The quickest turnaround in showbiz history.
Sometimes life takes a turn that cannot be explained.
Dave Weinbaum can attest to that, and he did in a recent interview with The Insider.
Weinbaum, owner of several area McDonald’s restaurants, was the host of a political talk show on Friday mornings on KTTR, the local news/talk station. Then about a month ago, his show was not on the air. Social media was abuzz.
Oddly enough, even the newsroom of the Phelps County Focus got telephone calls from Weinbaum’s fans wanting to know if the newspaper staff knew what had happened to Weinbaum. No one knew.
The Focus called KTTR, and a spokesman said the station had no comment and would issue a press release when the management was ready.
Then a couple weeks ago, The Insider got a call from Steve Wheeler, general manager and owner of KKID radio, who said Weinbaum had been let go by KTTR but was now with his station. Wheeler offered to set up an interview.
Weinbaum’s political show had been canned by the news/talk station, but he is now on the Pink Floyd station. KKID generally plays classic rock, along with some blues, including a lot of Pink Floyd songs.
Wheeler affirmed that was the case.
About a week later, The Insider was sitting in the broadcast studio with Wheeler and Weinbaum, the studio from which the Weinbaum show now airs each Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.
“At the other station, I opened for Rush and Hannity,” Weinbaum quipped. “Now Rush and Queen open for me.”
What Weinbaum means is that his Friday morning political talk show on KTTR preceded Rush Limbaugh’s show and Sean Hannity’s show.
Now, though, his Friday morning political talk show at his new home on KKID follows songs by such classic rock groups as Rush and Queen.
What exactly happened over at KTTR?
“I got canceled,” Weinbaum said simply.
What? Because of low ratings?
“The show’s hotter than it ever was,” he said.
The story told by Weinbaum is that KTTR’s new management wants to take the station “in a different direction.”
“I had problems with the new manager,” he said. Weinbaum said he discussed that situation with the owner, Robert Mahaffey.
“I thought I had the problem solved on Monday,” he said. “Then there was another argument, and Robert called me on Tuesday and said, ‘We’re going to drop you.’ There were a few words, and I said, ‘OK.’”
“I didn’t get fired. I was not an employee. I got canceled,” he reiterated.
A capitalist and conservative, Weinbaum does not accept the role of victim.
Soon thereafter, he was driving down Forum Drive past the KKID studios. He pulled into the Price Chopper parking lot and went back to talk to Wheeler, whom he knew, though not well.
“It took me 27 hours to come here and get a tour from this gentleman,” says Winebaum, nodding toward Wheeler.
They talked awhile. Weinbaum told Wheeler about the cancellation. Wheeler started negotiating.
“I told him ‘I want 8 to 11 on Fridays,”’ Weinbaum said. “He told me, ‘My morning show doesn’t end until 9. How about 9 to 12? So, I took it.”
Weinbaum was canceled on Tuesday and just 27 hours later, he had a new home station and an hour of more talk time. And it was all done in time to put his Friday show on the air without missing a week.
“Yes,” said Weinbaum, who calls the situation “the biggest turn-around in show business history.”
Weinbaum aired his first show on KKID the last Friday of January.
And not only that, all of his sponsors came with his show to the new station, he said.
Although baffled by the owner’s decision to cancel the show, Weinbaum has some good things to say about KTTR.
“They gave me a shot,” he said. “I started with a half hour, and I was my own sponsor.”
He recalls that his first show was an interview of his neighbor, Dr. Henry Antolak, “good friend, neighbor and my dentist.”
“That was Dec. 3, 2008. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do. I don’t remember exactly why I interviewed Henry that day.”
Weinbaum said he asked the station manager at that time how the first show sounded.
“He told me, ‘You do another show like that, and it will be your last,’” Weinbaum said, laughing.
That station manager, no longer with KTTR, may have been joking, and Weinbaum was given the time to continue honing his on-air skills—while bringing in more sponsors.
And Weinbaum knew after that first show that he had to work on the focus of his show.
“So, I knew I had to start getting political, cause that’s what I know,” he said. “I write for the Jewish World Review, and I wrote a column for the Rolla Daily News.”
Over time, he assembled a group of talented people to call on for political interviews and commentary.
“I worked free for five years,” Weinbaum said of his time at KTTR. “I sponsored my own show. But I did take it seriously. I tried to get better, tried to give a good performance.”
As he learned, he got better, and he went out and got sponsors for the program. He eventually started earning a commission.
“It wasn’t a hard sell,” Weibaum said. He has people doing business with his restaurants who were glad to be sponsors. In fact, a time or two, he was stopped by people who said, ‘Hey, Weinbaum, what do I have to do to sponsor your show?’ So, it wasn’t a difficult sell.”
“I was the most profitable show on the last station. They told me that a couple of years ago,” Weinbaum said. “At one point, I was up to 26 sponsors. They told me to ‘stop selling.’ I’d never been told to stop selling anything.”.
Weinbaum appears to be headed in an upward direction. which makes The Insider wonder about the direction the news/talk station made the decision it made. Weinbaum, a master of opinions, has an opinion on that decision.
“It seems dopey to me,” Weinbaum said, but he isn’t complaining about his forced move.
Now, admittedly, it does seem a little strange for Weinbaum to be on KKID 92.9 with three hours of political talk on a classic rock station, but such a thing is not unprecedented. Bluegrass host Ray Hicks was canceled when out-of-towners bought the radio station that aired his Saturday morning program, and KTTR, the news/talk station, quickly signed Hicks and turned the news/talk microphone over to him for three hours of bluegrass music every Saturday morning.
Nevertheless, both Weinbaum and Wheeler agree their situation is unusual.
“I’ve had people say it’s the sign of the apocalypse,” Wheeler said laughing. But he also pointed out that his father, the original owner of the station, had a political talk show with Louis “Big Louie” Keen for a couple hours once a week.
But Wheeler said that “for the most part,” the reception of the show has been good. Only “a handful of calls” from upset people have been received.
There is evidence, too, that the move is positive for Weinbaum and the station. That evidence is the number of people logging onto his website, daveweinbaum.com, to download the podcast.
Weinbaum said 220 people went to download his podcast on the last show he did on KTTR. A couple of weekends ago on KKID the number was 860; this past weekend it was 720.
His show has changed only a little bit since the move to KKID.
“I play some songs now, a little rock’n’roll, because I’ve got the time,” he said. “But it’s still a serious political show, although there is a lot of laughter.” Weinbaum’s girlfriend, Lisa Strauser; his son, Aaron, and Wheeler all participate in the show program, so there is much banter.
Callers are also important to Weinbaum, and he said one caller, identified as Martha, recently said on the air that Weinbaum’s mission now is “to turn talkers into rockers and rockers into talkers.” Given the number of new podcast downloads, though, it appears that rockers are already politically astute enough to be interested in a little bit of talk for three hours a week.
“I got a call from Pennsylvania last week, outside Philadelphia,” Weinbaum said.
“The last time I looked in 2017, I had all 50 states and 98 countries listening to me. That you can only tell from my website, those people are coming to the website to pick up the podcast.”
The music, the bantering and laughter all lead to a more relaxed atmosphere for his show.
“I feel a lot more comfortable here,” Weinbaum said.