Joe McDonnell: LA Saddened at Giant-Size Talent’s Passing. How “big” was Joe McDonnell in Los Angeles? Consider this: Friday’s (3/13) lead item for several newscasts on the city’s only all-news station, CBS Radio‘s KNX, was that the 58-year-old McDonnell – widely-known as “Big Joe” or “The Big Nasty” – had passed away. “Big” references regarded his weight, approximately 700 pounds at one time; however, the sports talk host underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost roughly more than half of that. “Nasty” became a handle owing to his highly opinionated nature. The overwhelming majority of those familiar with McDonnell’s exemplary on-air work in Los Angeles would quickly associate him with being a “legendary” or “iconic” sports talk radio “fixture” and that would certainly be accurate. He was, however, among the rarest of on-air talents in the country’s second-largest market, in that, in addition to doing a nightly (7:00 pm – 11:00 pm) sports program (“The Joe McDonnell Experience”) on Clear Channel‘s (now iHeartMedia) KLAC, he also did a Sunday (12:00 noon – 2:00 pm) political talk program (“The Joe McDonnell Show”) on co-owned KTLK-AM (now KEIB). Most recently, McDonnell did fill-in work at KNX. Reaction to his death has continued virtually nonstop, with a who’s who in local and national media, as well as executives of major sports franchises, offering condolences. Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia knew McDonnell ever since Scioscia first came up as a catcher in the Dodgers’ organization. “He was a good friend who will be missed. It’s sad,” Scioscia states. On Twitter, Keith Olbermann writes, “Heartbroken to learn of death of LA radio legend, my friend, Joe McDonnell. He leaves us having never held a grudge.” Ken Rosenthal comments, “So sad to hear about the passing of Joe McDonnell, a one-of-a-kind sports personality in Los Angeles and a reporter at heart.” Several years ago, TALKERS managing editor Mike Kinosian, then the special features editor for Inside Radio, did an extensive profile of McDonnell, who freely used the word “idiot” to describe someone with whom he disagreed. It was a trademark of the bombastic on-air persona of “The Big Nasty” and customarily delivered in vitriol by the dean of Los Angeles radio sports talk hosts. McDonnell garnered legions of dedicated fans. Once – to benefit charity – he accepted the challenge of co-workers and successfully completed a four-hour shift without uttering one negative. In his profile, Kinosian shattered the myth about McDonnell and let the truth be told that in real-life, McDonnell was a far cry from the manic personality listeners were accustomed to hearing. Pensive and completely conscientious McDonnell qualified as a native Angelino, having relocated from Philadelphia in 1959 at age three with his parents. “I loved radio and wouldn’t go anywhere without it,” he fondly recalled to Kinosian. “I’d go to bed listening to it and wake up with it. I went through radios [as others] went through socks. Even when doing homework, I had the radio on.” Although thoroughly enthralled by the medium, McDonnell at that time never thought about pursuing a career in it. Family members urged him to be a lawyer, but McDonnell formulated sportswriter aspirations while attending L.A. Valley College and Cal State – Northridge. His radio career was, in his words, “a total accident.” A high school buddy McDonnell hadn’t seen in a while told him he received academic credit for working at a radio station. That was all it took for McDonnell: He scored an interview for a newsroom opening at KGIL in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley and his first day was September 18, 1975 – the day they arrested Patty Hearst. “I was so excited to be there and hung around to watch what everybody did. Then the story broke and I wound up staying until 10:00 pm. I fell in love with radio my first day and knew this was for me.” Freelance sports opportunities later surfaced for him at Mutual, AP Radio, and UPI Radio and he adroitly transitioned into a daily field correspondent. Play-by-play was briefly tinkered with, but long enough for McDonnell to know it didn’t captivate him. Something else did and as he flatly asserted to Kinosian, “My interest in politics is equal to my interest in sports. They are jobs but they are [also] passions. I love being able to show another side of my life. I am very liberal but do not [rubber-stamp] everything simply because that is what [other liberals] say you should do. I take things on a position-by-position basis. It is impossible and disingenuous to be one way on every subject. No one can ever accuse me of being a phony.” The first Gulf War was underway when he hosted a general talk show on KFI, Los Angeles. America’s first casualty came as a result of friendly fire. Soon after that, the victim’s widow drove to KFI one Sunday afternoon and McDonnell did two hours with her. “It was the most gut-wrenching, yet most fulfilling, thing I’ve done on radio,” he told Kinosian. “Quite honestly, I didn’t know I was capable of pulling it off. People heard me do sports and wondered what I knew about [politics]. I had to win them over.” Multiple Golden Microphone award winner McDonnell toiled in the Southland at KMAX and KWNK between 1994 – 1997; won raves doing sports updates for (then-all news) KFWB; and was part of the original 1992 staff transitioning KMPC to all-sports – although the outbreak of the L.A. riots was the considerably more monumental story the night of the format flip. For numerous personal and professional reasons, a five-year run beginning in 2000 as KSPN “ESPN 710,” Los Angeles’ assistant program director and afternoon driver profoundly affected him. “My first three years there were great,” McDonnell declared to Kinosian. “I had a say in what went on and helped build KSPN from the ground up with [KABC & KSPN OM] Erik Braverman who was my KFI producer. Unfortunately when Erik decided he wanted to concentrate on KABC, they brought in people who didn’t share our ideas.” It was one different concept after another and became the beginning of the end for McDonnell there. “They killed morale and dissolved everything we did. I wanted to leave every day the last two years I was there but made so much money I would’ve been put in a mental institution if I quit.” From the minute McDonnell walked into the Burbank offices of KLAC to interview with KLAC general manager/program director & KTLK program director Don Martin, he sensed something different. “This might sound crazy – but I really liked that they made me earn my position. Don put me on KTLK and let me do some KLAC fill-in. It meant a lot when he said I assimilated with the audience and staff. People have this idea you expect everything be given to you.” Being a sports talk host was a 24 hour-a-day job for McDonnell because, “Information doesn’t stop.” His shows were frequently punctuated with “24” and “Da Ali G” clips and laced with abundant/energetic hip-hop tracks as bumpers. At first, longtime “McDonnell – Douglas” partner Doug Krikorian wasn’t part of the equation for the “Joe McDonnell Experience,” although the Long Beach Press-Telegram sportswriter joined the ensemble to deliver weekly “K-Files” reports. After all, it was Krikorian who hung the “Big Nasty” moniker on McDonnell when Big Joe collared/disposed of a rowdy patron one night at their favorite hangout. Naturally, the subject of McDonnell’s weight came up in the Kinosian profile of him and McDonnell said that even before the gastric bypass procedure, the heavy burden he was carrying didn’t really bother him. He did however eventually begin slowing down, getting sick, and spending more time at home. “I stopped going to games because it was uncomfortable. My doctor told me I had to do something. Any addict – and I’m definitely a food addict – thinks you can do it on your own.” That’s the fallacy and something an addict desperately wants to believe but McDonnell stressed it can not be done alone. “It got to the point where I realized I was going to die. I had the surgery and lost 300 pounds. On Christmas Day, I put slabs of turkey and prime rib on a plate [surrounded with] potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. I took it to the table and had a bite of each. Hey look – I’m a food addict and always will be.” The old Joe most likely would’ve avoided on-air surgery mentions. If it did pop up, he probably would’ve been brutal in challenging the person referencing it. A much mellower McDonnell made a conscious decision when he left KSPN that the “Big Nasty” had died. “It was a great vehicle for what I needed – but – that really isn’t me,” he emphasized to Kinosian. “I’m opinionated and will raise my voice but I’m a nice guy and like to have fun. One reason I love my job is it allows me to hang with people.” Conceding it was a “shortcoming” on his part as a talk show host to refrain from mentioning much about his personal life, McDonnell declared, “You can’t be isolated and expect to reach your audience; you have to let them in on your life. For the most part, I refused to do that. Don Martin and I had a long talk about that and he said the best on-air people let you know about them.” A happy, healthy, and exuberant McDonnell chatted up his March 30, 2007 wedding to KLOS’ lovely Elizabeth Cohn (now working at cross-town Bonneville-owned KSWD “The Sound”). “I finally met someone who will put up with me and I [married] the most wonderful person in the world,” McDonnell emphasized in that profile. Joe and Elizabeth worked together for four years inside ABC Radio Los Angeles (now Cumulus Media) and basically didn’t say a word to each other. “She understands I’ll occasionally make fun of her on-air and exaggerate things but my life is now an open book.” Numerous health ailments – some nearly life-threatening – plagued McDonnell and he frequently credited Elizabeth as being the rock who held him together. An avowed movie junkie, McDonnell would go to as many as three or four in one day. It was his way to relax and escape. “One of the biggest benefits of losing weight is I can fit into theater seats. That was honestly a problem before.” Such McDonnell segments as “Who Do You Want To Kick Out Of LA?” gave him a Northeast-sounding vibe, but his entire nearly 40-year career was spent in Los Angeles. The ardent WWE fan told Kinosian, “It would take a million dollar offer for me to leave Los Angeles. In the early-1990s, I had a chance to work for a friend in Nashville and had a big offer to go to Seattle in 1994 but my mother had cancer so I wasn’t about to leave town. There was a preliminary discussion years ago with WFAN, New York about being a reporter/weekend host but Los Angeles is my home. I’m part of the radio landscape.” Eerie now, but McDonnell confided to Kinosian in that lengthy printed conversation, “All the stuff I’ve done is leading up to something. I’ve always felt there was a bigger plan for me and a different path. God has kept me around for a reason – but I don’t know what it is. With what I’ve put myself through, any other person would have been dead by now.” Even at his heaviest, the voracious reader managed to stay in “fairly good shape.” The only weakness until recently was with his knees. According to McDonnell, “The ultimate moment for me would be to somehow find out who really killed John F. Kennedy.” As for the once “Big Nasty,” no cause of death was reported; several reports – including the one on KNX – said he died at Los Angeles’ Good Samaritan Hospital after a “brief illness.” A two-hour Friday night (3/13) Jeff Biggs-hosted show on KSPN paid tribute to McDonnell, who typically aired his “Kick Out” segment Fridays. Poignant, touching, and chillingly appropriate, the final word was given to Elizabeth McDonnell who somehow managed to summon up the strength in her voice to utter she wanted to kick Joe out of LA. Dramatic, goose-bump radio. “When I die,” McDonnell once told Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News, “I want to be cremated and then have a plane spread half of my ashes over Dodger Stadium and the other half over the [ex-home of the Lakers] Forum.”
Dodgers-KLAC Broadcast Deal Gives Team Equity in Station. Indeed, the newsworthy part of this story is the Los Angeles Dodgers acquiring an equity position in KLAC, Los Angeles as part of the renewal for play-by-play flagship rights. Neither side is going into details, so what “an equity position” means is not clear. The team and station owner iHeartMedia made the announcement Tuesday about the multi-year agreement renewing KLAC’s broadcast rights of the Dodgers regular season games, select spring training games and potential post-season games. The deal must be approved by Major League Baseball. Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten comments, “We are looking forward to expanding KLAC’s content in this new partnership for our passionate and loyal fan base. We will be teaming up with the fantastic creative team at iHeartMedia on a number of projects and initiatives to enhance our fans’ engagement. And what better team to tell the story than from broadcast talent of Vin Scully, Rick Monday and Charley Steiner.”
Another Cable Network for Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. The Glenn Beck-founded video platform TheBlaze gets carriage on Suddenlink – one of the top 10 cable companies in the U.S. A Wikipedia entry shows Suddenlink with approximately 1.2 million subscribers. TheBlaze says this addition means its “24/7 news, opinion and entertainment network” is now available on 77 television providers nationwide including 10 of the top 25. TheBlaze president of business development Lynne Costantini says, “We are pleased that Suddenlink decided to launch TheBlaze in response to customer demand, validating the appeal of our original programming to a broad audience. We look forward to providing additional value and choice to Suddenlink’s customers, growing our respective businesses together in partnership.”
Rich Eisen Program Available on PodcastOne. When the DirecTV-produced Rich Eisen show airs on October 6, an audio version of the program will become available via PodcastOne as the sports media star begins a relationship with Norm Pattiz’s programming-on-demand platform. Eisen, the former ESPN personality who’s been with the NFL Network since its inception, has produced a podcast via NFL Media for the past four years. Eisen quips, “The podcast form is in this show’s DNA, so I am overjoyed to have the Rich Eisen show in the PodcastOne family. Plus, this leaves me one step closer to my dream of getting Norm Pattiz’s Lakers tickets.” Pattiz replies, “My courtside seats are now a lock. Rich is a pro’s pro. Sports talk on demand is a digital segment that’s breaking big in the podcast universe and we are excited to engage this passionate fan base with the exceptional content Rich consistently creates. His expertise and talent are a great addition to our roster which includes Dan Patrick, Ross Tucker, Steve Czaban and all of Yahoo! Sports.”
Opie Hughes and Jim Norton Re-Up with SiriusXM. Any hopes the Opie & Anthony fans had that when the contract came up, Opie Hughes (right) and partner Jim Norton (left) would walk away in protest of former co-host Anthony Cumia’s firing this summer are dashed as Hughes and Norton announce via Twitter that they have “not resigned, but re-signed” with the satcaster. The show is billed as “Opie with Jim Norton.” Cumia was fired by SiriusXM after a series of Tweets from him that used vulgar and racial terms to describe an encounter he had with an African America woman in Times Square earlier this year.
Round Two of September PPM Data Released. The second of four rounds of September 2014 PPM data from Nielsen Audio has been released for 12 markets including: Washington, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Seattle, Phoenix, Minneapolis, San Diego, Tampa, Denver, Baltimore, and St. Louis. The survey period was August 14 through September 10. TALKERS magazine’s sister publication RadioInfo has all of the numbers from subscribing stations here. In addition, managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his “Ten Takeaways” from this batch of ratings on the main page at RadioInfo.com here.
Odds & Sods. Nationally syndicated talk show host Jerry Doyle adds two new stations to his affiliate list. The Talk Radio Network-syndicated show is now heard on Midwest Communications’ news/talk WKZO, Kalamazoo and Frank Iorio-owned WJAS, Pittsburgh…..At the Fresno operations of Cumulus Media, Michael Knight is named news director for KMJ-AM and KMJ-FM. Knight comes to KMJ after spending last several years with KFWB, Los Angeles…..Alpha Media’s KXL-FM, Portland “FM News 101 KXL” picks up three Oregon Association of Broadcasters Awards. Delivered at this past weekend’s 2014 OAB Fall Conference, KXL won accolades for: Best Single Story Newscast by reporter, Rosemary Reynolds on a piece covering Robert Yuille; Best Investigative Reporting for the K-9 Shooting earlier this year; and Best Newscast for the coverage on the shooting of Officer Robert Libke……Sports USA announces a new twice-weekly podcast from baseball Hall-of-Famer and Emmy Award-winning analyst Joe Morgan is being produced. Dubbed, “Conversations with Joe Morgan,” it debuts on Thursday (10/2). The company says each week Morgan will create one new podcast featuring the topics of today along with one “Classic Conversation” featuring a mixture of over 100 of the greatest sports and celebrity interviews he has conducted…..Entercom‘s Milwaukee sports talker WSSP is now simulcasting on translator W289CB at 105.7 FM. The station has re-branded as “Sportsradio 105.7 The Fan.”
Westwood One Appoints Foley to its Business Development Division. Former Radio Disney Group business development manager Jack Foley joins Westwood One as a business development vice president. Westwood One president Steve Shaw states, “Jack’s outstanding record of success in radio, event sponsorship, digital, in-store audio, and experiential marketing is an ideal match for this position. He has the ability to leverage all of our platforms and to create powerful marketing solutions for our clients.” New York City-based Foley comments that he is “thrilled” to join the “great team at Westwood One” as “we put the power of sound to work for our valued clients. Westwood One offers unsurpassed assets from which to build integrated marketing programs that deliver exceptional value and ROI. I look forward to activating these deep connections in a way that serves all stakeholders, content providers, marketers, and consumers.” Foley’s past credits include Entercom Boston’s vice president and director of sales; Clear Channel’s (now iHeartMedia) regional vice president for sales (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine); president and owner of mergers/acquisitions brokerage Transworld Advisors; and senior vice president of business development for Opus 3 Mobile.
Agreeing to Disagree. Nationally syndicated talk show hosts Michael Medved (left) and Tavis Smiley (right) pose for a photo after their on-air discussion about the day’s hot issues. Salem Radio Network’s Medved hosted Smiley – whose weekly radio show is distributed by PRI – on his program to talk about issues and Smiley’s new book, Death Of A King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year (Little, Brown & Company, 2014). Medved’s camp reports the two sparred over: black unemployment, economic inequity in minority communities and failing schools after six years of the Barack Obama presidency, to name a few.
U.S. ISIS Policy, Mid-Term Elections/2016 Presidential Hopefuls, Obama Amnesty Policy, White House Trespasser/Secret Service Controversy, U.S. Ebola Case/Pandemic Threat, and NFL Controversies Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (9/30). The military strikes against ISIS and speculation about U.S. intelligence breakdowns; the looming mid-term elections and the prospects for the 2016 presidential race; controversy over a possible Obama Administration amnesty program; the recent White House trespasser case and questions about the Secret Service’s effectiveness; the first U.S. Ebola virus case and concerns over a possible pandemic; and the domestic violence cases that have rocked the young NFL season were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.
Program Host Amy Goodman and Staff Settle in 2008 RNC Arrest Case. Amy Goodman hosts the New York-based radio and TV program “Democracy Now” and it was in that capacity that she and her crew were covering the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota when violent protests broke out. While filming the action, her crew was arrested by police insisting they were part of the disturbance. Goodman was also arrested when she came to their defense. Goodman and crew sued the City of St. Paul and the U.S. Secret Service with the assistance of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The settlement includes $100,000 and the promise of police training.
It’s Official: Dodgers Move to KLAC, Los Angeles. After four seasons at Cumulus Media’s KABC, Los Angeles, Clear Channel’s KLAC will be the flagship station for Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play for at least the next three seasons. In a joint statement from the team and Clear Channel Los Angeles, market manager Greg Ashlock says, “The Dodgers are synonymous with Los Angeles. The team has the ability to connect people regardless of age, gender or race. Our Clear Channel stations have multi-demo and multi-cultural appeal that nicely complements the Dodgers brand and will provide unique marketing opportunities. We’re also humbled to have Vin Scully, the greatest play-by-play announcer – period, lead our broadcast team.”
Cumulus Promotes Matt Spaulding to VP/Market Manager for Ann Arbor Cluster. General sales manager at the cluster since 2009, Matt Spaulding is promoted to VP/ market manager by regional vice president Cumulus Midwest Scott Meier who states, “Matt has absolutely earned this ‘battlefield promotion’! He’s embraced the Cumulus Sales Operating System and developed a solid organization operating at double digit growth.” Cumulus Media operates two music FMs and news/talk WTKA and progressive talk WLBY in the Ann Arbor market.
Broadcasters Foundation of America Raises More than $150,000 at Celebrity Golf Tournament. The BFoA’s Celebrity Golf Tournament 2011 pulled in more than $150,000 from the event held September 26 at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Tarrytown, New York. Broadcasters and celebrities taking part included: actor Michael J. Fox; Fox Business Network and USRN personality Lou Dobbs; WOR, New York host John Gambling; ABC and ESPN sports broadcaster Sean McDonough; MSG and ABC play-by-play announcer Mike Breen; actress and “Bond” girl Rachel Grant; NHL All-Stars Rod Gilbert, Brian Leetch and Bob Nystrom; ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith and CJ Papa; Super Bowl winner Amani Toomer; CBS-TV’s Maurice Dubois, Don Dahler and Dr. Max Gomez; ESPN SportsCenter hosts John Anderson and Jay Harris; WNYW-TV, New York’s Duke Castiglione; WNBC-TV, New York’s Bruce Beck; actor Gianni Russo; and more. The foundation expects to grant $600,000 in aid this year – an increase of more than 20% over last year and BFoA president Jim Thompson says, “The Celebrity Golf Fundraiser makes it possible for the Foundation to continue its mission of helping broadcasters in need. Our thanks to Greater Media president and CEO Peter Smyth and Katz Television Group president Jim Beloyianis who served as this year’s co-chairs and helped us present a successful event that provided attendees with an opportunity to give back to broadcasters who have nowhere else to turn.”
TRNS Bureau Chief Ellen Ratner Saves Young Blind South Sudanese Boy. In a remarkable display of the power of talk radio when focused on humanitarian projects, a young Christian South Sudan boy, Ker Deng will be shedding light on the horror befalling his homeland and people before a Congressional Committee today. This comes as the result of tireless work on the part of Christian Solidarity International (CSI) and the Washington, DC-based news agency Talk Radio News Service (TRNS) whose years of missions to the region bringing talk show hosts and relief have resulted in the feeding of starving people, the freeing of slaves and the reporting of news mostly ignored by the mainstream press. Ker Deng was just a toddler when Arab slave traders took him and his mother from their village in South Sudan. After burning Ker’s village and stealing everything of value, the raiders massacred most of the men. Ker and his mother were tied to a camel and dragged to a life in captivity. He grew up eating the same grains that his slave master fed his horses. One day, as punishment for letting a goat escape, Ker was hung upside-down from a tree as his master rubbed chili peppers into his eyes. When he was finally cut down, his eyes were so badly damaged that he slowly went blind. After being freed by CSI, Ker is now in the United States at the Wills Eye Institute, where he recently underwent cornea surgery (he’s seen being prepared for surgery in the photo here) that will hopefully restore the sight he lost while tortured at the hands of his captors. Ker is learning English and has started piano lessons at Lighthouse Music School. Ker will share his remarkable story today at 2200 Rayburn House Office Building at a press conference and during a hearing at the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. His mother – along with thousands of other slaves from South Sudan – remains in bondage. Ker, through his interpreter, will tell his story. Ker was brought to the U.S. thanks to CSI CEO John Eibner and Ellen Ratner, the White House correspondent and bureau chief for TRNS and a news analyst on the Fox News Channel (as well as Washington editor for TALKERS). Ratner has traveled multiple times to South Sudan since 2008, just returning on Saturday from another mission.
2012 GOP Candidates, ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ Knox Conviction Overturned and Financial Markets Activity Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (10/3). The Republicans vying for the nomination to face President Obama in 2012, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest movement, the overturning of American Amanda Knox’s murder conviction in Italy and the volatile financial markets were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday.
TRN’s Rusty Humphries Shoots Role in “Flicka” Movie. Talk Radio Network personality Rusty Humphries has been spending time in Canada recently on the set of a remake of the classic horse film, “Flicka.” Humphries plays the role of an announcer at a critical horse show in the film. The film stars actor and country music star Clint Black and his wife Lisa Hartman Black. Speaking about his on-set experience, Humphries says, “I am very excited to be shooting ‘Flicka 3’ on location in Canada this week with director Michael Damian, the star of ‘The Young and The Restless’ and songwriter of the hit ‘Rock On’. The shoot went great and Michael Damian could not be nicer. He’s a really good director too.” Humphries is seen here (l) on the set with Damian (r).