A few snaps from the Garden of my mother, Joyce Tlustos, on August 24, 2018 in SW Sioux Falls, SD. As the sign indicates, Mom was, is, and will always be an Avant Gardener. What makes a person an Avant Gardener? I don’t know. I suspect a particular, whimsical attitude has something to do with it. I suspect age does not.
Just learned that after 35 years Hubbard Broadcasting/KSTP are shutting down Joe Soucheray, Patrick James Steven Reusse and Garage Logic. I was a small part of that historic run both on and off the air for 6 years, and for a handful more when the show went into syndication.
I don’t know just what to say at the moment, but will have more soon. https://www.twincities.com/2018/08/10/joe-soucheray-garage-logic-radio-ending-1500espn-podcast/amp/.
(Hey Mike Skillrud, Gary Weckwerth and I say How-Doo!)
It has been awhile, but today I dusted off the ol’ media skills and appeared on the new “KELOLAND LIving” television program representing my employer Face It TOGETHER and talking about the many paths we offer to help those in addiction get well again. In case you’re unsure, I’m the man in black on the left, with co-host Brittany Kaye on the right.
Hadn’t thought about it until right now but this was my first time on KELO-TV, once home to SD broadcast legends Leo Hartig, Jim Burt, Doug Lund, Ken Hirsch, Joe Cooper, the talented and fetching Bobbi Lower, Jim Wooster with the midday farm markets, and of course, the Captain 11ist of them all, “Weatherman” Dave Dedrick, (“After this message from Old Home Bread. we’ll talk about it….”} Back in the day, local TV didn’t have actual meteorologists bearing the official “Seal”. They had “Weathermen” like Ken Hirsch and Dave D. All you really needed to have was a major-league voice, some personality, and better -than-average skills with the giant, black, erasable magic marker.
L: Lowry Mays, Chief Bad Guy. R: Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, Edsel Salesman
You could have easily missed this bit of business news earlier in the week. iHeartRadio, a group of corporate bankers/investors and owner of around 825 commercial radio stations across the US of A, filed for bankruptcy, siting mountains of debt and growing competition from the Spotify/Pandora streaming services of the world. However, lost in many of the stories written about the failure, is the iHeartBreaking story of the unnecessary destruction of one of the most revolutionary and romantic (for many of us anyway) inventions/industries in the history of the 20th century.
Note: What follows is a rough, layman’s description of the debacle. I am not a corporate finance expert, and I don’t write about this issue as a business journalists. What I did do was live and work in the radio industry during the entire length of this tale, and listen and learn about it from some of the brightest minds in the business. I also worked for a couple of those brightest minds, who remained family owned, operated profitable and stayed community connected. The closest I came to working for the “bad people” was the 8+ years spent undercover in public broadcasting fighting the Empire known as the South Dakota State Government from the inside out.. In short, if not factually perfect, this is how I saw it go down.
It’s 1996. The national economy is pretty good. In local media, Radio is humming along as a nicely profitable industry, and serving loyally in their communities. At that time the law of the land limited the number of radio stations one company could own in a community, and across the country. Then the Telecommunications Bill of 1996 was passed, largely sponsored in the U.S. Senate by South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler (thanks Larry). The news coverage of the bill focused chiefly on its groundbreaking rules for the telephone (internet?)/ and cable industries. However, buried in there were game-changing rule for ownership limits. There were some rules somewhere, but basically the law said if you have the money, honey, you can buy all the radio stations you want.
Back then, the company we know as iHeartMedia was being put together by a TV/Radio company called Clear Channel Communications. CC was largely owned by the Lowry Mays family, and a rootin’ tootin’ Texas mogul names Red McCombs, know in these northern parts as the one-time owner of the Minnesota Vikings. With the new (no?) rules in place, CC went on a ginormous buying spree, eventually owning some 1200+ radio stations. Other companies tried to keep pace by doing the same thing, which made it a seller’s market. CC bought the stations they wanted, price be damned, and ended up over paying again and again. Their first years were spent slashing out “expenses” (also know as people) and automating, voicetracking, networking and “blanding” as much radio content as they could. Content quality, organic, market-specific programming and community service were, shall we say, a ways down on the ol’ priority list. To compete, the CC wannabe groups did much the same, making the only competitive race the one to the bottom.
By 2008 much of the damage was done. The “zanies”, (the non-conformist, risk-taking and at times marginally dangerous goofballs (the kind which for generations had made radio content interesting; also known as My People) were off horsin’ around these new-fangled things called Internets. Clear Channel had ironically renamed itself iHeartRadio because the Clear Channel name had become a dirty word, the name and face for ALL the robber barons who instead of “IHearting” Radio had left it out in the rain to rust. Having largely run out of expenses to cut, and with listening and revenue down as the result of tapioca content, IHeartRadio did what many nameless, faceless publicly-traded companies had always done: cash out by finding a sucker with more money than brains. They didn’t have to look far and hornswaggled a bunch of bankers, who knew nothing about the radio business or how it had been gutted, to overpay THEM to the tune of $26.5 Billion dollars, with the new guys also taking on all the debt. And oh, yeah, this savvy bit of overpaying occured about 20 minutes before the economy followed the bankers into abyss known as the Great Recession. In 10 years since, things didn’t get any better for the investment bankers, who ran out of things to cut, borrowed more money and tried to keep things going by ripping out and selling the copper plumbing and setting insurance fires. And, oh yeah, the entire environment of content and methods of distribution experienced a Big Bang, flattening most of what previously existed and reshaped the planet in ways not unlike the Genesis Device in Star Trek II and III. Debt was the onl thing that thrived. Things finally hit bedrock this week when bankruptcy was filed.
The sorriest irony of all is that should the value of the station carcasses go low enough in the bankruptcy liquidation, the Mays/McCombs cabal would consider…get ready…buying them back for a pittance. I predicted this very thing would happen in 15 years after the Telecom Act (2011), while it actually took 22.
On the bright side, there are those on the station level in communities across the land who have continued to fight the good fight and are still serving their communities DESPITE their absentee landlords’ efforts to burn it all down. I also don’t at all blame the local owners who got out and sold. Most loved the business as much or more than anyone, and couldn’t bear to see it all laid to waste. Let’s see how any of us would have reacted had someone put that big cabbage in front of us. And, as they corporate owners go down, the good operators are also buying back stations and returning to the business of being live and local. I say more power to them, and good luck. But for many talented people who were sacrificed by bankers, venture capitalists and stockholders who never set foot in the market, never listening to what they owned and couldn’t identify the career people they disposed of out of a lineup, many lifetimes of dedicated service and incredible creativity just disappeared. Or ended up on a wildly profitable webcast available world-wide.
I love South Dakota, but lately it’s not been easy. Yes, there are still many good people who somehow live up to the vision/stereotype of a state and people who are fair, honest, hard-working, plain-speaking and community-minded. However, it’s become painfully and incredulously clear that an alarming number of South Dakotans act as if we’re still a Territory during the gold bonanza days in the late 1800’s, wrapping themselves in populist rhetoric while making profitable back-room deals, and covering up public money lost by thievery or incompetence. What’s worse is that a majority of SD voters continue to send these paragons of virtue back to Pierre and the innards of Sioux Falls, making this mockery possible.
My Minnesota friends would be astounded by what goes under reported and unpunished by the political power structure in SD. MN has its policial underbelly, and its share of zealots trying to take life back to the Good Ol’ Days when the Legislature measured diversity by the number of White German Men vs White Norwegian Men, women knew their place and native children were forcibly taken from parents and crammed into “Indian Schools” to beat the savage out of them. However, even the MN political fringes are militant about it’s Political Sunshine laws demanding open meetings and accountable elected officials. I moved from MN back to SD 10 years ago, and I’m still shocked what the elected and appointed get away here. The Wild West Good Ol’ Boys are alive and kickin’ in SD.
Patrick Lalley is a KSOO Radio host, blogger, writer and commentator in Sioux Falls who has followed this devolution most of his adult life, and penned the piece below with just the latest examples of skullduggery at the State Capitol:
Rev. Billy Graham died Wednesday at the age of 99. The nature of my crazy life has put me an arm’s length away from more “celebs” (actors, musicians, media types, athletes, etc.) than I could ever count, but photos and autographs have never my thing. That’s not to say I haven’t met countless talented, interesting and accomplished people which most people wouldn’t think of as “celebs” but who are infinitely more fascinating to me. The only celeb photo op I can remember participating in resulted in a single photo of me with the mystical enigma of latenight radio, host Art Bell, on one of his rare trips away from his double-wide headquarters in Parumph, Nevada. That color 4×6 is packed away somewhere in the house, but I couldn’t tell you where.
Today, however, I am reminded of the day I crossed paths with the Rev. Graham. I’ve never told this story publically. In the mid-1990’s I was living in Rochester, MN, the home of the Mayo Clinic. I was having some serious trouble with a narrowing of the spinal canal in my neck, leaving my left arm weak and my mind troubled. Things were serious enough that surgery was a real possibility, so an MRI scan was scheduled.
Mayo is a GIANT place and a logistics machine, and lives and breaths on order and protocol. Upon reaching my assigned Imaging Area I was taken to what looked like a carpeted locker room and directed to disrobe. There was also the added precaution of carefully removing any metal from my person so the magnets in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine didn’t try to, say, pull off my ring AND my finger at the same tim. After garaging my clothes and checking my valuables I put on that timeless favorite: The Hospital Gown. I’m a biggish guy, which means it’s not only hard to put on a gown which ties in the back, but the gown itself is usually about two sizes too small, coming up short of covering my backside. With the slipping on of paper slippers my fashion ensemble was complete, and I was led out to a small but comfortable waiting “cube” complete with rocking chair.
So there I was, quietly rocking and trying to keep my backside warm when who comes shuffling by but the Rev. Billy Graham, accompanied by not one, but two Grade A Mayo Clinic-issued VIP escorts, one on each arm. He wasn’t more than six feet from me, and as he was shuffling by slowly I was afforded an extended view of the Religious Counselor to 8 Presidents’ skinny rear end peaking out of the back of HIS gown. And just like that Graham and Co. walked through a doorway, and the celebrity sighting was done. I had my MRI scan, and I imagine Rev. Graham had his as well. I tried to guess what the Mayo VIP MRI room had than my machine in steerage did not. Perhaps over there was access to a cool beverage, or a warm cup of tea. Maybe some cucumber finger sandwiches.
I learned two very important life lessons that day. I’m never going to be the guy who gets two VIP escorts at Mayo Clinic (or anywhere for that matter) so I should plan ahead and bring my own snacks. Maybe throw in a thermos of coffee. Second, no matter who you think you are…rich or poor, young or old, righteous or damned, celebrity or recluse…at the end of the day we’re all pretty much the same: unable to rock a hospital gown, and with our butts hangin’ out in the breeze..
Every January about this time Joan and I poke our noses out of our hole looking for our shadows. If we see our shadows it means it’s time to road trip. If we don’t see our shadows? Screw it, we’re still road tripping to the historic hamlet of Carver, MN to visit our old pals Jerry and Terri Anderson. While scratching about today I was able I add this jaunty XXL Filson Double Mac chapeau with shearling flappers to the permanent collection. Between the hat being big, and the size XXL, I figure there’s a good sheep/sheep-and-a-half sitting on my head.
Excuse the poor photo. Cool to see Pierre, SD native and Austin TX musician and record producer Chris Gage playing mandolin and organ on Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Show, here with Nico Case and also with Elvis Costello!
Whether it’s the next appointee for Ambassador to the Netherlands, White House spokesman, Secretary of Defense or even Chief of Staff, here’s the next “must have” for the Trump White House…Nathan Thurm.
Seen at checkout buying holiday groceries at Midnight 12/24. Well, I’m glad we finally got THIS figured out. Should make Oliver Stone and Jesse Venture very happy…if that’s possible. Merry Christmas.