As you can probably tell by now, Valentine’s Day has always been special to us. Being lucky enough to have found “the one” isn’t a gift that’s given to everyone and we know how lucky we are to have received it.
However, there is one particular Valentine’s Day that will always stand out for us
Valentine’s Day, 1985.
Even though Steve made his first appearance on WGN radio on Christmas Eve of 1984, it wasn’t until Febuary 14th of the following year that Johnnie joined him behind those microphones.
While we both had worked at WIND radio, we’d never been paired to do a show together at that station. When it was announced that WIND was being sold and changing to a Hispanic format, we both increased our focus on individual free-lance opportunities at several stations. Johnnie was doing traffic at WCLR-FM (now WTMX-FM) and producing a TV show on WFLD-TV that Steve hosted. Along with hosting the TV show, Steve hosted weekend shows and fill-in at WKQX-FM and WGN.
Dan Fabian, who was WGN’s Program Director at the time, had always wanted to have a show co-hosted by a he-person and a fe-person. He’d tapped Catherine Catalane and Michael Feldman to give it a try but, for various reasons, the two never got along and their show went away.
Months later Dan still hadn’t abandoned the idea of a male/female team. At this point, even though Steve had only been with WGN a little over a month, he was being scheduled more often. During that time Dan had been introduced to Johnnie and took the time to listen to her at WCLR. Steve was scheduled for some evening fill-in and one of the evenings was going to be Thursday, Febuary, 14. One evening when both of us happened to be at WGN, Dan approached us with the idea of trying an experiment. Using Valentine’s Day as a hook, while Steve was on the air, Johnnie would walk in and “surprise” him.
We, of course, loved the idea but, as the target evening grew closer, we became increasingly apprehensive about how it would turn out. After all, to us, this was a big deal, at a pretty big deal radio station, that had the potential of changing the trajectory of our radio careers.
Spoiler alert: It did!
Hindsight is always 20/20 but, from our perspective, looking back on that night, we really do think it’s fair to say that things worked out pretty well. We will be forever grateful to Dan (or, as Bob Collins used to call him, “The Memo Fairy”) for not abandoning his idea and taking a chance on us to make it happen.
It won’t surprise you to know that, THAT was a Valentine’s Day we’ll never forget! After the show, we celebrated by having our “special occasion” decadent chocolate dessert from our favorite, local, Houlihan’s restaurant.
In the days that followed we were asked if we wanted to start doing a regular Saturday night show together. Of course, we said yes and began our journey together at one of the world’s great radio stations.
It wasn’t long after our on-air pairing that the station’s promotion department set up a photo shoot for us with a legendary photographer, Paul Natkin. For those of you not familiar with Paul, among his many credits is the classic photo of Bruce Springsteen that appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in the 70s and, trust us, that’s just the tip of the tip of Paul’s iceberg.
This was our first promotional photo for WGN radio and, if you look closely, you’ll see that Johnnie was wearing heart earrings.
Just a coincidence? Well … maybe.
Steve & Johnnie