KHJ…Part 2

PIN

I was home!

So, let me be honest. Some of my friends had a great relationship with Paul Drew and have very warm feelings about him.

Paul Drew

I had a very different (maybe you could just say “complicated”) relationship with him. The morning opening on KHJ was created because Robert W. Morgan just could not deal with Paul any longer. Robert simply went on vacation to Hawaii and decided not to come back. Not resignation notice. Just gone.

I remain grateful that Paul brought me back to KHJ from Chicago. He was then Program Director at the station. But by the time I worked through my required 13 week notice at WLS, Drake was gone and Paul was elevated to the position of VP, Programming for RKO.

I was outside the elevator at WLS one day when Sean Conrad (who was PD at the ABC FM in Chicago) approached me.

Sean Conrad

Sean said, “Do you know I’m your new boss?” What? Yep, when Drew was promoted, Paul hired Sean (formerly PD at KYNO in Fresno) as the new PD at KHJ. I’d known Sean a long time. OK, I can go for this! Sean was smart and fun.

It didn’t take long for Sean to get worn out with Paul. Sean and I had a great relationship at KHJ, but I could see him losing energy every day.

Next up for the PD chair was Gerry Cagle (then Gerry Peterson).

Gerry Cagle (Peterson)

Paul moved Gerry from the WRKO to LA to take over. Gerry tried to make the place more energized! I enjoyed my time with Gerry. But, at some point, that run for Gerry ended. It was then that the General Manager (Tim Sullivan) asked me to be acting PD while RKO looked at their options. There was no quick decision, so the jocks and I rolled through the next rating period together without a formal shephard. Almost surprisingly, the ratings went up! It was then that I was named Program Director. That choice had not included Drew in the decision. The GM pushed for it and the approval was granted by RKO Radio President Dwight Case (a wonderful man and great broadcaster).

Dwight Case

Tim Sullivan was a super General Manager. Once when KHJ was getting some new competition, Sullivan asked what we needed. We decided on an impressive billboard showing. (The idea was to increase cume audience since quarter hour ratings were already good…and it worked.) I gathered the costs. Sullivan said, “Well, spending that much money will cost me my bonus…but we’ll do it!” (“Whatever it takes.”)

So, here we go. I had instructions to change some people and I had a “wish list” of folks I wanted to add.

Larry McKay was on staff (a really good guy). He was brought in by Gerry Peterson (Cagle). A problem developed when Larry had been overheard by Paul calling him, “Short and shiny.” Larry went on to other great gigs, and I would meet him again at K-Earth.

My first recruit was Mark Elliott for 9-Noon.

Mark and I (after working together at both CKLW and KFRC) could speak in short hand. Smooth and creative on the air, adding Mark was a no-brainer. He was excellent from Day One.

When Noon to 3 needed a new personality, I had one choice in my mind, Bobby Ocean.

Bobby Ocean on KHJ with Barry Manilow

Bobby was solid on KFRC at the time, but I knew we could use his unique air style and his “out of the park” promo skills. So, I twisted arms and brought “The Osh” to LA. (We’re startin’ to have a party feel here.)

Well, we teamed up Bobby with ace Production Director, Douglas Brown.

Those two guys together simply made 1 and 1 equal 5 with the promos they turned out. Douglas and I worked together to produce an RKO syndicated show, “The Special Of The Month.” So Douglas and I had the tough assignment of visiting with celebrities and recording their comments to include in the program. One Saturday, we had brunch at the home of Diana Ross in her Beverly Hills residence. Another time, we had to fly to Las Vegas to interview Seals and Crofts before their show on the Strip. (Rough work, but someone had to do it.)

Being with KHJ, brought you in touch with many celebrities.

Susan Scharf, me, Elton, Cher, and Paul Drew at dinner

One morning, the studio felt really exciting with Olivia as a guest DJ.

I had the opportunity to present Helen Reddy with a gold record on her “Midnight Special” TV show.

Even, somehow, found my drawing on the wall of The Palm, a Hollywood celebrity hang out.

It was also during the American Bi-Centennial year that I made a spoken word record, “The Flag.” It really went nowhere because patriotism was very low at that time.

It was also the same year that a delegation of us from RKO radio stations across the US flew to Australia and broadcast from there. We returned with Australia’s gift to America, who would find their new home in the San Diego Zoo. These little guys flew in the cabin with us on the return flight and we fed them from our seats. That’s a story in itself for another time.

Australia’s gift to the USA to celebrate the Bi-Centennial

When The Bay City Rollers came to KHJ for a visit, Mark Elliott and Dr. John Leader were not too impressed.

Mark, John, and Charlie

In afternoon drive, we already had Machine Gun Kelly. No need to mess with that. He was firing off the rounds and hitting the mark. At some point, The Gunner changed his name to just M.G. Kelly and started also trying for a movie career. (He did land a part in a Barbra Streisand movie.)

That’s his head shot when he “cleaned up” for movie auditions.

Now time to fix early evening. John Leader was rolling strong at WQXI in Atlanta when he came on the radar.

Dr. John Leader (Alfenito)

John had a beautiful wife and young daughters and it was no easy sell to get him to move…but we got him. We just called him “Dr. John” when he went on the air. I recall the first day he arrived at KHJ. I greeted him in the parking lot. He stepped out of his Porsche. I remember thinking, “Well, how the hell much did they pay in Atlanta for him to have THAT car!” (John is still a member of the “Porsche club”…but now, probably, with enough money for more than one in his garage.)

John is super creative and a Level One “team player.” We used to do a few rounds of Backgammon in my office before he hit the air at 6PM.

Late night was the home of J.B. Stone.

J.B. was solid and sounded like a guy who knew the streets. He later went on to a career working for Stevie Wonder.

AT KHJ (especially being in Hollywood), every hour mattered. So, for overnights, I went after KFRC sensation, Shana.

Her native language was German. So her “sound” was tantalizing. She sounded very sexy without being too suggestive. A real talent.

We also changed the audio chain. KFRC Chief Engineer, Bob Kanner, had put together an early version of multi-band processing.

Bob Kanner

Bob was an engineer with a programmer’s ear. He made KFRC sound blazing. So, we put his system in the line for KHJ. He made 5,000 watts sound like 50,000!

Lyle Kilgore was our News Director.

Lyle Kilgore

Lyle was the best and coordinated a group of top-flight journalists.

Marv Howard was my morning news anchor. He was amazing!

Marv Howard

One morning, we took the whole crew on the road to the home of a listener who made us breakfast. We did the whole show from their dining table.

KHJ morning show on the road

We even installed an additional telephone in their home so that when listeners called in, you could hear the phone ring!

We held a successful concert to raise money for LA’s Children’s Hospital.

Tony Orlando, MG Kelly, Bobby Ocean, Mark Elliott, John Leader, me

Now, it was time to fill a coveted position at KHJ, the “full-time/part time” guy. Since it was RKO, we had a full time salary available for this gig. In that role, the jock covered weekends and vacation relief. We got “lightning in a bottle” with Beau Weaver.

Beau Weaver and Charlie Van Dyke

Dave Sebastian Williams had also covered that role and did overnights for a time.

Dave Sebastian Williams with mega TV executive Kevin Gershan

Wow, did we have a crew!

I find it interesting that my career would later move primarily into voice work. But from that staff, Mark, Bobby, John, Beau, and Dave all hit it big time in the VO field. (I must have had a good ear for talent!)

We did lots of promotions, including “ZORK,” the mysterious visitor from another realm who arrived in LA to give away cash on the streets of LA. When it was time for him to leave, ZORK boarded a private Lear jet (remember, this IS RKO we’re talking about) and the KHJ crew gathered at the airport for his departure.

Mark, Charlie, Bobby, Dr. John, Zork, Shana, J.B. Stone

It was a magical time with an almost mystical staff…and, of course, the “whatever it takes” backing of RKO Radio.

But Paul Drew had never really accepted me as Program Director and made life for me as tough as possible. (He once called me at 3AM to ask, “Did you hear what just happened on your radio station?”) I had accidentally been copied on a memo in which he asked that I be fired. (I wasn’t…thanks to Sullivan and Case.) Not too long before he died, Drew called me. He said, “I think the problem we had was that you never trusted me.” (Gee, do you wonder why?)

Paul Drew

Even with the thrill of helping direct an orchestra of some of radio’s finest talent, I was getting worn down…like the PDs before me. By this time, it was real and it was fun…but it wasn’t real fun. Time to take a bow and make my exit.

So, what now? Well, as the song goes, “If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’m going’ back home where happiness lies and wrap myself in family ties.”

Leave the porch light on, Mom. Your boy is coming home.

“KLIF/1190…where it’s good again”
You May also Like

Comments (4)

  1. Mike Hagerty

    February 27, 2020 at 8:10 am

    Charlie: You absolutely had a great ear for talent. The air staff you assembled for KHJ 1975-77 was perhaps the strongest I’ve ever heard.

  2. Tim Engleman

    February 27, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    This series is such a treat for a radio geek. Somehow I missed you on CKLW & WLS. But your work for 3WS in Pittsburgh was stellar, like having another personality that you could hear any time of day.

  3. Doug Thompson

    February 28, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Charlie, I was proud to work with you on so many syndicated shows in Canada, including 24 episodes of “The Producers” and 13 “Legendary Performers”. You really brought the words to life.
    Magic man.

    Doug Thompson

  4. Jim Vespe

    July 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Charlie: I was on of those New York kids who grew up on Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie, but realized I had a voice like a sterile chipmunk so I abandoned any thoughts of a radio career and became an advertising copywriter with occasional one-liner sales to Joan Rivers.

    Your comments about Chicago reminded me of my first trip out there for a convention: before we opened up for the morning, I wanted to go over my slide presentation. so I was about to plug in the slide projector when a guy who made Mike Ditka look like Woody Allen said, ‘let me plug that in for you.”

    I thought he was just being helpful, so I said no thanks, but he stared in my eyes and said,
    ‘only a union rep can set up electronics. If you plug that in, I can shut the whole place down.’

    So he had me fill out a form, authorizing a union rep to turn on the projector. Probably cost my company fifty bucks.

    A month later I’m at a convention in Houston. Not wanting to create an incident, before I plugged in my projector I asked this big foreman type guy if I needed to get a union guy to plug in the projector.

    He looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘no way. This ain’t Chicago.’

Leave a Reply to Jim Vespe