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Once upon a time there was radio station WLUP and it was a wild place

One of the most elegant inventions of the 20th century, radio has been informing, entertaining, annoying and boring millions of people for more than 100 years.

Col. Robert R. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, which gave the world the venerable WGN-AM 720, called it “magic in a can.” I wonder what McCormick would have said to the radio if he had lived long enough to hear it. The inspired antics, creative flights, and outrageous jokes of radio artists like Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, Jonathon Brandmeier, Kevin Matthews, and dozens of others on air and behind the scenes helped define and achieve the ratings success of Chicago radio station WLUP-97.9 FM “The Loop.”

Remember when Danny Bonaduce was boxed Donny Osmond At the Chinese Club? Were you there when Brandmeier and his band Leisure Suits sold Poplar Creek? Do you have an old, tattered Loop t-shirt in your closet that Lorelei Shark wears so charmingly in her commercials (and in person)? How about listening to adult film star Seka or mind-reading by Joe Who?

All of this and much more is available in the new book “The Loop Files: An Oral History of the Ugliest Radio Station Ever.” This is the work of Rick Kaempfer, who worked as a producer at WLUP in his youth. He met his wife at the station, worked for a time as a show host, and has written about the media for decades. He is the author of fiction and nonfiction, which he publishes through Eckhartz Press in collaboration with David Stern, bringing us books by locals like John Landecker, Bobby Skafish, Chet Coppock, Joel Daly, Rich King, and Roger Badesch. . Matthews’ band made a movie about Ed Zeppelin called “More Please.”

“When I heard Loop was signing in 2018… I walked down memory lane for a week or two with my former colleagues. … I can tell everyone was as touched as I was,” Kaempfer writes.

So, over the course of five years, he set about interviewing dozens of people for this book, mostly major actors and a few people you’d probably never meet. Some of these interviews took place years ago as part of Kaempfer’s writing for the Illinois Entertainer, where he now writes a monthly media column.

He highlights the years 1977 to 1998 because after the station was sold to Bonneville International Corporation, it “became more conventional. … The madness, the madness, and the historical nature of the events have never reached the same level.”

Having worked for WLUP for a time (hosting a Sunday morning show and the daily “Media Creatures” show with Richard Roeper and Kathy Voltmer) and also having hosted WGN for several decades, I know most of the guys on this show . You will be amazed by this book. Although the period covered here was certainly filled with “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” only the last member of this trio is discussed in detail, the sex and drug elements of this period may not be covered. It even existed.

This is understandable, as most of the people in the book have reached a certain age and the first two are certainly not interested in sharing their stories. There is nothing wrong with this. This is a respectful book.

I wish it had included some new information about the most spectacular explosion in the station’s history: the shattering of the remains of the Dahl-Meier crew in 1993 after Meier’s marriage and honeymoon.

This is part of what we achieved.

Radio personality Steve Dahl on WLUP on May 28, 1986.

Dahl from 1993: “Maybe we said some things we shouldn’t have said while he was away, but certainly none of that should be enough to persuade him to quit.”

Meier from 1996: “I couldn’t understand the poison and hostility. But that was just the last straw.”

Dahl now has a podcast (www.dahl.com), as does Meier (garrymeier.com) and Brandmeier (brandmeiershow.com). Kevin Matthews is busy Grand Rapids, Michigan.

One of the most welcome voices in the book Paul NatkinThe photographer, who has followed Dahl and Meier since the early days of their partnership, observed: “People loved the music, but it was the people who really attracted attention.” He tells a great anecdote about why Jerry Seinfeld refused to appear on the air, and many of his photographs adorn the book’s lavishly illustrated pages.

Also illuminating are former WLUP executives Jim de Castro and Larry Wert, who gave their talents a trial run. But de Castro says: “It was difficult to maintain it, despite all the ups and downs.” “It was fun and entertaining,” says Wert. And it truly was Chicago. And everyone got fed up with each other, warts and all, and the audience became part of it. “I don’t think we should celebrate Loop fans…as much as we should…(they) helped make the Loop what it is today.”

A surprising lack of bitterness pervades the book, allowing it to evoke generally pleasant memories. Disco Destruction More than your free youth at Comiskey Park in 1979.

And if this fine book doesn’t satisfy you, know that a film production company founded by veteran producer Bob Teitel and Wert is in the early stages of shooting a documentary about the station, which operates from the 37th floor of the building called The Station. Hancock Center.

As Seka puts it, “We used to have spanking fests in our show. If people wanted to be beaten, they would go in and get beaten. … We let the freak flag fly and we weren’t ashamed of what we did.”

Different times.

rkogan@chicagotribune.com

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