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Radio Overnights, and the Company We Keep

Like many people who work outside mainstream occupations, BNM’s Bill Zito spent much time making a living while the rest of the community is sleeping.

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Like many people who work outside what is considered the mainstream occupations, I have spent much time making a living while the rest of the community is sleeping. However, it’s usually not that bad once you resign yourself to the fact that the people closest to you think there is something wrong with you.

The most important thing I have found about it is simply owning it. Don’t rationalize it, don’t try and make excuses for it; merely embrace the oddity and move on. I am long past extolling the benefits of always being able to find parking, shop when it’s not crowded, and enjoy being home during the day.

The eccentricities of the night worker tend to broaden as time goes on. So I find myself becoming more and more fascinated with the people who have to do their jobs in front of the camera or the microphone and those who must turn words and images into something discernible at 2:45 am.

Yes, I’m one of them, but fortunately, no one has to see me or engage in conversation with me at those times. Call it my gift to humanity.

I’ve generally found myself amazed by those capable of looking and sounding human, even being engaging at those hours. True, I was in the dark (literally) for nearly half of my 12 years in law enforcement. Still, the costume often worked wonders in detracting from the visible signs of fatigue and the tangible hints of irritability.

A couple of decades ago, I think there were more options in the news and talk area for radio. There were undoubtedly more local overnight talk shows for those unable to sleep, so the cryptic and often outlandish topics of conversation were out there. Now, not so much and most of America has only Coast to Coast on the airwaves to feed their fixes.

Now, I know there are delayed broadcasts of many popular talk programs, but I have never been a fan as someone seeking actual company late at night or early in the morning; it’s kind of like playing back your voicemail messages a day later. I prefer life in real-time.

Newsgathering overnight can be a challenging task; newsrooms are so lonely these days that, along with doing the job, you have to find a way to keep yourself sane. Of course, every environment is different, but on the TV and radio sides, it’s not so rare to see midnight staffers doing prep and show stacking for the morning while simultaneously writing and editing for a top or bottom cast and chasing any possible breaker on Twitter or whatever scanner might still be in use somewhere.

What I’m trying to say is those doing some or all of those things need company not just for background noise but also for some subliminal information, and no, not in the form of a succession of Friends episodes or a repetitive cable news playback.

Please know I am grateful for the gift of time zones and the offering of international newscasts, but I’m also greedy and need more.

It is reassuring that the radio network anchors are out there at the top and bottom; there’s a level of camaraderie many don’t even know they’re providing.

Then, at 2:36 am, I get a reprieve when ABC’s World News Now comes on. Living, breathing news people on TV who really help get us through the roughest couple of hours in the morning.

It’s amity of a different variety, television with the right formula.

I’m not doing a commercial for them; I’m just offering up a realization that they have helped keep me afloat no matter what the morning circumstance may bring. And I still flip around to see what everybody else has because that is part of my job. The difference is that I tend to land back at WNN even when I’m not working the desperate hours.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have worked with at least one of their many talented personnel over the years, but that bears little to no influence here. There is simply a marked difference and through time. 

However, the anchor teams have changed and moved on; the show still manages to keep that same level of silliness and sincerity without going full-on camp like Saturday Night Live, only without having to put up with seven bad years out of every decade.

There’s an environment reminisce of what overnight radio used to have. And that’s not such an easy thing. They still have to do the news, which usually isn’t the most positive subject matter even if you try to lighten it up at that hour.

I have woken up with the show, starting my day; I’ve watched while working and even as I’ve attempted to turn in for the night. There is shtick, personal revelation, and inside glimpses at the operation itself. When later in the morning they transition to America This Morning, it automatically tightens up to properly begin the news day.

The show has been around a while, and we’ve all seen concepts and formats fail; we’ve seen shows of all kinds hang around way too long. Some, however, continue on the same path without the need to make constant course corrections and keep getting the job done.

To show my way of thinking…I say M*A*S*H should have ended after season 5; the original Law & Order should have never returned, and why, oh why, is The Simpsons still on? 

WNN/ATM does not have this problem, and I, for one, am glad. 

I like being able to count on it. I hope things don’t change too much because one day, there will no doubt be a doddering insomniac needing some virtual company.

The sleepless need news too.

BNM Writers

Stop Caring About Personal Lives of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes

Relationships are relationships, they don’t always come about to suit everyone’s ideals.

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To begin with, I don’t care. As in, it does not concern me and it’s pretty much none of my business. If I was somebody watching — and I’m not — I still wouldn’t care. As in, it would not impact me or change how I view the show or the performance of the aforementioned hosts or anchors. Yes, it’s been a couple of hours since the last rag dispatch, so let’s look at the case of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes.

These are two people with jobs. Careers, actually.

Two people whose activities and pursuits outside of their duties assigned by their employers seem to have caught the eye of a great deal of people. Probably as many or more people than watch them on the program they appear on.

Why? Why has this suddenly become a Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck story?

I am not even going to waste time recounting or examining what brought everybody here.

Also, I cannot and will not keep up on the sightings of them together, the clandestine pictures of the estranged couples doing the dog exchange (been there) or the latest comments from the ex or soon-to-be ex-partners.

I don’t know anybody involved and it is incredibly not anything I’m entitled to know.

But let me say this much: I’ve seen real-life couples paired to host shows before, we all have. Regis and Joy, Joe and Mika, George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky.

These pairings have often resulted in great popularity, interest and even devotion by a loyal audience of viewers. But, it looks like in this case nobody is going to get the chance to find out.

Why address it if I’m saying I don’t care?

Consider it another instance of if it’s happening to others it could happen to you. Also, on its face, it just doesn’t appear to be right.

The legal issues here, if any exist, are for the lawyers to decide. The controversies concerning behavior and appearance are for whomever decides they themselves, are above board and immune to scrutiny.

Were these two people producers, writers, directors, or any off-air type, would the same attention be paid, would the same approach (notice I did not say rule) apply?

Relationships are relationships, they don’t always come about to suit everyone’s ideals.

How many couples met or began relationships at work under any kind of circumstances?

People meet on the job. Take a random survey not only of the news media but of most professions, it happens. A lot. And it’s not always a Cinderella story. But life still goes on and work still gets done.

I guess this is different because the paparazzi and the Disney people decided to get nosy and perhaps become judgmental.

An audience can learn things about the people they follow and then find themselves falling into any number of categories. They can be outraged and appalled or unconcerned and dispassionate. Or they can be somewhere in the middle enough for it to have virtually no impact on loyalty or influence.

So, why not allow the audience to decide for themselves instead of the media giants choosing to decide for them?

It looks to me like somebody isn’t giving their customers the credit they deserve.

Nothing new.

Who looks bad? Well, everyone I guess.

What I find of considerable interest is that the network and the rest of the TV overlords seem hellbent on damaging their own product in favor of casting the first and last stones of disapproval. Of course, at this point we really only know what we’re being fed but I think it’s like shooting oneself in the foot while trying to appear chaste.

The parent company here appears to wearing a Moral Majority hat and while Mickey and Minnie’s parents are known for maintaining an even strain most of the time, I’m thinking this may turn out not to be their finest hour.

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BNM Writers

KFI’s Bill Handel Is the Same Guy on the Air as Off

Barrett News Media’s Jim Cryns spoke with KFI’s Bill Handel and the two discussed various topics pertaining to the radio host’s career.

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The man is a friggin’ legend in Los Angeles. Bill Handel can’t go for a walk on Hollywood Boulevard without seeing his name below his feet–seriously. 

Handel is the 2,385th star on the Walk of Fame. His star sits in front of a tattoo parlor, next to Ernestine Schumann-Heink’s star. “She was a German-American opera star,” Handel said. “She died in the 1920s and weighed about 400 pounds. Stars on the Walk of Fame are like real estate. Mine is near a store that sold bikinis.”

He told those attending his unveiling ceremony, ‘My staff had to be here. If you were getting a star, I sure as hell wouldn’t be here.’

Born in Brazil, Handel immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was five years old. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, he learned English without the benefit of a bilingual education program and became one of the world’s leading reproductive law experts.

He can be heard on KFI Los Angeles on weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and on Handel on the Law on Saturdays from 6 am to 11 am.

“My father was a Holocaust survivor,” Handel said. “My mother was a dentist in Brazil but couldn’t practice here. There was no such thing as taking the boards, and they didn’t honor her as a foreign doctor. She worked as a lab technician.”

Handel is a product of the public schools in the L.A. unified district. Later he attended Cal State at Northridge, then law school. 

“They said it was one of the best; now it’s out of business,” Handel jokes.  “Trump Law School would have been better than the one I attended. It was a very minor law school. I just think it didn’t get enough students.” 

As he graduated from law school, Handel was running his own home remodeling business. He wasn’t very good at it.

“I was remodeling a doctor’s house and I underbid the work by 400 – thousand dollars,” Handel said. “It was horrible. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I told him he could sue me. I’d go bankrupt and have no money to give him. Then I came up with the idea of working it off. He said okay.”

The doctor was an endocrinologist and Handel said the physician had more money than he knew what to do with. 

“He liked me and I started to work with him. Any legal thing he needed.”

Handel said the doctor was an unexpected mentor. 

“He was the best legal mind I’d ever met and he never studied law,” Handel said. “ One day he says he just got a call from a patient who tried to conceive using every method possible with no luck, including several surgeries.

Handel explained this was in 1980 and that in vitro fertilization wasn’t common or even well-known. He said prospective parents would run an ad in the L.A. Times looking for a surrogate to be artificially inseminated. The doctor told them they needed some sort of contract with the surrogate. He called Handel. 

“Of course, I didn’t know anything about in vitro fertilization, but that didn’t prevent me from telling him I did,” Handel explained. “He gives me a call and I take some notes. Then I had to figure out how to write a surrogate mother contract. There was no template. How do you pay a woman to give up her child? Payment for custody is a crime. Issues went on and on. I went to several law school and talked with professors, picked their brains. All of them. My ethics professor, contracts professor.” 

His ethics professor was Harvey Levin, the same guy from TMZ. Levin taught law at Whittier College. He also wrote a column for the L.A. Times and was known as ‘Dr. Law’ on the radio.

“Harvey was a very good lawyer before he entered the world of entertainment,” Handel said. 

Handel finalized his first fertilization contract and the doctor went ahead with the procedure. The woman had the child in 1983. Two years later Morley Safer interviewed Handel on 60 Minutes about the process of handling surrogate parents. 

“What I really liked about that experience is when the 60 Minutes producer came out to California,” Handel said. “It was her first story with the show. We went to Spago and she whipped out an American Express which had CBS as the owner of the card. I thought, wow, that’s impressive. This could be good. Because of that show, my law practice broke open.” 

Handel said he backed into broadcasting. He was interviewed on KABC as an expert in vitro law, often interviewed by host Michael Jackson. 

“Michael Jackson the broadcaster, not the eight-year-old boy-loving one,” Handel explained. “Jackson was one of the great talkers. He was well-connected and nationally syndicated. In those days the host was more of a moderator for a point-counterpoint type of show. It was Rush Limbaugh who changed everything. As whacked out as he was at the end, he reinvented talk radio.”

Handel said he knew he was a good interviewer and was popular with listeners. He told engaging stories. He talked about his clients and his practice. 

“I gave legal advice. I’m still doing that.”

Handel started appearing on Jackson’s show more often and one day the PD came down the hall and told Handel he was better than half the people he had on the air. 

“I told him I was better than all of the people he had on the air,” Handel quipped. “I was half-joking.”

After all these years Handel said he’s still having a great time. “It’s a great gig,” he said. “My producer has been with me for 25 years. She knows the topics I want. If she comes across something about D-Day, she knows I’ll immediately take it. I love historical footnotes like Hitler’s dog’s name. Blondie. He tried out the cyanide pills on Blondie. Gave Eva Braun one.” 

Handel said his show is general talk. He will delve into politics, lifestyle, and interviews. 

“We bring on reporters from the station as we’re news-heavy. News stations are expensive to run. We’ve had all this crazy rain stuff and interviewed people all over the place. I work with Robin Bertolucci, who is well regarded in radio throughout the country. I’d say she’s the best PD in the country.”

Handel said he’s the same guy on the air as off. “I have to be more careful about words I choose. You’ve got the seven magic words you can’t say like George Carlin informed us. You can say a lot of stuff. You can say ‘ass****. You can’t be scatological. You can say ‘bull***’ but you can’t say a bull took a ‘s***.’”

He reads constantly and is fascinated with WWII history. He has visited Normandy and said the experience was astounding. 

“It’s a beach of 75 miles, which comprised the landing areas of D-Day,” Handel said. “Omaha Beach was the one that got nailed. The Canadians walked ashore on other beaches. There is a parcel of land given to the United States by the French. It’s Normandy American Cemetery on the bluff. The National Park Service handles the operations. It’s so meticulous, so moving. Thousands of graves. Just extraordinarily beautiful. You can see the cliffs the Rangers climbed from the beach. They still have the concrete bunkers where the German gunners were.”

Weekly, Handel does his show Handel on the Law, a nationally syndicated program. 

“I give callers legal advice. I’ve only had one specialty, the rest I just make up. I have my own malpractice insurance. I give shitty legal advice. If you have a problem, sue the radio station. I don’t give a damn. If you’re looking for real legal advice, why are you calling a radio station?”

Handel is hilarious, but he said he doesn’t have the thick skin to be a standup comic. “When people laugh during one of my talks or when I’m on the air,  it’s okay. But standing in front of a microphone telling jokes is another thing. For example, I was master of ceremonies at the Radio Hall of Fame last year. I got up and started doing some jokes. Crickets. Nothing. The audience was staring at me like you would an oil painting. Nobody was moving. It kept happening joke after joke.” 

He loves the morning drive and said he wouldn’t take any other shift. 

“I get up at 3:30 am and that’s absolutely fine. I go to bed super early. I don’t socialize. I hate my family. I’ve got twin daughters and I guess they’re okay. They don’t bring me any joy at all.”

Yup. His humor is as dry as dirt. 

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BNM Writers

Market Still Finding 2023 Footing

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

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While it’s hard to imagine 2023 being as painful for investors as 2022, experts still cannot say for certain we are destined for blue skies ahead. Many in the media are starting the year by sifting through the stock market tea leaves; trying to figure out what historical data can tell us about probabilities and expectations for the next twelve months.

Some think the United States is poised for a market rebound, while others remain quite bearish, feeling that negative policy implications have yet to be fully realized.

Peter Tuchman of Trademas Inc. joined Neil Cavuto on his Fox News program Friday, to offer his thoughts about where the American stock market might be headed in light of the newly-divided United States Congress.

“Markets have a sort of a gut of their own,” Cavuto opened. “Today’s a good example. We’re up 300 points, ended up down 112 points. What’s going on?”

“Markets don’t like unknowns, and markets need confidence. The investing community needs confidence,” Tuchman said. “And I think it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild that. And as we saw the other night with what went on in the House, it feels like people should get busy governing as opposed to all this posturing.”

Six months ago, Tuchman didn’t have a solid feel for the direction of the market. And just two trading weeks into the year, he still doesn’t believe any real trend has been established.

“The market has yet to find its ground. It’s yet to find its footing,” Tuchman told Cavuto. “And still, even coming into 2023, the first week of trading we have not found our footing. We have come in on a couple of economic notes that were a little bit positive. We opened up with a little bit of irrational enthusiasm. By the end of the days we were trading down.”

Meanwhile, some financial outlets, such as CNBC, have dug into the data showing what a market rise during the year’s first week – such as what we experienced this year – potentially means for the rest of 2023. They published a story last week with the headline, Simple ‘first five days’ stock market indicator is poised to send a good omen for 2023“.

On an episode of his popular YouTube program late last week, James from Invest Answers dug into 73 years of stock market data, to test that theory and see if the first five days of yearly stock market performance are an indicator of what the market might do over the full year.

“Some analysts pay attention to this, the first five trading day performance, can it be an indicator of a good year or a bad year,” James began last week, “I wanted to dig into all of that and get the answer for myself. Because some people think yes. Some people swear blind by it. Some people think it’s a myth or an old wive’s tale. Some people think it’s a great omen.”

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

Based on James’ analysis…

If the gains from the first five market days of the year are negative, the market rises 86 percent of the time over the full year, with an average gain of 6%.

If the first five days are positive, the market increases 92% of the time, with an average yearly gain of 16%.

Most importantly, in this year’s scenario, where the first five days saw a jump of more than 1%, the market traditionally ends positive for the year 95 percent of the time. Those years see an average yearly gain of 18%.

“Is it a good omen, does it look bullish?” James asked. “Well, yes, based on history. But remember, there are factors like inflation, interest rates, geopolitical turmoil, supply chains, slowing economy. All that stuff is in play. But history also says that the market bounces bounces back before the market even realizes it’s in a recession. That’s an important thing to know.”

On his Your World program, Cavuto wondered if the recent House speaker voting drama has added to the uncertainty facing markets.

“Historically, Wall Street definitely is a bit more friendly to a Republican administration,” Tuchman said. “We’re in new ground, there’s no playbook, Neil. And I went over it with you the last time. There’s no playbook for coming out of a pandemic. No playbook for what’s gone on over the last two and a half years. Let’s think about it. March 2020, the market sold off so radically. We had a rally of 20 percent in 2020. 28 percent in 2021, in the eyes of a global economic shutdown due to the Federal Reserve’s posturing and whatnot.

“And now we’re trying to unwind that position. In tech, and in possible recession, and inflation and supply chain issues. So, there’s no way historically to make a judgment on what the future looks like in that realm, let alone what’s going on in the dis-functionality of what’s happening in Washington. I would like to disengage what’s going on in Washington and try and rebuild the confidence in the market coming into 2023.” 

So while the data might indicate a strong year ahead, the fact is that many analysts still won’t make that definitive call amidst such economic turmoil gripping the country. 

Along with U.S. markets, they remain steadfast in their search for solid footing.

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