5 Questions with... WGN AM 720's Garry Meier

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5 Questions with... WGN AM 720's Garry Meier

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor
Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks special guest ... a Chicago radio legend whose dynamic broadcasting career is nearing an amazing 40 years ... his unrivaled style of humor and overall knowledge of everything from current events to pop culture can be heard weekdays on WGN Radio 720 (3-7 p.m.) ... plus, viewers can look forward to seeing Garry on TV when WCIU, The U debuts The Garry Meier Special on Sunday, July 11 at 10:30 p.m. ... hes one of a kind ... here are 5 Questions with GARRY MEIER!

BIO: Garry Meier joined WGN Radio in April 2009 and can be heard weekdays from 3-7 p.m. Whether he's giving away quirky prizes through the "Garry Meier Walk-Up Window" on Michigan Avenue, giving listeners the opportunity to share what's on their playlists in his popular "Mix-tape Friday" segment or discussing the news of the day with his characteristic sarcasm, Garry's wit and absorbing energy keep Chicagoans entertained day after day.

Garry will tell you that his career in radio all began with a dead butterfly. One day he walked out of his house and saw a beautiful dead Monarch butterfly lying on the ground. He scooped up the lifeless harbinger of things to come and sent it to his then favorite disc jockey, Larry Lujack, the biggest jock in Chicago at the time. Larry was always talking about reincarnation and he claimed he was going to come back as a butterfly. In a note accompanying the butterfly Garry said, "I think I found your dead uncle. Sorry for your loss. Larry read the note on the air. For Garry it was a "flashpoint" moment. Fascinated with radio, he knew what he was destined to do in life when he heard his material on the air.

Meier rose to prominence in Chicago as part of one of the most successful No. 1 radio duos in the country as part of the Steve & Garry Show. The 15-year run garnered international publicity, as well as an Emmy for the TV show Greetings from Graceland. Meier also gained renown for his highly successful eight-year run on the Roe & Garry Show. In addition to these accomplishments, Meier has displayed his wit and energy as a solo host and as a feature reporter for WGN-TV's morning show.

Meier has won five A.I.R. Awards for Best Afternoon Show in Chicago and was awarded the National Radio and Records Award for Best Local Afternoon Talk Show Host in America. His segments have appeared on local and national television including World News Tonight. Garry has also been recognized multiple years by Talkers Magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential Talk Show Hosts in America."

He loves what he does, carrying all of his inventory in his head and feels that even with all of his success, the best is still yet to come.

1) CSNChicago.com: Garry, theres no doubt your devoted fan base is very happy they can now listen to you weekday afternoons on WGN Radio 720. With that said, theres no hiding the fact that moving to a radio station not necessarily known for being on the cutting edge can also pose a challenge for your irreverent style. Would you say you had to make any adjustments to your broadcasting style now that youre on WGN Radio? ... And, a follow-up question: what would you say is your biggest challenge in gaining new Garry Meier listenersfans?

Meier: Thank you. When I started at WGN last year, management didn't tell me what to say or not say they just said "do what you do, that's why we hired you." Kevin Matheny and Tom Langmyer are very supportive in that respect. I feel I'm doing what I've always done, fitted to what feels right at this time in my career. The fact that I'm on WGN was, I'm sure, perceived as a bit odd initially considering their long history of rather conservative talk and iconic status in Chicago, but the way I look at it is it's a microphone hooked up to a transmitter that's coming over your radio free of charge and I hope I'm delivering something a lot of people enjoy every day. If people enjoy what I do, then the fact that I'm on WGN doesn't matter. I think people are smart enough to seek out what they like no matter how it's delivered to them. WGN was and still is a powerful radio station and I'm happy to be on it. The biggest challenge to me, and all commercial radio for that matter, is all the technology today that wasn't here five, 10 or 20 years ago. That means more competition for people's attention, so you really can't take anything for granted. The great thing about this new technology is you can listen to WGN over the Internet no matter where you are. I'm hoping that the people who maybe only listen to the Cubs or Blackhawks on WGN will try my show out and stay with it.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youre approaching 40 years in the Chicago radio biz, an amazing achievement to say the least. You know as well as anyone, the radio industry is now very different than it was even as little as 5-10 years ago. What specific changes about your industry have angered you the most in recent years and are there any changes out there that you actually support?

Meier: The Loop (WLUP FM 97.9) in the 80's was an amazing time to be in the industry. The mantra we operated under then was "high school with money. Everything was firing on all 12 cylinders, all day long, during that time and a lot of radio stations around the country wanted to recreate the magic that the management team of Larry Wert and Jimmy DeCastro had produced. Those two guys were brilliant at taking the energy that was on the air and marketing it. Of course, it was a very different time in the industry ... which brings me to my next point and why it is tougher to achieve that in radio.

After the 80's heyday of The Loop, consolidation began. A few companies bought a majority of the radio stations, after the FCC relaxed ownership restrictions on how many stations one company could own in each market. As a result, a lot of stations were packaged and marketed like they were just another product to be sold like fast food. You couldn't tell the difference between the radio in any city perhaps because it was the exact same format pumped into all those cities from one central location. Basically, three companies ranrun the whole radio landscape and I think that cut the guts out of the radio industry. Sadly, I can't think of many changes that have helped right the ship nor do I see any on the horizon. The good thing about WGN is it's the only radio station the Tribune Company owns. That gives them a fighting chance to try to build something different.

3) CSNChicago.com: Your renewed friendship with your former radio partner Steve Dahl has certainly sparked speculation over the past few years that, one day down the line, the two of may reunite to bring Steve and Garry back on the airwaves.

We asked Steve this question a while ago, now its your turn ... if WGN Radio came to you and asked if youd be interested in teaming with your former partner Steve Dahl once again (which would no doubt be the biggest local media story in years with guaranteed massive listenership for the station), would you consider doing it?

FYI ... here was Steves response: "I certainly wouldnt rule it out. Garry and I did a lot of really good work together back in the day, and I think that our personal relationship is definitely back on track."

Meier: Steve and I created a great product together at one time in our lives. I am proud of that product. We have both moved on and I believe our personalities and life experience will continue to separately produce great things, but not together.

4) CSNChicago.com: Youve made it personal mission of yours to have Cubs legendWGN Radio Cubs analyst Ron Santo bronzed outside of Wrigley Field (joining current statues of Harry Caray and Ernie Banks). Whats the latest on that effort?

Meier: I started the campaign last year and was able to collect almost 20,000 signatures to get a statue of Ron outside Wrigley Field. I had to wait until the ownership change happened to know who to approach with the idea. When the Ricketts family took over, I got in touch with their marketing people to tell them about the campaign. They said the Ricketts family would be very interested in possibly including a Ron Santo statue in the triangle area that is going to be developed on the west side of the ballpark. That project is slated to happen within the next 3-4 years. While I realize there are a lot of other Cubs players that certainly deserve a statue as well, the 20,000 people who signed the petition impressed the Ricketts enough to make sure Ron is front and center in their development plans.

5) CSNChicago.com: Were definitely looking forward to seeing you on WCIU, The U for the debut of The Garry Meier Special on Sunday, July 11 at 10:30 p.m., featuring your interviews with Brian Dennehy, George Wendt, Tim Kazurinsky, Richard Lewis and Len Kasper, among others. How did this special come about and can we expect more specials down the line?

Meier: I have been fortunate enough in my life to know a lot of really talented, incredibly nice people in the entertainment industry. I thought it would be interesting to interview and share their real persona during a local show ... luckily WCIU shared the thought as well. The management there is always creatively thinking forward, which impressed me.

BONUS QUESTION ... CSNChicago.com: Outside of the WCIU, The U special, anything else you want to promote Garry? Tell us ... CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it.

Meier: A couple charities I've been trying to help are Honor Flight Chicago, which flies World War II vets to Washington to see the WWII memorial. My father was a WWII vet and would've loved to see this, but sadly passed away several years ago. ... Catholic Charities who, through various programs, help people in so many good ways. ...Kiss my ALS is another one that I have been involved with and the person that started it is an amazing survivor. Any people who are giving their time, money and effort to help other people should be applauded. One that deserves a mention is The Randy Salerno Foundation. Randy was just an amazing guy. He touched so many lives in a positive way. People involved with that have created an environment that not only benefits children that have lost a parent, but also students that want to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. There are so many other great charities that you just need to pick the one that you feel a connection with and give a little of your time. Some of these people work effortlessly and really make a difference. I thank you for your time and questions.

Meier LINKS:

WGN AM 720 Garry Meier home page
WCIU, The U home page

Garry Meier Show on Facebook

Garry Meier on Twitter

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

One very distinguished voter for Pro Football Hall of Fame inclusion once explained a criterion of his for inclusion in the league’s most hallowed circle: If you wrote the history of football, would you have to include this individual?

Buddy Ryan is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he should be, but that’s for another discussion, another time. Because the simple fact is that if you were indeed writing a history of the National Football League, that history would be incomplete without Buddy Ryan.

“I think Buddy changed the game of football,” said Mike Ditka, Bears head coach with Ryan as his first, albeit inherited, defensive coordinator. “He is the reason why teams started going to all these three- and four-receiver sets.

“He never let offenses do what they wanted. The game of football is what it is today because of Buddy.”

Ryan did not create great defense. That had been done wholly or in parts by others – Bill George, George Allen, Dick Butkus, and so on. But what Buddy Ryan did echoes down through the history of the NFL, in more a few of its defining moments.

Super Bowl III is always remembered as Joe Namath’s day. Obscured by all that Namath and the New York Jets’ offense did was what the defensive line of Buddy Ryan was doing to the Baltimore Colts, specifically holding them to exactly seven points, on a late afterthought touchdown, a team that was coached by Don Shula and included John Mackey, Jimmy Orr and averaging nearly 29 points per game.

Super Bowl III was beyond cataclysmic for the growth of the modern NFL. And all that was long before Super Bowl XX.

Maybe the best measure of how truly great a coach Ryan was lay in the fact that he managed to turn OFFENSIVE players into fire-breathers.

“He’d say to the offensive line, ‘you fatasses can’t block anybody in practice, how you gonna do it in a game?’” recalled Hall of Famer Dan Hampton. “And [left tackle Jimbo] Covert and [left guard Mark] Bortz would just turn into animals.”

Ryan loved his players. But it was tough love, affection that had to be earned, and once earned, was something they treasured.

At the end of Otis Wilson’s rookie (1980) season, No. 55 may have been the team’s first-round pick, but Ryan was publicly blunt.

“We did OK, but that ‘55’ killed us," Ryan said after one game. 

Wilson turned the humiliation into something, becoming a student of the game, his craft, even to the point of cramming for Ryan’s legendary written tests.

“'I’m out of school, Buddy,'" Wilson said he wailed. “'Why you givin’ me these exams?'"

“You need to understand the total package,” Ryan ordered. “I want you to know what everybody’s doing.”

Today that sounds almost quaint; everybody’s supposed to know everybody else’s assignments. But never lose sight of the originator, who beat that concept into every head on his defense.

In the end, Ryan belonged to more than Chicago. He was a Jet. He was a Viking. He was Bear. He was an Eagle. And finally a Cardinal.

He belonged to the NFL, which, exactly as Ditka said, was changed forever by him.

Mike Ditka on Buddy Ryan: 'We never were as good separately as we were together'

Mike Ditka on Buddy Ryan: 'We never were as good separately as we were together'

They feuded, on the practice fields, on the sidelines, in locker rooms, even in showers. Yet Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were joined in football history in one of the great “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” in all of sports.

“We had a helluva run,” Ditka told CSNChicago.com. “Buddy had a helluva run. Was it always as smooth as it might have been? Noooo. But I don’t think Buddy would’ve wanted it any other way.

“We accomplished so much together and we were never as good separately as we were together.”

Ditka saw Ryan about eight months ago.

“I knew he wasn’t doing real well. But you know, he was always a tough guy, right to the end.”

Ryan was Ditka’s defensive coordinator, inherited by Ditka when Ditka was hired by George Halas in 1982 to restore the lost passion to one of the NFL’s charter franchises. Ryan’s players convinced Halas to keep Ryan as defensive coordinator even as head coach Neill Armstrong was dismissed.

Ryan refused to run the Dallas Cowboys’ “flex” defense that Ditka wanted, bluntly declaring that Halas had hired him, Ditka didn’t. Ditka ran the offense, Ryan the defense, and the fire was never far from the surface.

Ryan didn’t care if his defensive players went hard in practice to the point of blowing up Ditka’s offense.

“He’d get those guys going, and I remember yelling at him, ‘Check the schedule. We’re not playing the Chicago Bears this week,’” Ditka said. “But he made us a great offense.

“He attacked you. Always attacked you. All the time. He made you – made every offense – adjust to what he was doing.

“He changed the game of football forever.”

59 Days to Kickoff: Deerfield

59 Days to Kickoff: Deerfield

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Deerfield Warriors

Head coach: Steve Winiecki

Assistant coaches: Brandon Geuder, Nick Rossie, Mark Januszewski, Steve Downs, Flo Mitran, Quentin Davie

How they fared in 2015: 7-4 (4-1) Central Suburban North Conference. Deerfield made the Class 6A state playoff field and defeated Kenwood in the opening round. The Warriors lost to DeKalb in second-round action.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Warriors reload on both sides of the football?

Names to watch this season: MLB/DE Joshua Maize, WR Charlie Jones

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors have some DI names in Mazie and Jones, but they return just three starters on each side of the football.

EDGY's early take: Deerfield is always involved in the Central Suburban North conference race. If the Warriors can get a large group of inexperienced starters up to speed sooner rather than later? Deerfield will challenge for a state playoff spot in 2016.