Friday, October 27, 2006

Scary Movies

I was talking the other day with Bob Hoffmaster the host of KFIZ's "The Morning Show with Bob Hoffmaster" about our favorite scary movies. I told him I always enjoyed John Carpenter's "The Fog." It wasn't so much the scares as the story I liked. The remake wasn't too bad, but the director of the film had his own vision and I don't share it.

Anyway I told Bob when I was a kid a couple movies I saw on television that scarred me were "The Screaming Skull" and another about the hand of a dead man that was driving another man insane. The later was done a long time ago, but it was effective for scaring a little kid.

Most of the movies I saw were served up by cheezy late Saturday night horror film hosts. When I lived outside of Memphis, Tennessee it was this guy who was part Frankenstein and part Dracula. As a teen I was living in the U.P. and we could watch "The Ghoul" (pictured) on Channel 50 out of Detroit. He was perfect for his time and actually was out of a station in Cleveland owned by the same broadcasting company as Channel 50.

By the time I was in college we were watching some guy out of Traverse City, Michigan who dressed up as a bald vampire and hung out in a casket in between movie segments. In truth he hosted a movie show for them during the week, but in regular garb. You may have seen him. Once in a while you can spot him in a bloopers clip where the casket he's in collapses beneath him destroying his whole set.

In this area I've caught "Ned the Dead" from time to time, but have kind of grown out of the need to tune in to see if the host is going to be more interesting than the movie they are showing.

Today's scary movies have better effects, but sometimes leave the imagination out of it. Once in a while there's something different like "The Grudge" or "The Ring," but there's too much slash and dash in most. Still it's good training ground for up and coming actors. Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Aniston all had roles in horror films when they began.

If you're not sure how good a horror film is, here's a test. Look for the moment in a scary movie when there's a fake scare. Almost every horror film has one. If it isn't handled well or is done better than the first real scare in the film then you've been tricked. Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Soft Serve

We've been watching with interest as remodeling progresses at the A & W across the street from our KFIZ studios. It got me to wondering if the most pretty and popular girls still work at drive-in restaurants.

As Ricky Ricardo would say, "I've got some splaining to do!" You have to understand that growing up in a small town of 3,500 people we only had three drive-in or drive-up restaurants. One was Clyde's, which served half-pound hamburgers well before somebody else got the idea. Then there was the local A & W that no longer is open. However it seemed that all the popular girls I went to high school with worked at the "Dairy Cream." Yeah the name's right think McDougal's in the Eddie Murphy movie "Coming to America."

Anyway I got to know some of the girls that worked at the "Dairy Cream" over the years. They got paid next to nothing for the privlege hoping to get tips from classmates and the middle-aged adolescents who hadn't gotten over themselves yet.

When I was a kid it was a treat for the family to go to the "Dairy Cream." When I was teenager it became another teen angst moment where you pondered whether you were going for the ice cream or to catch a glimpse of a girl you might have a crush on. To be honest I don't remember going to the "Dairy Cream" as a high schooler, but was dragged along for good old time sake once when I was going to college.

The "Dairy Cream" is still there, but other restaurants have popped up because of a bypass that was put in and you can get your soft serve ice cream or frozen yogurt at a number of restaurants now. That's kind of sad in a way. Gille's and the A & W have long histories in Fond du Lac serving generations of the same families. But I'm not sure the "Dairy Cream" in little old Manistique, Michigan will stand the test of time and competition.

As for the girls that worked at the "Dairy Cream," I think working there was the price of popularity for some of them or a way to nurture it for others. I remember a few of them. Some of them ended up doing very well in life. They found out early that some times with life you have to serve others before you can serve yourself.

Going to a drive-in restaurant is still a kick, but a little further removed from my high school years I can now appreciate what my fellow classmates went through working at one.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I've been working in radio long enough to have seen some interesting changes. There's always going to be changes in personnel. Our host of Backstage Live on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ Joe Scheibinger recently announced his semi-retirement. He's had a tough time with his voice and had to go through surgery, which he passed through with flying colors this week.

That of course opens the door for changes. To paraphrase something I read my first year in radio. No one is indispensible. If you take a teaspoon of water out of Lake Winnebago no one will notice a significant change in the water level. That's not to say that Joe isn't unique and he'll be back from time-to-time.

Aside from the change in personnel a radio station is constantly undergoing changes in technology. Most of ours over the past few years have been associated with computers. More than six months ago our News and Sports went digital. What does that mean? Well, it means that we now record interviews, games, etc. on digital recorders and upload it into a computer. There it's edited and put into programs that allow us to play it back on a computer and out over the air. Maybe that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, but now we can review hours worth of recordings in minutes for the best possible quotes and moments.

You can now hear some of that sound on our homepage at ( I'm still not that comfortable with the term podcast, but it's a way you can hear the newsmakers and sports stars put things in their own terms. I kind of like it because through our KFIZ Today newsletter I occasionally hear from someone who grew up in Fond du Lac, but now lives in Texas or England, even Australia and is still keeping tabs on what's going on at home. For them it's an added attraction and you as well. Plus you never know when that next million dollar soundbite ("Today is a day that will live in infamy," "We've just received word from Dallas..") might be something we can share with you.

Vinyl records,cart machines, reel-to-reels, cassettes, digital audio tapes, minidiscs, compact MP3s. There's certainly been some changes in the way radio has brought you sound over the years. Now the blessed computer has become one of the ways we can do that. I'm not sure what is next, but can hardly wait to see.

How much has radio changed over the years? Consider the picture included in this blog. It's the first mass produced radio from the Marconi Company. Yes that Marconi and this particular model was made in 1922...the year KFIZ first started broadcasting. My Mr. Marconi haven't we come far!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Move that bus!

When you watch Christine Koepke and her four children see their new home in Dundee for the first time on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" next month, it's going to be much different than what onlookers experienced.

There were thousands who filled the small community to see the family's reaction and chant "move that bus." I talked with a few. People camped overnight, including students from Winnebago Lutheran Academy where two of the Koepke children go to school. Some napped while they waited for the reveal. Other area residents I spoke with, including several women from Fond du Lac, had gotten there about 5 a.m. The reveal wouldn't be until just before 3 p.m. as we found out the hard way.

Being in the area designated for the press was interesting. It was a mix of reporters from radio, television and various print media. One young woman asked me if she could get into the area, which was closer than her vantage point. I told her it was for the media. She wondered if she snuck in if she would be able to get away with it. I answered security was pretty tight. Later I spotted her filling out a media credential form. She had written down she was representing the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She should have put down a smaller newspaper, they asked to see a business card that she couldn't produce.

Most people were patient and there to express their support for the Koepkes. A few were obnoxious like one drunk on a rooftop that was yelling something unintelligible that only he apparently understood. Two men in the press corp started their own chant just for him, "roll off the roof, roll off the roof." Fortunately he didn't, but did quiet down after that.

There was a lot of waiting. Occasionally one of the show's stars would go by on a gator and toss bags of potato chips or beef sticks. A few women were heart broken when I told them that as I was coming in Michael Moloney (pictured) handed out a few roses to some women in the crowd.

There was also plenty of practice. They'd roll the empty limousine by and one of the directors on a bullhorn would tell the gathering to cheer. Don't look at the camera, "eyes on the limo." They'd also run the show's bus up and down in front of the home and the crowd knew enough to chant "move that bus." That happened about 4 or 5 times. Stars of the show would be spotted and that would send up another roar.

I was not only there to get a story, but call in reports. That didn't happen. Apparently there's a dead spot in the area for cell service and only a few providers could cut through it. There was plenty of time to talk with people about why they were there and how long they'd been waiting. No one wanted to miss anything and left emotionally and likely physically exhausted. Myself I found out I could overcome physical inconveniences (standing for hours, the need for a restroom break) for a story.

Finally the Koepkes arrived. What you could see was an intense emotional reaction. The house represented Matt Koepke's dream for them. Unfortunately he died of cancer. No doubt it will be tough for them too when the episode airs on Sunday, November 19th..about 2 months after Matt's death from cancer.

Now that I've seen how they put together the key element of the show I want to see it too. To be honest when the limo with the Koepkes rolled up some thought it was another test run. There was no appearance by Brett Favre, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney. What you did see was thousands of area residents who volunteered their time, services and cared enough to make Matt Koepke's dream come true. That my friends is the reality in this episode of the ABC-TV reality show!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Extreme Makeover

I've never been on a Hollywood set so the Koepke home build for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will have to suffice.

Information materials for the show consider the site in Dundee a Hollywood set. It has in many ways turned the small southeastern Fond du Lac County community into exactly that with security, spectator and media areas.

It's amazing to see how many people are working on the home and how fast it goes up. Many of the local residents involved will carry away a lifetime memory.

Our good old Wisconsin weather saw fit to throw rain, lightening, high winds and a cold snap at volunteers and construction workers. Obviously that makes for less than ideal conditions. At times those working had to wonder if they were building a home for a deserving family or if it was time to go out and collect pairs of animals.

Some of those working the site were hoping to carry away souvenirs. One person I talked to wanted a construction hat. I hoped to leave with the all access pass given to members of the media, but alas that was collected to be used by another member of the press.

Before making my visit to the site Tuesday morning I stopped by the Culinary Arts Center at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac. Students at the Center were working on a meal for the volunteers that would be served the following evening. In particular pumpkin-spiced cream puffs and croissants were coming out of the ovens. I was given a croissant filled with ham and cheese before I left. It was heavenly. Of course that's one small sample of donations for the build, there are many.

The main goal was building a home for Christine Koepke and her four children: Derek,22; Jayna,20; Mitchell, 17; and Johanna, 15. Her husband Matt died at the age of 41 of cancer on August 21st. He thought he had plenty of time to fix up their home while he working on projects like restoring the Dundee Mill into a museum, and helping build the Sportsman's Lodge and local baseball diamond.

As I write this it's getting closer and closer to "The Reveal." That's when Ty Pennington and the design team turn over the keys to the new home to Christine. If you're going Friday at 2 p.m. expect it to be a crowded affair. Of course you can catch it around Thanksgiving on Sunday, November 19th or 26th on ABC-TV.

Unsubstantiated Rumor:

One we heard, but haven't been able to confirm is that Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will be there for the key ceremony. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, but the show is known for its surprises. Whatever happens "The Reveal" will be special and will be long talked about after the fact and the show has moved on to help out the next family.

If you'd like to know a little bit more about the build here's the site Monarch Homes has established giving a few details and a clock counting down to the end of the project: