Tag Archives: #KSTP

Making My Neighborhood Great Again

(Note:  If you like what you read, please share this post with your Friends.  If you don’t like what you read, share this post with your friends anyway, or with those idiots who support the other guy who you can’t STAND.  Thanks….)

Well, we’re down to about two days until this, ah, “unusual” campaign season wraps up and votes are cast. I can’t say for a fact the races will be “over” because election night in November 2000 just popped into my head, where I left election coverage at the AM 1500 KSTP studios around 12:30pm thinking the Bush/Gore election was wrapped up, only to slip into my jammies, hop into bed and turn on the radio at around 2 am only to find out things were far from over.

Anyway, I have been very hesitant to get involved online in the vitriol for a number of reasons. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. I have many. However, I used to follow and discuss this stuff on talk radio for a living in one form or another for almost 20 years. While I tried my best to keep the conversation substantive and civil, it got quite ugly to one degree or another every time.  After every election cycle I felt like I should open the Yellow Pages and find an exorcist to drive out all the demons.

All those elections, and talking to all those candidates, managers, party people etc., did give me a hard-earned education on the finer points of running negative campaigns. And if a race was the least bit contested, they ALWAYs turned negative to one degree or another. I wish I could say that education in some way makes following the current contests easier or more palatable…but I can’t. Knowing how the campaign blutwurst is made and distributed by today’s soulless campaign and media strategists doesn’t make it any easier to see it turn citizens in general, and friends and acquaintances in particular, so remarkably red-hot angry and at times hateful of one another. I feel uneasy saying this, but I find myself wondering which is worse for our society: The Blissful Ignorance of not participating in a democracy, or the Seething Anger of Participatory Ignorance amplified by the speed and ease of social media and on-demand nature of digital demagoguery? I also can’t shake the fear that the harshness of insty-commentary easily available on social media is going to leave a lot of open wounds  where once solid friendships once resided.

I’ll add only this: While Hillary/Trump is on the top of the circus poster and playing in the big tent, the place where you and I can make the largest political difference and improve society is in our place on the block where we live. Effort spent on being the best parents, children and neighbors we can be will have more tangible impact on our quality of life than any of the bread and circuses promised by party sycophants (WHO, by the way, are the same schlocks which gave us all the “choice” between Hillary and Trump). And once you have those ducks in a row, expand to your neighborhood school (even if your kids have moved on), or volunteer efforts on activities which grow spirit and understanding of people different from you but which most of the people on those campaign signs and TV commercials have abandoned or stopped funding. Things like art, music, history and other humanities. Scouting is great, too, as is helping with your local cancer walk.

So yes, vote on Tuesday. I’m planning on it. But remember long after the “winners” and “losers” are reduced to fuel for Cable TV news, your influence and effort is needed down the street, on your block and down the hall. That’s how we “Make American Great Again”.

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The Day The Earth Changed

It was exactly 15 years ago today just before 8am CDT. Dan Terhaar and the late Mark O’Connell were wrapping up the AM 1500 KSTP morning show when video popped up on the studio TV showing something crashing into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know it then but in that moment my career and life were about to change forever.

Radio the years before 9/11 was carefree. The economy was great. In Minnesota, things were cruising along so well it could afford to make Jesse Ventura governor. Money was flowing freely at work, and my station was soaring, having mastered a unique way of building comic and quirky shows using the news of the day as material. But on 9/11/2001, life got VERY serious VERY fast, and many of the station’s hosts had no idea how to go forward. One called me wanting to cancel his show as he had no idea what to talk about. Another went on air and immediately used the 50,000 watts to scream “Nuke all the Middle East bastards RIGHT NOW”. The enormity of the situation brought fear, and fear can manifest itself in very negative behaviors. A few individuals with news background, like O’Connell and the late Ron Rosenbaum, grabbed on and steered the boat straight, but it was abundantly clear the carefree days were OVER.

For me, the already high stress level went ballistic It exposed mental illnesses inside me which I didn’t know I had, and which I’d been coping with for decades in very unhealthy ways. Eventually I quit the job, but one set of stressors were quickly replaced with others. The mental illness and I spiraled downward. I eventually found an imperfect but sustainable pace, but it took chemical dependency treatment, a couple of exceptional doctors and health professionals to discover my mental health issues and get me constructive medical treatment. I also had a spouse who stuck with me when it would have been easier to bail on me and start over.

We’ve all been living with terrorism, war and tragedy (both individual and shared) for 15 years now. That’s 11 more years than the American Civil War, 11 more than WWII, and even longer than Viet Nam. With that much physical and mental stress and damage should we be surprised at all when the world or people in it goes crazy?

Whenever I meet someone or pass a stranger on the street I always try to say hello, show a smile and treat them kindly. The battle scars on the outside can be seen, but you never know the scars and wreckage they carry around on the inside.

(Note: I didn’t lose anyone in the 9/11 tragedy. I didn’t lose a family member or have one damaged physically or mentally in military action, although a family close to me lost a son. My damage is manageable. Their loss and sacrifice are permanent.)

Ron Rosenbaum, RIP

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It’s late at night. I’m in the Fortress of Solitude and just popped the VHS of “Goodfellas” into the machine. Not a DVD, an mp3 or a stream, but Old School VHS. Having learned this evening of the death of Ron Rosenbaum, “Goodfellas” on VHS seemed the proper choice. It was Ron’s favorite movie, or at least his most quoted. “Goodfellas” quotes were as central to Ron’s style as quotes from “Caddy Shack” or any Bill Murray moving before 1984 are central to mine. The difference was Ron had Henry Hill’s phone number when Hill was in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Ron had a LOT of phone numbers like that.

Ron was the St. Paul attorney whose investigation won the largest medical malpractice lawsuit in Minnesota history and won a big-time verdict tearing the cover off a University of Minnesota sports scandal. Ron grew up in St. Paul. As a kid he knew St. Paul mobsters, gamblers, neighborhood strong men and politicians. Ron knew EVERYBODY, and everybody returned his calls.

I met Ron in 2000 when I became Program Director at AM 1500 KSTP. Ron was providing legal expertise on several KSTP Radio and TV shows and hosting the weekend show “Holding Court”. I could tell Ron had talent, but the show needed a “foil”. I met former NYC cop Dan Conry as someone’s date at a client dinner featuring a bloviating Rush Limbaugh. I’m not sure either guy was convinced pairing them was the right move, but soon after the show took off. When 9/11 hit, we paired Ron with Mark O’Connell t0 try to make sense of those crazy days, and the two, joined at times by Conry, did some fantastic radio. Ron knew FIB agents, military experts, horse breeders, pro athletes and a thousand and one fascinating and smart people who populated those shows. When Conry resigned just hours before Ron and Mark were headed to NYC to broadcast from Ground Zero on the 1-year anniversary, Ron told me to call Lucy Quinlivan of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Lucy immediately packed a bag and headed to the airport. Of course, she was the perfect person at the perfect time and the broadcasts were great. Ron and Lucy got together around that time, and I was pleased to learn they wed days before Ron’s passing.

In the mid 1970’s, Ron was appointed by a federal judge to dive into the unrest and violence of Boston’s forced bussing school integrations as a teachers in one of the most violent schools in the US. He also helped people you don’t know from places you don’t know get to safe places you don’t know who otherwise would have died at the hands of brutal dictators. When you were with Ron for lunch at the bar at the Lexington in St. Paul, you were assured of a good cigar and at least a dozen of St. Paul’s movers and shakers stopping by. Ron was always holding court, no matter the time or place.

Ron seemed to be in the middle of everything, including an effort I made to bring one of the budding stars of Twin Cities radio from a rival station to KSTP. Ron was acting as the de facto agent. The deal wasn’t sealed, but I felt we had a good shot at landing this talent. Whatever chance we had went down the drain in the space of about 10 seconds when a KSTP exec in attendance introduced himself by saying, “While I’ve never heard your show I hear you are great”. Ron and I locked eyes, and I knew instantly any hopes of a deal were dead. Now Ron was the master of negotiation, and its possible he’d been playing me all along. Whether he was or not, the result was the same. Had that talent come to KSTP, Twin Cities radio history could look much different today.

There’s one incident in Ron’s “9/11” days where I think he really got jobbed. Ron would quote from “Goodfellas” often, and one he used often was, “Get your shine box”, which he used much like others would use the phrase, “Pack your bags and hit the road”. However, one day he used it when breaking down a story about St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney, who happened to be black. To this day I think Finney knew Ron was in no way using the movie quote in a racist way, but being a politician, or at least surrounded by politicians,  Finney took advantage of Ronby going to the papers and making it a controversy. Ron was many things, but he was as far from being a racist as anyone I’ve ever known.  To the credit of HBI ownership they stood behind Ron.  I hope he knew I had his back too.

Yes, Ron had an ego the size of St. Paul. There were days he’d chew me out for not giving him enough feedback, and there were days he’d chew me out when he didn’t like the constructive criticism I’d provided. He could be a pain in my butt AND have sage advice and support all in the same three minutes. He was loud, and smart, and funny as hell and all heart. His toothy smile was huge and unforgettable. I’m sad I didn’t get to say goodbye to Ron, but glad I was able to have him in my life for nearly 6 years. I guess on paper I was Ron’s “boss”, but there was little question it was Ron’s world, and the rest of us were merely in it. And that was OK. Adios, amigo.