Feder's Chicago media flashback: February 1985

February 19, 2010

An assortment of news items (updated and annotated) from my Chicago Sun-Times column 25 years ago this week:

  • "CBS News has completed a pilot for a '60 Minutes'-type weekly magazine series, covering 'contemporary, relevant' issues and geared specifically to viewers in the 20-to-40-year-old age bracket. . . . Bob Sirott, the WBBM-Channel 2 entertainment reporter, is one of four reporters on the pilot (with a profile of martial arts actor Chuck Norris) and could become a regular contributor, if the series wins network approval." ["West 57th" debuted in August 1985 with correspondents Bob Sirott, Jane Wallace, Meredith Vieira and John Ferrugia. It ran for four years.]
  • "Morning man Larry Lujack has emerged the undisputed winner in a behind-scenes power struggle at WLS-AM (890) and WLS-FM (94.7). In a series of meetings last week, Lujack reportedly was given unprecedented authority over his 5:30-to-10 a.m. show and no longer has to check with his superiors in advance about anything he does on the air. . . . 'I wouldn't say I'm totally autonomous,' Lujack said. 'If it were really up to me, all I'd play is Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly records.' " [Two years later Lujack retired from WLS.]
  • "Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel are continuing to expand their influence on both coasts. On March 2, the hosts of the syndicated 'At the Movies' will turn up as guest-critics on a special edition of NBC's 'Saturday Night Live,' a first-ever festival of film segments aired during the last five years of the comedy series." [Gene & Roger made at least 10 appearances on "Saturday Night Live" over the years.]
  • "Bears linebacker-turned-actor Dick Butkus has emerged as the leading candidate to do color commentary on WGN's Bears broadcasts this fall. Negotiations are under way." [Butkus signed with WGN for the Bears' Super Bowl season in 1985 and stayed on in the broadcast booth until 1994.]
  • "WFMT-FM (98.7) and Chicago magazine boss Ray Nordstrand is denying that both properties are up so sale, calling the rumors 'totally frivolous.' " [Two years later the magazine was sold for $17 million. Nordstrand died of complications after a series of strokes in 2005.]
  • "WUSN-FM (99.5) general manager Drew Horowitz is asking listeners to decide whether the station's 'Strip Search Game' is in poor taste. 'US-99' afternoon drive jock Bill Garcia asks participants to peel off their clothes if they answer trivia questions incorrectly." [Horowitz is executive vice president of Bonneville Radio, overseeing Chicago, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Phoenix, St. Louis and Cincinnati operations. Garcia left WUSN at the end of 2008.]
  • "Look out for Wally Phillips' second book, a lighthearted guide to living called Way to Go: Surviving in This World Until Something Better Comes Along, published by William Morrow & Co." [The book, ghost written by WGN boss Dan Fabian, concluded with the words: "Be seeing you . . . out there . . . up there . . . somewhere . . . maybe." Phillips died of complications from Alzheimer's disease in 2008.]
  • "Anchorman Ron Magers isn't the only smoker who kicked the habit after health reporter Barry Kaufman's series last month on WMAQ-Channel 5. A government-funded study reports that 31 percent of the estimated 70,000 viewers who received the series' brochure also managed to quit smoking." [Recalls Magers: "I had tried to quit countless times before, but this is the one that worked for me. I was one of those smokers who thought he could never quit. I had given up alcohol and other mood-altering chemicals years before, but for me, tobacco was the toughest."]
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