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Media – December 2019

| December 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Chicago media community lost several greats this year. Among them, WLS Channel 7’s long-time reporter Russ Ewing, WLS disc jockey Jim Dunbar, and WGN-TV’s Marshall Brodine. All of them were giants in this town that left lasting legacies, but two others passed away in 2019 that were personal friends of mine, and I wanted to pay special tribute to them.

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In April, Chicago sportscasting legend Chet Coppock passed away after being severely injured in an automobile accident.  I worked with him for several years at the Loop (WLUP AM 1000) in the late 80s and early 90s. That was at the height of Chet’s popularity when he was hosting Coppock on Sports, which would later spawn an entire radio format (Sports Talk). At the time, I was Steve Dahl & Garry Meier’s producer, and his show was on after ours every day. We literally talked every day for four years, and I was convinced he didn’t know my name. I got a lot of “Hey Chief” or “Hey Sport” or “Hey Champ” in the Loop hallways.

But in the last few years of his life, Chet reached out to me to help him publish his books (I own a publishing company — Eckhartz Press). He wasn’t the same Chet anymore. He was introspective and vulnerable. And he was finally allowing people to know the real Chet. When we published the book Your Dime, My Dance Floor: Chet Coppock in Pursuit of Chet Coppock, I couldn’t have been prouder of him. I interviewed Chet about the book, and here’s a short excerpt I think shows the real Chet.

My relationship with my dad was very complex and sadly, never resolved. The old man was wired to numerous local and national sports figures. He gave me a big-time introduction to sports. Sadly, however, about 95 percent of our relationship was indifference. I never really felt my dad cared about me as a person. I yearned for attention and would find it defining and redefining the persona of Chet Coppock. I mean, I was lost, yet there was one move I made that smacked of common sense. I loved sipping Red Label scotch in juke joints. I was never an alcoholic, but by my early 30’s I was just slopping up the sauce far too much. So when my daughter Lyndsey arrived, I made a pledge:  I swore my children would never see me as tanked as I saw my parents virtually every night. I didn’t read any books on parenting. I just tried to be responsive and comforting. I am blessed. Lynds and my son Tyler are great kids with big hearts. Have I been a good father, a new age Ozzie Nelson? Ask the official scorer. I do know that I feel blue ribbon pride that I never got a call from a cop, a school principal, or a ticked-off parent screaming that either of my little ones was a danger to society. I can never thank Ty and Lyndsey enough. They taught me there was life beyond the red zone and the bullpen. Oh ya, I made good on my pledge, I haven’t had a drink in 34 years. No kidding.”

Chet passed away just a few weeks after his daughter Lyndsey got married. He would have been blown away by the outpouring of love Chicago gave him after his death. I just wish he could have seen it.

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In January, Pat Colander passed away. Pat was a gifted journalist for The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Reader, and other publications for many years, but she was also a mentor as an editor during her time at Lake Magazine, Shore Magazine, and the Northwest Indiana Times. Among the many writers that she nurtured along the way:  Your humble media writer at Illinois Entertainer.

I met Pat almost twenty years ago when I was working with John Landecker. She was the editor of Lake Magazine at the time, and they were doing a story about John. In our first conversation, I mentioned that I was a writer too, and she asked me to write an article for her magazine. She liked it, and I wrote many more.

When Landecker’s show ended, she encouraged me to write full-time. And I did. My first two books The Radio Producer’s Handbook and $everance were both championed by Pat in the pages of her magazine. When she moved over to Shore Magazine to be the editor there, I went with her. I wrote even more for her there, including the weekly column that came to be my pride and joy – “Father Knows Nothing.” When it came out in book form, Pat gave me an enthusiastic endorsement on the back cover. Pat was always encouraging, always supportive. She was a great cheerleader for me and all the writers she employed.

And she never stopped writing herself. When I started up Eckhartz Press, Pat came to us with an idea. She wanted to print some of her best work (from The Reader, The Tribune, etc.) into book form. Those articles turned into Hugh Hefner’s First Funeral and Other Tales of Love & Death in Chicago.  We weren’t surprised at all when it won the CWA Book of the Year award in 2016. It’s that good.

You only encounter so many truly exceptional people in your life, and Pat was one of them for me. I’m grateful to have seen the tremendous example she set for how to treat people, how to be generous in spirit, and how to be giving to others. Her passing was a significant loss, and I still miss her.

-Rick Kaempfer

 

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Category: Columns, Media, Monthly

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