Archive for radio


Rush to Judgment

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What is becoming increasingly clear in the fallout of the misogynist remarks made by conservative wonk Rush Limbaugh is that the Republican Party is about to place in nomination for the most important, most treacherous job in the world, a man who doesn’t have the courage to stand up to a talk radio host.

So how can we expect the GOP nominee, as president, to stand up to the bullies, dictators and other ne’er-do-wells that exist on this planet?

Answer: we can’t.

They say silence is deafening, and in the case of Limbaugh and his attack on Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, the silence has managed to be louder than Limbaugh himself—and that’s not easy to do.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have each offered tepid, milquetoast responses to Limbaugh, who called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” while also calling for the young woman to produce sex tapes. All because Fluke had the temerity to want to testify on Capitol Hill about the University providing contraception as part of its health care.

Romney said that Rush’s words weren’t the ones he’d use. Santorum tried to dismiss Limbaugh as an “absurd” entertainer. Gingrich tried to turn the tables and called President Obama “opportunistic” because he showed grace and compassion in phoning Fluke the day after Limbaugh’s savage attack.

Each of the candidates have had second, and sometimes even third chances to clarify their positions, i.e. a “do-over” to show that their first responses were inappropriate and feeble.

Yet still, a week after Limbaugh went after Fluke, not only have the candidates, but most of the Republican Party have stayed mum about this red hot button issue.

No one wants to take on Rush Limbaugh among the GOP ranks. I don’t know whether that’s pitiful, insane or abhorrent.

Let’s go for all three.

Santorum, in fact, had the gall to respond “courage” when asked in the last GOP debate to describe himself with one word.

Romney doesn’t want to touch Limbaugh with a 10-foot pole. Gingrich sometimes actually sounds like Rush’s press secretary.

The candidates’ cowardice is only matched by their stupidity.

Blame their camps, too. For no one apparently has the brains to deduce that if their man came out against Limbaugh’s comments—really came out against them—then he’d look a whole lot better than the others, and that such a response might actually help him in November.

You think the women voters, who are already cranky about birth control being reanimated as a political issue some 50 years after they thought it was put to bed, are in the mood to put up with attacks on their gender such as the one Limbaugh levied on Ms. Fluke?

Yet if one of the GOP presidential candidates had shown some courage—Santorum’s word—I’d bet some of those female voters might be a little soothed.

The bottom line: a presidential candidate who is afraid of a talk show host who represents a sliver of a party that needs to grow instead of shrink, isn’t fit to be president.

If the eventual GOP nominee needs a reminder of that, you can believe the women voters of this country will gladly provide it.

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RETIRE? You’re Purtan Me On

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Starting next Monday, hundreds of thousands of metro Detroit women will have to start talking to their husbands again on weekday mornings.

For 45 years, they’ve been waking up with Dick Purtan–until Friday, when the radio veteran hangs up his microphone.

For over three decades, the women around town got their news from Bill Bonds at 11:00 p.m., went to bed with Johnny Carson, and woke up with either Purtan or J.P. McCarthy. But then Johnny retired in 1992, Bonds left channel 7 in 1995, and J.P. passed away later that same year.

That left Purtan as the last true media giant in Detroit. And, maybe, the last we’ll ever know.

Longtime radio observers like Specs Howard Institute’s Dick Kernen disagree with me. Kernen says that as long as someone “has the magic, like Dick, to create quality content,” then “personality radio” will stick around, despite that medium’s changing landscape.

As much as I’d like to believe that, I’m not as confident as Kernen. Mainly, because I don’t see anyone who’s even close to assuming Purtan’s role, at least not on today’s airwaves.

Drew and Mike over at WRIF have reunited, and they are once again running roughshod over their competition in the mornings. John Mason, for 18 years at WJLB and now in syndication from WGPR, is another uber-strong morning guy in Detroit. Yet neither of those shows is woven into the fabric of the city as was Purtan’s and J.P.’s.

Purtan’s audience was always a tad older than the rockers and urban guys, anyway. His main competition for years was McCarthy.

“J.P.’s show was serious and political, and ours was funny and satirical,” Purtan told the Free Press in recollecting those days from the late-1960s thru the mid-1990s.

Purtan, unlike McCarthy, was a radio vagabond, making himself available to the highest bidder. He makes no bones about it, nor apologizes for it. Where J.P. stayed with WJR, Purtan didn’t stay too long at any one station; he had many radio homes: WKNR, CKLW, WXYZ, WCZY, and ending at WOMC.

Purtan told the Freep that his picking up stakes fueled his longevity. McCarthy was the anomaly; to make the big bucks and stay appealing, Purtan realized that his audience would move with him, giving him leverage in contract negotiations.

But the changing face of radio—specifically, the unseen face of upper management and the business side of things—made yapping into a mike from 5:30-10:00 a.m. less fun for Purtan. Hence, he’s at peace with his decision to retire.

I once asked the late Mark (Doc) Andrews, a longtime member of “Purtan’s People” before passing away in 2004, to describe a typical morning working with Purtan.

“Laughing. We laugh and have fun, and laugh some more. It’s a great gig,” Doc told me.

That’s all Purtan wanted to do—make his audience laugh, even when there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to laugh about in Detroit.

He did it for 45 years, and when he signs off Friday, the laughter will stop.

“The immediate future is filled with sleep—staying up late and waking up even later,” Purtan says of his retirement plans. He’ll also write a book, which should be a big seller. And lots more time will be spent with wife Gail, a breast cancer survivor who was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer 13 years ago.

But at least Purtan leaves on his own accord, read: healthy. His longtime rival McCarthy was forced out due to the cancer that eventually took his life.

Purtan won’t totally vanish; he plans on spending a lot of time maintaining and providing content for

“It’s pretty hard to stop when you’ve done this as long as I have, and I want to be involved,” he says.

After a little sleeping in, of course.

Categories : Enotes, radio
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Ghoulishly Stern

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If you made a list of some of the most confounding, bizarre people to ever grace our radio and TV waves — at least in the Detroit area — then no doubt that list would include Howard Stern and…The Ghoul?

Those forces once collided, but more on that in a moment.

First, The Ghoul.

I won’t spend a lot of time on the describing here, because I’m going to play a hunch and presume that most of the folks whose eyeballs are hitting this blog know who The Ghoul is/was.

But, just in case…

The Ghoul was a Saturday night icon on Detroit TV, circa the early-1970s and beyond (off and on). He showed lousy movies, but the movies were the interludes between his comedy bits, which included a stuffed frog and lots of Cheese Whiz.

The stuffed frog was Froggy, and even he became iconic, thanks to The Ghoul.

The Ghoul used terms like “over day” and “don’t you know.” He had something he called “The Ghoul’s Vault of Golden Garbage,” with garbage pronounced “gar-BAJ.” It was a treasure trove of pre-taped bits, usually involving The Ghoul and Froggy out and about.

He wore a fright wig and painted one of his eyeglass lenses black. He had a fake, garish goatee and an equally as fake mustache.

But he was popular. Lord, was he popular around town. The Ghoul also did his gig in the Cleveland area, particularly during those times when he was kicked off Detroit TV, which were several.

The Ghoul was, in reality, a guy named Ron Sweed, and he played the role brilliantly. He was always in character, which you’ll see in a moment.

As far as Howard Stern goes, I almost forgot that, for about six months or so, Stern tried to own Detroit radio in the mornings, from April thru October, 1980. Howard was on WWWW, aka W4, and he gave the guys at WRIF and WABX and the rest a run for their money.

Until W4 went country and Howard left town.

Anyhow, as promised, here’s how the forces of Howard Stern and The Ghoul collide.

It’s an audio recording I found, taped on Halloween morning, 1980. It’s Stern interviewing The Ghoul, who was on the telephone.

Stern, 55, was only 26 when this was recorded, yet he sounds almost exactly like he does now. As a result, it’s surreal to hear him make occasional references to the Detroit area, such as how he plans on appearing at Peaches Records in Fraser, and Piper’s Alley in Grosse Pointe.


Click HERE.

It’s about 30 minutes long.

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