Friday, December 26, 2008

The Perfect Partner-Or When the Monarch Flew the Coup.

I teased this story several months ago when writing about WTVN radio host Bill Smith.

Long before and, there was a much more "exotic" way to find the Perfect Partner.

One radio station in Columbus decided to do it the old fashioned way in 1976 because that was the only way to do it back then.

A little history. Popular Columbus radio personality Bob Conners had left WTVN in early 1973 to take a coveted morning gig at cross the dial rival WBNS-AM in Columbus. At first, his ratings actually improved over the previous host of the show. But as time went on, they had began to wane.

To many, the move from WTVN where Conners had held forth in the afternoon drive slot when he arrived in Columbus in 1965 seemed to constrain him. At WTVN, he had developed characters in his show. Two remembered by me were Sammy from Sammy's Bar & Grill and the Mailman. There was also a third character. The ever silent Jesse. The speaking characters visited daily. All were left behind when Conners jumped to BNS. Conners also had an opening and closing theme song for his show. That too was abandoned with the move.

I remember listening to Bob's first show on WBNS. It was anything but easy. First, the WBNS signal was a voice in the static at my house. Even though I grew up on the other side of Dublin, the BNS signal was so week that until the day signal kicked in, Bob and BNS was a voice among many voices.

WBNS also aired their news at 25 and 55 billing it as news 5 minutes sooner. As the newscast ended, WBNS played a closing sounder and a top or bottom of the hour legal ID. The music started cold. Bob's first song was a song I never really enjoyed. Roger Miller's Engine, Engine #9. No theme song, no Sammy, Mailman or Jesse. Just Bob and Roger Miller and a jingle after back announcing the song but before the commercial. Backwards from the way it was normally done.

When listening to Bob at WTVN, you knew he had seen the latest movie, had gone to the latest live performance, had visited the hottest spots in Columbus, had an in depth knowledge of sports and seemed to have read all the major daily newspapers of record. Bob always sounded like the go to guy for all things regarding the cool and current events.

At WBNS that all seemed to be gone. The show seemed more constrained and too tightly formatted. Bob never quite seemed to be what he used to be over at WTVN. Cool and hip while on an adult music based radio program.

That all was about to change.

A new general manager had ridden into town to take over the reins of the radio enterprise. The radio stations were overseen by the head of the co-owned but not co-located television station, Gene DeAngelo. Many in the industry thought the new hire was a final admission that DeAngelo had been spreading himself too thin and the radio stations needed someone on site.

Enter from Denver, Colorado Mike Jorgensen.

Jorgenson apparently also believed there was something missing from the morning show and he decided to fix it with.....a contest. A contest to in 30 days find Bob Conners a perfect partner. Someone from the everyday world could interact with Conners about music, community events and leisure interests of the target audience. To the left is a scan of a post card that was mailed to the people who responded to the on air promotion. Sort of a picture yourself next to Bob as his perfect partner. It was reported that more than 3000 people from every walk of life applied for the position. As encouraged by the promotion, people needed to respond before this opportunity was Gone With The Wind.

Over 1000 were interviewed in blocks of 6 in 15 minute increments. People were quickly weeded out, but a Central Ohio homemaker survived and had a 15 minute meeting with Conners.

According to area homemaker Dee Barrows, she thought the gig would never go any further. She told Columbus Monthly magazine a few months later that she was "sure he hated me." But she survived that round and eventually made a tape with Conners. And then another taping on January 29, 1976. An hour later, she got a call from Jorgensen announcing she had the job and debuted two mornings later on a Saturday morning dry run.

The following Monday, the show made its official debut. It seemed on the air to be rocky from the start.

Apparently behind the scenes the rockiness was also an issue. Barrows commented in reports that Conners would be sympathetic to her and helpful or withdrawn from her depending on the day. .

The show lasted all of three weeks. By Saturday the end of the third week Conners, no longer smiling as in the picture decided that he had had enough. Tired of daily debriefings after each show, Conners walking into manager Jorgensen's office with resignation papers in hand.

He then headed off to Aspen for a two week respite and skiing trip.

Clearly Bob wasted little time during his discomfort with the the addition of a morning coffee mate and submission of his walking papers. Within a few days of the announcement of his departure, David Drake's Citizen Journal media column headlined that Bob was headed back to WTVN where his personality and characters would once again be used.

And with that, the concept of the Perfect Partner was indeed.........gone with the wind.

As a footnote to non Columbus readers, Bob remains at WTVN and is fondly called the Morning Monarch. He returned to his old afternoon slot for just a few years and by 1979 was appointed host of the morning drive show with the departure of John Fraim. He has held that slot since that time and often maintains the status of Columbus's most listened to radio host.

Growing up, Bob Conners was one of the radio hosts who made an impression on a younr man growing up in Central Ohio.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rockin Christmas Courthouse

Found a diamond in the ruff this past weekend.

Diana and I went to Olgebay to see the Christmas lights. As usual, the display didn't disappoint. And we found the secret to not waiting in a long line to finally get to the park. Get to the park before 5 pm. No 2 hour wait from the freeway to the light show.

Cinderella's coach was one of about 80 displays set throughout the park. Really nice show.

But the true diamond in the ruff was the Guernsey County Courthouse.

We had exited the freeway on the way back home and was looking for someplace unique to eat. We drove up SR 208 to downtown Cambridge and as we approached the center of town, the Guernsey County Courthouse was in the midst of a light show animated to music.

First, this is one of the traditional looking courthouses found in the county seats of most cities with a gothic style of architecture. These courthouses are truly a beauty. But to see the light show so well done on this structure was a sight to behold.

The music is mostly Mannheim Steamroller and Trans Siberian Orchestra music. Perfect for light animation and coordination.

O'm always a fan of the little guy and the little town. Large cities and those who were blessed with wealth have always had the muscle to pull something off. Things small often struggle to find a niche and when they do, find it difficult to curry the resources together to make it work or pull it off.

And while I'm not a fan of grading on a curve, when the Camgridges and Guernsey Countys of the world put together a show as good as this one, they deserve an extra measure of appreciation for a job well done.

Here's a Link to the local newspapers video of the show. Some of the lower light effects cannot be seen well on this video, but watch the whole video to the end and enjoy a really neat way to celebrate the holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

End of Short Evenings

I am not a fan of evenings being dark early. I begin to notice the change in August an as the summer turns to fall and then to the holiday season, my mood begins to change and not for the better. And while I love the crisp weather and the beautiful fall colors, the fact that it gets dark around 7 and during November it begins to creep closer to 5 pm over runs all the advantages that fall is in this area.

Thankfully, beginning tomorrow, we begin to get brief whisps of extended daylight in the evening. And althought mornings will continue to shorten into Janaury, we've turned the corner on longer periods of darkness in the evening. I can't wait for this change to be discernable to the eye a few days after the new year.