One day after Captain Midnight and Sky King had gone off the air, I decided that I had to go straight; I had to get into some other business. I had a lot of friends that were comparably aged to me who were working at radio stations in town and they were making good money selling commercials. They drove better cars, they wore better clothes, they lived in homes and I thought, "For crying out loud, here I am, screwing around with the radio thing, dying on the vine and these guys are making a lot of money and I know one thing for a fact; they are not any smarter than I am. So I have to learn what it is that they do for a living." So I asked one of the guys what he did and he told me he sold commercials for a radio station, WBBM, who was owned by CBS in Chicago.
The first time I went to WBBM they said, "You haven't sold anything." And I said, "But I've sold myself all my life." And they said, "That doesn't make any difference, you haven't sold a product. Go get a job selling something and then come back and talk to us." And so I got a job selling cement, which is about as dull as selling anvils. After that, I went and sold myself to a place that was called a rep firm. I worked there for a year, then went back to WBBM and told them that now I had experience, etc. So they hired me and said, "Now, go sell something. There is your office, that girl there is your secretary you share with that guy. There is a phone book in the drawer of the desk that's in the office. Now you've got six months. Sell something or six months from this Friday, you're fired."
After about three months, I was selling plenty. And the guy that hired me died and I got hired as his replacement, as general sales manager. In Chicago, I had approximately eight sales persons. And then we had other sales persons that were really representatives; they worked for a different company, but I was their boss in Chicago. And there were about a hundred of them around the country, in various principal cities, New York, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas - everywhere. I traveled the country, always on the road, always selling. And I got to meet some very, very big shots because of my position and because of whom I was calling on. One of the guys I was calling on was a fellow in New York named Chet Jackson. He was the advertising manager for the American Tobacco Company. Now in those days, tobacco companies were allowed to advertise on radio and television. He was a customer of mine and I never went to New York without saying hello to Chet. So I called him and he said, "Yeah, come on up." I went up to his office and Chet was reading a script. I said, "what are you reading, a script?"- 'cause I could see it's a script. He said, "Yeah." I said, "Anything you are thinking of sponsoring it?" He said, "Yeah." This was in the days where you sponsored a whole program; you didn't just buy spots. He said, "It's the damnedest show I ever heard of." I said, "What's it about?" He said, "Well, you won't believe it. It's about a woman who's a witch. And she can wiggle her nose and she's married to this guy, and her mother's a witch and it's just crazy. It's called Bewitched. And I said, "Well it sounds nuts to me too." Anyway, we went to lunch or something and that was the end of the conversation. The only reason I bring it up at all is that this friend of mine, who had said, "I'm going to go to New York", while working on Jack Armstrong, became the first star of Bewitched. Dick York was his name. And he was on it for many years.
Anyway, I was at CBS for eight years and then my boss said he was going over to run WFLD television. His name was Ernie Shomo. I said, "Take me with you." He said, "No, there's no sense in two of us going over there not knowing what we are doing. Let me go over and find out a little bit and see what kind of a sales manager I've got. And if you still are interested, let's say in six months from now, I give you a call." I said, "Ok." So I made friends with the new general manager of the station, because I was general sales manager, second in command at BBM and he liked me. And one day I got a call from Ernie. He said, "You still wanna come over here?" I said, "Yeah, I'd love it." He said, "Then go, quit. And then call me up and tell me you quit and I'll fire this guy." So I went down the hall to Bill O'Donnell's office and quit. I told him I was going to go over to Channel 32, I wanted to learn a new business - television, and that I appreciated him and liked working for him but I just wanted to do that. And he understood. Which means, "I don't care." So, then I called Ernie and said, "I quit." And he called me back five minutes later and said, "I just fired this guy. When can you show up?" I said, "In a couple of weeks or less; it depends on what Bill wants." So a couple of weeks later I did show up. Bill threw a party for me; it was very nice. And I worked for Ernie over there for, I think, another six years. I worked for him about fourteen years all told, I don't know how many at each place, but he died. Marshall Field ran the station. That's where it gets its call letters WFLD - Field. The engineer, the program manager and I called Marshall, who was just a young guy, only thirty-five, and we made an appointment to go see him. We said, "We'll buy the station from you." Now, what we were trying to do is a leveraged buy out. Today they are commonplace. What you do is give them very little down, and you pay them the balance of your down payment out of your profits. And Field first said, "How you going pay for it? I'm losing a million dollars a month on the station." We knew that. And we told him; we had a lot of ideas. I think that between the three of us we mortgaged everything we had and we had sixty thousand dollars. Well, he didn't care for any of our ideas. He said, "No, I'm going to sell the station to somebody else: John Cloovey" (the billionaire). But the deal fell through and he sold it to Kaiser. It took about a year for the FCC to pass on it. And I figured, "Well, as soon as they are in, we are all out, those of us who worked there." Because everybody wants their own people in, the key jobs anyway. That's just the way it works, in the broadcast business, anyway. So after about six months, the contract I had with Ernie was running out. And Field came to me and said, "I'll give you another contract that will take over when this one runs out." And what it would say in it is that, "If you stay, until one year after Kaiser takes over, I'll give you a year's pay" as a staying incentive. I thought that sounded pretty good. So as soon as Kaiser came in about six months later, they said, "You know, we don't have any contracts with any of our employees." I said, "No, I know that you don't, but I've got one with you anyway, because mine says that you've taken over all of the assets, all of the liabilities when you bought this station and I'm one of your liabilities, I guess." As it turned out, I became an asset to them, and they liked me very much. Or at least said they did. Of course, they lie; who knows? And the end of the six months, they came to me and said, "Would you like to stay? If you do, you won't get a contract from us." I said, "No, I think I'll just take my year's pay and leave." So they had to pay it! And I decided I go back to announcing.
After about six months of tapes and promotion pieces, signing with all the agents, new photographs and doing all the right things that I knew how to do, and making my rounds and selling myself - I think after six months I made enough money to pay for the materials. The world had passed me by. And I wasn't going to make any money as a freelance announcer. I said I'd better get a resume out. So I started sending resumes out to stations as a sales manager. And one of them I sent was to Hal Fredericks in Alabama. And I went down there and worked for him for two years, around 1974. That was a cultural shock. It was just awful.
In the meantime, three years after Pat and I divorced, I married a woman named Geraldine J. Johnson, Geri Johnson. We were married about eighteen years. She went with me to Alabama, all the way through that, came back, and somewhere along the line and I don't remember where, but about twenty years into our marriage we decided we would get divorced and maybe there would be a better life, who knows. I just know now, that there isn't. But at the time, we tried. A year and a half later, I married Betty - Bucheleras was her married name, I can't think of her middle name. And we were married about four years. And then I got divorced for the third and last time.
Geri, with whom I had my son Paul, and I are still very good friends and see each other often and go to dinner. When Geri and I were living in Alabama, we wanted to get out of there. So I sent a resume and a letter that she typed to every radio and television station in northern Illinois, western Michigan, eastern Iowa, southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana. A big list, but we wanted to live somewhere in that cocoon and I got responses back from about eight.
One of them was a phone call from the general manager of FM-100, or WLOO, it's legal call letters, and it was in the Hancock Building. He said, "When can we talk?" And I said, "What do you say, I go out and get on a plane and I'll be there in a few hours?" He said, "No, Howard isn't here today, he's in Detroit." I didn't know who Howard was, but I later found out that he owned the place. So he said, "How about Sunday?" I said, "Fine." He said, "All right, I live in the Hancock building, I live up in the seventy-sixth floor. So just come to my apartment and then we'll go down to the station and you'll meet Howard." I said, "Wonderful!" So, I came in town a few days early, like maybe on a Friday, and the reason for that was I wanted to case the station. I wanted to listen to it. I wanted to hear all the radio stations. I had been out of touch for two years. So when I walked in to that meeting I wanted to act like I knew something.
Anyway, on Sunday afternoon I went to Darrell's apartment and we went to the station, I met Howard, I met Darrell, they asked me what I thought about the station, about the rates and this and that, I gave them my opinions and left. Went out to O'Hare, got on an airplane, flew back to Birmingham, Alabama.
My mother was living with me at the time. My mother and Geri said, "How did it go?" And I told them what the interview was like and I fixed them a martini. The phone rang. I said, "That's them; they're going to hire me." Just kidding. I picked up the phone and said, "Hello." He says, "Jack, this is Darrell. We want you to come aboard with us. When can you be here?" I said, "Not more than two weeks. If I walk in tomorrow and the guy says, "Get out of here," am I on your payroll?" Hal Fredericks wanted me to stay two weeks and I did.
And I came to Chicago and went to work for Century Broadcasting Company.
They had originally told me that the general sales manager was leaving; he was going through a horrendous divorce and had indicated to them that he was going to leave town. So now I get to Chicago two weeks later and Darrell says to me, "He didn't leave, he's still here. Now he has changed his mind, he's gonna keep his job." I said, "Where does that leave me?" He says, "Don't worry about it, we've got a job for you. You'll be the national sales manager." I said, "Ok." So for the next many years I was the national sales manager for the station and, boy! - We made nothing but money. You can't believe it! In one month, in thirty days, and this went on month after month, but every thirty days we made more money than Howard Grafman paid for the station. He would send up cases of champagne, he was so happy. It was just incredible. Everybody was making big money! And I was with him for fourteen years and the last four years I was on his personal staff. One day I got a phone call from the controller of the company. And he said, "Are you going to be in your office for a few minutes? I want to come down and talk to you." I thought, "That's peculiar; Rick never says, "come down and talk to you." He's upstairs in the corporate office He usually says, "Come up here a minute." And I said, "Yeah, I'll be happy to come up there, Rick." He says, "No, I'll be right down." He got in the elevator and came down. He says, "I got bad news for you. You're fired." And I said, "Why?" He said, "Well it isn't just you. I'm firing fourteen people today. The others don't know about it because they're out at lunch. I happened to catch you here." I said I was waiting for something to be typed in the next office, and I was. I said, "Does Howard know about this?" - Howard Grafman, the guy that hired me and who was the president. He said, "Howard is no longer president." I said, "You're kidding. What happened?" He said, "The board of directors met this morning he's no longer president. So I'm firing everybody on his staff." I said, "Oh. When do you want me out of here?" He says, "Two o'clock." And he says, "No, I'm just kidding. You can stay around till tomorrow." I said, "Ok, 'cause I got quite a few things here. I really should get some boxes and put them in and take them home with me." And I did. And that was the end of that tune. It's a fast paced, high paying business with no security. None; you're in and out that fast.
Then I went to work for Brooks Advertising Agency in the suburbs of Chicago, the first time I was ever with an advertising agency, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote commercials, acted on some of the commercials, and held hands with the clients. I was there about six years and then I moved to Milwaukee to produce television programs for a production house. Actually we were one of the clients of this production house.
I produced commercials and had a nice time there. It's a decent city, and I was divorced so that didn't make any difference. After a year of living in Milwaukee, I moved to Lake Geneva and after a year and a half in Lake Geneva, I retired. But it wasn't really my idea. They just said, "Why don't you retire?" What they were saying is, "Geeze, you're seventy years old." They want young people and I understand. So I said, "Fine." And that was the end of that.