Robservations on the media beat:
- On May 2, 1960, a skinny kid from Endicott, N.Y., arrived in Chicago and signed on at WLS-AM (890) as the new Top 40 station’s nighttime screamer. Five decades later, Radio Hall of Famer Dick Biondi, 77, is still playing the music that rocked Chicago — from 7 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday on oldies WLS-FM (94.7).‚ To celebrate the 50th‚ anniversary of Biondi’s debut on WLS, the Citadel Broadcasting station will air a not-to-be-missed live special from 7 p.m. to midnight on May 2. Biondi will host the five-hour Sunday night extravaganza, featuring appearances by celebrities and highlights of memorable moments in his career. “We’re proud and privileged to have Dick broadcast on our station every night,” said Michael La Crosse, operations director of WLS-FM. “He still sounds as great now as he did then.”
- While Oprah Winfrey was in New York this week bashing a controversial new book about her as a “so-called biography,” author Kitty Kelley was in Chicago, tipping her hat to the local media community. (Full disclosure: I was among the 850 sources Kelley says she interviewed for Oprah: A Biography. Except for one exaggeration — I never claimed to have had lunch with Oprah “once a week,” as I was quoted — I found Kelley’s reporting to be fair, accurate and insightful.) In a conversation with Phil Ponce Tuesday on WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight,” Kelley said:
“I reached out to an awful lot of journalists here, and I must really support Chicago journalists. They were very generous, and they were very, very forthcoming. They also know Oprah very well. They’ve sort of grown up with her. You know, they were there when she was “America’s Girlfriend,’ and they followed her all the way up, as one said, to “America’s Goddess.’ And I said: “Can you break up the career for me?’ And he said: “Do you mean before “The Dawn of the Diva” or do you mean after?’ ”
- Television comedy legend Carl Reiner will be on hand Thursday when Columbia College’s television department tapes an episode of its original sitcom, “Debbie’s Got Class,” before a live audience at the college’s new Media Production Center in the South Loop. Set in the 1950s, the show follows a divorced socialite who finds a job as a home ec teacher. Reiner will provide a brief intro to the show and participate in a Q&A session with students earlier in the day.
- Tickets are sold out for Saturday’s special 40th‚ anniversary broadcast of “Those Were the Days,” but you can still tune in and hear it all from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday on WDCB-FM (90.9) or online at wdcb.org. Steve Darnall, who succeeded Chuck Schaden as host of the venerable old-time radio showcase last year, will welcome back Schaden along with special guests Ben Hollis, Tim Kazurinsky, The West End Jazz Band and singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks. The live broadcast will originate from the campus of College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
- Although the two stations are polar opposites on the air, they’ve agreed to join forces for a second time. From the left, Newsweb Radio progressive talk WCPT-AM (820), and from the right, Salem Communications conservative talk WIND-AM (560), are making plans for “The Great Debate 2,” an onstage rematch between syndicated talk show hosts Thom Hartmann and Michael Medved. It’s tentatively set for Oct. 28 — on the eve of the November elections. Last year’s debate between WCPT’s Hartmann and WIND’s Medved drew more than 1,000 to the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows. WCPT simulcasts on WCPY-FM (92.5), WCPT-FM (92.7) and WCPQ-FM (99.9).
- WCPT also will be the new radio home of “The Beacon,” a weekly show focusing on disability issues, hosted by veteran Chicago broadcaster Bill Jurek. Starting this weekend, the hourlong show will air at 4 p.m. Sundays. Jurek is retiring April 30 after a 35-year career at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, where he was a voice-over announcer, among other roles. Since losing his vision in the mid-’90s, Jurek has dedicated his time to helping the blind and working with The Chicago Lighthouse.
- Eduardo Fernandez, who was forced out last July as president and general manager of NBC/Telemundo Spanish-language WSNS-Channel 44, has landed as vice president and general manager of WXYZ-TV in Detroit. The ABC affiliate is owned by The E.W. Scripps Co.
- A programming note: From noon to 1 p.m. today, I’ll be joining fellow media observers Andrew Huff of Gapers Block, Wally Podrazik of Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM (91.5), Cara Jepsen of the Illinois Entertainer, and the ever-vigilant Larz of Chicagoland Radio and Media, for an online chat. It’s the eighth weekly installment of “The Lunchbox,” moderated by Justin Kaufmann, the man who makes the trains run on time at blogs.vocalo.org. (Here is the link.)