In our lives, things occur that we prefer that to keep to ourselves, and other things happen we are happy to reveal. There were many of the former in my life’s journey, also a number of the latter. I decided to make a written record of some of the latter. Something for my children and grandchildren. I knew that if I did not do this as my 50th Reunion project, it might never be done. I have told about some of the people who were bright spots in my life. The more I wrote, the more I remembered, thus I wrote even more. In many instances, I was quite specific, as I want make a written record; while my memory is still good.. A number of times, I added links which tell even more about the people who I recall so well. This focuses on business relationships. Family and friends, I wrote earlier.
As I researched, I was saddened to learn how many are no longer with us. We are not immortal.
So, this bio is about relationships, about people. We shared a few moments of life together. I have learned that life’s greatest accomplishments can never compare with life’s greatest relationships.
The last fifty years have been a “who woulda’ believed it” journey. In high school, I remember I was somewhat quiet, definitely unconfident and unquestionably insecure…and a bad dancer. I think I was far more interested in girls than girls were interested in me. It’s now safe to say, “boy has he changed.” I suppose I took speech and drama to find an identity and because my mother was a friend of Una.Voigt, so I figured I had a good grade aced. I learned enough about radio speech to get a weekend job at KCRC Radio, thanks to the tutoring and patience of Mrs. Voigt, a wonderful teacher, who became a life-long friend.
OKLAHOMA CITY & WKY 1959-1962
I planned to go to OU, but things didn’t work out. So I went to Phillips, worked at KCRC and a station in Cushing. I was really miffed when our class member, Jimmy O’Neill got a job at WKY (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WKY )in Oklahoma City. ‘KY was the Mecca of Oklahoma Radio, sometimes with 80% of the audience. Oklahoma City was the 48th radio market. Enid was about 999th, maybe. One day I got a call from O’Neill. Jimmy said, “Kunk, I’m headin’ west, to a job at KRLA in Los Angeles, and you may be able to get on here at WKY. Get in touch with Mr. Williams, the new radio program director.” I burned rubber all the way south on Hiway 81 to Broadway & Britton Road in OKC. Mr. Williams heard my tape, Jimmy O’Neill had recommended me, and “could I start in two weeks?” Two weeks? I was ready start in two minutes!
I was the first person hired by “Mr. Williams, ” A/K/A Danny Williams, (www.dddynamo.com) who became my boss, my mentor and my friend. Danny, of course was also known as 3D Danny, Gizmo Goodkin, Xaviar T. Willard, Bazark, Spavina Spoofkin and other characters. On Saturday Night Wrestling, Danny and Leroy McGuirk
often shouted “look out for flying chairs.” While at WKY I was so privileged to work with Ronnie Kay, Don Wallace, Chuck Boyles, Terry McGrew, Chuck Dunaway, Anita Bryant, Jack Ogle, Dick John, Ross Porter, Bob Thomas, Jim Williams, Virgil Dominick, Ron (Lon) Becker (also from Enid, married Toni Ciardullo “58), Bob Barry, Sr., John Ferguson (Count Gregore), Charles Parker, Bob Flournoy, Larry Gaffney Steve Powell (Foreman Scotty), WKY’s “poet laureate of the morning,” Russell Pierson and many others. Danny’s still doing the morning show on KOMA in Oklahoma City. Eighty years old, and still rated Number One!
I worked 9 am-12 noon following Danny plus a Sunday afternoon shift. In one of the TV studios there was the live “Coaches Show”, and I got to know and work with “Bud,” O U football’s legendary Charles B. “Bud” Wilkinson. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud_Wilkinson At that point in life, I was pretty blase about organized religion. Keith Matter, the operations manager at WKY-TV and Bud Wilkinson were both devout Episcopalians. If you recall, Bud’s son, Jay Wilkinson, was an All-American halfback with the Duke Blue Devils and 1963 Heisman Trophy candidate. Roger Staunch won that year. Jay later graduated from an Episcopal seminary. Keith and “Coach” went to work proselytizing me. When I finally realized that the Episcopal Church allows us to do our own thinking, I also realized I had found my spiritual home. On July 20, 1960, at All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City, I was confirmed by Bishop Chilton Powell, one of the grandest and most humble successors to the apostles I have ever met.
WKY Radio and Television were co-owned by the Daily Oklahoman & The Oklahoma City Times, controlled by E K Gaylord (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_K._Gaylord ) and his son Edward L. Gaylord The Gaylords occasionally came around the station and I got to meet them. Boy, was this twenty-two year old kid from Enid impressed!
I was quite happy at WKY, although I did think of the “big guys, in the big markets.” Nearest big market was number eight, Dallas, just 210 miles south. Hmmm. One day the phone rang, “Jerry Kunkel, this is Tom Murphy, program director at KBOX in Dallas. Are you interested in doing a mid day shift in Dallas?’ WOW! But I had to think on this. I loved WKY, Danny, the people I worked with. I was making good extra income for recording commercials, record hops, etc. Three weeks later, I was in Dallas!
DALLAS & KBOX 1962-1964
Dallas and KBOX (http://www.knus99.com/kbox1480pt2.html were unforgettable experiences. It was a warm, clear fall Friday in Dallas, November 22, 1963. I worked the nine to noon air shift. Alan Golden, the sales manager and I then went to lunch at our regular spot near the station. At 12:40, the cashier’s desk paged me for a phone call. It was Dick Moore, in the KBOX newsroom, “Jerry, we need your help in the news room. “Something awful has happened! We need you to take a mobile unit to Parkland Hospital. I’ll tell you more when you get here, and please hurry.” When I arrived, Moore told me President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally had both been shot at 12:30, and were taken to nearby Parkland Hospital. President Kennedy was believed dead, but there was no official confirmation. “Take a mobile unit to Parkland, and see what you can dig up,” Moore said.
I arrived at Parkland about 1 PM and had no problem walking in. I wandered around, then went down a hall. That’s when some men in dark suits pulled their guns and said, “don’t come down this hall. Leave, now!” I headed back to the nurse’s station and learned Governor Connally was down that hall. I felt a sudden and immediate need to go to the men’s room. A man in surgical greens came in and stood on my right; we started talking. He was Dr. Marion T.”Pepper” Jenkins, (http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/novadocs.htm) head of anesthesiology at Parkland. He was in President Kennedy’s trauma room. “Father Oscar Huber (http://time.com/article/o,9171,895361-4.00html ) did last rites a few minutes ago, and we immediately pronounced the President dead. The body and Mrs. Kennedy are now in a hearse headed for Love Field and Air Force One.” My god, I got the confirmation everybody was looking for, and got it in the men’s room. We did not have cell phones, etc., in those days. It was 1:20 P.M. and I ran down the hall and
called in on a pay phone. I once had copies of the AP and UPI wires saying “Bust..Bust President John F. Kennedy has been officially declared dead. Jerry Kunkel of KBOX Radio received confirmation from Dr. Marion Jenkins, head of anesthesiology at Parkland.” I understand there are copies of the AP and UPI wires at the Sixth Floor Museum at Delay Plaza. At 1:36 P.M. presidential press aide Herbert Kilduff, at Parkland told the media, “President Kennedy is dead.” We had scooped the story by sixteen minutes!
Dick Moore said, “are you ever lucky, so while you are on a roll, go to the Dallas Police Station and see what you can find. Maybe you should hang out in the men’s room. again. That seems to work for you.” I detoured by Oswald’s room at 621 Marsalis Street, the Tippit murder scene at Tenth and Patton, and the Texas Theatre, 231 Jefferson Blvd. where Oswald was captured, all in Oak Cliff. I also lived in Oak Cliff, less than a mile away from these addresses. At the Dallas Police Station, I saw Marguerite Oswald, Marina Oswald, June and Rachel Oswald, Lee Harvey’s mother, wife and two daughters. I have a vivid memory of Marina Oswald, very attractive, very frightened. I did not talk to these women. However, I did talk briefly with Jack Ruby. I knew Ruby from his Carousel Club in downtown Dallas at 1312 1/2 Commerce Street. Ruby had an obsession for law enforcement, media and political types. We could drink for half price at the Carousel plus free admission. Thus, Ruby was a friend of the police and often hung around the Dallas Cop Shop. Dan Rather was there, he then worked for a Houston TV station, and we briefly compared notes.
I finally headed back to KBOX. which was at 9900 McCree Road, off the Northwest Hiway and Adelia Road. I did telephone reports for our stations in St. Louis, Milwaukee and San Diego, plus for my friends at WKY in Oklahoma City. Dick Moore learned the Dallas PD was bringing Oswald out for a 12 midnight press conference in the assembly room. He gave me our best tape recorder and microphone and sent me out the door. When I walked in the assembly room, two KBOX newsmen, Sam Pate and Ron Jenkins were talking with Jack Ruby. I talked with them briefly and then had to kneel down in front of the lone television camera. Dan Rather was beside me. The whole thing lasted less than five minutes. Rather and I got in the most questions. As the police took Oswald away, he was protesting “police brutality.” I recently found “JFK: The Dallas Tapes”, produced by the Sixth Floor Museum which has the press conference and my voice on it. It cost me a few bucks, but my ego told me it was well worth it. It was now early Saturday, which was my day off. I went home and crashed.
It was Sunday November 24, 1963 and another beautiful fall day in Dallas. All stations were playing somber music. I went to work at 11 am. The Dallas police were transferring Lee Harvey Oswald to the Dallas County Jail, and KBOX newsman Karl King was at the Dallas PD covering the event. At 11:21 am Jack Ruby shot and mortally wounded Lee Harvey Oswald. We had it live, on the air.
Things eventually returned to normal. About two weeks later the FBI called and asked me to come talk with them. The FBI was seeking information about Jack Ruby’s activities. The FBI asked if I would be a witness at Ruby’s trial. They felt I had strong recall and a good sequential memory. I told them I would if necessary, but given the public nature of my job, I hoped they could find someone else. They found someone else. In retrospect, I should have been a witness at the trial. Just think, today I could regularly be on Court TV, Oprah, The History Channel, Trials of the Century and more.
JFK assassination buffs may find these links interesting;
Link not yet available “Shots Still Heard Today,” Enid News & Eagle, November 21, 2003
http://newsok.com/article/1955970 “The Day that Changed America,” Oklahoman,November 16, 2003. Scroll near end of article.
However, I do have a footnote in history, in the Warren Commission Report. Both Jack Ruby and Ron Jenkins testify about our meetings in the Dallas Police Station and especially the assembly room press conference. Also, the transcript of Jack Ruby’s murder trial which began in March, 1964 in Dallas.
INDIANAPOLIS & WIBC 1964-1969
Several months later, I had an offer to become operations manager at WIBC (www.wibc.com) a 50,000 watt station in Indianapolis, which needed a “complete make over.” WIBC was owned by Dick Fairbanks (www.fairbanksfoundation.org). His grandfather was Charles Warren Fairbanks, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charkes_W,_Fairbanks ) VP of the United States in the Teddy Roosevelt administration. Fairbanks, Alaska was named for Dick’s grandfather. This was obviously old Indiana, old America. Because of the owner, I met Eli Lilly II, Indiana Basketball Coach Bobby Knight, Indianapolis 500 owner Tony Hulman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hulman ). Obviously Dick Fairbanks and Tony Hulman were close friends, as WIBC was the originating station of the Indianapolis 500 Radio Network. I also met author Kurt Vonnegut, David Letterman, Jane Pauley, Louie “Satchmo” Armstrong and others. Because of the Enid connection, I became friends with Marvella Hern Bayh, (http://www.time.com.time/magazine/article/0,9172,920323,00.html ) and her husband, Sen. Birch Bayh, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch_Bayh ) and their son Evan Bayh. (http://www2.indystar.com/library.factfiles/people/b./bayh_evan/bayh.html ) At this time I grew more interested in politics and became involved in Richard Lugar’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Lugar) first political campaign, when Lugar was elected to the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners. Lugar is currently a US Senator from Indiana. He has served an unprecedented five terms. Of course I was also involved in Birch Bayh’s campaigns.
I completed the make-over of WIBC and got a nice bonus. I was tired of, burned out on radio. The music was turning loud and amplified, there were the payola scandals, the musicians/bands/acts were on drugs, as well as a number of DJ’s. I decided I wanted to stay in show biz, but become a television station time salesman. I talked to Dick Fairbanks, because he owned the ABC-TV affiliate in Atlanta. He suggested I finish my degree in business, and he would hire me in Atlanta. By the time I finished at Indiana University, Fairbanks had sold the Atlanta TV station.
My radio career was over except for voicing radio spots, etc. Looking back, in eleven years in Oklahoma City, Dallas, Indianapolis, and some trips to New York, Nashville and Las Vegas, I had seen, worked with or sometimes emceed Elvis, Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Avalon, Johnny Tilotson, Pat Boone, Dean Martin, Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Neil Sedaka, The Platters, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Ricky Nelson, The Beach Boys, Connie Francis, Perry Como, Jimmy Durante, Starlight Vocal Band (Afternoon Delight), Ann Margaret, Joan Rivers, John Denver, Anita Bryant, June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Dean, Claude King, Roger Miller, Peter, Paul and Mary, Roy Orison, Hank Williams, Hank Williams, Jr., Ray Price, and Conway Twitty. The really memorable? Wayne Newton, Tom Jones and Neil Diamond. The Unforgettable? Frank Sinatra. Period. Of course. there was Ronald Regain, who I saw in Dallas before he was elected president.
EVANSVILLE & WTVW-TV 1969-1979
In 1968, I married Sue Wilking, an Indianapolis girl, and graduate of Butler University. Sue had a daughter Sherry, who I later adopted. I was unable to land a job at any of the Indianapolis TV stations. Instead I went to WTVW, the ABC affiliate in Evansville, IN. as a rookie salesperson. The manager at WTVW was an Indianapolis native, E. Berry Smith. He gave me a chance, and I still appreciate it. Al Saucier, Bob “Goose” Ossenberg, the sales managers, as well as Asa Stallworth and Joe Windsor, the group VP’s of Fuqua Television were very supportive. Berry Smith later moved to South Bend to head the Schurz Communications Group of five television stations and twelve radio stations controlled by the owners of The South Bend Tribune newspaper. I really loved selling TV, worked long hours and soon become the top salesperson at WTVW and then the entire three station Evansville television market. I was promoted into regional sales, covering the regional agencies in Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, etc.
In 1971 the general economy took a downtown. In addition, tobacco advertising was bared from radio and television. The station decided to try something unique to boost revenues. Twice each year we chartered a jet aircraft and took a full plane of our advertisers to Las Vegas or the Caribbean for golf, shows, sun, casinos and more. The qualification for the junkets were that the advertisers must spend a certain dollar amount more than the previous period. Often the increased funds were taken off the other two Evansville television stations. I was put in charge of the project, unwillingly, of course. In Las Vegas, we often stayed at the Desert Inn, owned by the reclusive Howard Hughes. Although he lived and finally died there, I never saw him.
WTVW was owned by Fuqua Industries, (http://www.answers.com/topic/fuqua-industries-inc?cat=biz-fin) an Atlanta-based conglomerate listed on the NYSE and headed by J. B. Fuqua (http://dukenews.edu/2006/04/Fuqua_obit.html ). Mr. Fuqua never had the opportunity to attend college, yet the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University is named after him. He donated $40 million to that school. Fuqua Industries, organized in 1965, had a history of acquiring, reorganizing and then selling companies. There were twenty-two subsidiaries, including Carmike Theatres, Snapper Comet lawn equipment, Fuqua Television, a TV station group, Inverarry Country Club in Lauderdale, FL, (www.inverrarygolf.com) ColorCraft Photo, Tractor Supply Company, Hutch and Ajay Sporting Equipment, Pacemaker Yachts and others. I did learn that I could get a Pacemaker Yacht at a company discount. The problem came when I tired to borrow the money. I did, however, purchase a Snapper Comet mower at the employee price. Also, some Ajay golf equipment. Fuqua was the biggest company I ever worked for, $2 billion in sales…thirty years ago. That’s about $7.2 billion in today’s or constant dollars.It was also the best company I ever worked for! A great bunch of people. Several of us still keep in touch.
Sue had opened her own business, a personnel/temp service and was doing well. Her largest employee leasing client was a General Electric lexan plant near Evansville. I was elected Senior Warden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Evansville, elected to the Standing Committee and appointed to the Finance Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. While I was a member of the Standing Committee, it authorized Bishop John Craine (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,842958,00.html?promold=goodlep )to ordain Jacqueline Means. (http://www.prisonmission.org/statemet/means.pdi )The Rev. Means was the first female Episcopal priest in the US and has a very successful prison ministry. My golf game was better. Politics? I had been involved in several congressional races in the Evansville area. It was now 1979, I was forty years old, and it was time for me to move into management. Unfortunately, there was nothing available in the Fuqua stations. Fuqua was a stable company; there was very little management turn-over.
EVANSVILLE & WEHT-TV 1979-1985
I hated to leave WTVW, but they understood and wished me “Godspeed.” I went with WEHT-TV, the CBS-TV affiliate in Evansville as general sales manager. Fortunately, WEHT was been an under-achieving station. I applied what I had learned about at WTVW, and things turned around quickly. Then we added the advertiser junkets to Las Vegas and the Caribbean and the sales revenues were even better. I was lucky, the previous GSM was not very effective, so all I needed to do was put things into good order, to look good myself..
Local sales are about one half of a television station’s revenue, and are handled by a local sales staff located in the station. National sales account for about 50% of a station’s revenue, and are handled by the station’s national representative firm which serves as go-betweens for the local stations and the national advertisers and their agencies. These rep firms are headquartered in New York City and generally have about fifteen regional offices located in the major regional advertising cities. I hired Blair Television (www.petrymedia.com) to be WEHT’s national rep firm. Headquartered in New York at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Blair was the premier national sales rep firm with 400 employees in New York as well as it’s 15 regional offices such as Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis and other cities. Wally Schwartz, (http://broadcastingcable.com/article/CA629118-html?display=Breaking+News) former president of ABC-TV was now the president of Blair Television. About one-half of WEHT’s natioal revenue, or one-fourth of the total station revenue came from New York.
In order to really succeed with national sales, the sales manager must spend a large amount of time making calls with the reps on the national agencies. This means lots of travel. I was in New York twenty-five days each year, Chicago about ten days, St. Louis and Detroit about two days each, with occasional trips to Dallas, the west coast and other offices. I liked to travel, to be away. Things were becoming increasingly tense at home, for reasons other than my travel. Sue and I agreed to stay together until Brad and Sherri completed college.
To do well with New York’s Madison Avenue agency souls, I had to learn to adopt their culture while I was in their city. SEF, Savvy, energetic and focused.People say “advertising is the most competitive business in the world.” My teacher and mentor in New York was a gentle guy at Blair who looked like a pro football player, Dave Herman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Herman ). Dave played tackle at Michigan State University. He was drafted by the New York Jets in 1964 and stayed through 1973. Dave played with quarterback Joe Namath (http://www.placement.com/namathbio.htm) in the 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts in the 1967 Super Bowl. Video is still shown of the classic play where Baltimore’s Bubba Smith is on the ground, on his back. Dave and Bubba played together at Michigan State, where Bubba was an All-American. Dave was not fond of Bubba and in that Super Bowl, Dave got his hand in Bubba’s face mask, and brought Bubba up and over his own back to the ground. Dave’s Super Bowl ring seemed like it weighed ten pounds. It takes a big man to wear a big ring! I grew up quick and fast with the help of Dave Herman and the Blair guys. They were known as some of the best media salespeople in the US.The Blair folks were the most professional people I ever worked with. It was like a fraternity. I still miss them.
One Friday in 1980, I called Dave Herman and told him we had a crisis with a major New York ad agency. ” I’ll be there Monday at 9 AM to go over to the agency,” I said. Dave answered, “You’re crazy! There’s not a room in New York, the Democratic National Convention is in town.” “Like I said, I’ll be in the office Monday at 9 AM, I told him.. Herman replied, “like I said, there are NO rooms.” I said, “I’ll be there, maybe I’ll pitch a tent in Central Park. Remember, 9 AM Monday.” Herman laughed, said, “Yeah…..sure” then hung up. I was there at 9 AM Monday, Dave strolled in about 9:35. Neither of us said a word. I had made my point.
The buzz all over Blair was that “the Kunk is the room wizard.” I did not tell them about “Anka, the Russian.” Once, when making an agency call on E. 48th between Third and Park, I noticed The Middletowne, (www.helmsleyhotels.com) a small 18 floor, 190 room hotel in a smart East side neighborhood, near the UN. Out of the way, small and non tourist. The next time I was going to New York, I called Middetowne reservations, and got to talking with the reservationist, Anka who had a wonderful Russian accent. She hadn’t been in the US long and we became telephone buddies. I called her for rooms often and she always had a place for me, even during the Democratic National Convention. I regret that I never met Anka, bought her a drink, etc. Several month later, Wally Schwartz, president of Blair called me. Remember, Wally had been president of ABC-TV and knew New York well. Wally said, “Kunk, we’ve got some very important clients coming in next week and I can not find any rooms, any where. Can you do you room wizard trick again and help me out?” I said, “how many, what nights, and wait by the phone.”.I called Anka, she had rooms and I told her Wally would call right back. Wally loved the story and started a new buzz, “the Kunk speaks Russian.” Wally told me later, he often used Anka, and she kiddingly called him “Comrade Schwartz.” Who says New York is a dry, uncaring place?
I was returning to Evansville from a New York trip and had a layover in Pittsburgh. I went into the TWA Ambassadors Club to call my office, and saw a familiar personage at the bar. I walked up, and said, “do I see you on television?” “Do you watch television on Sunday mornings?” was the reply. This was televangelist Robert Schuller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.Robert_H_Schuller ) of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA. I always appreciated Schuller’s propagation of the ” Positive Gospel.,”
and agree that is “better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” We both laughed when I told him his Sunday program was on WEHT, and he said “you boys really know how to charge the high rates.” I told him it was Blair’s fault!
Jim Gilmore (http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/irl56679) of Kalamazoo, MI owned WEHT-TV, other television stations and businesses. His great-grandfather was Dr. William E. Upjohn, founder of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals. Jim also owned the Gilmore-Foyt Indy 500 car racing team. As Gilmore was a car owner, great ticket to the Indy 500 were no problem. For years, Sue and I had eight tickets in the upper penthouse paddock, right across from the timing tower and finish line. WEHT was actually located in Henderson, KY, just across the Ohio River, south of Evansville. Kentucky Derby tickets were very hard to get. Since CBS-TV carried the race and WEHT was located in Kentucky, I did OK. Sue and I saw Derbys won by, Gato Del Sol, Spectacular Bid, Pleasant Colony and others. One Friday evening before the Derby, we were in a German restaurant in Louisville. Sue said, “Jerry, look to your left.” At the next table were sportscaster Howard Cosell and jockey Billy Hartack, winner of five Derbys between 1957 and 1969. The Kentucky Derby is an incredible spectacle. Watching it on television is not enough, you must be there to fully experience the emotion, tradition, excitement and ambiance. The Old South lives again on Derby Day!.
It is now 1985. I have lived in Evansville sixteen years, and twenty-one years in Indiana. I am forty-six and single. Sherri has graduated from Indiana University with a telecommunications major, and is a weekend news anchor at WEHT. She’ll later marry a fellow in the securities business and have two boys. Brad has an aeronautical engineering degree from OU and is in the Air Force. He’ll later be a pilot with a major airline, marry a flight attendant and have three boys, including twins. Boys seem to run in this family. Sue and I have our separate ways, and I am thinking about moving to New York.
UTICA, NY & WUTR-TV 1985-1990
Park Communications, headquartered in Ithaca, NY had eleven television stations. mostly in larger SE markets such as Birmingham, Richmond, Chattanooga and others. All stations were clients of Blair Television. Park was listed on the NYSE.There was one station, WUTR-TV, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WUTR ) ABC-TV, in Utica, NY about eighty miles NE of Ithaca. Wally Schwartz and Dave Herman helped me get the general manager’s job. The Utica metro area was about 15% larger than Evansville’s metro. There were some other differences. The Utica population had a significant Italian background, and many spoke the native language. I considered taking Italian lessons myself. It also snows ninety-seven inches each year in Utica. The station actually had translators 100 miles north on the Canadian border. The chief engineer and I had to use a snowmobile to make our legal inspections. Obviously, we wore “long handles” and more. Utica is 245 miles to downtown New York City, that’s four hours driving time. I also handled national sales at WUTR and had flexibility on New York sales trips. Since I was driving, it was easy to stay the weekends.
WUTR was the only station Roy Park built, all other stations were existing stations in sunbelt growth markets. Park wanted a station close to Ithaca, where he lived, but he made a gross misjudgment. The area had a withering economy. Roy Park was very stubborn. He never sold anything. WUTR was known as “Roy’s Goose”, and it was hard to attract management people. As part of the agreement to entice someone to move to Utica, the company offered a liberal expense account. I could stay at the Middletowne at a ridiculous weekend rate, thanks to Anka, the Russian, and I could walk everywhere. Because the company owned so many television stations, I could also get last minute ticket deals from the networks or through Blair Television. And Wally Schwartz knew everybody from the days he was president of ABC-TV. Park also owned WPAT AM/FM, New York, that were then easy listening stations.Talk about low ticket prices! I soon knew all the “hot spots,” pubs and clubs on the Upper East Side. It was fantastic! Broadway, movie, and other celebs Really neat conversations.
Some of my favorite spots were Cipriano’s in the Sherry Netherland Hotel, 59th and 5th Av., @ NW corner of Central Park, the Cafe’ Carlyle and Bemelman’s Bar in the Carlyle Hotel at 76th and Madison and the Oak Bar in the Plaza Hotel on 5th Ave. @ Central Park South. Some of the people I “ran into” were Danny Kaye, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Kaye) a very shy man, who lived in the Sherry, actor Richard Kiley, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Kiley ), Franklin Cover (http://en..wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Comer) of the “Jeffersons” TV series, actor Jerry Orbach, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Orbach), Bobby Short (http://en.wikipedia.otg/wiki/Bobby_Short ) of the Cafe’ Carlyle, the greatest pianist and cabaret singer I ever heard. Also, Carol Channing, Julie London, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett as well as Tony Randall and Walter Mathau of “The Odd Couple,” and others. Memorable musicals included Cats, The Fantastics, Le Mis’erables, Hello Dolly, Annie, Oliveer and Cabaret. My favorite? The Man of La Mancha with Richard Kiley as Cervantes//Quixote.
Park Communications was listed on the NYSE and controlled by Roy Park (http://www.parkfoundation.org/about.php ). In 1949 Park and restaurant expert Duncan Hines developed Duncan Hines food products, which became a stunning success. In 1956, they sold that company to Proctor & Gamble for cash and stock. Park then became involved in television, radio and newspaper ownership. Roy Park was born in 1910, he was now nearing 80, and he began to slip. The managers all knew that Mr. Park’s will stipulated that upon his death, the entire Park Communications Company stock was to be sold and the proceeds given to Cornell University, the Park Foundation, Ithaca College and North Carolina State University. At the time of his death Forbes magazine ranked Roy Park as the 45th wealthiest individual in the US. The total proceeds from the Park Communications stock sale alone, were $730 million, or $1.1 billion in today’s constant dollars.
Roy Park was the quintessential micro manager; he pestered everyone but me. He tolerated me as he knew that if we parted ways, it could be quite difficult to find someone to move to Utica and manage “Roy’s Goose.” I had an edge; I was single. It would have been just about impossible to recruit someone with a wife. I felt since the station would soon be sold, I should look around. Dave Herman and Wally Schwartz knew of a brain surgeon, Alan Ford who was tying to put together a television station in Pensacola, FL. and needed an experienced consultant.
When I first moved to Pensacola, I met Theo Baars, II at Christ Church, 9 www.christ-church.net) Episcopal. The Baars family (www.baarsrealty.com) had been in real estate and development in Pensacola for many years. I told Theo I was looking for a place to stay, and land for a TV tower site, but zoning might be a problem at the tower site. Shortly thereafter, when Theo discovered that I lived alone and was quite meticulous, he asked “if I would be interested in house setting a beach home as the owners would be in Europe for several months.” He added that “for watching this rather large house, I could live there at no cost, the owner would pay the utilities, and I would receive a generous monthly stipend.” “No animals, no live-ins,” he added. “If you decide to get married, wait ”til the owners return.” Theo explained that “there were many opportunities like this. They are done quietly, and the challenge is to find a responsible single person, preferably a male who can move every few months.” I could office in one of the rooms in the house and must be home by midnight. “Short-tem guests are acceptable.” I didn’t comment. I did, however, sign the agreement.
I had found an unbelievable deal, at the Church. It must have been “divine intervention.”.More good news, The Flora-Bama Lounge was nearby, at 17401 Perdido Key Drive, (www.gulfshore.com). it sets one half in Florida and one half in Alabama, but is subject to Florida’s much more liberal liquor and entertainment laws. The Flora-Bama is a unique party place for the “beautiful people” from all walks of life, bankers to beach bums. It’s been there for about forty years. It’s actually indescribable, so see the Web site, www.florabama.com. Check the photos. You’ll feel young again!
We could never find a TV tower location where we could get proper zoning. Alan Ford and I abandoned that project.
1991-1996 TALLAHASSEE, FL
By 1992, television stations were rapidly selling and re-selling themselves, piling on huge amounts of debt. Many were filing bankruptcy. The primary creditors were banks and television program syndicates. As we both had TV station and financial backgrounds, Alan Ford and I established a consulting company, AJ Associates, to specialize in bankruptcy “work-outs.” It was located in Tallahassee, where Alan lived, and I moved there. Tallahassee is a great town. Great weather! The population of Tallahassee is around 200,000 with another 75,000 in Leon County. It is the Florida State Capitol, and the home of Florida State University. In all the national rankings, FSU is ranked number one, two, or three of the biggest “party schools in the US.” A friend learned that FSU was looking for a part-time or adjunct instructor to teach courses in television management. On a dare, I applied. I got the job. Old guy. Single. Best party school in US. What more is there?
In retrospect, I should have settled in Tallahassee.
OKLAHOMA CITY,WICHITA & ENID 1996-CURRENT
A bank client in Dallas, had two troubled stations in the Enid area. One in Wichita, the other in Oklahoma City. Alan Ford was working a case in Atlanta, so I came here and lived in Enid, midway between Wichita and OKC. As I am an only child, and my parents were in poor health. I felt I needed to remain here after the cases were concluded. As I grew older, it was becoming more difficult to move around, particularly being single. With my financial background, I went with Dean Witter (now Morgan Stanley) in Oklahoma City. I then went with Stifel Nicolaus and Company operating out of the Enid and Wichita offices, then back to Morgan Stanley. I learned that there is a large market to help people age 60+ who are retired or facing retirement, and have IRA’s and 401-K’s. These funds need to be put in lifetime payout vehicle situations, rather than growth situations. I’ve had a long-time associate in Indiana, Jack Brinson, and eighteen months ago we put together that kind of organization in Indiana. We concentrate in asset management for Indiana retirees or the soon to be retired from companies such as Eli Lilly, General Motors, Guidant Corp, Roche Diagnostics Corp., and others. Late this year we plan to open an Oklahoma office.
Dr. David Selby and I were the founders of the Enid High School Alumni Association. However, much of my spare time is spent in Oklahoma City. I’m back at All Souls’ Episcopal Church, where I was confirmed in 1960. I regularly usher there. Several Oklahoma City friends and I founded “The Gentry” a social group of single OKC guys, over forty-five. This is an extension of “The Bachelor’s Club of Oklahoma City.” Other single organizations I’ve been involved with include: The Registry, The Alliance, The Committee, and Gentlemen’s New Year Eve. I’ve met many good friends, both guys and gals at these.
I now have more time to devote to one of my passions, political campaign finance.. I was involved in Frank Keating’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Keating) governatorial campaigns. Then I headed the NW Oklahoma campaign finance efforts for Tom Coburn’s (www://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Coburn ) successful US Senate Campaign. Sen. Coburn’s mother, Anita JOY Allen Coburn, attended Enid High School with the Class of 1937, and graduated from Drummond High School. His father, Orin W Coburn was a member of the EHS Class of 1938 They were married May 17, 1941 in Enid’s Central Christian Church. Tom and his mother are members of the Allen family of Enid’s Henniger-Allen Funeral Home. Tom’s father, OW Coburn started his optical career with American Optical in Enid’s Broadway Tower. Mr. Coburn later founded Coburn Optical Industries which he subsequently sold for almost $60 million. Two of Sen. Coburn’s uncles and an aunt graduated from Enid High School.
Late last year, I agreed to be Oklahoma Chair of Evan Bay’s Presidential campaign. I figured this could be my only chance to sleep in Lincoln’s bedroom in the White House. Evan, his dad Birch, other staffers and I met in Oklahoma City to map out fund raising plans. We knew Evan had a distinct advantage in Oklahoma , among all Democrats, because of his mother. It was quite interesting. About thirty days later, Evan withdrew. He still tops the short list of potential Democratic Vice Presidential candidates. Lincoln’s bedroom, I’m unsure.
If you are a political buff, a friend of the Bayh’s or the Sen. Tom Coburn and his family, these links may be interesting.
http://newsok.com/article/2845526 “Mother of two current Senators hail from Enid,” The Oklahoman September 11, 2006
http://www.eidnews.com/archives/localstory/353000953html “Losing a White House connection,” Enid News & Eagle , December 19, 2006
Today, I’m in good health, within twelve pounds of my high school weight, although it is distributed differently. My blood pressure is low, my cholesterol is fine, no glasses, I don’t smoke, seldom drink, have all of my teeth and most….uhhh some of my hair,
I have been single over twenty years, but recently learned it’s healthier to have someone around the house. I now have a permanent live-in. I went to the SPACE and found a male apricot miniature poodle. He’d been in a cage there for three months, nobody wanted the little guy. I held him and his sad brown eyes seemed to say, “please rescue me from the cage and take me home with you. I just want someone to love me.” I asked the SPACE to hold him for a week, “while I think it over.” I was back early the next morning. I re-named him Olio (http://www.imbd.com/title/tt0067595/) , a lovable character in an antimated 1970’s made for TV movie. Things are going well, I’m happy. Oblio seems to be happy too; he wags his tail a lot and barks twice when he needs to go outside.
Jimmy O’Neill is living quietly in West Hollywood, CA. His vision and mobility are limited due to diabetes. Danny Williams is active and on KOMA Radio, as is Ronnie Kaye. Bob Ossenberg lives in Evansville, IN as well as Al Saucier. Joe Windsor is active in Columbus, GA. Berry Smith lives quietly in South Bend, IN, Dave Herman lives in Westchester County, NY and has returned to the NY Jets organization, handling special projects and is active in community affairs. Robert Schuller is semi-retired and lives in Garden Grove, CA. The Rev. Jacqueline Means lives in Plainfield, IN and continues her prison ministry. Theo Barrs is active in Pensacola, FL.. Several of us talk regularly.
Una Voigt died July, 1984, age 83 in Yukon, Oklahoma. The Rt. Rev. Chilton S. Powell was 82, when he died in Oklahoma City on August 4, 1989. Charles B. “Bud” Wilkinson died on February 9, 1994 in St. Louis at age 78. Keith Mather was 54 when he died in January, 1983 in Oklahoma City. Dr. Marion T. Jenkins was 77 when he died in Dallas on November 21, 1994. Asa Stallworth was 45 when he died in Augusta, Georgia in December 1973. Richard M. Fairbanks, 88, died in Key Largo, Florida on August 11, 2000. J. B. Fuqua died in Atlanta on April 2, 2006 at age 88.The Rt. Rev. John P. Craine died in Indianapolis in December, 1977 at age 86. Marvella Hern Bayh died April 24, 1979 in Washington, DC at age 46. Roy H. Park was 83 when he died on October 25, 1993 in Ithaca, New York. Pianist Bobby Short was 81 when he died in New York on May 21, 2005. Actor Franklin Cover was 78 when he died in New York City on February 5, 2006. Actor Jerry Orbach died in New York City on December 28, 2004, he was 69. Richard Kiley was 76 when he died in New York City on December 28, 2004. Wally Schwartz was 82 when he died on December 14, 2005, in Boynton Beach, FL. Less than a year later, on November 3, 2006, his widow Ginny, ended her own loneliness. Ginny was also 82.
Grace is a sense of what is right and proper; decency and thoughtfulness toward others. Character is a distinctive trait, quality or attribute. Its essential nature is moral strength and self-discipline. “Character is not a sometimes thing, it is an all the time thing.*
These are and were people of character and grace. We shared a few moments of life together. They are not forgotten.
*Green Bays Packers Coach Vince Lombard