Growing, Building, Expanding
Bob Sirott and his wife Marianne Murciano are on the air together every afternoon (Noon – 3pm) on WGN Radio (720 AM). That sounds like the kind of arrangement that could strain a marriage, but you have to remember how Bob and Marianne met.
“We met sitting at the anchor desk,” Marianne recalls of their days at Fox Thing in the Morning (WFLD in Chicago). “We had a relationship working professionally before we had a personal relationship. The only relationship we had was on the air, and it was a weird relationship at first. Bob would not speak to me unless we were on the air. During the commercial breaks I would want to tell him about something that happened to me, and he would say ‘Save it for the air’.”
Bob smiles at the memory. He knows how it sounds, but it’s really broadcasting 101. “It’s never as good when you try to recreate a moment,” he says.
“As soon as I realized what he was doing,” Marianne concurs, ” I thought, OK this is brilliant. I get it now. I was the same way when I was doing an interview with someone as a television reporter. I didn’t want to meet them or talk to them beforehand because it was never as good the second time around. I wanted that all to happen on camera.”
Obviously now that they’re married they talk off the air all the time, but they still work at keeping that spontaneity during the show.
“More memorable moments come out of these unplanned organic segments,” Bob says, “than the planned segments with guests or written material. To me there are several models that have proven this approach over the years. Tom Snyder (NBC late night host) used to open his show by just talking to you, and then ended the show the same way. That was always the best part. The first segment of the Steve (Dahl) & Garry (Meier) show (on the Loop and WLS) was the best for the same reason – they had nothing planned. The opening chat with Regis & Kelly is another. It just keeps it honest, genuine, and real. ”
And Bob believes it’s one of the reasons people tune in every day. “The spontaneity is a big element of our show, but obviously so is the fact that we’re married. People can relate to the issues we’re talking about on the air.”
Sirott has been on the air in Chicago in one form or another for more than forty years now, but even with all that experience, this show is breaking new ground for him. For the first time in his career, he’s digging a little deeper into his own personal life and sharing things he was previously reticent to share.
“It’s taken me a long time to get to this point,” he admits. “I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t have done a show like this five or six years ago. Doing it with Marianne helps. She pulls me in to talk about subjects I never used to talk about. It’s part of the maturing process too. We’re growing up with the listeners. Instead of doing jokes about pickup lines on Division Street, we’re talking about things like chauffeuring the kids around. That’s our reality now, and it’s the reality of the listeners too.”
Another reality is the totally different perspectives they bring to the table, despite the fact they are married. “We’re very different in every possible way,” Bob concedes. “In personality, background, and interests. Marianne keeps me honest, and keeps me from being a little too inside or self-aware, and if I make Marianne laugh – not only does she have a great laugh, but then I know that maybe we’re reaching everybody.”
Bob thinks the show is filling a void. “I used to listen to Stan & Terry on my way in to work,” he says of the midday talk show starring Stan Lawrence and the late Terry Armour on the former WCKG (105.9FM). “They were fun, smart, and really had their fingers on the pulse of what was going on. When that went away, I struggled to find a replacement. it was either all news or all sports or all political yelling. That sense of general fun Stan & Terry brought was nowhere to be found.”
Fun is something that is not only encouraged at WGN these days, it’s part of the management team’s DNA. “The environment that (Larry) Wert, (Jimmy) deCastro, and (Todd) Manley have created, doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Bob says. “If you’re on the same general page as they are, you can really do whatever you want. Play to your strengths, play to what WGN is supposed to be, but have fun! Go with it. It’s an unbelievable environment if you think about where the rest of the business is these days. We’re growing, building, expanding. Everyone else is shrinking, cutting back, and writing lots of memos.”
“Bob tells me all the time ‘You’re spoiled. It’s not always like this.'” Marianne says of her first full time radio gig. “We walk by Jimmy’s (deCastro, WGN General Manager) office every morning, and he comes out to give us a kiss before the show. I’m not kidding. He kisses me, and then sometimes he even kisses Bob.’
“On the cheek,” Bob quickly adds. “Only on the cheek.”
– Rick Kaempfer