Feder's Chicago media flashback: May 1984

May 19, 2010

An assortment of news items (updated and annotated) from my Chicago Sun-Times column 26 years ago this week: 

  • "It was smiles all around as Steve Dahl and Garry Meier returned to their WLS-FM (94.7) afternoon show after a three-day suspension and weeklong vacation. WLS general manager John Gehron kicked them off the air May 9 for infractions of station policies and an overall 'defiant attitude toward management.' 'I'm sorry I didn't read the situation better,' Gehron said. 'As a manager, I shouldn't have let it explode.' " [Dahl and Meier shifted to WLS-AM (890) four months later, and worked there until their contract ran out in February 1986. The duo broke up in 1993. Today, Dahl hosts a daily podcast from his home, and Meier hosts afternoons on WGN-AM (720). Gehron, who went on to become a revered broadcast industry statesman, is lead management consultant for AccuRadio.com.]
  • "How eager is WLS-Channel 7 for anchorman John Drury to jump over from WGN-Channel 9? Though Drury is still being held to his WGN contract, Channel 7 already lists him (and an out-of-service extension number) in its internal phone directory." [Drury finally signed on at Channel 7 in August 1984 and fronted the ABC-owned station's top-rated 10 p.m. newscast for almost 18 years until he retired in February 2002. On Nov. 25, 2007, he died of Lou Gehrig's disease at age 80.]
  • "WLS-AM (890) was knocked off the air for a while Friday when two parts in its transmitter failed simultaneously. A contributing factor, according to chief engineer Al Resnick, was midday man Fred Winston, who was yelping in a falsetto to Kool & the Gang's 'Tonight' at the time of outage. 'I didn't know I had it in me,' a sheepish Winston said." [Saying he'd still enjoy doing a radio show regularly, Winston hangs out on his farm in the wine country of southwest Michigan, surrounded by 800 acres of vineyards. When the 39-year Chicago radio veteran isn't zinging one-liners on Twitter, he's doing commercial voice-over work and shooting stunning photographs. Resnick joined Carl T. Jones Corp. as a consulting engineer.]
  • "In a stunt reminiscent of his Chicago heyday as a Top 40 jock in the 1960s, Dick Biondi has been pleading with listeners to help save his job on WBBM-FM (96.3). For two days in a row, the high-decibel morning man has begged fans to call his bosses (on their private phone lines) and urge them to renew Biondi's contract, which expires in mid-August." [Although he didn't quite fit in at B96, Biondi achieved great success later that year when he helped launch an oldies format at WJMK-FM (104.3). Now as nighttime host at WLS-FM (94.7), the Radio Hall of Famer just celebrated the 50th‚ anniversary of his first broadcast in Chicago. An alley outside the former studios of WLS-AM (890) will be named in his honor later this year.]
  • "WGN-AM (720) will celebrate its 60th‚ anniversary on the air next month with a seven-day, around-the-clock tribute to the stars and programs of the station's illustrious past. Throughout the week of June 18, WGN will take a fond look back on everything 'from Col. [Robert] McCormick to Franklyn MacCormack and from "Little Orphan Annie" to "Amos 'n' Andy," ' said executive producer Lorna Gladstone." [To mark its 80th‚ anniversary in 2004, WGN released a commemorative CD and launched wgngold.com, a website dedicated to the station's history. Gladstone, who served as program director of WGN from 1986 to 1991 (and later as operations manager of the former WMAQ), is a Chicago-based broadcast media consultant.]
  • "Felicia Middlebrooks, a news desk assistant at WBBM-Channel 2, has shifted temporarily to all-news WBBM-AM (780) as an anchor and reporter. She will fill in for reporter Diane Abt, who has taken a six-month leave of absence."‚ [Just five months later -- in October 1984 -- Middlebrooks was promoted to morning news anchor at the CBS-owned station. With a proclamation from Gov. Pat Quinn, she celebrated her 25th‚ year on the job last fall. Abt, who left WBBM in 1984 after 16 years as a reporter and producer, is working as an artist in‚ the San Francisco Bay Area.]
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