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Man From Mars Productions

Jim Jeffrey
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The Hartford Times - February 5, 1971

The Hartford Times
February 5, 1971

Q: Eventually the call came from Pittsburgh and you were off to Group W Westinghouse Broadcasting. How did that come about?

A: At first, I thought Dick Robinson had pulled strings. He always denied it, and when I got to Pittsburgh I found out the Westinghouse national PD was visiting his girlfriend in Hartford, heard me, and told KDKA to hire me.

Q: You told me you started at KDKA doing news, then hosted a talk show, then did sports on KDKA TV? How did you like working 7 days a week?


A: I was about to air the first talk sports show in Pittsburgh. Leo Durocher is in town as manager of the Chicago Cubs. I waited till all the sports writers had left his office after the game and said, "you once said if I need a favor to call you." I told him the story and he said, "sure kid," and was my first guest for an hour (the only crook I knew in Major League Baseball).

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Joe L. Brown, the Pirates GM, really gave me a tongue lashing for having him on. Joe L. was the adopted son of movie comic Joe E. Brown, and had absolutely no use for Leo the Lip. Brown had gone out of his way to help me when I was only a month or two in Pittsburgh. At a private house party we were all sitting around the kitchen table talking baseball. Joe asked the group, "what do you think of Ted Williams as a manager," to which everyone answered "great star, not much of a manager." I said, "well, he took shortstop Ed Brinkman from 240 to 280 in one year." So Mr. Brown called the bosses at KDKA and said he wanted Jeffrey to act as host of his weekly radio show.

By the way, doing talk on KDKA was mind bending. Mail came in from 40 states. I did features on old stars who had been on KDKA. Dave Garroway, Arthur Godfrey - his sister worked radio in Hartford - and both halted me cold when they said, "I can't get a radio job nowadays!" I said, "Mr. Godfrey, you're still a VP at CBS radio!" He replied, "yes Jim, but they will only give me a 15 minute slot. It takes me that long just to say hello!"


Q: How did you like working 7 days a week?

A: I loved it, but always had a side job - communication seminars in Phoenix for example, running a golf and swim club for four millionaires in Pittsburgh during the day. I went to WWSW with my KDKA PD who wanted to start another talk radio format.

Q: How did the Houston TV deal come about? Was it a conscious decision to leave radio or a natural career evolution?

A: I got real bored real fast in Louisville, after changing the format...hiring and firing (always found a job for the guy let go). I called my Dad to talk things over and he said, "well, either find another radio station to put back on it's feet, or go do sports full time...that's what you're always talking about." My Dad had played what passed for pro basketball during the 30s and 40s. I knew the old GM on the television side at KDKA had gone to Houston, so I called him (I also called Bill Hartman at WBZ but he didn't have an opening. He just complained that Westinghouse wouldn't let him finish up at WBAL in Baltimore, his hometown). As I mentioned, Houston asked me to spend a year being "second banana."

Q: Eventually you ended up in Phoenix. When did you first work with your son?

A: I picked up the sports director's slot in Phoenix in August of 1977 - it was the best available that year. I worked with my son, Mark. He did traffic...he's the best known in town now, though he really runs the Clear Channel setup in many cities with a partner. I did the sports reports every 30 minutes on a new all-talk station, while writing airline magazine stuff and working on a book.

Only a few weeks after arriving in Phoenix, longtime Arizona State football coach Frank Kush was fired. It was a huge story thereabouts. I was the only one who went from the press conference at ASU to Frank Kush's home to get his reaction. He asked me to wait a minute then came back out of his house after talking with his lawyer, and asked me to come inside and talk with his attorney who turned out to be a real mover and shaker in the community. Mr. Cavanaugh asked if he could call a press conference, so Kush wouldn't have to repeat the same answers over and over again. I explained that he would best be served by calling the wire services and telling them Frank would be setup in his backyard at 4:00 p.m. for all who wished to talk with him, and of course the whole world wanted to talk with him. In return for playing it so straight with Kush, Mr. Cavanaugh directed that I, alone, would do the opening standing in front of Kush. It aired on ALL radio and TV stations. The others weren't pleased that this new guy in town at the ABC outlet was given front stage, but they couldn't do anything about it. My bosses thought I was the second coming, of course, and I was just playing fair. The attorney, Mr. Cavanaugh turned out to be a friend. He had me at his very, very private golf club. And when one of Arizona's U.S. Senators was displeased with the 30 second TV Ad the Republican National Committee in Washington sent, Cavanaugh asked me to try and clean it up a bit (his words) thus are friendships made.

Q:In Phoenix you spread your wings to freelance commercial writing and that led to a new career in motivational speaking.

A:I had always done public speaking, though I call it "speech-a-fying." In a town like Phoenix, with so many conventions, they pay well if you'll warm up the folks for their main speaker. Big sports names were getting $50,000 to $75,000 for their "motivational" talks back then. Lord knows what it is now. I moved to working with divorce groups, then cancer groups in Phoenix.

Q: What brought you back to your native New England, and did you give broadcasting a shot or pursue new interests?

A: I came home when I became exhausted and burned out...I guess that's the usual line, nowadays.

Q: You must have some thoughts on how much radio has changed.

A: How do I feel about pop radio today? I listen very little which, I'm sure you'll agree, is an answer in and of itself. Cable television is where the talkers are today, unless you are in a large market and son Mark tells me there is no one that teaches anymore...my love above all else...such a kick to see an air talent grow. Automation...large corporations owning everything, and doing nothing for their local community.

I must make a point about our current election cycle. Historically blacks wouldn't vote for blacks because they believed the white folk wouldn't vote for a black American. Times are changing. I get a kick out of hearing all the news cable people go on and on, about what a great speaker Obama is (he needs to be careful...when he struts across a stage, chin held high, he gives people an excuse to turn him down at the polls...too confident, too cocky). If people only knew how many great public speakers we have in this country...four dozen in black churches alone. As for whether the country is ready to vote for either an African American or a woman (and Lord, is she bright)...well in television, and in this country's military, it was FIRST...black men, then women, and last black women. Think it will be any different this time around?

Q: One other thing...you're obviously Internet savvy. I find it fascinating how much the Internet has replaced many of the functions radio used to provide, especially among young people. It is a far more efficient way for them to stay in touch with pop culture quickly (especially music exchange), and allows them instant contact with others who share similar interests. In many ways the Web provides much of the human interaction disc jockeys used to. Any comments?

A: No, I spend no time on the Internet. I am not savvy so I cannot give my reaction to whatever is going on though it seems to be if most parents really knew their kids, they would place a lock on the computer till after supper when parents can "view" their activity. Today's kids have come a long way from having a crush on a radio jock to meeting people they chatted with on the Internet.

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Jim passed away on September 17, 2009; he was 72.
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