Miah Michaelson: On The Issues

Deputy director, Indiana Arts Commission. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 4.

Michaelson

Ron Smith: On The Issues

Licensed social worker. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 3.

Smith

Jean Capler: On The Issues

Licensed social worker. Running for Bloomington City Council, At-Large.

Capler

Vauhxx Booker: On The Issues

Community activist, health/social services worker. Running for Bloomington City Council, At-Large

Booker

Matt Flaherty: On The Issues

Lawyer, professional runner, student, writer. Running for Bloomington City Council, At-Large.

Flaherty

Ryan Maloney: On The Issues

Bus driver & student. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 5.

Maloney

Denise Valkyrie: On The Issues

Administrative support coordinator, WFIU/WTIU/Indiana University Radio & Television Services. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 1.

Valkyrie

Kate Rosenbarger: On The Issues

Lawyer & executive director, TEDx Bloomington. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 1.

Rosenbarger

Hot Air: Chart Toppers

A friend of mine named Gary Yarocki from west suburban Chicagoland reminded me of the fabulous old radio hits handouts Chi-town pop stations used to issue every Thursday and Friday.

My hometown had two Top 40 stations, WLS and WCFL, back in the 1960s and early ’70s. Each station’s call letters actually stood for something. WLS originally had been bankrolled in the 1920s by Sears, Roebuck and Company. The Chicago-based retailer billed itself as the World’s Largest Store; ergo, WLS. As for WCFL, it went on the air right about the same time as WLS and was owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor (note the organization’s initials). The labor federation intended the station to be commercial-free and listener-supported; as such it would have been a pioneer in the concept of public radio in America. And — wouldn’t you know it? — regional business and manufacturing associations stood on their heads to prevent WCFL from commencing operations because, y’know, labor unions and communists and sexual perverts and all that.

Anyway, I would listen to the two stations anywhere from three to 14 hours a day when I was entering my teens. I’d switch from one to the other depending on which was running commercials or playing a song I detested. For example, “Honey,” by Bobby Goldsboro sucked to high heaven so when it came on I’d leap at the dial of my transistor radio and flip it to the other station in hopes of hearing The Rascals’ “It’s a Beautiful Morning” or even the damned news, which’d be 23 times more enjoyable than “Honey.”

At the same time, another station played a different kind of music. WVON (the Voice of the Negro) played Soul and R&B hits. Not that ‘LS and ‘CFL didn’t play songs by the likes of Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops, but the west side station featured black artists exclusively. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hip enough to be a ‘VON listener as a kid. It was only in the late ’70s and into the ’80s when old ‘VON DJs had migrated to other stations and would play “dusties” that I became aware of what I’d been missing. By that time, ‘LS and ‘CFL had been begun transforming themselves into Easy Listening outlets or talkers or whatever else was the hottest trend in the radio biz at that particular moment, so they were dead to me.

So, I really didn’t miss out on the genius of such black artists as Gene Chandler, Betty Everett, Jerry “The Iceman” Butler, and the Stax stable of musicians. WVON, too, put out a chart pamphlet. As much as the fabulous music I eventually caught up to, the names of the ‘VON DJs still sing to me. They included:

  • “The Mad Lad,” Rodney Jones
  • Bill “Butterball” Crane
  • Joe “Youngblood” Cobb
  • Pervis Spann, “The Blues Man”
  • “Nassau Daddy” Ed Cook
  • Lucky Cordell
  • Herb Kent, “The Cool Gent”

That lineup didn’t even include titans like Daddy-O Daylie, one of the first black DJs to be featured on a traditionally white, network owned-and-operated station, or Ramsey Lewis, whose own fame as a recording artist transcended that as a platter-spinner.

I was wise to black music on local television around 1969 and ’70, though. I became addicted to Ch. 26’s late Friday night “Red Hot & Blues” dance program hosted by Big Bill Hill and “Soul Train” when it was still a local UHF afternoon dance show hosted by Clinton Ghent. Whenever Ghent’d make small talk with whatever live musical guest was on that day, he’d greet then by extending his flat palm, face up, and say, “Spank the plank, Hank.” Oh, and Big Bill Hill once presented a one-legged dancer on Red Hot & Blues.

(One of these days, I’ll tell the story about the tornado that swept through northern Kentucky about 10 years ago and the one-legged man directing traffic around fallen trees in Carrollton.)

This was all around the time I began to come to the conclusion that many black guys were a hell of a lot more fun — and creative — than most white guys. A later “Soul Train” host, and the one who’d become synonymous with the show, Don Cornelius, came up with such poetry as “Here’s a groove that’ll sure enough make you want to groove,” and “Here’s a big’un everybody’s diggin’,” when introducing songs.

It was in the winter of 1971 that I got my first break in radio. I co-hosted a half-hour weekly program called “Oak Park Schools at Work” featuring not-too-fascinating news from Oak Park-River Forest High School and Fenwick High School, the all-boys Catholic school I attended. It aired on WOPA, atop the Oak Park Arms Hotel, the first radio outlet for Big Bill Hill. One show, my co-host — I think his name was Dan Staszak — and I fell into a giggling fit. Station manager Wayne Osborne, a white-haired old bird who actually wore penny loafers with pennies in them, took us aside after the show and put his face in ours. “God damn it!” he yelled. “Don’t you ever pull that kind of bullshit again! If you think something’s funny, you share it with the audience! You sounded like a couple of assholes!”

Afterward, Dan Staszak and I confessed to each other we thought he was going to deck us. It was a great lesson, that this radio stuff was serious business.

I’ve been serious about radio ever since.

To that end, tomorrow I’ll publish links to all the Big Talks I’ve done with challengers to incumbent Bloomington city council members in this year’s municipal election. I began the series in February with Kate Rosenbarger and will finish it up this afternoon with Denise Valkyrie. The two are facing off against District 1 council member Chris Sturbaum, so they make apt bookends for the series. Each week, I’ve devoted my Thursday half-hour show to each guest’s personal and professional life. Then, the following Monday on Big Talk Extra during WFHB’s Daily Local News at 5pm, we talk about that guest’s issues and platform.

So, if you want to know who’s who among the newcomers in this year’s local primaries (only one Republican is running and, yes, Andrew Guenther was a Big Talk guest) you might sneak in some listens between now and the final voting day, Tuesday, May 7th.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. All shows are available on podcast via the station’s website.

 

 

Hot Air: Murder, He Wrote

After seeing several of his novels optioned (Hollywood-speak for a producer paying for the privilege of considering making a movie based on the book for a finite period of time, usually a year), Bloomington’s own New York Times bestselling author Michael Koryta at last appears to be the film world’s next big thing. His list-topper, Those Who Wish Me Dead, is headed for the big screen with megastars Angelina Jolie and Tyler Perry recently inked to starring roles. Brit actor Nicholas Hoult, who has appeared twice as The Beast in the blockbuster Avengers franchise, is signed to play one of the crime novel’s vicious killers.

A consortium of producers as well as director Taylor Sheridan remain mum about which roles Jolie and Perry will fill. The film has been set to begin production next month. The movie’s being bankrolled by Creative Wealth Media and producers include Steve Zaillian, Garrett Basch, Aaron L. Gilbert, and Jason Cloth. Sheridan has written the screenplay.

It’s not unusual for a successful author to have several works out on option. Interested parties take the year to try to find enough money to make the picture and recruit top stars to play in it. In a perfect example of Catch-22, the money people love to see big stars signed up before they commit their dollars while the big stars want to see if there’s real money behind the project before they sign contracts. Apparently, the producers have successfully juggled those seemingly contradictory tasks in this case.

TWWMD was released in 2014. It’s the story of a 14-year-old boy who witnesses a savage murder. The killers have been hunting down and killing anybody who might implicate them so the kid has to go into hiding. Noted New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin described the book as “a lean, propulsive action-adventure thriller with a raging forest fire as its backdrop and with much more finesse than that description might suggest.” She adds: “The ingenious tricks and conversational wit of Those Who Wish Me Dead don’t usually come with this territory.”

Koryta

Michael Koryta appeared on Big Talk May 24th last year. He worked as a police beat reporter for the Herald Times while a student at Indiana University. After graduation, he supplemented his income by working as a private investigator even as he was already churning out popular tomes. In a movie-like turn of fate, Koryta was out on a drive with his parents and sister one summer evening when they passed a man standing near a stream, looking forlornly this way and that. It turned out the man was the father of Jill Behrman, an IU freshman who’d disappeared several days before and was eventually found murdered. A couple of years later three woman confessed to the murder but investigators later claimed they were lying. Four years after that, a man named John Myers told relatives he was afraid he might be blamed for Behrman’s murder. He was tried and convicted for the murder. Many people to this day believe Myers did not do the deed and, in fact, Behrman may have been hit by a car as she rode her bike the morning she disappeared. This theory holds that the person or people who hit her (maybe even the three woman who’d confessed) panicked, stashed Jill body in their car, and took her somewhere to be shot in the head (she was found with a shotgun wound in the skull). Koryta has strong opinions on the case but, professional investigator he is, he won’t allow me to reveal them publicly.

In any case, the Behrman murder and his chance sighting of her father inspired Koryta to write the novel How It Happened. It’s not at all a fictionalized version of the Berhman murder but it does entail a person falsely confessing to killing someone. HIH was released last year. Koryta’s latest, If She Wakes from Little, Brown & Co., is due out May 14th.

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