Posted by: Tim Hunter | August 21, 2014

Well, Here Goes Something

I’m going in for an audition today.

Those who know me realize that I’m not exactly a wallflower. Combine a 30-year radio career with emceeing dozens of parades, events, Santa arrivals, concert intros, Julebords, even lutefisk eating contests, and the plain truth is, I get around. I don’t have to go up front and be a goofball, but when I do, I really enjoy it.

So, as I prepare to evolve to the next stage of my career, the one I want to ride out into the sunset upon, I plan to expand my exposure. Go in for a few auditions, record some audio, maybe do some TV and perhaps pick up some extra gluten-free beer money. (I’m not gluten intolerant, but just saying ‘beer money’ seemed boring)

All of those factors resulted in me booking an audition with the Topo Swope Talent Agency today in Seattle.

As the Creative Director of an ad agency, we’ve used them to find talent before. Now, I’d like to move to the other side. To go to a building for the first time, in front of strangers and put it all out there for rejection. Or acceptance.

My current scheme for the years ahead is to be even more diverse than I am now, but with a higher priority on my personal projects, as well as working closely with a small group of clients on their marketing, advertising, whatever. With four decades plus of marketing, broadcast and media experience, I’d like to put it to work, my way.

I don’t have a firm picture of what it will be like, but I know what some of the pieces will be.  So, today, I’m making a run at one of those pieces.

More to come. Details on the way. I’ll let you know how it goes. But in the meantime: do I have any broccoli in my teeth?

Tim Hunter

Posted by: Tim Hunter | August 13, 2014

You’re The Reason, Gary

Hangin' With The Norwegians

Hangin’ With The Norwegians

My broadcast friend Gary Engard passed away this week.

Gary was an engineer during most of my days at KLSY, but in the times since I left that building, we would only occasionally touch base.  Every now and then, Gary and another former radio guy, Dick Cross, would meet me for lunch, we’d start talking …and an hour would just evaporate. I enjoyed those lunches so much—hearing about each of their radio adventures—that one Saturday, I went out and met them in Issaquah at Dick’s house to interview them and capture some of those great stories on tape. I had this hair-brained scheme at one time that it would make for a decent weekend radio show on KIRO or something. However, for now, it’s just been added to that long list I have of things I’d like to do IF I had more time.

But I didn’t want either of them getting away without preserving at least some of those great times. When I get a chance, I’ll dig that out and put together something you’ll love to hear.

After bumping into Gary and his wife Debbie at Bob & Kim Brooks’ Halloween party last year, we did a major reconnect. Especially after we realized they lived ust a couple of blocks away from my in-laws. When my father-in-law Ernie had some health challenges, the two of them volunteered to walk their dog for a couple of months, never asking for anything in return.

I invited Gary to a couple of the Norwegian events I attended and he loved it. It reminded him of his days up in Alaska, where he belonged to every Scandinavian organization up there EXCEPT the Sons of Norway. To make up for that, he joined the Leif Erikson lodge in Ballard. He, like I, really enjoyed the “small town feeling of it.”

We were seeing each other almost more than back in the radio days, when Gary had to fly back east to help take care of his wife’s dad. It wasn’t supposed to take as long as it did, but he ended up staying there almost half of this year. However, when he returned, it was his turn: his health took a turn for the worse. He had cancer. The cancer spread. Last Friday, he lost his battle, with his wife by his side, on their 38th wedding anniversary.

Gary wasn’t done living. His jovial laugh and good nature just made you feel at ease. When you went off the air and ran around screaming with your arms flailing, Gary would calmly say something like, “I’ll see what I can do.”

So, Gary is to blame for the way I feel about Robin Williams. Yes, Robin had demons, yes he had depression. But otherwise, he was healthy and had a good number of years to go. Yet, he threw his life away.  Gary didn’t get to vote.

I explained in a previous blog why I feel Robin Williams was selfish and I stand by that. Look, we don’t have to agree on the subject. For all of our modern medical advances, something can be done. Allowing depression to be a pass for doing the unthinkable—whether it’s drowning your kids, shooting a former Beatle or a president or taking your own life—it’s just simply not OK. When we make it OK or understandable, we plant the seed for other people to consider tossing away their life as an option, since society now views that as ‘understandable.’

Gary, I thank you for all your did over the years and your friendship.  Robin, you were a comedy god and one of the most unique talents I’ve ever witnessed.

But I will never understand suicide and, frankly, never want to.

Tim Hunter

Posted by: Tim Hunter | August 12, 2014

Sorry, But I’m More Mad Than Sad

No doubt, this blog will upset some people, anger others and cause yet more people to label me as insensitive.  I don’t care.

Robin Williams took the coward’s way out.

OK, you’re depressed, you think no one cares.  Robin, you were too smart to think  no one cared about you.  You had a wife and little kid, not to mention the grown ones.  You had an adoring public. You spent your lifetime making us care and we couldn’t get enough.  Mork & Mindy, the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, the serious actor in Dead Poet’s Society or the Academy Award winner in “Goodwill Hunting.” One of my favorite roles was his portrayal in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

You were brilliant, or so I thought. You battled depression demons, that was no secret, but take your meds.  Or, go online and ask, “Hey, does anybody out there really like me?”  Within minutes, Robin, people would have reached out to you by the thousands.

Speaking as a fan, I just don’t get it. You went to rehab, had several marriages, your life had some incredible highs and disastrous lows. I would have gladly been your life coach.  I would have helped you realize just how much you meant to people.

I guess you live long enough, you rack up quite a count of people you know who commit suicide.  A former radio colleague, an uncle, one of my son’s classmates in junior high.  In all my years on this rock, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that suicide doesn’t make the pain disappear.  You just spread it around among those who care the most about you.

Are you really that selfish?  You know how dark you feel–do you really want other people to absorb your suffering, your pain?  There is no better word than selfish.

Robin’s life was full of extreme ups and downs.  I was just saying to someone today, as much as I would love to be a famous comedian, it seems as though the bulk of them are such tortured souls.  Perhaps being in the middle of the pack, with more moderate highs and lows, is a great place to be.

I think that almost everyone has, at one point, let their guard down enough to think, “Hmm, what if I were to just end it?”  Back in college, my high school sweetheart decided to break up with me to turn around and marry a junior minister two months later.  I remember driving along the I-5 express lanes one day and giving serious thought to driving into the cement pillars at the exit.  Quick, done, over.

Had I done that and left behind a legacy of pain, I also never would have had the kids and grandkids I enjoy today…have experience an amazing 30-year-old radio career….or met the woman I am lucky enough to call my wife.

Robin Williams was an amazing talent.  He could have stayed anonymous and just been the life of the party at his friends’ house.  But he chose to seek the limelight, to make us care and boy, did we.  He was brilliant, hilarious and sincere, but his last act was that of a complete coward.

Before yesterday, we’d watch any Robin Williams movie and, at the end, marvel at his talent.  Now, at the end of each film, our admiration will quickly turn to sadness as we think to ourselves, “That’s too bad about him.”

There are lots of ways to feel after someone you knows commits suicide. I’ll get to sadness, but right now I’m embracing anger, because I never want suicide to be OK, to be considered just something people do when they’re having a bad stretch of days.  You don’t know what up’s are unless you experience the down’s. Life is just the way.

I don’t mean to take away from Robin’s brilliant body of work, but that’s being pushed aside for a while so we can remind the rest of us that depression kills.  Talk to someone.  No matter how much you think the world doesn’t care, we really do.

Robin, that included you.

Tim Hunter

 

 

Posted by: Tim Hunter | August 7, 2014

An Old Love Returns

Back in the day, I played guitar. Somewhere in my teens, I had told my parents that I wanted a guitar and I ended up with a 12-string. Pretty darn fancy. I had it through college and, truth be told, it might be somewhere in the basement along with my baseball cards and stamp collection. But I haven’t really played anything since back in college, when I’d wander into the stairway of the dorms which added a reverb sound to every strum. I was never really any good and just learned enough chords and songs to make people think I knew how to play.

Fast-forward a few decades and my wife’s cousin and her husband came out for a vacation. Among the places they wanted to see: the Experience Music Project. I’ve been before, but to take it in with someone as passionate as my cousin-in-law Donnie, was a whole new experience. Each of the various guitars inspired a story from him—“I used to have that one” or “I remember borrowing one like that from..” and so on. It made me remember how important my guitar was to me all those years ago.

But the lesson I learned from the 12-string—it gives you twice as many strings to try to keep in tune. So I asked Donnie about a good, basic 6-string guitar. Without missing a beat, he told me about a Gibson that he bought at Best Buy. Really? The guy who has played ‘em all, who was once the guitarist for Chicago and who has several extremely valuable guitars in his collection: YOU bought one from Best Buy?

For $89. Including shipping.

My new guitar arrived the other day and my adventure begins. It’s one more thing that I’d like to get good at, to be able to add to my arsenal of abilities, so we’ll see how this goes. So far, all I’ve been able to find time for is to tune it and stumble around some of the songs I used to know—“It don’t come easy”, “Proud Mary”, “I’d love to change the world.” But for less than the price of admission to Disneyland, why the heck not?

Tim Hunter

Posted by: Tim Hunter | August 1, 2014

The View From Retired Headphones

The Day of Our Last Show

The Day of Our Last Show

 

I’m not sure if I know too much or don’t know a thing.

It’s been interesting to listen to the Bob Rivers Show the past couple of mornings.  This past Monday, he announced that he was going to hang up his headphones and end the morning radio show portion of his career.

When that final show airs August 8th, it will cap off an amazing 42-year-run, with the last 25 of those years right here in Seattle. Bob has a first grandchild on the way.  He’s got bees to tend, a music career, his passion for World Vision and so many things to occupy his time that not having to get up in the middle of the night and sleeping in until 6am probably has got to be pretty appealing.

Was it Bob’s idea to step down?  I doubt it.  What probably happened was his latest contract came to an end and the minds of Clear Channel decided that now would be a good time to reboot the radio station. This is the part they don’t want you to know.  As unplanned as it may sound, a decision this major has been given lots of thought. Here’s one theory on what’s about to happen. The rumored replacement is a show out of Sacramento that will be syndicated here in Seattle. As we all know, that works so well.

I have so many directions to go here.

As I read the Facebook posts and hear loyal listeners saying that they’ll stop the listening to KJR if they’re dropping this show and changing format, guess what:  that’s exactly what they want you to do that.  You see, the money is in the under 35 crowd and this is where radio is heading down a dead end road.  The under 35’s have found other places to get their music and entertainment: phones, streaming internet stations, satellite with no commercials, to name a few.  The over 35’s don’t want to leave, but are being pushed out the door as they try to figure out why such a popular show is coming to an end.  The industry, meanwhile, continues to ignore the trends and where technology is going and chases an audience that doesn’t want them.

I have to admit, I would have preferred to have my radio career wrap up the way Bob and the gang are going out.  They’re getting the chance to say goodbye and are going out on top. The Bob Rivers Show is a finely-tuned ensemble that commands attention and is, on a daily basis, as fresh as the day’s news.  Over 17 years together, the Murdock, Hunter & Alice show had also achieved a loyal following.  I still have people come up to me today and remember things from back in those days.  But in 2003, we were doing a live Christmas show one day and out the door the next.  I still have a good number of the supportive emails that were sent my way and, yes, threats to never listen to KLSY ever again.

But that short-sighted decision by management sent my career in a new direction and I’m grateful for everything that’s happened along the way.  I’ve picked up skills and have had opportunities I never would have experienced had I stayed in radio.  I’ve thought about doing the radio thing again because I’ve never really lost the desire to sneak back into the madness.  However, the “radio” I want to return to no longer exists.

Which brings us back to the Rivers Show.  They experienced ratings and a large following that we never reached.  Yet, despite their strong fan base, Clear Channel is still deciding to sweep them all to the side and, along with them, their fans.

Spike, Joe, Jodi, Erik, Luciana and Pedro are talented and have lots to offer.  I hope that some station will seize this opportunity, bring them on board and allow them to demonstrate that this show had a lot of life left in it.  Radio listeners over 35 increasingly have more disposable income and tend to be a loyal audience. They also still embrace the fast-fading technology of radio. If you want to see loyalty, show up at any of the 25 concerts Spike & The Impalers or Heart by Heart perform during the remainder of the year. Bob performs in both and Spike’s Impalers include appearances by the rest of the show.

I had hoped to attend my radio brother Larry Nelson’s last show at KOMO, but I had my own show at the time and couldn’t be there.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I wasn’t lucky enough to listen to Bob and the gang until my radio gig blew up.  Now, like a lot of people, I’m trying to figure out a way to get by and see them in action just one time before they wrap it up.  I have become a fan.

I know better than to write the station, to stand outside and protest, to try to convince the corporate minds they’re making a mistake.  And so does Bob.

It’s funny, but something inside told me that Murdock, Hunter & Alice probably wouldn’t make it to a 25th anniversary show, so I put one together and we did it on our 17th anniversary of being on the air together.  I’m going to have to dig that out sometime.

For now, I’ll get up for another week and enjoy one of the greatest little collections of personalities this market has ever seen. It’s so refreshing to hear radio done right.  It’s a dying art.  I need to get it while I can.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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