Alex and Me

To begin, I never met Alex Trebek.

Back in my KLSY days, I was lucky enough to head down to the Washington State Convention Center one day and meet up with Vanna White and Pat Sajak, when “Wheel of Fortune” did a stop in Seattle. We did interviews, took photos and both couldn’t have been nicer.

I imagined Alex Trebek to be just like that, and everyone has said nothing but that for the past week since he left us. But I would expect that–he’s Canadian. Some of the absolute most sincerely nice people I have met in my life were Canadian. I don’t know what’s in the water (or the beer) up there, but we should pipe some of it down here.

So I would have to say that one of the regrets I have from my 43 years of being in broadcasting is not having my paths cross the host of “Jeopardy.” However, it’s not like we’re complete strangers.

For the past couple of years, part of my waking up routine is to make the coffee, head downstairs and ask Alexa to play a newscast. Then, the second it’s over, I say those familiar words, “Alexa, let’s play Jeopardy.”

The theme song plays, the announcer says, “Here’s Alex” and Mr. Trebek introduces the game. Alexa asks the questions, but then Alex comes back to say thanks for playing and, “See you tomorrow.”

It’s a great way to get the blood flowing in the brain. While I’m competitive, I’m OK with whatever score I end up with for the day. Sometimes I’m amazed at the answers I come up with. Other times, I realize I probably should have read more than two books in my life. (“My Father’s Dragon” and “The Martian Chronicles.” More if you include Dr. Seuss)

I tend to average 5-6 right out of 12 questions most mornings. I have one perfect game to my credit, but far more where I got 3 or less and Alexa wraps up our session by saying, “Today’s questions must have been hard.”

But it’s all about keeping the mind alert. When I hear the answer I missed, I just press that into my memory bank for the next time. Or, for when I get that call to come to the big leagues.

Yep, tomorrow morning, the alarm will once again go off at 4:45am. I’ll make the coffee, come downstairs and tell Alexa to play KIRO Newsradio, so I can catch the end of “America’s First News” and the CBS Morning Roundup.

Then it’ll be Alex and me getting back together. His answers, my questions. It’s nice to know he’ll still be there.

Tim Hunter

Memories of a Blessed Career

For all the things I’ve been able to do in this lifetime, one of the greatest collections of stories comes from my radio days.

The next time we actually get together, even if it’s socially distant, ask me about some of the classics: “Psycho Listener That Stalked Me”, “Feed the Horse”, “Lonely Military Wife”, and of course, the immortal, “Stop That Song! Now!”

This cartoon reminded me of a running gag that lived in the production room of KLSY.

 

So in the early stretch of my 19 years at Sandusky Broadcasting (the owners of KLSY, KIXI and assorted other radio stations), they had a salesperson named “Doc.” I don’t remember much about him, but this was back in the days when sales people were expected to write their own copy for commercials.

I still remember Production Director (the guy who makes commercials) John Nixon showing me a spot he wrote. I don’t even remember who the commercial was for, but I’d never be able to forget one of the lines–“Man in blue sweater walks by.”  Uh, you know this is for radio? You know, that media without pictures? How does a blue sweater sound?  It’s like a white sweater, but darker?

Seriously, for years, whenever we’d be working on stuff together in the production room, it was not unusual for the “blue sweater” line to come up.

Yeah, for all I do, as I continue to learn and explore new skills, to this day, radio and all those great stories are in my blood. That’s probably why I’ll be hiding out on KRKO, “Everett’s Greatest Hits” for as long as I can wedge it into my routine. You’ll have to give it a listen sometime.

And who knows? Maybe if you listen real carefully, you just might hear a blue sweater pass by.

Tim Hunter

Happy December 17th!

A lot changed on that day back in 2003.

It was the day I part of a live broadcast of the Murdock, Hunter & Alice Show on 92.5-KLSY. Several years before, we started a tradition of doing a Christmas show with live performers and this time, we were out-doing ourselves. Bryon the Producer had pulled out all the stops and arranged for us to have the Village Theater in Issaquah as our morning playground.

The theater was open to the public, so people could come and go throughout the morning as our three-hour spectacular unfolded. Among the performers that special morning–the Dickens Carolers.

Newspaper columnist and morning show fan, Sherry Grindeland from the Bellevue Journal-American and KING 5’s Tony Ventrella popped in for a visit.

 

KING 5’s Dennis Bounds read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Bryon the Producer did a performance of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with a local school.

Children’s entertainer Tim Noah performed.

There was an acapella group of Microsoft employees. I’m spacing on their name right now. (See, that’s why I’m writing this stuff down now)

They even sent in the Marines to plug the annual Toys for Tots drive.

It starts to get blurry but this photo reminded me of the last group to perform. It was a bell choir from somewhere. That’s about as good as I can do.

As they wrapped up and started putting their stuff away, we said our goodbyes on air and then the three of us headed backstage. It was there we bumped into Mr. KLSY, Marc Kaye, the General Manager of the station. He asked if our show was over and we replied yes. It was then we went from the high of that stellar and festive broadcast to the low of finding out that was our final show on KLSY. “We’re not going to renew your contracts,” was the exact wording. “No rush on cleaning out your office. You can get to that whenever. And we’ll have a little going away party to thank you for all the years you’ve been here.”

Yeah, right.

I went straight to the station, cleaned out my work area and packed up my car. I remember employees with tears in their eyes coming up to say goodbye. I hauled my stuff downstairs and left the halls of Sandusky Broadcasting for the final time. That “Thank You Party” never happened.

I’ve been let go a couple of times in my career. In radio, it happens. But each time it does, I’ve ended up in a better situation and that was once again very true in this case.

Yes, it was 16 years ago today and from the highs and the lows of that particular day, you can see why it is so etched in my brain.

We all have our December 17ths and now you know mine. It’s basically a microcosm of life–there will be highs and lows (not usually in the same day) but they’re all pieces of what shapes our individual world to create what we have now and I love my now.

All that being said, have a joyous holiday season and cherish those around you. They won’t always be there.

Oh, and Happy December 17th.

Tim Hunter

Saying Goodbye To The Pool Guy

One of the kindest, nicest, most sincere people ever to make a career out of broadcasting, Steve Pool, has retired. There have been specials and interviews and articles written this past week and from all that, you would think Mother Teresa had been at KOMO-TV all these years. Well, I never knew Mother Teresa, but I did get to know Steve and all this praise is well-deserved. Frankly, everybody got to know Steve.

Because the guy that was doing the weather forecasts all those years with modest confidence was exactly who you would have met if you bumped into him on the street.  How long have I known Steve?

I have to drag you back to the early 1980’s, when I was hired to come over the mountains from my radio life in Yakima and become Larry Nelson’s producer on KOMO radio. That was back in the days when KOMO radio and TV blurred together, although when you work the 4am-noon shift, you would miss a lot of those TV folks who didn’t wander in until the afternoon because they would be there until almost midnight.

Every morning on the Larry Nelson morning show, Steve’s predecessor, Ray Ramsey, would check in and do the forecast from his home studio. The two of them created some legendary radio and had so much fun, it would drive management upstairs crazy.  They’d get gonged for having too much fun, and then slowly work the silliness back in. Ray was a quick-witted silver fox, who had been known as ‘Hay Head Ray’ back in his Spokane radio days. Somehow, he had made the transition from radio to television and often wore extremely loud plaid sports coats to work which I’m sure had viewers adjusting the color on their TV sets.

In time, management became less fond of Ray and as you’ve seen in local news around here in 2019, it was time to move on to the next generation. Enter Steve Pool. He wasn’t Ray and I’ll be honest, at first I was a bit resentful. But there was no way I could watch Steve’s performance and hold him accountable. He simply inherited the position. If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else. And Steve was good.

In time, I found myself over at KLSY and Steve Pool was our “TV weather guy”.  That relationship lasted several years, enough that we could arrange Steve “the Husky” Pool playing against Kathi “The Coug” Goertzen for several years. Each edition was a blast. They replicated my relationship with several really good Coug friends where we’d flip each other flack, but in the end, it was just a game. The really drunk fans from each side take it way too seriously.

I even had the fortune of going down to Los Angeles once to represent Seattle radio as part of a charity “Family Feud”, with host Ray Combs emceeing a matchup between Seattle radio folks and the KOMO-TV news team.

 

Truth is, Steve and I were never best friends. But he was a solid friend. The kind, when you saw them after several years, it was like time had never passed. I’ve noticed that about me. I don’t really have any good buddies or friends, aside from my wife. Probably, KRKO’s “Maury the Movie Guy” would come close, but we only see each other once a week and we spend most of our time together doing a podcast. But when you’re one of my friends, there is no time involved. I could see you a week ago or five years ago, but the next time we connect, we just pick up where we left off. And if that is the definition of a friend, Steve Pool definitely falls into that category.

He’s a Facebook friend (as probably most of you reading this are) but I didn’t want to play that to get an interview with him before he retired. I did reach out to Dan Lewis last week–we connected over the years and after he retired–but I just wanted to chat with Steve if only he was up for it. So, I went through the proper channels and emailed the KOMO press relations office, just as anyone else would seeking an interview.

Monday morning, my phone rang and, when I didn’t recognize the number, I just let it go to voicemail. Once it had reached that mark, I listened. It was Steve, saying, “Yes, let’s do this thing.”  I called him back and this is the interview I had with him, which I chopped into bits for my KRKO morning show. (Hey, it’s a morning music show–3 minutes max and I have to be done)  However, if you’d like to hear our entire conversation, it’s right here.

It’s like when Frederick & Nelson closed, or Pay ‘n Pak went away, or when Stan Boreson left us, another chunk of the Seattle we all knew over the past 40 years faded away just a little bit more. Sure, we could be all sad about it, but I choose to remember all those great times, including ones I didn’t even bring up in this little roundup of memories. A really good guy just beat cancer, which reminded him of just how precious life is, and he decided to make every day count.

Which is a reminder that we should all be doing that, whether we’re retired or not.

Steve Pool, you’ve enjoyed a career well-lived. Now, let’s focus on that real-life thing.

Congratulations on the promotion.

Tim Hunter

I Wonder if That’s What Heaven Is Like

Ask someone their idea on what heaven is like, and I’m sure you’d get all kinds of answers. I imagine it’s a collection of all the good moments, all the positive things that emerged during one’s life story.

Put my mind to a pop quiz and I’m imagining that walk with my Grandma Hunter, holding her hand as we walked on the next block, which had some mean kids. They said something cocky, and my grandmother told us to just ignore them. I was probably around 7.

There’s George, the first family dog, who was so spunky and, looking back, probably the perfect dog who just wanted to be loved and run. I remember we took him over to “the fields” to let him run and he did. That was back when Torrance had vacant lots, which are long gone.

There was that gang of mine at Immanuel Lutheran Church’s school, which were my best buds for the first six grades. Then, the church suddenly closed the school and I found myself thrust into public schools, having to deal with being “the new kid.” Traumatic at the time, I harnessed the confrontations to bring out my comedy skills. It prevented at least a couple of beatings.

High School was beyond awesome. I hit my stride, was a basketball player, a senior president and A.S.B. vice-president, prom king, you name it. And, after a long uncertain stretch, I got to be the boyfriend of the girl next door. (OK, well, across the street)

College days were fun and one of these days, I’m going to make that a film script, but I left with a ton of great memories and classmates that I really enjoy seeing again. We pulled off a reunion last year, but there were still some people I really wanted to see that didn’t make it.

OK, back to the concept of heaven. I was lucky enough to work at an eastside radio station called KLSY. There were several KLSY’s—when I first started, the next phase, the phase after that and the Mix 92.5 phase.

Last week, a spontaneous reunion broke out, featuring phase 2 of that adventure.

Remember, I was there 19 years of my broadcasting career. A lot can happen in radio in a couple of years, let alone 19. The crew that assembled that afternoon at the Ram Restaurant at Northgate was a wonderful time capsule of that KLSY era. By this time, I had joined Bruce Murdock as part of the Morning Show, (First, the Breakfast Club, then Murdock & Hunter…eventually, Alice got her name in the show, “Murdock, Hunter & Alice) and that night, we had to drunk Facetime Bobby Irwin our program director and talk about old times.

You see each other and break out in smiles, ask how you’re currently doing and then, return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.  It was pretty much 3 hours that seemed like 5-minutes. Of course, there were at least two toasts to the memory of the late Alice Porter. Oh, sure, those days were far from perfect and there were insane challenges that we all shared together. But now, we could laugh at those challenges and fondly remember all the good times that surrounded them.

The old adage, “If I knew then what I know now” is so true. Probably, the number one thing I would do differently is to slow things down, to savor that time, which, of course, is a reminder that we should be doing that right now.

Up in our brain, there’s a storage locker that we fill up with all the great moments of our life.  The positive, the good. I’m convinced that is what we’ll be surrounded with when all is said and done, and that makes the end of everyone’s story just a little easier to accept.

Last week little KLSY roundup was just another reminder of just how good my life has been and I say that with the utmost of appreciation. It doesn’t mean there weren’t some awful moments along the way, but those will have no place where I’m going.

Enjoy the moments going on in your life right now. Several of them are probably heading to your mental storage locker.

Tim Hunter

It’s Actually Happening

Four years ago, I rolled the dice big-time, gave up a nice-paying but not rewarding job to pursue my professional dreams. I could have easily crashed and burned and found myself working with former Cosby cast members at Trader Joe’s, but the crazy plan actually worked.

My goal was to create a working situation where–

  • I was doing what I wanted to be doing with people I liked
  • Earning enough to cover the bills, with a little left over
  • Create a balance of all the things I love, so I’d be able to keep doing it until I retired

Later this month, I crack the 63-year-old mark, so retirement is within sight. However, my definition of retirement is probably different than most. That will probably just mean thinning out the list of the many things I do, eliminating the less-rewarding and focusing my efforts on just the fun stuff.

Right now, I have my own creative services company, work for Create Impulse as their Chief Creative Officer, emcee events like this week’s Lutefisk Eating Contest at the Fishermen’s Fall Festival (I believe this is the 15th Lutefisk eating competition I’ve emceed), write for Radio-Online every morning, aim jokes at my various comedy clients and produce videos. I churn out a weekly Ima Norwegian cartoon, a podcast, write a blog and consult several clients. Then pile on top of all those things the duties and activities that come with being involved with ten or so clubs and organizations, and you could say I’m one busy person. But I like busy and when my schedule is mostly made up of things I love, what else would I rather be doing?

But underneath it all, I’ve had this need to do one thing that has been missing from my life for 15 years. Radio.

Seriously, I was thinking that one day, we’d move to a smaller town somewhere and I would latch on to the local small-town station just to satisfy my craving. Remember, I spent over 30 years of my life in the biz, and when it decided to push me away, I embraced developing new skills and pursuing other goals. That I have done.

I can now direct, shoot and edit videos and commercials, thus adding a nice collection of abilities to my skillset. But here’s the crossroads I came to: Radio is and has always been fairly unstable. Formats change, program directors love you or hate you, it’s entirely possible to come off a great show and be told that you’re done. I know. It’s happened.

Which begs the question, “Why would I risk all that I’ve developed to plunge back into the unstable world of radio?” I’d welcome the return, but not by risking everything I’ve built up. After all, been there, done that. So if I were to venture back on the airwaves, it would have to be a perfect fit and be able to be piled on to everything else I’m already doing. Are there enough hours in the day? I believe so, for the right situation.

Over the years, I’ve reached out and talked with Andy Skotdal who own’s Everett’s KRKO. He knew me from my Seattle work and was always interested in connecting. But I didn’t want to start something there, only to realize a month or two later, this isn’t what I really wanted to do. At one time, he was thinking a news station with me doing mornings. Not really my thing. I’m a goofball, you know that. Then, they went into the Sports Radio arena and, again, not for me.

Then, earlier this summer, they flipped to a music station. And not just a regular music station, but what they call “Everett’s Greatest Hits” which amounted to the songs I used to play on the radio. A few 60s, mostly 70s and some 80s. Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John. And, with an up-tempo feel.

Chuck Maylin, formerly of KBSG (the great Seattle oldies station that is no more) and veteran consultant Terry Patrick have created one fine-sounding station that, for now, didn’t have a morning personality.

Today, that changes.

I initially reached out to them to maybe track out an afternoon shift or weekend, just to satisfy my radio Jones. (not to be confused with Jones radio)  They were interested, but had someone internally for mornings and if they were to add an afternoon voice, it would be a “down the line” thing.

Then, the guy who was to host mornings parted ways with the station. So they had a need.

We talked and agreed to make this happen, but not until after my recent Norway trip. It just wouldn’t make sense to start on the air, and then disappear for a couple of weeks.

So, today, Monday, September 10th, I begin a new chapter in my broadcasting career. I’ll be hanging out at 1380-AM and 95.3-FM from 6-9am Monday through Friday. I would highly recommend streaming the station, which you can do easily with one click at KRKO.com.

I am incredibly blessed, because I’m going to get to enjoy playing radio again, on a small-town, local-owner radio station, while continuing to live my big-city life.  Here are a few of my fellow KRKO-kateers, excited to hear I was joining the team.

OK, well, mildly intrigued might be a better description.

Everett’s Greatest Hits, here I come.

Tim Hunter

 

Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE #176

A virtual treasure trove of bits from the Murdock, Hunter & Alice days. An environment feature, we take you camping, you’ll hear a mash of the TV “Boot Camp” with Elmo from Sesame Street, and even what a MH&A PlayStation game sounds like. Sure.

Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE #175

Lots of MH&A fun from the KLSY days, including the winner of a Ski Boat Marathon competition, Alice’s crutch phrase being brought to light, what a sports broadcast sounds like when it’s over-sponsored and several of Michael Jackson’s phone messages on his 30th Anniversary hotline (which does sound remarkably a lot like me sped up). Hang on!

Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE #169

Since I’m re-watching the old “24” series with Kiefer Sutherland, I thought I’d dig out a couple of interviews Murdock, Hunter & Alice did with the stars back in the day. Here’s a couple of chats, featuring Tony Almeida and Sherry Palmer.

See and I wasn’t kidding about the DVD.