following is an excerpt from a chapter of a forthcoming book by John
Passing Thru - WLS 890 and Art Roberts
Gene Taylor was not very pleased with my arrival. I had been placed in charge of programming against his wishes by ABC radio�s president, Hal Neal and given complete autonomy. As a manager who came from the programming side of the hall, obviously Gene was upset from day one, sitting in his office behind closed doors for most of the first six months I was there. When I did see him in the hallway, it was me who offered a greeting, Gene always frowned and seldom engaged me in any conversation.
The entire staff including on air talent had been hired by Gene and I could understand his concern for their continued employment. He had preceded my arrival apologizing for his inability to prevent my appointment, it was Hal Neal�s idea, not his.
I attempted to give him respect due a V.P. general manager, but Gene wore his feelings on his shirt sleeve for all to see and it was clear he felt uncomfortable with me.
Gene had apparently transferred disrespect for me to the sales manager and within weeks of my arrival I ran into interference when instructing traffic to install a new program log with my format. After waiting for several days I inquired of the delay and the traffic department informed me the sales manager had declared, �Rook is in programming, not sales� and refused to allow a change in the program log. I had no doubt of my authority so I requested a meeting with Gene Taylor to make him aware of my need to format the program log.
walked from his office to �my hole in the back� telephoning Hal Neal
suggested Bob Williams, with Hal asking me to repeat his last name.
�Sit tight and I�ll
take care of it�, he stated as he hung up.
When the phone rang at home that evening, I wasn�t surprised to hear Gene�s voice. It would be the one and only time he would telephone me at home, or in the office.
�John�, his hesitant voice started, �I wish you hadn�t of called Hal over that silly log thing, now I have a real problem in sales�.
�I�m sorry�, I said, �but I have a job to do and I don�t need to have hurdles placed in front of me�. I could hear him taking a long deep breath before saying, �Rook, you�re something else, always in such a damn hurry�. I added, �Radio is immediacy you know Gene� as he hung up.
Arriving at WLS the following morning a memo on my desk announced the previous sales manager was no longer employed at the station. It also announced a new sales manager, Bob Williams. The crowning touch came that afternoon when building maintenance came to my office to ask what I wanted moved to my new office, the former sales manager�s office in the executive area. It would be Hal Neal�s way of making everyone aware of my authority.
Early on, I could see that two of the WLS disc jockeys would be important to our future success. Larry Lujack and Art Roberts handled themselves professionally and by my estimation were very talented.
Lujack was shy and just needed someone to fuel his fire and Art was on fire and needed someone to slow him down. Hal Neal had told me, �Lujack is a sarcastic bastard�, but I could see that as part of his image and talent that if given the right leeway and motivation, would be a big hit with listeners. I reasoned, everyone likes to find fault with their boss, and Lujack could play on that theme beautifully.
It wasn�t long before �big John, the barn boss� would be his prime candidate for ridicule. The fire was lit and their was no stopping him as he took on every �dim witted light weight� in town. Larry�s sarcastic edge was a major plus.
Just as he was beginning to feel his oats, Hal Neal called one day, he had been listening to Lujack on the listen line and was concerned �He�s really putting you down and you don�t have to take that you know�. Explaining what I was trying to mold, Hal interrupted before hanging up, �Rook, you�re the boss�, to my chuckle, �That�s right Hal�.
WLS featured a large plate glass window where visitors could watch the stations personalities while they were on the air. Lujack hated the window and always closed the drapes at the start of his shift. I was the same way when I was on the air, so I understood the need to invent myself in private. Sales complained, saying clients visiting the station should be able to watch Larry perform. Bull Shit I said, Larry�s audience is the listening audience who make up the ratings, not the friends you are trying to impress.
He was also a wonderful father and husband. Art Roberts became my friend upon my arrival at WLS and continued to be until he died. We talked regularly and I�ll never forget his compassion for others. Few are more upbeat on life and yet down to earth more than him. Paralyzed in his last year, he lifted my spirits with his steadfast determination to succeed in accomplishing ways to provide for himself.
He fueled my fire. A great human being, that Art Roberts!
Content on this Web site � 2003 John H. Rook