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Media: September 2021 • “The Big ’89 to Hollywood”

| August 31, 2021


Kris Erik Stevens (WLS Late ’60s)

Kris Erik Stevens’s arrival in Chicago in the late ’60s involved a bit of serendipity.

“I was on my way from San Francisco to a gig I had just taken in Pittsburgh, and I stopped in Chicago along the way to see an old buddy of mine, Lyle Dean, who I had worked with in Omaha. I said I wanted to meet the program director. Lyle said, “Well, he’s the guy you just brushed off on the way in here. You didn’t even say hello.’ I thought, ‘Oh No!’ So I ran down the hall and went into his office and said, ‘Mr. Rook, I’m so sorry; I always wanted to meet you.’ And I introduced myself. He told me that he had heard a lot of good things about me. Sure enough, after I was in Pittsburgh for about four months, he gave me a call, and before I knew it, I was on WLS.”

Having grown up in Michigan listening to the station, it was a dream come true.

“I used to copy those guys while I was doing an all-night show in high school. I loved Chicago. I loved the people. To me, that is where I always wanted to be. It was a big-time radio station. I was on the air at night on the best station, WLS, and the signal was carried all over the country. I mean, it covered everything. It was unbelievable the reach it had. I could hear it in California.”

Stevens has very fond memories of his three years in Chicago.

“Working with people like Larry Lujack. That was a pleasure. Larry and I got along really well. He had a lot of material to work with regarding me, I’m afraid. WLS had a great environment. They let you be you. I made a lot of personal appearances and met a lot of people, and of course, it opened the doors for me because people now knew who I was. It’s what made the rest of my career possible.”

He also had a taste of the famous WLS-WCFL rivalry, although he never really considered it contentious.

“When (program director) John Rook left WLS, they brought a new clown in, and he wasn’t a fan of mine—I was a little too much for him, and before I knew it, I was on the outside looking in. Looking for a new job. So I went down to Miami and became a program director. And then, Rook called me again and said, ‘I’m going back into Chicago at WCFL. Come join me, and let’s beat WLS.’ But honestly, other than that, I never really thought about the rivalry between the two stations or the ratings when I was in Chicago. When I was on WLS, we were always #1. We had Larry. John Rook was a great program director, and he really knew what he was doing. Then when Lujack and I both went to WCFL with John Rook, we beat WLS, so it wasn’t really a big issue for me.”

But after a nomadic radio career that had brought him from Michigan to Omaha to San Francisco to Pittsburgh to Miami, and Chicago twice, after his WCFL stint, Stevens finally decided it was time to “give up the inflatable furniture.”

“When I left WCFL, I said to myself, that’s it. No more radio for me. I’m done. I want to go into movies, and I know I can do that. So I went to LA without a job, and I did put it together there. I met a lady, and settled down, and created my own business.”

That business included many high-level voice-over acting in everything from commercials to trailers to cartoons (The Smurfs and Richie Rich). But it included radio work too.

“I did a show called Entertainment Coast to Coast via satellite every Saturday night. I conceptualized it and wrote it, and movie stars came to us. We interviewed big-time celebrities for that show. It opened so many doors. I did a deal with Universal Pictures with the Rolling Stones for their movie Let’s Spend the Night Together. They wanted a nationwide radio special to coincide with the release. I flew to Paris to talk to Mick and Keith. Then I went to London to interview Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, and then to New York to interview Ron Wood, and then flew back to LA to put the program together.”

Kris and the movie have remained constant companions ever since.

“For ten years, I was the voice of MovieTunes. I was partnered with Robert Kardashian. His daughter Kim used to come over to pick up the tapes from me after I recorded them. We were in every movie theater in America. That was great exposure.”

Despite going bigtime in Hollywood, does Stevens stay in touch with his old Chicago friends?

“(Former WLS colleague) Fred Winston and I have always been close. I still talk to him all the time. He puts me on the floor—the funniest guy I know. I stay in touch with Chuck Buell from my WLS days. I was looking forward to seeing them—there was talk of a WLS reunion happening right before the pandemic. It’s just another one of those things that didn’t happen.”

To read more about what has happened to Kris Erik Stevens, check out his website at

-Rick Kaempfer

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