I wasn't introduced to Larry "the Legend" Johnson – who died Wednesday at the age of 78 – on Milwaukee radio, but during a stint he had on Chicago radio.
It was on an early morning trip from the city to southwestern Michigan, Johnson was on the radio doing something that was rare during my high school days back in the early 1970s. A natural disaster had occurred somewhere in the world and Johnson was calling people in the affected area to get their eyewitness reports on what was going on.
As I said, that was rare in those days, surprisingly rare. And it showed the innovative side of the broadcaster who is well-remembered by older radio listeners here for his time on the WISN-AM and the old WZUU-FM.
I was probably a freshman when I heard the report, and although I can't remember the specifics, I remember the impact of a guy on the radio talking to somewhere half-way around the world. It demonstrates the power that a radio talker can have on listeners – especially young, impressionable high school students.
It also shows how radio has changed, since there are fewer real "personalities" on the radio – especially music radio – there are today.
He's remembered for a catch phrase aimed at calls, who were told to "speak your onions."
Here's a nearly 30-year-old clip of Johnson in his WZUU days, which includes now-retired Channel 6 consumer reporter Tom Hooper singing "The Legend of Larry the Legend":
On TV: "Road Partners," a "reality" show about the Harley Davidson culture that's supposed to air this fall on the ION Network (that's Channel 55 over the air and Channel 15 on Time Warner Cable) tapes tonight at Lo Cash Live, 124 W. National Ave. Doors open at 4 and taping starts around 8.
- The Fannin family, of Hortonville, Wis., is one of 16 participants in NBC's a capella singing competition, "The Sing Off," which starts Sept. 19. You can follow them on Twitter.
- It's finally official that Jennifer Lopez will join Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson in judging the next season of Fox's top-rated "American Idol," which premieres on a Sunday this time, Jan. 22, after the NFC Championship game.
- The most hilarious TV news story in a long time is the report that Abercrombie & Fitch will pay "Jersey Shore" "star" "The Situation" (I love all those quote marks) not to where the company's clothing.
Two legends have a chat: HBO is bringing Dick Cavett back to his comfortable interview chair for a chat with Mel Brooks debuting Sept. 9.
Here's a preview:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.