West Michigan: July 2008 Archives

Dick Richards celebrates 40th anniversary as Bozo

By: Colleen Pierson (Published in the Grand Rapids Press Thu, 7/3)

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had the pleasure of playing Bucket Bonanza on television. There aren't many of us that don't remember Mr. Gorilla, or the infamous Bozo the Clown. The widespread franchising in television made him the best-known clown character in our country.

It's been a lifetime of smiles and chuckles for Dick Richards. He will turn 70 years-young in October, is Bozo's alter ego, and he celebrates his 40th anniversary this year in portraying the famous clown in West Michigan.

"As long as the good Lord wants me to continue, I will," he said. The most exciting aspect is the personal appearances and spending time with people with physical and mental impairments. I still run into people who say how much they appreciated the sympathy cards I sent when a family lost a child."

Everyone remembers Bozo. We grew up with him. The show made its debut on WZZM-TV (Channel 13) on Aug 1, 1966 as a daily program from 4:00-5:00p.m.and was on the air for 33 years.

The show had its humble beginnings in the TV 13 studios at the Pantlind Hotel, where the 1913 restaurant now is, before moving to the WZZM studios in Walker.

"I never knew what was going to happen doing Live TV. People would fall during games, children would announce that they needed to go to the potty, but it was always such a fun time and young and old alike seem to know and appreciate the character," Richards reflects.

In appreciation of our hometown Bozo, Richards will be recognized for his longevity at the 4th of July Celebration from 7:30-8:00p.m. on the main stage at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The tribute was lined up by radio veteran Paul Boscarino and Ed Kettle.

"Paul used to chauffeur Bozo to events and he told us, 'Are you aware that Bozo has been doing this for almost 40 years?' He has done so many things for people that nobody knows. We would stop at a sick child's house just to entertain the kid for five minutes. Anything to add a little laughter to someone's life," Kettle said.

They are also planning on getting new threads for Bozo through Larry Harmon productions. "My wife thought that Bozo's outfit looked too tattered so we are lining up a surprise for him in the months to come," Kettle said.

Dick's wife Betty Jean is now Bozo's chaufeurette to all of his public appearances. "I just love to see the kids with bright eyes and big smiles, she said. I am really proud of my husband because he is an entertainer who has such talent and quality. He made Bozo famous locally and is so good at it."

The couple's daughter Tracy was 4 when Dad first started out. She is now 44, and has always been enthusiastic of his role. "I'm a performer and am out there to entertain, Richards said. I have done the role the second longest in our country and I think I am only one still doing it."

As he packs up ample circus greasepaint, a fiery red wig, multi-colored costume and size 22 clown shoes ("I have a pepperoni and mushroom pizza in them"), Dick Richards continues to bring joy and laughter to our community. Happy 40th Bozo!


Grand Rapids Press:

All-sports radio station WBBL-AM (1340) announced today it will carry a live broadcast of the Arena Football League playoff game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday featuring the Grand Rapids Rampage against the San Jose SaberCats. The Rampage (8-10) and SaberCats (12-5) are meeting in the American Conference final at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The winner advances to ArenaBowl XXII in New Orleans on July 27. The contest also is being televised nationally on ESPN... WBBL to air Rampage playoff game vs. San Jose (Tue, 7/8)




Former WLAV owner John Shepard died Monday. He was 81. Shepard, who owned WLAV AM-FM during their rise to becoming a ratings powerhouse beginning in the 1970s, owned many other stations around the country during a long career. He first came to Grand Rapids in 1953 as a sales manager for the radio station. Eventually he became the owner, and sold it in the mid-1980s to Adams Broadcasting... Longtime WLAV owner John Shepard dies (Tue, 7/8)


Grand Rapids Press:

Longtime radio veteran John Shepard will long be remembered "as a man who made things happen," said local businessman and friend Dan Pfeiffer, who knew him for more than 42 years. Mr. Shepard, of Grand Rapids, died Monday morning of cardiac arrest after suffering from congestive heart failure for many years. He was 81. Numerous friends said he had a passion for life and the radio industry. He ran Shepard Broadcasting for 50 years. "John was a wonderful man, a loving husband and he gave back to the community," WLAV-FM radio personality Tony Gates said. "He cared a great deal about professional broadcasting. He was very good at what he did. "I will always thank him for giving me my first shot in professional radio. I, along with many others, will miss John." Mr. Shepard owned and operated numerous radio stations in seven states, including WLAV-FM, for about 20 years. He sold the station in 1983 to Adams Broadcasting. WLAV-FM is now owned by Citadel Broadcasting... Radio veteran John Shepard 'made things happen' (Wed, 7/9)




We have lost a member of the WZZM 13 family. George Lyons was the general manager of our station from the late 1970's until the early 1980's. His family today told us he died in Georgia last night after a long illness. Lyons hired Lee Van Ameyde in the late 1970's... George Lyons, former WZZM 13 General Manager, dies at the age 80 (Wed, 7/9)




What's up with CLEAR CHANNEL AC WRVF (101.5 THE RIVER)/TOLEDO PD TOM COOK? Well, he apparently had been out of the building visiting a WOOD shop... and tells ALLACCESS, "I've accepted the PD gig at WOOD (STAR 105.7)/GRAND RAPIDS. I'll be in the building by early AUGUST. I'll be assisting with WRVF for as long as necessary; but the search is on for a new PD, which I will help find," he added. (Wed, 7/9)



Top 5 stations in the newest Arbitrend rankings were country WBCT, news/talk WOOD AM, classic rock WLAV, modern rock WGRD, and soft rock WOOD-FM.. Second spring age 12+ radio ratings trend for Grand Rapids (Thu, 7/10)


Grand Rapids Press:

Local TV viewers will get to see familiar faces at the Olympics in Beijing. Not just familiar athletes, either, but local reporters, too. WOOD-TV (Channel 8) again is sending a team of talent to cover the international competition. The trio headed to Beijing is sports director Jack Doles, reporter/co-anchor Brian Sterling and news producer/cameraman Dan Limbaugh. Doles has covered seven Olympic games. "It's one of the highlights of my career. Each one has a special memory. It's hard to top the Olympics," Doles said. It's Olympics No. 4 for Limbaugh, TV-8's special projects producer, whose job is to bring it all together... WOOD-TV again sends team to cover Olympics (Sun, 7/13)


WLAV, Tony Gates nominated for Marconi Awards

Heritage classic rocker WLAV FM 96.9 Grand Rapids has been nominated for a Marconi Award as Medium Market Station of the Year and the station's afternoon man Tony Gates has been similarly recognized in the Medium Market Personality of the Year category.

Established in 1989, the NAB Marconi Radio Awards were named after inventor and Nobel Prize winner Guglielmo Marconi. The winners will be announced on September 18 at the NAB Marconi Radio Awards Dinner & Show which is held during The NAB Radio Show at the Austin,TX Convention Center.




WWMT Newschannel 3's Anchor Jeff McAtee has decided to leave the anchor chair to go on active duty in the Navy. He will be serving overseas as a Commander in Naples, Italy. Jeff has been the co-anchor of Newschannel 3's 5pm, 5:30pm, 6pm and 11pm for the past 3 years. He also helped launch and anchor Newschannel 3's 10pm newscast on the CW7. Jeff's last day at the WWMT anchor desk will be on July 18th. Jeff has been a part of the Unites States Navy for quite a while. This September marks his 20th anniversary of service... Goodbye Jeff McAtee (Mon, 7/14)




WJQK Hosted 40K People On July 4th: LANSER Christian AC WJQK/GRAND RAPIDS held its annual "Celebration Freedom" fest on JULY 4th to over 40,000 people. "This celebration with music, food, rides and fireworks is an outreach to our community and it's absolutely free. Thousands of families who aren't regular Christian music listeners attend annually BECAUSE it's free. In the process, they are introduced to the station and it's positive message," said PD GARY THOMPSON. (Mon, 7/14)


Grand Rapids Press:

Weekend news anchor Larry Figurski of WOOD-TV (Channel 8) considers himself fortunate for surviving last week what many do not: a massive heart attack. Figurski, anchor of Channel 8's Weekend Daybreak and 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday sportscasts, figures the reason his life was spared from sudden cardiac arrest is because he lives two miles from Metro Health Hospital. "When you hear people use terms like 'widow maker' you're lucky to have survived," said Figurski, 43, who is married and the father of two young daughters. Figurski said he is fortunate in more ways than one. He was not in the habit of going to a doctor for an annual physical. He's plays hockey, but has a taste for too much fast food, he said. And his family has a history of heart disease. "It's kind of ironic," Figurski said. "My father had a heart attack at 43 or 44. His father had a couple and he died at 69." Figurski's duties will be divided among other reporters until he returns to work, said WOOD-TV news director Patti McGettigan... WOOD-TV weekend anchor Larry Figurski survives massive heart attack (Wed, 7/16)


Although the license for WOLY AM 1500 Battle Creek was not renewed during the 2004 renewal period for Michigan radio stations, the daytime-only Christian station continued to broadcast. In June 2006, the FCC officially notified station owner Christian Faith Broadcast that its license had officially been canceled and that all authority to operate what was WOLY had been terminated. Yet, broadcasts continued at the 1,000 watt station.

Now the FCC has filed a Forfeiture Order against Christian Faith Broadcast in the amount of $10,000 for the station's unauthorized operations, which amazingly have continued - at least as of this past Monday, July 14th. This action follows a Notice of Apparent Liability that was issued in December 2007. According to the Forfeiture Order, "Christian Family Network's failure to immediately cease operation of the station may result in further monetary fines and other more serious sanctions."

What's even more surprising in this case is that in 1998 WOLY also failed to renew its license in a timely fashion and had it's license canceled until it reapplied for and was granted reinstatement in May 1999.


Rock WKLQ FM 107.3 Grand Rapids has changed its on-air lineup as of this morning, Monday July 21st, with the addition of two new air staffers, both coming to Grand Rapids from 107.7 WRKR in Kalamazoo. Out is the syndicated morning drive Opie & Anthony show.

KLQ has introduced a brand new morning show comprised of Program Director Michael Grey and the first of the new hires, Warren Kluck. "Grey & Kluck" are bringing a fresh voice to morning drive, from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM, built on a combined 20 years of experience doing radio in West Michigan. Grey is an 11 year veteran at WGRD & WKLQ in Grand Rapids, and Kluck has logged time at WIRX in Benton Harbor as well as WRKR. With these two at the controls, expect the unexpected.

"I've waited most of my career for an opportunity to build a radio show I believe in and one that's set-up the right way and I know that Warren and I are going to bring it - every morning," says Grey.

Kluck adds, "I just hope that people are ready for this thing."

The other new addition, Jay Deacon, will host afternoon drive from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM, taking over Grey's former airshift. Deacon was the Program Director and PM Drive host for WRKR and will fill the roles of Assistant Program Director and Digital Media Coordinator along with PM Drive Host in his new position with WKLQ. He has previously worked in radio in Kansas as well as Kalamazoo.

"WKLQ has been providing listeners in West Michigan with great rock music for over 20 years," said Matt Hanlon, President of Citadel Broadcasting's Midwest Region. "'Grey and Kluck' gives listeners the only true local morning show in the market for young rock fans."

Darcy will continue to air midday's from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM, and Steve "The Rat" Aldrich will round out the on-air crew with his 7:00 PM-12:00 AM evening show.

Back at Cumulus-owned rocker WRKR, Katz returns for his second tour of duty and takes over afternoons 2:00 - 6:00 PM for the departed Deacon. Katz also adds duties as RKR's Promotions Director.


Grand Rapids Press

Former WOOD-TV Channel 8 anchor Tom Van Howe is returning to broadcast news in West Michigan, only for a competing TV station. Van Howe, 63, will join WWMT-TV Channel 3 on Monday. He signed a letter of agreement Monday to join the station based in Kalamazoo. He will fill in for Channel 3 anchor Jeff McAtee, a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve who has been called to active duty. Van Howe, who is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, will anchor newscasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday along with anchor Judy Markee on Channel 3, plus the 10 p.m. newscast on CW7... Tom Van Howe to return to TV as anchor at WWMT Channel 3 (Tue, 7/22)


Release from WWMT: Tom Van Howe returns to West Michigan television news (Tue, 7/22)




J Blaze To Light Up WKFR Nights: CUMULUS Top 40/Mainstream WKFR/KALAMAZOO brings in J BLAZE to do nights. He's expected to hit the air in early AUGUST. Although his last radio gig was as APD/nights for WSNX/GRAND RAPIDS, as APD/nights, "BLAZE has been on a three-year hiatus from radio while working in the education field," WKFR PD/Brand Manager KRUZE (aka KEN EVANS) told ALL ACCESS. "It's my hope that his experience with children will help in dealing with the KFR Sales team!" (Tue, 7/22)


Take a look at the age 12+ rankings, look courtesy of Stationratings.com:

For the first time in its existence Detroit contemporary hits outlet Channel 9-5-5 (WQKI FM 95.5) is the top station among radio listeners age 12 and over, followed closely by news NewsRadio 950 (WWJ AM), NewsTalk 760 (WJR AM) and FM 98 (urban WJLB FM 97.9). Oldies 104.3 (WOMC FM) rounded out the top 5 stations.

The Ticket (sports WXYT-FM 97.1) enjoyed huge gains over the winter ratings period and the 'Rif (rock WRIF FM 101.1) also saw a nice numbers rebound.

Country stations had the best individual ratings in Lansing, Toledo, and South Bend with heritage stations WITL FM 100.7, WKKO FM 99.9, and WBYT FM 100.7 each leading the way among all listeners.


Grand Rapids Press:

Former WOOD-TV (Channel 8) anchor Tom Van Howe is returning to broadcast news in West Michigan, but this time for a competing TV station. Van Howe, 63, will join WWMT-TV (Channel 3) on Monday. He signed a letter of agreement this week to join the Kalamazoo-based station. He will fill in for Channel 3 anchor Jeff McAtee, a commander in the Naval Reserve, who has been called to active duty. Van Howe, a veteran of the Air Force, will anchor the Channel 3 newscasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday with anchor Judy Markee, plus the 10 p.m. newscast on its sister station, CW7. "It's kind of a work load," he said with a laugh. "It certainly wasn't something I was planning on." Van Howe, who retired in 2005 as a Channel 8 news anchor, said he wasn't looking to return to daily broadcasts, but the lure of the upcoming presidential election was too good to pass up... Tom Van Howe returns to TV news anchor spot (Wed, 7/23)


Another batch of Spring radio ratings was released late last week; they are available courtesy of Stationratings.com:

Top stations among listeners age 12+ in each market were soft rock WCRZ in Flint, contemporary hits WIOG in the Tri-Cities, news/talk WJR in Ann Arbor and country WNWN-FM in Battle Creek.


Grand Rapids Press:

Those who listen to WLHT-FM (95.7) soon will be waking up with a new morning show: "Barnaby & Friends." Management at the radio station told its staff today former WOOD-TV (Channel 8) reporter Gerry Barnaby will take over for Denis Prior and the "Morning Drive." Barnaby's first official day is Aug. 11, but last week he filled in for Prior, who was on vacation. "The show is going to be a work in progress for now," Barnaby said. "But we will put the spotlight back where it belongs -- on the listeners. It's their show." As part of the shuffle, several moves have been made at WLHT and three other local FM stations owned by Regent Broadcasting... Veteran broadcaster Gerry Barnaby heads to weekdays on radio (Mon, 7/28)




Tom Cook To Stay At WRVF: After previously accepting the PD position at CLEAR CHANNEL AC WOOD (STAR 105.7)/GRAND RAPIDS, (NET NEWS 7/9), CLEAR CHANNEL AC WRVF (101.5 THE RIVER)/TOLEDO PD TOM COOK has decided to stay put. COOK tells ALL ACCESS, "After using an inordinate amount of brainpower, I decided that 101.5 THE RIVER and CLEAR CHANNEL/TOLEDO is where I belong right now." (Fri, 7/25)



Holland Sentinel:

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, apparently the man wearing a cape and mowing random Holland lawns is "Super Flounder" -- the alter ego of Joe Piesz, 94.5 Thunder Country radio personality. The Grand Rapids-based station saw a new Holland law requiring lawns to be kept under 8 inches, as a two-fold opportunity, Program Director Steve Stewart said. "It's a way for us to be able to help out (people with tall lawns), and at the same time, Holland's one of our big bases," he said. "Seeing (Piesz) in a cape with the whole nine-yards and a lawnmower, it's simply ridiculous." "As soon as we started talking about (the law), the phone lines blew up," Stewart said. Thursday morning callers nominated their neighbors. "Super Flounder" chose an overgrown lawn at random. Without asking property owners' permission to mow their lawns, the radio personality was technically trespassing, and he will be again... 'Super Flounder,' neighbors try to save residents from lawn fines (Fri, 7/24)


Kalamazoo Gazette:

After 21 years at WKZO-AM (590) -- including 14 as the station's afternoon talk show host -- Dave Jaconette signed off for the last time Friday. Jaconette and WKZO Program Director Jay Morris blame cutbacks at the station for Jaconette's departure. "It was a cost-cutting move," Jaconette said. "We didn't talk about it a whole lot on the air because we didn't think it would make for great radio ... but we did want to do a last show, a send-off." Jaconette said the move was not a surprise and that he had "several weeks notice." According to the station's Web site (www.wkzo.com), Jaconette's former time slot will be filled by local hosts Roger Taylor and Jim McKinney from 3 to 5 p.m., and an extra hour of the syndicated Glenn Beck show from 5 to 6 p.m. The 45-year-old native of Detroit has been in Kalamazoo since the mid-1980s when he attended Western Michigan University. He started at WKZO in 1987, doing fill-in work, movie reviews and "traffic" (scheduling the station's commercials)... Talk-show host Jaconette leaves WKZO-AM after 21 years (Tue, 7/29)


Grand Rapids Press:

The "Take Five" program on WZZM-TV (Channel 13) is geting a a fine-tuning of its name and host staff. "Take Five & Company" begins Aug. 25 at a new time. The live, local lifestyle program will move to 9-10 a.m. weekdays, replacing "Live with Regis and Kelly," which moves to WWMT-TV (Channel 3)... Changes for 'Take Five' (Wed, 7/30)

Another meteorologist is coming on board at WOOD-TV (Channel 8). Kyle Underwood arrives Aug. 20 from ABC affiliate WDIO-TV in Duluth, Minn., where he is the chief meteorologist. "He is adept at forecasting lake effect, winter and all kinds of severe weather," TV-8 news director Patti McGettigan said... TV-8 will add meteorologist (Wed, 7/30)

McGettigan also said weekend anchor Larry Figurski is recovering from a heart attack he suffered earlier this month. "I saw Larry last week. He looked very good (after having) the scare of his life," she said. "He continues to rest and recover and is talking about coming back in August." Figurski still on mend (Wed, 7/30)

Tony Gates, veteran radio broadcaster on WLAV-FM (96.9), has been nominated for the prestigious Marconi Radio Award... Tony Gates nominated (Wed, 7/30)







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This page is a archive of entries in the West Michigan category from July 2008.

West Michigan: June 2008 is the previous archive.

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