In this exclusive interview, Phoenix broadcasting legend and real estate celebrity "Wonderful" Russ Shaw reminisces about "Love Workshop," the comedy show he co-created in 1976 with Tod Carroll for the progressive rock station KDKB-FM. He also shares stories about the early days of free-form radio in Phoenix and the various local luminaries he met along the way. he also talks about pirate radio, doing stand-up and selling houses.
Non-Phoenicians who maintain enough interest to keep reading this rather long interview to the end might gain context from this article about KDKB radio, as well as the KCAC Lives! blog, where surviving staff and fans share their memories of KDKB's predecessor, the short-lived KCAC-AM. Honorable mention must also be made of the online station Radio Free Phoenix, Andy Olson's tribute to the classic progressive radio format of the seventies, and KDIL-FM 666, the home of Phoenix's infamous pirate station. Meanwhile, you can dig Russ firsthand on the Bloodhound Blog, which is predominantly - but not solely -- about his adventures in the real estate trade.
And don't forget Bostworld's own "Love Workshop" page, which collects all of our content about this historic and awesome program, including rare scans and many hours of audio.
D: You’re from Phoenix?
R: Born here. Lived here all my life.
D: You were born in 1946; is that correct?
R: that’s correct.
D: How did you get started in broadcasting?
R: It was sort of a fluke at the time…I belonged to a record club, I don’t remember which one it was…Columbia House or one of those…and I was getting albums sent to me, and I forgot to send the card back, and wound up getting a record – it was a Lee Michaels album – that I didn’t really want. I hadn’t opened it; it was still in the shrink-wrap. At the time I had been listening – and I just started, believe it or not – to [Bill] Compton and Hank [Cookenboo] over on KCAC…
D: Uh huh…
R: And I wound up calling, and got Hank, and basically started chatting with him, and had several extensive conversations with Hank when he was either on the air and so forth…normally when he was on the air he didn’t mind having an extended conversation ‘cause he was sort of into doing fifteen or twenty things at once…
D: You mean on the air conversations?
R: No this wasn’t where I was on the air, this was while he was doing his show. And one of the questions I asked him was could he trade me the album. Like, could I give him my Lee Michaels album still in the shrink-wrap for something I might like better. And he said he’s see what he could do. And because he was so slow in taking care of this, it took…oh, if I tell you…maybe four conversations, maybe five, before I could ever actually set up a time to get together with him. And it was gonna be one day when he was getting off the air, if I would bring the Lee Michaels album down, that would be great…So I wound up, uh, going down to KCAC. At the time I was in the life insurance business…
R: …and he wanted me to pull a gag on Bill Compton. And I’d talked to Bill, I think, once on the phone. So Bill would have known me at that time over the phone as Wonderful Russ.
R: So I go in. I’d made my record deal with Hank and that’s out of the way now. So when Bill walks in to go on the air – I can’t remember what time of day it was. I wanna say…I think he went on the air at three…but it’s ten minutes to air when he walks in, maybe eleven.
R: He walks in the station, opens the front door, the room was filled with hippies all sitting around, most of ‘em completely stoned. Anyway, he comes in, and I said, “William Edward Compton? Bill Bragston, FBI. I need to see you.”
D: [chuckles] Okay…
R: So he buys it. He’s startled, but he buys it. ‘Cause I’ve caught him off guard. He doesn’t miss a beat. He has the presence of mind to say, “it’s gonna have to be quick; I’m on the air in ten minutes.” So I say, “Fine. Right now, then.” As though I’m bossing him around in front of everyone. Just hilarious to me at the time. So anyway, we go to his desk, which was this small little wooden fucking thing that mighta had two drawers on the side, it was just stacked with crap…
D: Was this when it was out of a house?
R: It was over on 24th Street. It was probably originally a house when the building was first built. That building’s still there. I think now it’s an architectural firm. It was where KCAC was when it closed. And this would have been 1971.
R: So in any event, I go to his desk -- and again, I’m still impersonating an FBI agent – and I say, “Before we get started, clean this crap up,” pointing to the stack of different tapes and papers on his desk. Now at this point, he’s startled, like he can’t believe that anyone would talk to him like that. And so he looks up, uh, he stopped cleaning and he’s no longer nervous; he’s actually now kind of perturbed. And he goes…uh…oh! And he points at me: “You’re Wonderful Russ!”
R: He’s got me! So he thinks this is so funny that as soon as he starts on the air, he puts me on the air. He has a conversation with me where I’m sitting there and he’s sorta interviewing me on his show. And that was the first time he did that, the first time I met him. And then Bill and Hank would simply interview me any time I would come down to the station. They would put me on the air. Not where I was running the controls, just sitting there where they would talk to me.
D: What would you talk about?
R: Just stuff that they apparently thought was funny. And I thought it was funny, whatever it was. They weren’t really trying to get information from me. It was more like entertaining.
D: That kinds goes to my next question, which is how you fit in with that crew, which I assume was a typical early seventies progressive radio crew of, like you said, hippies.
R: They were hippies. I didn’t come off as a hippie, but I think because I was so into the music, and so over the top in so many other ways, they couldn’t quite believe it and because I was blessed by Bill, everyone had to accept me whether they liked it or not.
D: Well, he gave you the thumbs up of approval, so they didn’t think you were a narc.
R: Correct. So, once that started like that, when KDKB got there, I just became part of the deal there. The first commercial I ever did was for The Beans, which is the band that preceded The Tubes.
R: It was removed from the air for being filthy. But that was my first commercial. And then later, Marty [Manning] asked me if I would like to do the Leppla Moving and Storage, and that was my real start, so to speak.
D: So that was the first official thing you did besides just coming in and chatting?
D: You never actually did any deejay work or anything?
R: I couple of times they let me do a show, but I was never a disc jockey there.
D: Had you had a lot of exposure to progressive rock music or the underground scene or whatever?
R: No, I just picked it up from them. I’d never heard music like that before…
D: So, what kind of bands did you like at the time?
R: Well, I think pretty much the stuff they were playing. I don’t know that I had any unique…uh
D: You liked their play list, basically.
R: Oh my god, yes.
D: You were a KCAC fan.
R: Actually, I was a fan of the music, but it was really Bill Compton…
R: Because, I just never heard anything like that on the air before, and really, I was drawn to him, and then it became, maybe secondarily, into the music. And once I got into the music, I was just flipped out. I’d never heard music like that before, and it was incredible. Pretty much, if they were playing it, I was interested in hearing it.
D: So, was there a big difference between KCAC and KDKB? Had KDKB existed before KCAC ended?
R: Well, no. It’s not a long story, but it’s a little bit more complex. KCAC had lost so much money for so long, they shut down. The people who owned the station – it was on AM, daytime only.
D: Oh it was. Okay.
R: Sunrise to sunset station. And it was over. Nothing would have save it. It couldn’t be saved.
D: So it went out in seventy-one or two?
R: Summer of seventy-one. Uh, Dwight [Tindle] and Eric…Dwight’s passed away now; just a few months ago…
R: Dwight and Eric Hauenstein met at Woodstock…
D: Right, I remember that!
R: As strange as it might seem. Dwight became a millionaire when he was twenty-one. He inherited about 1.1, 1.2 million.
D: God, I remember all of that…
R: And that was a lot of money back then.
R: Dwight and Eric -- Eric was a time salesman from a station in Cincinnati – they decided to do a radio station. Of course, Eric was deciding to do it with Dwight’s money, since he didn’t have any…scouring the country for stations that they could buy and possibly get FCC approval…
R: So they bought this station here in town. They were already coming here anyway. And because there was a progressive rock station here, Dwight gravitated to it.
R: Right. He was infatuated with Bill, and was probably going to hire Bill and Hank. After KCAC shut down completely, to Eric’s dismay – Eric was the general manager at KDKB – Bill went up to Dwight’s house, got him high, and got Dwight to agree to hire all of the staff of KCAC.
R: That was Bill. That was just a normal thing for Bill to do something like that. Because of that, it seemed to the public like the station changed from KCAC to KDKB, because all the old crew from KCAC wound up on KDKB. But it had nothing to do with anything, other than Bill Compton’s magnanimousness.
D: So it pretty much started right up as the old station dropped?
R: It was a few months later. I think it was October when KDKB went on the air. Bill’s last show on KCAC was August 14th, 1971. I was there at the station when he did that. And then Bill just simply got all the old people jobs there at KDKB. Which was a source of constant friction between the air staff and management. Because Eric tried to make rules, and people would go to Bill and say, “what do you think?” Because they didn’t have to listen to Eric, he wasn’t really their boss. That’s how that happened.
D: Were you into comedy when you were younger? Was there anything that inspired you to create your on-air persona?
R: I don’t even…if I said, uh, working in my uncle’s furniture store. He would go out and refer to himself as “John Gobens The Great.” So when I was a kid, I used to say, “Russ Shaw The Great” and stuff like this, just mimicking my uncle. And then I think that, uh…when I worked at Chic Meyer’s House of Television, and I was there about five years – went to work there when I was seventeen, and lied and told them I was twenty three, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired me. And I think it was just sampling there, and trying out different things on customers. Found that if I said “Wonderful Russ,” it got a better response than any other adjective I could use. If you asked why, I’d say I have no idea, but that’s where that started. I was working at Chic Meyer’s House of Television, and I would tell the customers I was “Wonderful Russ.”
D: So basically, you’re main influence as a humorist was salesmanship.
R: You could almost say surveys. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but I was doing sort of a survey to see what would make someone respond the best. It would be like testing different jokes to focus groups almost. And so if there was a thing that I did, it would have been that.
D: You sold yourself to Hank.
R: Yeah, we sort of were two peas in a pod. We wound up becoming very, very close friends.
D: Tod Carroll used to have a show on KCAC called “Bunkhouse Capers” with another fella?
R: With Barry Friedman.
D: I have never heard that program, only heard of it. Was the format similar?
R: Almost the same type thing; almost exactly. It was called “Buck and Barry’s Bunkhouse Capers.” And Barry Friedman at the time had been a writer for the New Times. It’s sort of funny now, ‘cause Barry’s almost unknown. But at the time, if I tell you that Tod was the one no one knew who he was, and everyone at the time would have known Barry Friedman. That sounds almost funny now. It seems almost unbelievable.
D: Did he move to the coast to make his fortune?
R: The last I knew, Barry owned a furniture store in Prescott.
D: I read that the show busted up when Barry moved out of town.
R: I had nothing to do with it. It was a finished thing. They had finished whatever they were doing. Tod got the idea of doing a show with me. He went to Bill Compton, got Bill’s agreement, and said he’d like to do another show with Wonderful Russ, got Bill to say okay. By the time Tod came to me – I hardly knew Tod; I’m not sure I knew him at all, actually –
R: I mean, I just knew him from that show. By the time Tod came to me, it was a done deal. He had gotten the advertisers, he had the sponsors lined up, he had the taping dates set up, he had the script …Tod called me up, said, “I wanna do a show; I’ve already cleared it with Bill; when can I come by and talk to you.” I said yes, he comes by, he literally announces, “here’s the deal, we’re gonna make this much a month off of it,” and he split the deal with me fifty-fifty. He did all of the work. He arranged the show, he was the producer, the writer, he did all the post-production editing…I mean he did everything…
D: He was a radio guy?
R: No! He had some kinda engineering job, like an artistic engineering job, uh…at Motorola when I first knew him.
D: Was he not connected to KCAC or KDKB before “Love Workshop?”
R: He had the “Bunkhouse Capers” show.
D: But between those two shows, he wasn’t in radio.
R: No. Not at all. His skill was really as a writer, but he was very versatile. I mean, Tod was a very talented guy. So he just wrote the whole thing and all I ever did on that show – which was sort of fantastic, but it’s the very thing I wound up not liking – is I just showed up. All I had to do was show up, and he’d hand me a script.
D: Well, he definitely based a lot of the concept of the show around, at least, his conception of your personae, which you’d developed.
D: So, was the recording easy? Did you have to do a lot of rehearsal?
R: No rehearsal ever.
D: So you were able to do just cold reads of this stuff?
R: Yep. We recorded on Sunday nights at KDKB. I would show up and be handed the script, and we usually started recording around seven or eight-o-clock on Sunday nights. And all I ever did was show up, and he split the money with me fifty-fifty. In that sense, there was nothing to complain about. What is ironic, is I had actually decided to stop doing the show, ‘cause he was…no one knew who he was. And everything that was being said, was as if I had thought it up to say it.
R: And some of the stuff, I honestly thought was…it wasn’t that it…(sigh)…it just was mean-spirited. For me, some of it crossed a line, yet there I was saying it, and he had an invisible quality.
D: Right. He didn’t have to live down what he wrote.
D: But you did!
R: There you go! And so, I had literally said to him, “You’ve gotta tone this shit down.” And the next time I come in, it’s more of that just vicious, you know fucking women whose husband’s in prison and Vietnam war camps and stuff like that. So I said, “Let me try to explain this in terms you’ll understand: put one more thing of this nature – and you know what I’m talkin’ about, so I’m not gonna try to explain it – put one more, just one, in a script. I will hand it back to you; I will leave; that will be the end of it. I don’t wanna do that kinda shit, I’m not interested, so please don’t put me in that position.” So from that point forward, until the show was cancelled…but it wasn’t him canceling the show…
D: Uh huh…
R: It was already winding down. When Bill Compton got fired, the very first thing Hank did was cancel “Love Workshop.”
D: Was there a reason the show was cancelled, that you’re aware of? I remember when the station was bought; this was before that, wasn’t it?
R: No, it was bought after that. There’d been a falling out between Hank and Bill and me and Hank so much earlier that it was just old, old water…
D: Obviously, there were things on the show that would have rubbed certain people the wrong way.
R: And the manager of the station, the advertisers didn’t like it; the sales staff constantly bitched. The only reason the show was allowed to stay on the air, was because of Bill! Because no one had the right to take it off the air if Bill said it stays.
D: And Bill died in a car accident after he was fired.
R: Right. And the first thing as soon as they fired Bill, Hank was made program director, and either he’d already decided or at Eric’s behest, “get that god damned shit off the air.” But it was already winding down anyway.
D: So you and Tod Carroll didn’t hang out together, you weren’t friends…
R: No. We never hung out. We just didn’t have any of that kind of stuff in common. Like, the only time we ever saw each other was in connection with the show.
D: ‘Cause there’s a good rapport that’s built up on the show.
R: Yeah. Honestly, I would say my delivery on the stuff was good, but anything that would be…any credit on, uh, “look how nice this is, or how great that’s done,” I’d give him all the credit.
D: So, you didn’t work on any of the dialogue? None of it was extemporaneous?
R: Oh, I don’t know that I would go quite that far.
D: I mean, you’d almost have to be riffing during some of these purely conversational ones.
R: Yeah, and if it was stuff that I wanted to modify…I mean, he wasn’t some asshole to work with in the studio; in fact, far from it. If there was some deal where I thought I could make a line better, I just made it better. But it wasn’t me enforcing it, or him trying to stop me. As a working relationship in terms of actually recording together, I would have to describe Tod as a joy to work with. I mean, he was incredibly talented. There was nothing there that I had any disagreement with. It was just some of that mean-spirited stuff. You know, if you look at Steve Martin’s material, or Ellen DeGeneres, they’re not actually degrading anyone.
D: There’s nothing quite as mean-spirited as some of these routines.
R: Yeah. And that was my only disagreement. Not with his level of talent. He went on and wrote several screenplays, and as far as I know, he retired wealthy.
D: But you thought the shows were good though?
R: I thought the shows were fantastic. It’s just that…the stuff that honestly really got to me was that stuff on, like the Vietnam veteran held in captivity…
D: You mean when you seduce the guy’s wife?
R: Yeah yeah, that stuff. It just grated me. And I did it! And that’s probably the part that I felt the shittiest about. That wasn’t funny to me. It was outrageous, but it wasn’t funny to me. I didn’t really give a fuck about, what if someone got mad at me.
R: It wasn’t that kind of thing. Because I have willingness to tell just about anyone to go fuck themselves. That’s really not the point to me, that well, someone might not like it. Let ‘em not like it. But it didn’t feel right to me.
D: And yet, some of the episodes in which you’re talking about insurance or discussing the value of Pepsi are just as good if not better. My favorite show is when you talk about insurance.
R: Well, I can’t remember the show but I’m glad you like it! [laughs]
D: It’s called “Focus on Rapping” and you’re talking about when you buy insurance you’re buying a piece of the company…
R: Oh yeah yeah yeah!
D: …and you can go up to the building and demand to be let in.
R: Yes yes! See but that’s more my style. That’s the kind of stuff where ya go…see, I like that. I really liked that kinda stuff. Because it’s just…it’s inane!
D: Well there’s an awful lot of targeting of what we now call “protected groups” on the show. Like the “Coon Line” routine…
R: I actually like that one.
D: Sure! But still you can imagine it upsetting people.
R: Oh yes! [laughs] I played that on KSLX when I was doing a show with Bob [Bell], oh, I’m gonna say ’90 or ’91, and Jeanne Sedello kept trying to tell ‘em to take it off the air; it was offensive and disgusting. And she left the room!
D: Times change. In the seventies there was climate of that kind of humor, with the “National Lampoon” and whatever, and the whole idea of pushing boundaries of taste…
D: But that continuity’s been lost. The average person today may not understand the context.
R: Yup. I agree.
D: You remember “Animal House” of course.
R: I’ve probably seen it less than twenty-five times.
D: Right! It was kind of similar to your show. And of course it had a very specific kind of point to it, it spawned things like “Porky’s” and what not, which wasn’t anywhere near as satirically sharp, that just ended up kind of, uh, celebrating the very sort of thing that “Animal House” was satirizing.
D: I just wondered if, for instance, if you thought people were “getting” Love Workshop.
R: I don’t think that I my level, honestly at the time, and I’ve never really thought about it since to be honest, I don’t know that I ever thought about it at those levels. It was more, “was it funny.” And that was the standard. I don’t mind – didn’t mind – being shocking. It’s easy after the fact to go “oh, here we were trying to make this statement.” I think that’s a certain amount – at least for me, and I think what Tod and I were doing at that time – would be sort of intellectual bullshit. Because really, we were just looking, like “was thing funny?” We thought it was funny if it was outrageous, if it was just completely over the top. I think we were just looking, was this something that would make someone want to tune in the following week to see where we were going next? It was more at that level.
D: So, do you recall when Tod was approached by the “National Lampoon?”
R: Oh, I not only recall it, he got the meeting, indirectly, because of me, because I had gotten Tod involved.
D: I remember Tony Hendra came to town.
R: But Tony didn’t come to see Tod. That’s how it looked after the fact. I didn’t like Tony Hendra; I thought he was a dickhead. Tod and Tony couldn’t have bonded faster or better. Tod was at that meeting because I actually invited him. And it’s kinda funny. I said, “You might want to come to this.” And he shows up. I had gotten Tod interested in “Razz Revue,” which was Bob Bell and Dan Harshberger’s magazine.
R: And so Tod did a couple of articles begrudgingly for “Razz Revue.” So Bob gets Tod over to that Tony Hendra meeting. That’s how that happened. It was because of Bob Bell.
D: So, Hendra came to town to talk to the “Razz Revue” fellas?
R: Correct! He came to town to meet with Bob Bell. Bob had already done two articles for National Lampoon.
D: I remember those.
R: Bob has been one of my dearest friends since we met. Bob and I are very close. So it was the relationship that Bob had -- this is not to take anything away from Tod – but it was the relationship that Bob had with Tony Hendra…
D: This is what I recall as well.
R: And then, at the meeting …I don’t think Hendra liked me at all. But what was funny is that he didn’t seem to give a fuck about talking to Bob or to Daniel either. But Tod and Tony Hendra were sorta like soul mates.
D: So when Tod came into the room it was love at first sight then.
R: Yes! Quite literally! They were two peas in a pod, and what they both had in common was that unbelievably high-volume passive aggressive quality. Which is not true with Dan and Bob and myself.
R: And that’s why Tony Hendra didn’t like me, and why he didn’t really give a shit about Bob any more, because if you were to sit and talk to Bob Bell, the first thing you’d spot is that he’s really a nice guy. Period. Tony Hendra had that mean-spirited quality to him. And so did Tod. And that’s what they had in common.
D: Your analysis jibes with how it seems to me as well. So basically, it sounds like Tod wanted to come out of that meeting with a job offer, and he made damn sure he got it.
R: Yeah, but it wasn’t like anyone felt used.
D: No, not at all! It was an opportunity.
R: It was an opportunity, and I don’t think it…It wasn’t that my relationship with Tod disintegrated, like it was some beautiful thing. He was always the same way. So it was just a match made in heaven for them.
D: Sounds like it was just the right time.
R: Yeah yeah. But I didn’t go, “Oh shit, he took advantage,” or “he got the good deal.” It was Tony Hendra, who just simply, genuinely liked him.
D: Did he move out of town?
R: He did after he got the Lampoon deal.
D: At the time, I wasn’t clear whether the show ended because he got that opportunity, or if it was cancelled.
R: It was over. It was off the air. It had nothing to do with that Lampoon meeting. In fact that happened well after the fact.
D: You didn’t really keep in too close contact with him after that?
R: Nope. But it’s not like we were having some kind of a fight or anything.
D: Yeah. But he’s nowhere to be found these days.
R: No, he’s under the radar, but that’s on purpose. He’s wealthy; the last time I talked to him was at a KDKB reunion. At that time, he owned a house in the south of France. He owned a house up on the coast in Vermont or something like that. And he had married a woman that I think he was very much involved with. And he just sorta rode off into the sunset. But I never had a contentious relationship of any kind with him. My only disagreement was with that stuff on the show.
D: Did you ever get any indication from him that he had any regrets about the program?
D: Was he completely proud of it?
R: I don’t, uh,…I think he was….There’s parts of it I’m proud of.
D: I still think it’s a tremendous program.
R: I mean it was some funny stuff. That’s what we were trying to do at the time, and I think we did it. If I had it to do over again, in spite of anything that happened that I don’t like, in spite of anything I didn’t want at the time, if I had it to do over again, I’d do it again.
D: Well, any time you’re trying to fill a weekly show, you’re going to be trying different things, and you’re going to feel that some of it worked better than others.
D: Has there been any interest in Love Workshop over the last 30 years?
R: Oh god, I’ve been approached so many times…
D: What, just from fans?
R: You know, people, “can I get a copy of this, a copy of that…” I tried first giving the things to Andy Olsen, and Andy’s a nice guy. He’s a really nice guy. But I just thought, he’s got a certain slow molasses quality, and I just wanted it to be…Obviously, I had cleared this with Tod years back. If people wanted the show or wanted to get copies of it, did he want any kinda rights or money from any of it, and his position was, “hell no.” Didn’t give a crap. He had plenty of money, and whatever little morsels that could have been gotten from selling copies of that crap, he didn’t care.
D: This is why the Internet is so fun. You can let people hear it for nothin’.
R: Yeah! I wasn’t lookin’ like, “Hey, this is a quick way to make an extra five dollars” or something. So, for me, it was, anyone who wants them. So for years, what I’ve been doing – and it was just a pain in the ass – was personally, manually, making a copy and sending it to people.
D: Yeah, I’ve had to do the same thing. I like just offering it on the web a lot better.
R: Me too!
D: The greatest thing about doing this site is the way people have been coming out of the woodwork.
R: It makes me happy, not for the notoriety, just so that anyone who wants them can have ‘em.
D: Tell me about your work with KDIL.
R: That was nothing but fun for me. The guy’s name was Scott…Nelson, I think.
D: They have a web site as well.
R: He has a web site??
D: Yeah. Kdil.com.
R: I have to go to that right now…”FM-666!”
D: That’s it. I don’t know if they broadcast, but it’s a lot of the old fanzines they did...
R: Yeah! I was, uh…the title I gave myself was Executive Director for Mass Distribution for the Western Hemisphere of the KDIL Blues Licks. We used to Xerox them and I would go to the Dennys on 7th Street and Camelback, and walk around yelling out, “The KDIL Blues Licks is hot off the press!”
D: I never heard it. I’ve just seen the fanzine. Was it broadcast out of a truck or something?
R: Well, we would broadcast wherever Scott was living at the time. What we would do when they were going on the air – because it was a true underground station – to get an audience, Scott would start calling people. We would all call our friends and tell them we were going on and here’s the frequency we’re gonna go on at.
R: Then, we would call various supermarkets and tell them we were gonna be having a contest, and if they would play it over their loudspeaker in the grocery store, they could win a crisp one hundred dollar bill. And this was one of my jobs was to come in with these liners --- this would get played at least every ten minutes: “A crisp one hundred dollar bill!” But it didn’t go to anything! It didn’t say what you had to do to win; it didn’t say when the contest was. All we would do was say over and over, “A crisp one hundred dollar bill!”
R: And, we would never use profanity on the air. I mean never. We were never saying anything that would cause someone to complain to the FCC, or anybody else. What was the genius of the station were the commercials. And there were lots of them. Again, this was a station that didn’t have any real advertisers. They would take – and it was mostly Scott – real commercials off the air and redo ‘em. The stuff that was my favorite was like a Lou Grubb commercial, back when Lou Grubb was a relatively young man, and he would talk for like three or four minutes on a commercial…
D: Oh, I remember!
R: Back when you could just have a commercial that was almost a free-form chat from Lou, right on teevee. So what Scott would do is he would tape those right off the teevee and then he would remix them with these lunatic jungle rhythms, but not do anything other than occasionally turn the African rhythm up so high it would drown out Lou’s voice. And that was it!
D: I’ve heard some of those.
R: Just insane!
D: So, you got out of KDKB after “Love Workshop” was cancelled. I assume there were no more ads?
R: I still did ads, like Discount Tire would call me and so forth, but I didn’t do anything at KDKB after that.
D: You worked with the companies directly by that time.
D: You were an insurance salesman; when did you start doing that?
R: I was in the insurance business from 1969 to 1975
D: So, you stopped selling insurance and started working in real estate?
R: Actually, I phased out of insurance kind of gradually. I left in about 1975. About 1974, I went to work full time for the Church of Scientology. I was already a Scientologist, but I became a staff member, and I still had some income – which allowed me to do it – from the insurance business coming in, and I still had some income from the radio commercials I was doing, and even from “Love Workshop.” I was there on staff the whole time I was doing the “Love Workshop” show. So I worked full time from 1974-75 until about late ‘77 early ‘78.
D: What did you do?
R: I ran the public division. I ran, like basically introductory type lectures. That kinda thing.
R: Then I just ran completely out of money, and didn’t have any income. And I knew I didn’t want to go back to insurance. That’s when I started in the real estate business. I went to real estate school in 1977 and started in ’78.
D: You also did standup in the 80s and 90s?
R: Yep. I had been doing stuff on Bob Bell’s show, and I saw an ad in the paper for some kind of a comedy competition. And I thought it was all amateurs! What I didn’t know was that professional comedians from all over the country came in and competed. And I had no act. Some of the people there who were actually the winners were saying, “God, you’re so good! You made it seem like you didn’t have an act!” And I said, “yeah I’m real good at making it look that way!” So I wound up, mostly because of people I knew, and again because I knew Bob Bell, and because every comedian that came to town would come on Bob’s morning show to plug the Impov, I got to work at the Improv several times, just because of my connection with Bob Bell and KSLX. But it wasn’t my favorite club to play. It was prestigious, but the problem was, the Improv had a set of rules, like a double standard. If you’re a name comedian – say anything you want. If you’re not a name comedian, don’t ever say “fuck” from our stage. Don’t ever make a drug joke from our stage. Period. Do it once: you won’t come again. So I had to do it anyway so I wouldn’t come again.
D: But you were a name comedian!
R: Well, not to them I wasn’t. A name comedian to them meant that the mere fact that you’re there fills seats.
R: Oddly enough, there was a little shithole comedy club called the Uptown Comedy Club at 7th Ave and Camelback. And because I could fill seats there, I could do any fucking thing I wanted. So that was actually my favorite club to play.
D: But nowadays, you’re strictly real estate and you pretty much just write for your blog?
R: Yeah. I’m one of the top agents in the country. It’s the kind of thing where…the things that I’ve learned on how to do a lot of business…I’m able to…I mean, I spend most of my time literally helping other agents.
D: So, you’re actually a much much bigger real estate celebrity than you ever were a radio celebrity.
R: Correct. By far.
D: You’re nationally known.
R: Yes. I’m not trying to brag, but if you went and talked to realtors in New York or New Mexico or California, they’ll know who I am. So I get companies like Keller Williams – and I’m not a Keller Williams agent – having me fly in to their headquarters to interview me; to take the things I have to say and teach it to their agents.
D: I see you have a large staff of your own, and I assume you’re pretty much the mentor.
R: Well, I think I’m gonna give my wife the bulk of the credit there. Where I’m comin’ in would be in the vision, here’s how big we can make it; here’s where we can go next.
D: So, you’re not pursuing any entertainment venues at all any more.
R: That would be correct, but it’s not because I didn’t like it. It’s just…I’m an ex-smoker…can’t stand smoke…
D: Tell me about it. I played clubs for fifteen years.
R: I wouldn’t trade a minute of what I did, but it’s not something I wanna do…
D: So what was the high point of your entire career as a local celebrity?
R: I would say, the stuff at KDKB, that would have to be in the category, because it had more of an amazing thing. I mean, when I was doing standup, I just had a lot of fun. I guess there’s not one wonderful time that was the good time. I kinda have fun every day. So I guess I look at it and go, “my best years are still ahead of me.”