The Dick Summer (re) Connection, Chapter 7
Giants stomping around in the Land of Radio: You probably know their names, and I thought you might like to know what it was like working with Don Imus and “Cousin” Bruce Morrow. Also this week, some things that surprised me about how you use this blog and the PodCasts on the site.
There are at least two Don Imus-es. One was the rowdy drunk/pothead who worked at WNBC. The other is the cowboy and political king maker you hear today. Fortunately for both, there is Charles McCord. It’s not true that Charles is the brain in the Imus machine. But he contributes much more than anybody realizes to the success of the guy you hear on the air. I like Charles a lot. He’s a gentleman and a very smart guy. I also like Imus…the Imus who dried out and got to work on time. Not that other guy. Don came as close as anybody I ever worked with to finding his teeth on the floor one morning when he wandered in more than an hour late. I had been on the air since my show started at 10 PM the night before. The 2AM to 6AM guy had been fired, and I was filling in until they hired someone else. So I was doing morning drive after being on the air for 8 hours. Don paid his engineer personally, and so the guy wasn’t going to go out of his way to help anybody sound good doing Don’s show. Details aren’t important, but Don really got my Brooklyn boiling that morning. Imus did a take off on my “Lovin Touch” stories pretty regularly, and I got a kick out of that. But he was a real pain in the tail till he dried out. A telling Imus quote, while the staff was having dinner at an Atlantic City remote, “It’s getting very tiring carrying the whole station on my shoulders.” The “Other” Don Imus was a genuinely nice guy. He had a tv show for awhile, and even after the bad blood that almost got spilled between us, he invited me on to talk about and promote my hypnotherapy practice. Anybody who can recover from the alcohol/drug dependency that had Don in its grip has my admiration. The transformation of his show into a genuine political force is mind boggling. But even more astonishing is the transformation from the foul mouth rough neck to the good guy husband and father he is today. Don’s a special guy, and I’m delighted at his success and wish him many more years at the top of his trade.
“Cousin” Brucie in person is exactly like he was on the air. A whirlwind mouth, a nice guy, and a shrewd businessman. Bruce hired on at WNBC after a stunning career at WABC. I don’t think I ever saw him in the studio without at least one phone stuck in his ear. Bruce is from Brooklyn, and he’s an almost stereotypical New York wheeler and dealer. He is also an accomplished photographer. I have one of his pictures up on my office wall. Bruce is a sophisticated and cultured man, who made it his business to be closely involved with the artists whose records he played, even though many of them were young enough to be his kids. It was his job to hang out with the Beatles and “The Brooklyn Bridge” and Dion and the Belmonts. And he went very far out of his way to do his job well. Bruce “manufactured” his voice. He used it to get attention, which is something an air personality was supposed to do in those days. I don’t think he was particularly clever or funny. But there was a personal warmth about the guy that made it into the mic. And that wasn’t just an on air act. Bruce was one of the victims of the famous “Pittman Purge,” along with Imus, Bob Vernon, Oogie Pringle, Joe McCoy, and yours truly. Because I was on the air following him, I was in the studio during his last show on WNBC. The phone was melting off the control board with calls from fans and people in the business. Bruce put lots of them on the air, which didn’t sit well with the NBC GRR (Guys Running Radio.) I guess they thought people wouldn’t have noticed the difference between Cousin Brucie and the new guy they brought in to take over his time slot if Bruce hadn’t called attention to the change. They were wrong. Bruce always did a show. His replacement did an air shift. There is a difference, and New Yorkers knew it. Bruce had an energy about him that made a room light up when he walked in. And when he smiled, stuck out his hand to shake yours, and said “hello,” you really did get the feeling that you were talking to a cousin. In fact I’m pretty sure that if I ran into him on the street today, we’d have a very warm and happy family reunion.
SUMMER ‘STONISHMENT! Hey, what are you doing ? I thought you’d grab the PodCasts much more often than you read this blog. “Wrong again, off-the-air breath.” There’s a counter on the web site, and it shows that almost twice as many people read this blog as listen to the Good Night PodCasts. So I asked people who called this week why that’s the case. The biggest reason? People don’t understand how to listen to the PodCasts. So here’s a quick checklist :
1- Go to www.DickSummer.com just like you do for this blog.
2- Left click on the earphones on the pillow icon on the right side of the page.
3- That opens a page with the PodCast titles listed right in the middle. There are 14 of them as of right now.
4- If you want to just listen, left click on one of the titles. It takes about ten seconds for the audio to download, so go grab a Twinkie and be patient.
5- The PodCast will just start playing. There’s a little graphic with a slider that follows the progress of the PodCast. You can use it to zip ahead or go back if you like, or you can just leave it alone and the audio will play.
6- If you want to save the audio, do steps 1, 2, and 3. Then right click on the title and save it on your desktop, or in “my documents.” When you do that, you can play it back any time you feel like it.
7- New PodCasts go up most Wednesdays and Saturdays.
8- This blog changes most Thursdays.
My son Dave is the PodCast Master. He’s a multi-instrument musician and a wiz computer programmer. And he frequently comments on the PodCasts. Last week I was discussing the fortune cookie voodoo that disabled my lady “Wonder Wench’s” car. (That’s in the PodCast that goes up on Saturday. And I mentioned that when I came galloping to m’Lady’s rescue, shining armor clanking madly in the breeze, I did what any self-respecting husband would do. I said, “Pop the hood.” Then I looked inside and I immediately noticed the engine and a bunch of hoses and wires. So I wiggled some wires and said, “Try it now.” Of course it still didn’t work, so my highly trained mechanical instincts kicked into high gear, and when Wonder Wench asked, “What’s the matter?” I confidently cleared my throat and said, “It’s broken.” Any husband reading this will certainly understand. Dave is a husband, and he said, “Dad, I too have experience looking under the hood and saying yup it’s broken. But you didn’t mention my first line of defense…I’d have said ‘What did you do to it ?” Dave’s also an accomplished wise guy. I wonder where he got that?
The PodCasts are called “Good Night.” They’re usually about some stuff that has gone on in my life recently, plus some “Dick’s Details” which are little bits of interesting but useless information to take your mind off the big things in your life that keep you awake. They take your mind off your mind. For example, did you know that NASA says you can’t snore in outer space? Now how do they know that? Is it part of the experiment list? How do they explain this to the press…”We’re launching this gabillion dollar rocket with these guys on board to find out if you can snore in outer space.” There’s also a Bedtime Story of some kind and a little “tuck you in” to put you to sleep with a smile. They’re fun, and the price is right… free.
Before we wrap this, I want to thank Ed Cochran (a fellow small plane pilot), Jim Doran (a fellow instigator), and Sandy (who has excellent good taste) for the very kind comments they posted about last week’s blog. And I also want to thank the dozen or so of you who called (610-793:0587) to comment on last week’s ideas and theories. This is fun. And the (re) Connection is really coming together.
Next week, what it was like working with “Wolfman” Jack in New York, and Carl deSuze in Boston.