Another Voice Confined To My Head

I first met Debbie Deutsch on the radio.

I was a Seattle radio listener in the 1980s. I listened to several stations, but the voice that stood out to me was Debbie Deutsch. She was the voice of AAA Traffic, which the Auto Club provided to area radio stations, much like other companies did ski reports in the winter. At one point, KJR decided to make her their own fulltime employee, pairing her up with the likes of Seattle radio legends Charlie Brown and Gary Lockwood.

This was back in the day when radio traffic reporters worked split shifts. They just did. So since I was over at KOMO radio working with Larry Nelson in the mornings with Ted Garlatz up in the KOMO Air Patrol, if i was going to hear Debbie at all, it would most likely be during her afternoon reports.

Over time, I was downsized from KOMO and headed across the lake to KLSY. Eventually, Debbie Deutsch found her way there as well and a great friendship began.

They paired her up with KLSY’s “Murdock in the Morning” and for years, they were the morning twosome on Classy, 92.5fm. While I worked in production, copywriting and did weekend shifts when she joined the station, I was around enough to get to know her. THE Debbie Deutsch. As incredibly nice as advertised. That down-home, Wisconsin kind of friendly.

I occasionally tossed some produced bits their way, including a song called, “I wanna be your Murdock” which I remember producing on the radio stations amazing 8-track recorder. Wow. I did a quick search for that and couldn’t find it, but when I do, I’ll update this post and give you a chance to listen to it.

There was the time KLSY did “The Prom For People Who Didn’t Get To Go To Theirs”. Here’s a picture from that evening.

From left to right–Promotion Director Lisa Sarkies, a listener, Delilah Rene, Debbie Deutsch, yours truly, Julie Hiebert and Bob Brooks.

Eventually, Debbie and her husband Jim had a couple of kids and the idea of heading into Bellevue from north Bothell every morning lost its appeal, so she left KLSY to focus on her kids and then, become a professional storyteller. She would always tell me that she named their second son after me. To back up that claim, they call him “Tim.”

At one point, she became part of an effort to create audiobooks of a few of the Wizard of Oz books. We spent many a Sunday morning in a recording studio bringing those stories to life, Debbie as the narrator. Me, taking on most of the other character voices and a young girl named Alexandra as Dorothy. Available where ever cassettes are still sold. I’ve been trying to get the producer, Bill Wright, to get them into digital form. I’m not sure where that stands. Here’s more background on that adventure, from a previous blog.

 

Oh, my gosh, I just found a website where you can listen to audio clips from those books. This was last updated in 2001. Amazing what you can find on the Internet.

In the years that followed, I would occasionally touch base with her. Storytelling became her passion; she even joined the Seattle Storyteller’s Guild. After KLSY and I parting ways in 2003 and doing a year with the Wolf, I wandered off into marketing and advertising, but still had the radio bug. Anyone who has been in the biz knows, it never goes away.

I did a podcast (167 episodes of “The Wacky Week” podcast are out there) and had fun, but I continued to miss radio. As you know, these days I get it out of my system on KRKO, while maintaining all my other vast sources of employment. But around a decade ago, I got together with my radio brother Scott Burns and Debbie and we recorded a demo with the idea that someone might want to put this on the air around Seattle. We came up empty.  But it was sure fun doing the demo together. Here’s that demo.

I just found out last week that we had lost Debbie. She had lost her battle with cancer a month ago and word was now just getting out. I was so sorry to hear it. It would have been so nice to get one more time to chat with her. For those who didn’t know Debbie, I thought I’d give you a chance to get to meet her on her way out. You missed a class act.

And here’s the official obit that her family put together:

Debra Ann Deutsch Bulger
July 18, 1952 – July 28, 2020

Debbie succumbed to cancer July 28, 2020 at her home in Woodinville. She was the third child born to Edwin and Phyllis (Smith) Deutsch in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  She moved with her parents to Kent Washington in 1966 and graduated from Kent Meridian High School.  Following high school, she attended Weaver Airline School in Kansas City, Missouri.  Her first job was with AAA in Seattle where she gave traffic reports on KJR radio.  She later became the traffic reporter and radio personality on KJR for 9 years and then on KLSY radio.  She met the husband of her dreams at a TGIF event in Edmonds, and they married in 1985, moved to Woodinville, Washington and had 2 sons.  Debbie was involved with her boys’ sports, Scouts, and school, she told children’s stories at libraries, bookstores, the Seattle Center and the Aquarium, hosted Mom’s Camps and lastly worked as Office Manager at Feng Shui property managers in Mill Creek, Washington.

Surviving Debb is her husband of 35 years James S. (Jim) Bulger; sons, E6 USN Scott (Paige) of Dallas, Texas, and Timothy (Lauren) of Snohomish, Washington; sisters Linda Lambert of Everett and Diane Ross recently of Cassville, Missouri and several nieces, nephews, cousins and a multitude friends.

All donations will be used to plant trees in her memory throughout the Pacific Northwest via the non-profit organization https://onetreeplanted.org

Thank you for your support in Loving memory of this most beautiful woman. We’re so grateful and expectant to grow a forest!

Love,
Jim, Scott, and Tim Bulger

Shortly after popping for a few trees, I heard from her son, Scott:

Mr. Hunter it’s truly an honor to hear from you. Mom has the best stories about her time working with you! And we thought she was the coolest for being in those Wizard of Oz tapes.
Thank you for your sentiments and contribution to her tree fund. I think all of us were just as surprised last year at the initial diagnosis. She’s gone from here too early, but knowing she’s no longer hurting really does bring us solace.

Would love to take on any audio you might find, what a treasure that will be.

Please reach out anytime!

Very respectfully,
Scott

I cherish the time I got to spend with her, and I know her family is feeling a mighty loss. Thanks for sharing her, guys. She was indeed one of the good ones.

The world will no longer get to enjoy her voice, which means she now joins that ever-growing club of great voices that meets regularly in my head. It’s getting crowded in there.

Tim Hunter

When Radio Held Us Captive

As we all stay hunkered down in our homes for the better good and to turn around the current pandemic, I was recently reminded of the power of radio and the times of my life when it held me hostage–by choice.

Great radio can trap you in a car and make you gladly late for things. Back in my KLSY days, that was the standard of a great bit or break–when people would call and say they couldn’t leave their car until they heard what happened.

Nothing today in my neck of the woods comes even close to that. But I can recall those special people in my life, starting with Gary Owens on KMPC. Yes, Gary, the announcer on “Laugh In” had an amazing voice and a sharp wit to match. Growing up, while others were listening to Boss Radio on KHJ, my mom would have KMPC on in the car when we heading home from school. By the time I reached my teen years and was occasionally driving home from high school, I remember sitting in the car in the driveway, waiting to hear how “The Story Lady” or “How the West Was Won” would end. I could easily tolerate another Bert Kaempfert or Henry Mancini tune if it meant catching some Gary Owens comedy. Here’s a great example.

Flash forward many years to my KOMO radio days, when I first became aware of Paul Harvey. Paul was a midwestern, conservative broadcaster who did a 15-minute news & comment segment every weekday. It was serious “destination radio”–whatever you had going on, a phone call, a meeting, whatever–it had to be done in time for Paul Harvey. And there was no way you would leave until he got in his kicker story at the end and you’d hear that famous, “Paul Harvey……..good day!” Here’s a newscast from 1963.

Around that same time, Gary Lockwood was ruling the morning airwaves over at KJR and had created this bit called, “Police Blotter” which usually turned into a 10-minute laughfest and there was no way you could listen to it and not crack up. While I was working in the morning while they did that bit, they finally realized what a nugget they had and started repeating it later in the day. Again, there is no way you could leave until the bit was over. Here’s an example.

You were held captive.

Gary Lockwood passed away a little over a week ago down in Florida, in his sleep, at the age of 74. Way too young, but as my former broadcast partner Bruce Murdock once pointed out, “We all only get so many wake-ups. Morning guys use theirs up twice as fast, because of those naps we grab in the afternoon.”

Within the same week of hearing the news about Gary, we found out that former KUBE morning guru, Charlie Brown, is in hospice and not long for this world. Charlie also had some legendary bits, so I’m told. However, being on the air as the same time as him and being a competitor, I never heard them.

And in the same 10-day period–in fact, on May 1st, 2020–Hubbard Radio executed a nationwide bloodbath of layoffs. Here at the Seattle outlet (formerly known as Sandusky Broadcasting, where I worked), 17 people lost their jobs on a single day. Lots of them were friends of mine who were in the same building when I was let go 17 years ago.

Yeah, that’s the dark side of the business. One day you’re #1 in the ratings and then the company decides they need a new program director or while you’re doing good, afternoons aren’t clicking so let’s fire them, etc. You know that going in, it’s the nature of the business. I had two ‘surprise going away parties’ in my 30+ years. Frankly, once the shock of that first firing or layoff subsides, you realize it’s just a kick in the butt for you to do better and prove the bastards wrong.

It is the power of radio, that one-on-one connection through a mass medium, that brought me back to mornings on KRKO. And if I ever break out into one of my bits and make you late for something, then I’ve done my job–to keep you captive using radio and maybe, if just for a while, help you forget about being held captive in your home.

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

KING For A Day

I got to relive a part of my youth this past week. They don’t come often enough, but when they do, I embrace them with everything I’ve got.

I was invited to attend a KING Radio reunion earlier this week, across from the new location of KING-TV, at Henry’s Tavern, in the shadow of Safeco Field.

I’m wondering where to start this tale, where to begin setting up this story. Let’s head to my senior year of college at the University of Washington.

Crap, I’ve got to go back a little further. You see, when I arrived in Seattle to attend college, I was doing it because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I wasn’t sure what I was going to study or what my major would be. All I knew is that I had a girl back home that, once I finished college, I was going to marry and then grab a job somewhere doing something. Maybe work for the airlines.

However, late my sophomore year, I got a phone call from that girl, who let me know she had a sign from God to break up with me. Funny, God hadn’t said a thing to me about it. Anyway, two months later, she married the minister that helped her realize that sign from God and I had a clean slate as to where my future would take me.

Thanks to a fellow down the hall in the dorms, I found out that you could actually major in Communications and study radio & TV. Awesome!  So, off I went. While I gained experience in both, I was attracted to the control you had over the entire project on the radio side, and headed excitedly down that path.

During my final two quarters at the UW, I grabbed an internship at a Top 40 radio station in town called KING. My first quarter there, I interned under the Public Affairs Director and primarily wrote PSA’s for the jocks to read. While not the most exciting work, it did give me the opportunity to see the inside of a real radio station–how it worked, what the people were like, and connecting me with some real radio pro’s. I got to know the air talent of that time–Rob Conrad, Dan Foley, Andy Barber, Rick Scott, Joe Cooper and Big Jim Martin. Eventually, Bruce Murdock came up from Portland and took over the morning show. I met a weekender named Dave Christianson. The sales staff included the likes of Dana Horner, Ralph Heyward, Don Cannon and others.

The second quarter I interned there, I was under the direction of Steve Lawson. Steve was the production director at KING radio and the voice of KING-TV.  Believe me, you’ve heard his voice.  After KING, he went on to buy the Kaye-Smith studio and launched Bad Animal, where Heart, Steve Miller and so many other legendary Northwest bands recorded their hits.

All of the people didn’t need to take the time to mentor me, but they did. And over the next several years, most played a part in the direction my radio career took me.

Of course, Bruce Murdock and I were paired together at KLSY. In the early days of my time at Classy, Rob Conrad and Ralph Heyward wanted me to come and work for them at a new station called, “Magic”, but I stuck with KLSY.  When I arrived at KLSY, Dana Horner was the General Manager. Don Cannon was a good friend of Larry Nelson’s, so during my KOMO tenure, our paths would cross often.

My KING experience taught me a lot and forced me to cut my radio teeth. After I graduated from college, I hung around working for minimum wage, hoping a job opening would eventually pop up. I did odd jobs like music surveys over the phone, running mail, answering request lines, going to promotional events. I remember standing on the stage at the Seattle Center’s Center House at a KING Teen Dance, watching a flood of high schoolers moving away to “Dancing Queen” by Abba. This was the big time.

The KING Broadcasting empire was run by Dorothy Bullitt, one of the most powerful women in Seattle. One week, when her regular driver went on vacation, they trusted me to be her personal driver. I would arrive at KING in the morning, get the keys to her Volvo, drive to her Capitol Hill mansion, pick her up, and then take her where ever she wanted. Lunch at the club, down to inspect how the work was coming along on her boat, whatever Mrs. Bullitt wanted, her wish was my command.

But even though they liked me, they just couldn’t justify hiring someone so green. When I lost out on a radio copywriting job to someone who had been a writer for Planned Parenthood with zero radio experience, I hit the road and headed east to Yakima. The rest is the beginning of my radio history.

On Monday, for two hours at a bar in downtown Seattle, I reconnected with some much-older, yet still familiar faces. Some of them I hadn’t seen in 40 years. People I had gotten to know early in my career, in a building that has since been torn down. I bounced from conversation to conversation, getting caught up on what we were all up to these days. While I was pretty much “just the intern” during my time there, you could feel the camaraderie of this group of people and how thrilled everyone was to get together one more time.

Our lives are a series of phases and special moments. We all get them. It’s up to us to recognize them, appreciate them and cherish them when they’re gone. I went through more than a half-dozen call letters during my radio career, but on this particular day, the others had to take a back seat for a few hours.

Monday, I was KING for a day. Thanks for including me.

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 #173

 

Some fun moments from the Murdock, Hunter & Alice era of my days at KLSY.  You’ll hear Bill Swartz and Dan Murphy in our Gardening with Frisco feature, an interview with LeAnn Rimes, some Harry Potter madness and the time that Mr. Murdock fell into Tom Cruise.

 

 

Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE 155

Got quite a collection going in this one. You’ll hear some voices from the past, including Wendy Mann, the track announcer from Longacres, and Bill Swarts bringing us his Ron Fairly to help kick off the baseball season, as well as more Murdock & Hunter shouts than one person should ever have to hear. Enjoy!