Unlikely To Steal This Pittsburgh Pair’s Spirit

| December 12, 2013

By Mike Kinosian
Managing Editor
TALKERS magazine

LOS ANGELESDazzling omnipresent decorations, magnificent multi-colored lights, hastening hustle and bustle, and a brisk icy chill in the air all underscore that this indisputably is the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Even the most adamant skeptic will find corroboration and confirmation of that fact, simply by turning to at least one local FM music outlet that has transitioned to playing wall-to-wall Christmas tunes.

On such dedicated dial positions, listeners will instantly hear artists from Andy Williams to Garth Brooks to Harry Connick, Jr. to Amy Grant wonderfully warbling about the warm joys crystallized in this “hap-happiest season of all.”

Contemplative scene thoughts of “parties for hosting” and “marshmallows for toasting” support the heartwarming notion.

Visions of sugarplums dance in our collective heads, yet some radio historians cannot help but ratchet up dour “Debbie Downer,” the “SNL” character superbly portrayed by Lexington, Massachusetts native Rachel Dratch. Punctuated with a delivery that sucks the life and enthusiasm from any room, Debbie Downer would suggest this is anything but the happiest season of all, especially in radio.

Some heartless, dastardly things have transpired post-Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day over the years in this business.

Unfortunately, we continue to witness that trend, as long-tenured staffers are unceremoniously ushered to early retirement and stations flip formats, seemingly as many listeners are distracted by the merriment of the season.

Owing to the fact that it is the holidays, the sting is even harsher for the individuals involved who become cold statistics. Having a job or career reach an unexpected halt is Debbie Downer-deflating. Timing, of course, is everything and when it happens in November and December, it is particularly brutal.

Keeping with the musical theme we have set forth, radio people though are often uncommonly resilient and they subscribe to the “put on a happy face” philosophy espoused in the 1960 Tony-award winning play “Bye Bye Birdie,” which became a film several years later.

The Show Does Not Go On

quinnandroseNot only are former WPGB, Pittsburgh staffers Jim Quinn and Rose Tennent keeping a bubbly attitude, the conservative “War Room” talk hosts are taking things to a laudatory level.

It would have been understandable if “Quinn & Rose” disappeared when WPGB dropped their morning program from the station’s schedule in the middle of last month.

Instead, the two are displaying highly commendable professionalism and dignity by participating in their promotional undertakings.

WPGB LogoAn on-air team for the past 18 years, “Quinn & Rose” would have celebrated 10 years at Clear Channel-owned WPGB at the end of December, but they obviously knew something was brewing when a “Best Of” program aired in their slot on (Friday) November 15.

Over and above flagship WPGB, a handful of other terrestrial outlets – as well as SiriusXM – aired “The War Room” and Tennent theorizes that programmers of those affiliates “didn’t know what” was transpiring. Even the show’s hosts were unaware until Sunday (11/17) that they would not be returning on Monday (11/18). “We were told that money had something to do with the decision but, to be very honest, I am still not sure what happened,” Tennent candidly states. “It was not with cause – we didn’t do anything [wrong]. We did the same show we had always been doing. We did try making adjustments because we certainly recognized that some people were having ‘Obama-fatigue.’ I felt we had adjusted accordingly, while at the same time being true to what we believed what the show is about and what it needs to be.”

As TALKERS has been recently chronicling, several other Clear Channel talk properties have announced sweeping on-air roster shuffling. What happened with “Quinn & Rose,” however, seems quite dissimilar to that; their wakeup replacement is David “Bloomdaddy” Bloomquist of co-owned WWVA, Wheeling, West Virginia.

Treasured Commitment

Listener feedback regarding the fate of the “Quinn & Rose” morning program has been so overwhelming that Tennent maintains, “It has been the cause for many sleepless nights for me, and I’m sure for Jim, as well. I feel an obligation to return emails and to offer something to those who are curious or disappointed. I thought that I knew our audience was loyal – but I never knew just how loyal and passionate they were about the show. They really seem to care about what is happening to us personally. I am very moved by the response.”

Within just one week, the two morning show talents each received about 6,000 emails to their respective inboxes. “Someone is putting together a master email list for us,” Tennent explains. “We want to stay in touch and let them know about upcoming events. Maintaining those open lines of communication is very important, especially since the audience felt they were part of our family.”

Adhering to a very strong attitude regarding charities and her obligation to get/stay involved, Tennent is deeply aligned with one particular outreach – Toy Treasures, a part of Compassion Connection. “It is very dear to my heart,” she stresses. “The position we were in [on-air] comes with a certain degree of responsibility. The radio show requires a lot of work and it is fun to do, but when you are reaching that many people, you want to [help] as many of them who are in need.”

Talk show hosts are given a rare, priceless platform and as Tennent realizes, those in the community facing hardship are a priority. “People who listen to talk radio get involved,” she points outs. “They are active people. They are just waiting for a place where they can help and contribute. Our listeners have always responded tremendously.”

Despite the fact she is currently without a radio home, Tennent cheerfully continues her role as a Toy Treasures gift-wrapper. “I bring in all my bows, ribbons, and beautiful wrapping paper because I want them to enjoy all the bright colors of Christmas,” she comments. “When I wake up on Christmas morning, I will think about a child opening a present he or she might not have otherwise had. That will make my Christmas so much better and brighter.”

Not only is this something Tennent has been doing for years, she cannot imagine it vanishing from her holiday routine.

Organizers sell a donated item for 10% of its value. A $100 gift, for example, will therefore be sold for $10. “A buyer’s dignity is restored or, at least, preserved,” Tennent opines. “They still have an opportunity to buy something at a greatly-reduced price for their children. It is not a handout and people are comfortable about it. I know how they feel because I am the one wrapping that gift, and I am the last person they see there that day. Many of the people who come have tears in their eyes. They feel very grateful, but they are not embarrassed because they shopped for the gift.”

PR Ploy Pooh-Poohed

Among other activities that “Quinn & Rose,” either individually or as a team will proceed with include a two-hour appearance at a local mall this Saturday (12/14) for a diamond importer. Starting next Monday (12/16) and continuing through January 1, the “Quinn & Rose Christmas Show” will be posted on their website. In late-February, Tennent – along with Jase Robertson of TV’s “Duck Dynasty – will participate in the Beaver County Christian School “Listen Up Speaker Series.” Looking as far ahead as April, “Radio Rose” plans to carry out her pledge to Conservative Tours. “She does not make a promise without following through,” Quinn declares. “Several listeners had signed up for the tour before the show was cancelled but she felt it was important to be there for them. She was able to work this out with all parties involved so she would not disappoint those who signed up.”

Exemplary attention of adhering to station-related obligations notwithstanding, there are bound to be some who would contend what “Quinn & Rose” are doing is basic ongoing self-promotion, and that they have their own ulterior motives. “I would ask them to come and stand in line with me when I wrap those gifts,” Tennent politely suggests. “Then, they can decide for themselves if it was a public relations move, or if it were something that just needed to be done. I am only honoring the commitments I made before our show was cancelled – I am not going around looking for new ones.”

It especially strikes a nerve when she ponders about the emotional importance Christmas has on children. “Receiving a gift is what the holidays are all about to a five-year-old,” Tennent reasons. “There is such high unemployment and so many people are struggling in this economy.”

Given that “Quinn & Rose” are no longer on the air, dispensing as much exposure as possible for an organization’s event is a challenge; however, they continue spreading the word through the power of social media. “Some listeners have unofficial ‘Quinn & Rose’ websites and Facebook pages,” Tennent points out. “It is a growing, evolving movement – this has been fascinating for me to watch. Many people have mastered social media to the extent that it has become so effective.”

Glamorous Grip

quinnjimOne of Rush Limbaugh’s ardent political disciples, Quinn shares a set of call letters with the talk radio icon – KQV. In addition, he has worked at New York City’s WPIX-FM; WWKB, Buffalo; and WING, Dayton. The majority of Quinn’s radio resume though includes Pittsburgh stations such as (the aforementioned) KQV, WTAE, WKTQ, and an infamous stint at WBZZ “B94.”

Some 18 years ago, he and Tennent were in the same Pittsburgh office building, although on different floors and working at separate facilities: Quinn was at WRRK and Tennent was employed at WORD. “Jim would play music but, every once in a while, he would talk about politics,” “Steel City” native Tennent recounts. “I would drop off books for him to read or mention the names of people I thought he could contact. Since he was spinning records, I never thought he would do a talk show. When he decided he did want to [go in that direction], they asked me to come in for a meeting. That is how it got started. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was quite pleased it worked out that way. ‘The War Room’ is where we strategize and plan our line of defense against whom we saw as the enemy – the left. It is fitting for what we did and for our website, which we are currently re-designing. Jim is the one who came up with it. That was 18 years ago, for heaven sake.”

In stark contrast to many others in radio whose hunger was only for a job in this medium, Tennent landed a job in television as a grip and she contends that was the “most glamorous job” she could have. “Carrying around those heavy cables was probably my favorite job ever,” she proclaims. “I thought I would have been happy doing that for the rest of my life. My mother brought me up so I would do something to the very best of my ability. I never thought anything was beneath me.”

Not long thereafter, the photogenic/telegenic Tennent was noticed. After becoming an associate to the producer of music video show “LIGHTMUSIC,” she eventually advanced to co-hosting what would be an award-winning program. “My first radio job was with Salem Broadcasting on ‘The Mark Elfstrand Show’ [in the early-1990s],” she explains. “I never had a desire however to do radio – never.”

Friends Forever

tennentrosewechtcyrilAt this point, it is a bit unclear what the next professional step is for “Quinn & Rose.” Their next opportunity could be as a team, or perhaps they may go off separately. “We have talked about that,” confirms Tennent, who recently began co-hosting “Rush to Judgment,” a local TV show with noted pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. “Right now, ‘Quinn & Rose’ is practically one word. There is a lot to be said about that. We complement each other and it works very well. We both feel that we will go with the flow. We see it as a team show; however, I think both of us are open to whatever is in store down the road. We are very close friends and want the best for each other. There is no jealousy or one-upmanship. It has been that way from the very beginning and the friendship has just grown. It is a unique situation.”

Loyal followers to their daily morning show knew just about everything about “Quinn & Rose” so the overwhelming majority realized they are not married to each other. “This type of healthy friendship does not come along very often in this business,” emphasizes Tennent. “We trust each other immensely and we want the best for each other. People have called us the ‘Archie & Edith [Bunker]‘ of talk radio. I have no hard feelings at all toward Clear Channel. They were very good to us for the 10 years we worked for them. I truly do believe that, at times, doors must close. I am cool with that. I have been in television and radio all my life. This is just how it is done; I know that and I am not worried.”

One constructive development that has eventuated from the show’s cancellation is that “late-night person” Tennent has been able to sleep in. “I am so happy about that,” she jokes. “Since we have been off the air, I have not had a free moment. I am just trying to keep up. I was passionate about doing a political talk show. Politics is still [exciting to me] and I will stay on top of it.”

Regularly contributing to Sean Hannity’s Fox News Network program (“Hannity”), Tennent will fill-in on the conservative talker’s three-hour radio broadcast later this month. “Naturally though, I want to get back to doing a show and I think we will,” she predicts. “I put a lot into faith, so I trust that there is a plan. In the end, I am not quite sure what happened or why it happened [but] I have no regret. It was a good ten-year run – 18 years altogether is pretty damn good. The way I see it is that I had an opportunity to do something about which I am passionate. How lucky was I?”

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Mike Kinosian is managing editor and west coast bureau chief of TALKERS.  He can be e-mailed at kinosian@talkers.com.

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Category: Features