The party's over for Johnny B. at the Loop
This just in: Jonathon Brandmeier, one of the last of Chicago radio's million-dollar superstars, is signing off at the Loop.
After four years this time around as morning personality at classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9), Brandmeier is expected to part company with the Emmis Communications station. Although he still has three months left on his contract, sources said he's not expected back on the air after Monday.
Brandmeier, 53, achieved his greatest success during the Loop's heyday in the 1980s. His morning show dominated the ratings among young adult listeners, and his live music performances packed concert arenas. He even hosted a nationally syndicated variety show, "Johnny B. on the Loose."‚ Following an ownership change at the Loop, he jumped to the former WCKG, where he hosted middays from studios in Los Angeles until 2001.
But unlike his first run at the Loop -- from 1983 to 1997 -- Brandmeier failed to replicate his ratings success this time. As measured by Arbitron's Portable People Meter system, his morning show most recently ranked 21st‚ in the market with a 2.2 percent share of listeners between the ages of 25 and 54. Overall, the Loop ranked 17th‚ with a 2.6 share.
Money no doubt played as much a part as ratings in the decision not to renew Brandmeier's contract. The one-year, $1 million extension he signed last March may have been among the last seven-figure radio deals the market will see for a long time.
That's not to say he'll be off the air here for good. Sources at two other stations -- Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720) and Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) -- said they've made informal overtures to Brandmeier in recent months.
After obtaining an early release from his contract with CBS in L.A., Brandmeier's return to Chicago in 2005 had as much to do with personal considerations as with business ones. "I missed my family," he told me at the time. "With my dad dying [the previous] summer, my wife battling cancer, all of my brothers moving from L.A. back to Wisconsin, it really made me realize life is too short. Everyone I care about is here."
Elsewhere on the media beat:
- News of the closing of the Washington Post's Chicago bureau (along with its other domestic outposts in New York and Los Angeles) brought to mind the esteemed Chicago newspaperman who opened the bureau here in 1974. Joel Weisman, the Post's first full-time Midwest correspondent, went on to become an award-winning broadcast news analyst and continues as host of the long-running "Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review" on public television WTTW-Channel 11. The Post's last man in Chicago, Peter Slevin, has been offered reassignment.
- Ben Goldberger, the former Sun-Times reporter (and onetime assistant to columnist Michael Sneed) who left to launch the first local edition of the Huffington Post in 2008, stepped down last week.‚ "It has been exciting to help chart HuffPost's local course and I'm leaving only because of a great opportunity to return to writing and reporting (and a chance to unshackle -- if only a bit -- from the computer)," Goldberger told friends. Succeeding him as editor of Huffington Post Chicago is Matt Sledge.
- Marc Silverman, one of north suburban Skokie's favorite sons, got everything but the key to Village Hall over the holiday weekend. The affable midday host on ESPN Radio sports/talk WMVP-AM (1000) served as guest of honor and celebrity coin flipper at Skokie's 10th‚ annual Indo Jew Bowl football game on Thanksgiving Day. Then he returned Saturday as the toast of his Niles North High School class at its 20th‚ reunion.