like a grumpy uncle, but he still can make me laugh.

boston skyline

Over on MYfm or maybe just down the hall, Valentine, outside of also giving away World Series tickets only mentioned the World Series once. He said that he was doing a promotion with John Mayer that night and he was thinking of giving John a short introduction and then quickly shuffling off the stage to find a TV where he could watch the game. Although one of their questions during their “Battle Of The Sexes” was about the Red Sox but not the Dodgers.

As usual, their traffic was done much too quickly and very hard to understand and their stop sets went on forever. Overall, I’m thinking that if the Dodgers weren’t in the World Series, there would be nothing about LA at all on MYfm.

Ellen K on KOST, other than also giving away World Series tickets never mentioned anything about LA. I’m beginning to think that I Heart has one pair of tickets to give away and those who are qualifying to win them on the various I heart stations are all going in one giant hat.
I love Ellen’s voice but she also has traffic on her show that goes away too fast and also long commercial breaks.

As Sheryl Crow once said, Bobby, “This ain’t no disco.” But what I heard ain’t no LA either. What are you hearing?

George, I bounced around yesterday, the series thing was so low key, I missed it completely. I did hear it this morning on Valentine. He said, “I have to do some “housekeeping”, did the ticket giveaway promo live, then jumped into Halloween.

I don’t think music stations should turn into sports stations, but the World Series is front page news in the LA Times. The LA TV stations are all over it, so why ignore it?

I talked to a TV News VP yesterday. I asked him what he would do if he was the News Director of a radio cluster with News, Sports and Music stations involved in the World Series. Here’s what he said he’d do:

The play by play guys would be available to the morning shows on the music stations to talk about the games. They’re the experts.

Create a daily “cheat sheet” on the series. Facts the jocks could use as they wished.

ie: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Red Sox manager Alex Cora were teammates on the Dodgers and are good friends. Facts with human interest appeal beyond the games..

Young Dodger Cody Bellinger, went into the Green Monster scoreboard on Monday at Fenway. Generations of ballplayers have signed the bare concrete walls. He was looking for his Dad’s (Clay Bellinger) signature, he found it and signed his name under his father’s.

Keep everybody on the same page, every day.

Have audio available, raw and produced, for the use of the music stations

Make sure the traffic people are focused on Dodger Stadium Friday afternoon. It will be a nightmare.

dodger stadium traffic

Great advice. Geo, he’s been through this during his radio days, so he knows what he’s talking about.

It doesn’t make any difference what the format is, your job is to reflect your audience and your market. Do your job!

It’s amazing to me Bob how local the Boston radio stations are and how un-local the LA stations are. Hell, LA is the movie capital of the world and they don’t even talk about movies.

In Boston, except for WKLB, they are so local you don’t know what they’re talking about unless you live there. I know for sure that you could never syndicate Matty or Loren.

Another thing that surprised me while listening to Boston radio was that they still call it the Loren & Wally show on WROR even though Wally’s been gone for a couple of years now. Loren is surrounded by some young sidekicks so the folks must think one of the voices is Wally. Although I did hear Wally’s voice on a couple of old produced bits like “Men From Maine.”

Loren reminds me of Bill Gardner because, in his early days in Boston working for Fairbanks Broadcasting, local, local, local, was pounded into him so often that I don’t think Loren would know how to do a show that wasn’t local.

In Dallas on KVIL, I forced local on the air by having a thing called the Daily Sheet which was filled with local activities. The Daily sheet was on the log and you had to do something from it three times an hour and then sign that you did them. The Jox hated it Bill later told me that when he went to work in other markets, they didn’t have a Daily Sheet so he did his own because he could no longer do a show without it.

Can you imagine Loren and Matty in LA doing what they do except of course talkin’ smack about So-Cal Bob? How huge would they be, do you suppose?

With time, they’d kick ass.

You know George, there are so many opportunities to genuinely connect with the listener and most radio talent just blows it off hour after hour, day after day. It’s so easy to do and it builds big numbers. Local thinking and reflection is so ingrained into successful talent like Matty and Loren, they don’t even have to think about it anymore. It’s a big part of what makes them winners year after year. Good lesson for young talent.

ellen k

One last thing, if the KOST Brand manager (damn I hate term) didn’t hand the Cody Bellinger story to Ellen K and say, “Ellen this is perfect for you” they aren’t doing their job. If Ellen did that story on the air, the hundreds of thousands of parents (like her) who listen to her on KOST every morning would all be saying, “Wow!”


Another Note, Baseball and being Local

Comment from Detroit legend, Jim Harper…


“This is the most productive and potentially “golden” advice any morning jock could ever expect to receive. And it’s free! Then again…generous. Old Pros do that…never when asked, but when you least expect it and they sincerely want to help talent. I hope jox realize that Bob’s phone call script/outline should be stolen and produced with a killer-close…tomorrow! And George’s break-by-break then repeat-outline is a million dollar secret.”
Nice work, Gentlemen.

Much appreciated Jim.

Okay, it’s World Series Time, People who haven’t paid attention to the game all season are, at least, aware of the World Series. My old hometown is going insane over the Red Sox, Hell, that’s nothing new. The Dodgers are the topic of conversation out here in LA. The series starts tonight at Fenway Park.  (Pahk)

George and I were wondering how radio in LA and Boston are going to handle this huge local event. We know sports radio in both cities will be all over it, the news stations in both will give  the series a lot of airtime. What about the music stations?

I got a sneak preview after the Sox (sawx) won the ALCS. The newscasts on #KISS108 during Matt Siegel’s show were all Red Sox, Sound from the win, reactions from the players and the fans. It was the perfect response and reflection of Boston’s joy over the team’s success.

I did some listening around, the sports stations were all Sox, #WBZ, #WRKO, #WBUR and #WGBH all did expanded sports news. Other than #KISS108, what I heard on the music station was little or mostly nothing.

That Monday morning a week ago, was a big day in sports for Boston. The Sox won the ALCS and the Pats beat undefeated Kansas City. How big? The games had a local TV share of 83, nationally the Sox game was the highest rated show on cable and the Pats had the biggest numbers on over the air TV. And much of Boston radio ignored it. How can you do that?

Some of you people make me crazy. Your job is to reflect your community for chrissakes!

This is going to be a two part listen George. Having the World Series in your city is a big deal, it’s going to be fun to see how the stations handle it. You listened to a lot of Boston radio last week, what did you hear and what should we be listening for this week in Boston and LA after the series starts?

Bobby, when I listened to Matty on #KISS and Loren Owens on #WROR in Boston, they both were all over the Bo-Sox. However, when I listened to our old station, #WKLB, nothing, nada, zilch. I couldn’t believe it. You could drop that radio station into any town Bobby because there was nothing Boston on it at all. They almost sounded syndicated but what they were doing wasn’t worthy of syndication The only reason that they have any ratings at all is because they are playing country music.

Remember Bob, when we launched #WKLB back in the mid 90’s, we were only worried about one other station going country. That station was #WAAF, because they covered all the country zips and we didn’t. I’m not sure how they’re doing today but if they went country now, they’d wipe out #WKLB in about a day and a half.

I expect Matty on #KISS108 and Loren on #WROR to be all over the Sox all week not to mention the hi flying Pats, Bruins, and Celtics. What a town if you like sports huh! Matty and Loren are so local that you could never syndicate them unlike Ryan Seacrest on #KISS in LA. I listened to him for 2 hours yesterday and he mentioned the Dodgers were in the World series once. Although I sure liked his traffic more than the other I Heart stations but it wasn’t as good as Matty or Loren’s in Boston.

Boston & LA, let’s hear who loves their town more this week. Should be a fun listen Bobby.