MY WORLD JUST BECAME A LITTLE LESS FUNNY

Actually, we all share in this loss. This past week, my longtime radio brother from a different mother, Skip Tucker, passed away suddenly.

It was one of my usual busy Wednesdays, with Zoom calls a plenty and projects to tackle when I came up for air to quickly check Facebook. There at the top of my feed was a note from Skip’s sister, Melody, that he had passed away. What? When? How? I couldn’t process it. It didn’t make sense. This had to be the worst attempt at a practical joke in history.

Just a few weeks ago, I had received a text from his girlfriend for the last two and a half years who had asked me to make a video for his upcoming 70th birthday. Oh, I was going to roast him. I had some really fun pictures from the past that I was definitely going to share. Then suddenly, I learned that Skip wasn’t going to reach his landmark birthday.

We met at my first-ever professional radio job at KQOT, a daytime radio station in Yakima, back in 1977. Skip was a part-timer, a “weekender” that lived up in Ellensburg. At one point, I was made program director for the radio station, which meant I never really stopped listening. One Saturday, I had the station on while Skip was being Skip and I heard the Debbie Boone song, “You light up my life.” 10 minutes later, I heard it again…and again. After Skip played it like four times in an hour, I called the hotline and said, “Skip, why are you playing that song so many times?” His response: “I really like it.”

That’s Skip on the far right (not politically)

This was back in Skip’s very religious days, that connected him with the equally religious disc jockey Ichabod Caine. Not only did he introduce me to Ichabod, who graciously offered to critique one of my airchecks (a recording I still have to this date), but we also did a road trip over to Seattle to visit Ichabod in the 1970s hey day of KJR. What I remember most about that visit was that we were in a studio when Ichabod knocked over a glass of water and, without missing a beat, yelled out, “Quick! Somebody get some fire!”

Skip and I stayed in touch as we went our separate ways in the radio world and beyond. He eventually found himself in Los Angeles where he spent the rest of his days living his dreams. He was a KFI “Eye in the Sky”, he did some acting, he eventually found his way into being a presenter for the Karrass Company, that taught people how to be better negotiators. I actually attended part of one in Seattle and it was amazing to see the confidence of this new-and-improved Skip Tucker who commanded the attention of the room. He even wrote a book on how to become a better negotiator which I bought from Amazon this past week. If it’s not one of your strengths and would like to improve your skills even for just day-to-day life stuff, here’s where you buy it.

Skip was also an avid diver. Not like in soccer, but as in the water. As you can see, when he wrapped up the negotiating stuff, he focused on the diving world and by the Facebook posts that followed his passing, you can see he made a lot of friends.

While knowing Skip for over 40 years, I also became pals with his sister, Melody, after meeting her at KOMO radio. She used to capture game highlights for the Husky broadcasts on Saturdays. We worked on a syndicated radio program together with Ruth Walsh for a while. In time, Melody became a lawyer.

Country music listeners might remember the radio personality Penni Coyne. That was Skip’s other sister.

I was a pall bearer for their parents, as each left this earth.

I’m not sure how long Skip’s website will remain up, but check it out before it comes down. It gives you a great idea of his comedic style. He called it his “House of Chaos.” Sometimes, I suppose, you could consider his life was a bit chaotic, but Skip wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Every week for I don’t know how many years, Skip would send out a weekly email on “Website Wednesday.” I even had a spot on my website for Skip’s Website of the Week.  Here was the last edition of Skip’s Website Wednesday that I received on August 5th:

Website Wednesday
a subsidiary of Skip’s House of Chaos
(The 234,453rd Most Interesting Man in the World)

“From the Large Intestine of the Internets,
through the Sphincter of Electronic Mail,
peeing like a baby on a changing table
into the brisk digital wind…”

My gym just went bankrupt.

Who’s the quitter now?

Top of the Heap:  The Perseid Meteor Shower and Other Skywatching Events This Month

The Most Beautiful Drives in America, According to Long-Haul Truckers

18 Times Barack Obama Was Unequivocally You  (Thanks, Spidermonkey) 

Who Are ‘America’s Frontline Doctors‘, the Pro-Trump, Pro-Hydroxychorioquine Weirdos Banned From Social Media?

The Most Fascinating Shark Discoveries Over the Last Decade (Thanks, Laura!)

12 Words With Very Different Meanings  in the U.S. and the UK

Exploring the Solar System (Thanks, Jackpack!)

Robot Umpires in Baseball

A Non-Comprehensive List of Birds That Piss Me Off

Finger Tricks to Pull on Little Kids (not counting “pull this”)

The Coffee Kings of the Old West

Next-Level Beach Volleyball

10 (Mostly) Bloodless Horror Movies, for When You Wanna Be Scared, Not Unconscious

If she hadn’t been wearing a bra, it would’ve been game over

Seven seconds that illustrate 2020 perfectly

So many bad decisions

Face mask fails

Every self-help book ever, boiled down to 11 simple rules

Skipnote: Website Wednesday is a by-request only mailing list.  If, for any reason, you don’t want to receive it, simply reply to this email and let me know. No hard feelings.  Now, on the other hand, if you know someone who you think might like getting WW every week, have them drop me a line.

 

Be safe out there! Try not to end up on YouTube.

  Skip    ಠ_ಠ

 Website Wednesday archives

Unabashed plug:
Order a copy of my book,
How to Negotiate When You Hate Negotiating
paperback http://bit.ly/skiptuckerpb

or e-book http://bit.ly/skiptuckerkn

You might want to check out those archives for some really fun websites and articles.

Part of what makes it so hard to accept the fact that Skip no longer walks this earth is that we remained a part of each other’s lives all the way to the end. He was one of my small group of really, really good friends who didn’t keep track of when we talked last. Whenever we saw each other, we just picked up where we left off.

When Skip posted on his Facebook page a few weeks ago that he had a 12-hour cancer surgery, I shot him a text. He may have been much worse than he was letting on, but he wasn’t going to let me know it.

Once again, the “You Light Up My Life” gag reared it’s ugly head.

And through the modern convenience of the phone version of Scrabble, “Words with Friends”, we had connected several times for some pretty one-sided battles. Man, he just cleaned my clock in that game, with final scores like 421-180. Finally, a few weeks ago, I beat him. I didn’t know how, but now I think I do. He had other things on his mind.

We were playing again when all of a sudden Skip quit taking his turn. I’m going to leave that one right where it is.

It won’t happen right away, but in time, I’ll learn to speak of Skip in the past tense. For 43 of my 65 years, he’s just always been there and now, suddenly, without a whole lot of warning, he’s gone.

If you didn’t know Skip Tucker, I just wanted to make sure you met him on his way out.

Oh, and one more Skip story. One of his funniest gags occurred when he joined a Hunter family brunch and did the old “flaming wallet” gag. Yep, he pulled out his wallet, opened it up and a giant flame shot out, without warning. It tended to leave an impression.

If you’d like to get to know him even more, listen to the podcast I did with him several years ago. Too early for me, but in time, I’ll be able to enjoy it again and remember back to that conversation like it was yesterday.

I will always remember his voice, those looks and the big man hugs we’d exchange every time we got near each other.

Dude, you did this life thing really, really right. Thanks for being a friend. Now, enjoy the time off, Skip.

Tim Hunter

Spending the Week Surrounded By My Past

I’ve gotten on a recent kick of being sure to make every day count. Alex Trebek is the latest reminder in the news that our time here has its limits and we’ve got to make the most of that precious commodity.

This week has been chock full of little reminders of just how fast it’s all flying by:

Rip Taylor: This crazy funny man who made a living out of wearing a bad toupee and throwing confetti came into KOMO radio twice during my 4-1/2 years there in the early 80s. Back then, as Larry Nelson’s producer, Lar was on the air while I was down the hall interviewing guests and then cutting up the interviews to make it sound like Larry had talked with them. I didn’t mind because he was the star and I got to meet the celebrities passing through promoting their book or theater show or movie. Rip passed away over the weekend at the age of 84, so he had two decades on me. But it seems just like yesterday he was choking me in the KOMO hallways.

Peter Frampton: We’re going to see Mr. Frampton on Wednesday night at the Paramount. Hearing that this was going to be his last tour (yeah, they all say that but he offered up some health news that backed it up)  I felt I had to catch him one more time. We let Elton John get by recently because we just weren’t up to a late night on a work night and driving back & forth to Tacoma. Our justification on that one was that Elton will probably do a residency in the near future down in Las Vegas and we’d catch him then.  I saw Peter a couple of times back in college at the peak of “Frampton Comes Alive” and he put on a great show. We’re talking over 40 years ago and that just doesn’t seem possible.

Linda Botts: Linda has been a longtime friend, going back to my early KLSY days. We were on board the Victoria Clipper watching when they blew up the Kingdome. She was our “Royal Expert” on the Murdock, Hunter & Alice show, who would offer thoughts and opinions on all the royal goings-on in the Princess Diana era. In the small world of things, I knew Linda forever and so did my wife Victoria. When Victoria and Linda got together for lunch, she let it be known she was marrying a disc jockey, and Linda yelled out, “I know him!” Wednesday night, we’ll all be enjoying Mr. Frampton together.

Wayne Newton: I heard a radio commercial that he’s coming up here to perform at a Northwest casino and boy did that bring back memories. Flashback to my days at KOMO where I was Larry Nelson’s producer and we were welcoming Wayne to the Paramount for an appearance. It was such a big deal at that time. We were broadcasting live backstage and Larry was scheduled to chat briefly with Wayne.  Before we get to that, Wayne’s “manager” who looked like he was a stunt double for the cast of Goodfellas told me that Larry was NOT to bring up the recent debacle involving the 4th of July celebration in Washington, D.C.  You see, at that time, the Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, felt the Beach Boys were too hippy-like and so he replaced them with America’s entertainer, Wayne Newton.  So, I went to Larry, told him NOT to bring that up and sure enough, moments later, we were live on the air–with Larry asking Wayne about the incident. The manager looked at me with cold threatening eyes and I thought for sure I was going to be fit with cement shoes.  Somehow, I’m still around to tell that story.

Shirley Thom: Back in my KOMO radio days, there was a young go-getter named Shirley Thom who eventually ascended to Sales Manager at KOMO, AM-1000. This past week, they had an 80th birthday party for her at the Nickerson Street Saloon. More flashbacks to a time that seems like a handful of years ago and all the fun we had at “Your Husky Station.”

That’s Shirley on the far right (not politically)

All these ancient memories flushed to the top of my consciousness in the span of a week. The good news is I remember them all like they were yesterday and hope to hang on to them as long as humanly possible.

Oh, sure, this is just another busy, non-stop week in the life of you-know-who as I create even more memories for that little brain of mine to absorb. But while I live in the present, I equally enjoy looking off into the distance and being reminded of some other really good times in my life.

Living in the present while being surrounded by the past. Basically, the best of both worlds. I am friggin’ lucky.

Tim Hunter

 

Dude–You’re ‘The Dude!’

Things happen in our lives and I’m pretty convinced, all for some kind of reason. It doesn’t have to be a great one, but like a jigsaw puzzle with a billion pieces, that little snippet of time plays some part in the story we are creating on this earth.

I’m trying to dig deep and flush out those stories that really had no significance in my life, but that I would like to preserve for posterity or if nothing else, for just a fun flashback when I confined to a rocking chair at a retirement home staffed by former Playboy Bunnies.

Here’s one such story.

Back in the early 1980’s, I had been hired by KOMO AM-1000 to be the morning show producer for Larry Nelson. Larry was the on-air superstar, I was the guy in the background doing things to make him sound better.

I was all of 25-years-young, with my post-college experience limited to three years of playing radio in Yakima, Washington. One of my assigned duties was to conduct interviews, take out some of the clips and then write up a script so it would sound as if Larry Nelson had talked with our special guest.

That meant that over the years, I got to meet authors, movie and TV stars, and formerly famous people trying to eek out a few more minutes in the spotlight. I could drop names, but I’ll save that for a future blog.

This time, I’d like to tell you about the dude named Jeff Dowd.

The Seattle International Film Festival was around 4-years-old and their promoter was a guy named Jeff Dowd. I remember when he showed up to record an interview, he was quite a bit overweight, and frankly, dressed like a slob. I mean, this was KOMO radio, and I had to wear slacks and a tuck-in shirt, so what gave him the right to just show up as if he was helping someone move?

No matter. For a couple of years, when it came time for the festival, Jeff would reach out, come in and we’d record tidbits about the hot movie that year or some of the special guests that were scheduled the show up.

Then, in 1984, as it happens in radio, KOMO threw me a surprise going away. The face I was going away was a complete surprise. Jeff became one of those folks I had got to know through the job, but I never saw him again.

In talking with him, I knew he had aspirations of going to Hollywood, where they made the movies, and getting involved with the industry. Apparently, he did, although I didn’t put the pieces together until many years later.

Jeff got to know the Coen Brothers while they were promoting their first film, Blood Simple. The next thing, he became the basis for one of their most popular characters, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski from The Big Lebowski.

Yes, Jeff Dowd was the real-life “Dude.”

I don’t know what was going on in my life when “The Big Lebowski” came out, but I’ll be completely honest with you–I’ve never actually seen the whole movie. I need to do that one of these days. I’ve heard so much about it from friends that were fans, I almost feel like I’ve seen it.

But none the less, it’s based on the life of a guy that was one of the puzzle pieces of this yet unfinished story. And that makes one less piece to find among those that fell off the table.

I just thought I would share.

Oh, and here’s the link to the story that flushed out this memory. Best of luck, man. After all, you are, the Dude.

Tim Hunter

 

The Other Jones

I have been extremely blessed to meet some amazing people over the years, not through any of my doing, but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

During the early 1980s, through a series of coincidences and quick decisions, I ended up working as a morning show producer at KOMO radio at 4th & Denny in Seattle. It was during my tenure there as Larry Nelson’s producer that I got to meet people like Stan Boreson, Don James, the recently retired “Voice of the Huskies” Bob Rondeau, as well the famous folks who passed through the building from Steve Allen, Johnny Mathis and Patty Duke. Then there was the fun bunch from KOMO-TV down the hall–Dan Lewis, Kathi Goertzen, Ray Ramsey, Steve Pool, Ruth Walsh and so on.

Another fellow I had the good fortune to get to know was an engineer named Lloyd Jones. I can’t even begin to tell you what a great guy he was, on top of being a go-to engineer who settled for nothing less than perfection. Lloyd enjoyed working with wires, antennas, transmitters and all those electronic gizmo’s that keep a radio station on the air. Meanwhile, his brother, was often in the spotlight during that era–a guy by the name of Quincy Jones.

Yet, one more name to sneak in here before I turn things over: Keith Shipman. I got to know Keith when he was a fresh-faced graduate from WSU, who found himself being KOMO Radio’s 3rd sports guy. We had Bob Rondeau in the morning, Gary Johnson in the afternoon, and Keith cutting his teeth with reports on the sidelines during Husky games. Yep, a Cougar who found himself in Husky country.

Keith and I will always that fateful Friday morning in 1984 when the general manager called each of us into his office, one by one, to let us know we were being cut due to budget shortfalls. Yours truly, KOMO News Director Gary Stewart and Keith were all shown the door. Keith went on to being a TV sports guy over at Q13, worked a big at KJR and then headed off to Bend, Oregon, to run a radio chain there. Over time, he’s ascended to being the president of both the Oregon and Washington Associations of Broadcasting. He is one busy guy.

But not too busy to write this wonderful salute to Lloyd Jones last week, on the occasion of what would have been his birthday. After reading it, I had to share so that you could have the chance to meet Lloyd.

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t think of my friend Lloyd Jones. He passed away 20 years ago today, of cancer. Lloyd was the broadcast engineer for the Husky Football Radio Network from its flagship station KOMO-AM Seattle. He was a prince of a man. A Coug. An Air Force veteran. A lover of music. An extraordinary husband who loved his wife Gloria and adored his son Marlon. One damn fine broadcast engineer. He taught me many lessons about life. Because I took an interest in how radio waves made their way from a transmitter to a car he taught me some of the fundamentals of engineering. What’s FM stand for? “F**king Magic!” he would say. Whenever I put my hands in the back of a transmitter to troubleshoot or change a tube he was the angel on my shoulder reminding me not to electrocute myself (“always use the grounding stick, if you can find the damn thing!”). He attempted to teach me how to drink a scotch liquor – Lochan Ora – on Husky football charter flights – with no success. When my daughter was born he began sharing parenting lessons (“all boys are poison – remind her of that every day…..every….day”). His attention to detail was unparalleled. “This shit ain’t magic – you need time to set things up!” True in broadcasting, true in life. There are several other Lloyd-ism’s that aren’t fit for print, but make me laugh out loud every time I think of him. Shortly after he retired from KOMO in 1997 I learned that he had surgery, so I sent him flowers at home to cheer him up while he was recuperating. The phone rang at my desk at KCPQ-TV the next morning and Lloyd’s first words were “Shipman, I’ve waited 50 f**king years to get flowers….(long pause for effect)… and I get ’em from a guy!” We laughed our asses off for the next 45 minutes. I asked him what the surgery was for; he told me it was a hernia (it was cancer). The last time I saw Lloyd was at Bob & Molly Rondeau’s house not long before he passed away. They assembled members of past and present Husky football broadcast teams for a lovely dinner, and we all laughed and told the same old stories and laughed some more. He looked as handsome as ever that evening and though frail didn’t give us a hint of how ill he was. As Lloyd readied to leave he went around the room and said his goodbyes. When he got to me we embraced and he looked me in the eye and told me he loved me. I thanked him for being such a great friend and mentor and told him how much he meant to me. Never thought he would die. I cried a lot on July 13, 1998 after I learned of his death. We knew each other for 20 years – he played an profound role in my development as a young adult, and I am forever grateful that I was privileged to know him. Still miss him to this day. Lloyd would have been 83.

Thanks for sharing, Keith.

Tim Hunter

A Picture Perfect Life

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Bruce Johnson. Or, as he was known for years on KOMO radio when Larry Nelson did commercials for his photography studio, Bruce Rowland– “65th Street’s slickest shutter snapper!”

Back in the 1950s, Bruce’s dad launched Rowland Studios just east of Greenlake, in the Ravenna area. I can’t tell you how many years he was in that same studio, but he was there more than not, right on 65th street, just off Roosevelt. That’s where Bruce learned the craft of taking amazing, beautiful, well-thought-out pictures, eventually taking over his father’s business. Bruce continues to take phenomenal pictures, using both cameras and his cellphone. He’s just got that eye, that vision, and always will.

I met Bruce back in the day when I was Larry Nelson’s producer on KOMO and Bruce and Ballard attorney Tom Treece were pretty much part of Lar’s Three Amigos. They weren’t always together as a trio, but usually when I’d see one and he would leave, the other would soon show up.  Bruce operated Rowland Studios, where practically everyone who worked at KOMO had their portraits done. Yes, that was back in the day of a studio and portraits and packages that cost hundreds of dollars, all shot on film. On top of that, Rowland Studios was pretty much THE school photographer. Anyone who went to school in Seattle has at least school photo tucked away in a book with the word “Rowland” down at the bottom or on the back.
Here’s a video I put together for him, when he was trying to shore up his Senior Picture business.

I knew Bruce as a crazy Swede. He loved to party. On St. Patrick’s Day one year, I remember he came by KOMO radio and visited Larry in the control room with some female friend of his painted green and in a bikini. When I first started at KOMO, he would call up Larry’s office number (an office we shared) and when I answered, he identified himself as Arnie Schmatz, a pseudonym that he liked to use. As I became involved with Larry’s extended family, I would get to know and hear stories about some of Bruce’s hunting buddies. Yes, part of his fall routine was going to Chehalis and returning with lots of stories and a winter’s supply of venison.

At his recent retirement party, there were lots of his pictures on display from over the years, including this one of our buddy, Larry Nelson.

Bruce also took Larry’s last portrait that remains on display in my office to this day. Lar’s quick departure a decade ago from lung cancer really hit Bruce hard. In fact, I believe it was a year later that he gave up drinking and has been dry ever since. He proudly announced he had passed his 9th year of sobriety when I arrived at his party.

Even though I wasn’t close with his family or his three beautiful daughters, I watched them grow up because one of Bruce’s holiday traditions included sending out a photo card with a group shot featuring his three girls. Years ago by themselves, and these days, with their families.

Bruce’s retirement party was held at his oldest daughter’s house, and the second I saw her, I remembered a Christmas card gag from longs ago. Larry Nelson had gone to her wedding and while he was there, had his picture taken with her in her wedding dress. The following Christmas, he sent out the photo with no explanation and of course, everyone on the receiving end immediately thought, “Oh, my God, he got married again. And look how young she is!”

This is the crowd I hung out with.

My KOMO radio days are 34 years behind me, but Bruce and I have stayed in touch and kept up with each other’s lives over the years. Bruce is a colorful part of the tapestry of my life.  As he steps into retirement after taking on cancer and defeating it last year, he continues to post on Facebook his photos of coffee and (insert location here). For all he’s been through, I believe now more than ever that he’s fully embracing the “make every day count” concept and I’m extremely happy for him. So many people say they’re going to start doing that and, like a New Year’s resolution, it’s not long until it was just a short-lived good intention. In the retirement card I gave him, I included a certificate good for one retirement lunch at Mike’s Chili in Ballard, one of his favorite haunts. I look very forward to sitting down and flashing back to the days of Lar and all the crazy times that were had. And I plan to make those happen a little bit more frequently because the good times we enjoy today are the ones we’ll be remembering tomorrow.

Life may not have been perfect for Bruce, but his pictures always are.

Congrats on your retirement, Mr. Johnson-Rowland- Schmatz. A very well-deserved new beginning and I know you’re going to really make this count.

Tim Hunter

Bruce is the one on the right