(political junkies: check April and May archives for Sen. Harold Hughes, Alan Cranston, Mcgovern)
If Nat King Cole had been a Disk Jockey, he would have sounded like Johnny Magnus.
It was the last part of the golden age of radio, when I dropped out of Santa Monica City College in 1964 to take a job in the news room of KMPC Radio.
Magnus was the smooth talking night time host for the radio station which created the "Sig-alert," remote News Cruisers, and the Helicopter traffic watch with Capt. Max Schumacher.
Gary Owens, who later became famous when he was featured as the Hand over Ear announcer on Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In" TV show, was only one of an all star lineup.
When I walked into the office of Owens, I noticed he had an over sized fan, overlooking his desk. It had a note pinned to it. It read, "My biggest fan."
Dick Whittinghill was the morning man. He was the first DJ to include humor with his paid advertising. He included a spoof on television soap operas salted with sexual innuendos (much of it written by Bob Arbogast)
Roger Carroll began his Christmas shows with, "I'm Roger Records, and I play Carroll's." Roger was an announcer at ABC when Gene Autry heard him and asked him to sign with Golden West's KMPC. During the Watts riots of 1965 he remembers hearing Capt. Max Schumacher, piloting his helicopter over Watts, saying, "I'm getting shot at!"
In the Newsroom
It was a vibrant atmosphere, with direction by Hugh Brundage. A pure newsman, who put together a professional, hard working crew, Brundage would arrive at the station a few minutes after me, have his cup of coffee and fart on cue at about 8 AM.
Young and naive, I went over to Bob Steinbrink and said, "Good Morning." Steinbrink's response: "What's good about it."
As Roger Carroll recently told me on the telephone, "You didn't know anyone's politics at the station." This was true. It reminded me that during and after the riots of 1965, I never heard one negative comment about the Watts crowd in the news room. Considering the era, I think it is quite a testimonial to the reporters like Scott Shurian, Tom Wayman, Bob Steinbrink, Val Clenard, Andy Park, Donn Reed, and the person who put it all together, Hugh Brundage. All White males, and too professional to let their feelings known about this new development in Los Angeles.
When he would be asked by the newsroom for a brief, unscheduled news break, Whittinghill would yell over the newsroom speaker, “This better be good, you son’s of bitches, assholes.” Usually this would be enough to catch the news announcer off guard, and create a situation where one of the guys would have to stifle a laugh, while giving a serious news break headline.
When Eisenhower died in 1969, Whittinghill was told that a bulletin was coming over the wires and that the news room would cut into his show in a moment. According to one source, Whittinghill said something off-color to the news room over the speaker and when Tom Wayman tried to inform listeners of the former President's death, he started to laugh on the air.
It was a large and loud news room. The police radio blared, while the remote reporters in the news cruisers were reporting in, and the AP and UPI wire machines were clanking away in a closed off area. We had the A wire for national news, the B wire for regional information and the sports wire.
One of my jobs was to update the call-in sports wire. People would call We 8-3000 and get an automated recording of the latest scores on baseball games, for example.
Sometimes, during baseball spring training games, the service would get an unusual amount of calls. Someone in the news room said that it was busy,"because the bookies were calling in."
Sports at 6 with Fred Hessler and Satchel Paige
I would get the chance to write the "Sports at 6 with Fred Hessler" show. This was a dream, as I wanted to be a baseball play -by- play announcer.
Former Hollywood Stars publicist and new Los Angeles Angels PR guy, Irv Kaze, allowed me to practice calling the games at Dodger Stadium, in the press box, on my reel- to- reel tape recorder. That in itself was a dream. He was the one who alerted me to the opening at KMPC. The Angels played at Chavez Ravine prior to moving to Anaheim. He even let me on the field to interview Albie Pearson and Jimmy Piersall. Pitcher Bo Belinski was with the Angels and pitched a no-hitter. But, he liked the mounds of Hollywood starlets more than the pitching mound and was too distracted to have a long major league career.
Hessler was a perfectionist. He broadcast the UCLA football games and was terrific. The weekday after the game I observed him in a sound studio, listening to his play- by- play, over and over again, to improve his call of the game.
Sports figures were coming in and out of Hessler's office. While at SMCC, I gave a talk in my speech class on, "The person you admire most in the world." My 1964 topic: LeRoy Satchel Paige.
Hugh Brundage walked up to me in the news room and said, "Bob, there is someone I would like you to meet."
Brundage led me to the corridor outside the main studio and said,"I would like you to meet Satchel Paige." It was one of the greatest moments in my life. Satchel stood up---he was tall and lean, wearing a shinny black suit, black shoes and white sweat socks--and he shook my hand.
My father had sold soft drinks at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh when the Negro leagues would play there. He said he was about 12 years old when he watched Satchel Paige pitch.
One of the greatest baseball players of all time, Paige must have been over 60 years of age when I met him. He was waiting for Fred Hessler, if memory serves me correctly, to talk about the no-hitter he pitched in the 7 inning, second game of a double header for the AAA San Diego Padres!
Autry owned KMPC. Everyone in the news room liked him. I understood why. He walked into the room and walked over to me to say hello. He introduced himself( as if he had to) and said, "Bob, the future is in Color television advertising." That was the only thing the "Cowboy" said to me. He walked on and shook some more hands. He was relaxed and cordial.
It's interesting because I met Roy Rogers and Dale Evans when I was a soldier in Vietnam. They were just as gracious and decent as Autry. When Roy Rogers got home, he called my parent's to tell them I was OK.
It proved to me again, at a young age, that one should not judge a person's integrity based on their political affiliation.
The Surf Report
Someone got it into their silly head that I should give the Surf Report while the DJ's were on the air. I would walk into their studio live and basically tell the audience that surf's up.
Whittinghill and Owens hated the interruption. Of course, although I was born in LA, I had never surfed in my life. They made a joke out of it. I still have some of the audio.
Whittinghill: "Here is Bob Kholos, the 20 year old kook from the newsroom, to give the surf report."
Not only did Whittinghill throw donuts at me to distract my attention, but he also unzipped my pants during my announcement. It would go something like this: "There are 2 foot swells in Santa Monica (laughter) with 3 foot southern swells in Malibu (more laughter).
Gary Owens was a little tougher. While I was giving my surf report, he slipped a piece of paper in front of me and said on the air, "Read this." It said, "F---K You!" Of course I paused..and he went to commercial.
It was a wonderful start to my stumped radio career. I still remember Scott Shurian being caught up with a mob in his news cruiser during the Watts riots. He said over the two way,"Get me the hell out of here, they're chasing me, get a map!"
After this first additon of my blog on KMPC, Andy Park wrote me a wonderful e-mail and included his memories of being in the middle of the first Watts riot in 1965....."
LBJ found out that I was a college drop-out and he sent me "greetings" and I was drafted into the Army, where I served with the 4Th Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1966-1967.
Thanks for reading