News Column

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) C.J. column

June 14, 2014

By C.J., Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

June 14--If you listened to radio show host T.D. Mischke it was not difficult to conclude that his last name must mean mischief in some language.

He wasn't really a bad boy during his 17 years with KSTP-AM or four at WCCO-AM. He was simply super mischievous, sometimes in brilliant ways. With a few snickers, after a recent appearance on "The Rusty Gatenby Review with Melinda Jacobs," video podcast, Mischke fondly recalled multiple walks his brain and mouth took to receive carpet burns in the office of Jim Barnum, Hubbard Broadcasting's legal guy.

Eventually Mischke was fired by Hubbard Broadcasting in what he said was one of the most pleasant meetings he ever attended, given its purpose.

There was no Barnum paying attention to Mischke as he returned to the air waves in "The Mischke Roadshow," an audio podcast on the Tom Barnard Network, which started airing in May. The world of podcasting is the modern day "Wild West of broadcasting," said Mischke, who plans to ride it hard before that changes. In this Q&A Mischke reflects on recent and yonder times.

There's also a startribune.com/video Mischke joked to me that no one will see. That's his most fond wish as a broadcast guy who likes his anonymity although an opportunity to give that up reportedly presented itself.

Q: You were almost the new Jason Davis at KSTP-TV?

A: I wanted to do "On the Road" when he hung it up. I was talking to the Hubbards about it. But that's as far as we got when I learned my wife was going to be spending the year in Kansas. I had to come up with a new job.

Q: What did you tell me Ginny Hubbard Morris, Hubbard Board chair and the broadcasting empire's radio executive, found so soothing about the possibility of you returning the Hubbard Broadcasting?

A: She was willing to talk to me about the Jason Davis position because it's prerecorded and they'd have less trouble with legal.

Q: Tell me about the trouble you got into with Arthur's Jewelers while promoting R.F. Moeller Jeweler.

A: I got a little carried away when I was doing the show from Midway Stadium in my little treehouse one night. I was in the middle of a R.F. Moeller Jeweler ad and decided to compare them to Arthur's Jewelers. And I started to get a little bit incendiary. I think I was swinging a baseball bat around, threatening listeners who didn't go to R.F. Moller. And I believe Arthur's were advertisers at KSTP at the time. Didn't make them happy. When the lawyer calls and you have to go upstairs at Hubbard Broadcasting that's never good. I think thousands of dollars of free advertising were given to Arthur's. I should have probably figured about then, it's time to toe the line. I think that's when the clock starting ticking on Mischke. But I lasted a lot longer after that. They gave me too many chances.

Q: How often was the seven-second delay hit when you were on the radio?

A: Over the years? Either from my own words or someone else's? Too often. The beauty of late night was they let a little more go there than they do during the day.

Q: You had seven different time slots at KSTP.

A: Over the years. Yeah I bounced around. Part of the story was working with different guys. Don Vogel, Pat Milan. A lot of it was just the nature of radio. They'd get the Twins, I'd have to move. There were experiments with me on what time slots I might do well in. In the end, the majority would agree I was meant for late night.

Q: You're a kind of shy guy and you suffer stage fright?

A: Yeah, I turn down public speaking gigs. If radio wasn't in a little booth, you know the way Keillor does in front of an audience, I don't ... The beauty of radio is that you're only talking to one person. You don't get 20 guys together and say, "Let's listen to a radio show." You sit in your room or your car. I always love that one-on-one. That's why radio worked for me. I have terrible stage fright.

Q: Is that why you're not on TV, because you're a handsome man.

A: The television thing, again, if I did it, wouldn't have been a live studio show. But I would prefer not to be known and obviously once you do television, everybody knows you. Fortunately, no one will ever see this.

Q: Wait a minute. If you have such stage fright, how have you been able to play the piano and perform songs you write at O'Gara's?

A: You have to do CD release parties [to pay for production cost]. I can do it. It's horrible. I don't enjoy it. I'm happy when it's over, [because] I'm dying.

Q: What's managing you like for a boss?

A: I was a pain. ... I came into radio at 29 and maybe started to grow up about 47 years of age. I wouldn't have wanted to have me working for me. But the whole deal in radio was pushing it. You never wanted your audience to think you and management were like this. That's not going to get you a lot of listeners. The idea is that you're a renegade, a maverick doing what they don't want you to do. Even the bosses recognize that. Just watch the line, Mischke.

Q: So why did you get fired from KSTP

A: I made a call to the front desk at KSTP. You have to alert somebody ahead of time that you'll be calling because when they answer the phone they are on a 50,000-watt radio program. I didn't alert them. I would argue that I did that so often over the years I should have been fired 100 times, but it doesn't' change the fact that I did violate an FCC rule. You can't even call an answering machine and have that aired legally. You know that jingle "45"? I wanted to know who came up with that. Who wrote that little ditty. What a lovely little song, so I called the front desk, asked the woman. She didn't know, hung up, boom, fired. They waited a while, I had a gig at O'Gara's, a musical gig. They kept it under their hat until I got that gig out of the way. Then they called me in the next day. It was very friendly. We were laughing and shaking hands. Nothing but good things to say.

Q: You left WCCO-AM of your own accord?

A: And they were very sweet. I left. I don't know why I left. Was being paid good money. Lovely job, four days a week. But I just creatively hit the wall. Couldn't come up with stuff that made me proud of what I was doing for a living.

Q: This is your first trip to Wayzata?

A: In all seriousness. Born and raised in St. Paul and heard about it. It's mentioned in certain ads from time to time but no, never been here.

Q: Where else would I be surprised to hear you haven't been in the metro?

A: Never been to Chanhassen. Pretty much the western suburbs. St. Paul boys know downtown Minneapolis pretty well. We hang out there. But after that, heading west we just look and say, "I'm not sure it's even legal for us to be out there."

Q: If you haven't been to Chanhassen, you haven't seen Paisley Park?

A: Nope. Haven't been invited.

Q: So you're waiting on an invitation?

A: Prince has an open invitation to hang out with me at Mickey's Diner sometime in St. Paul.

Q: That's the question I am inching my way up to: What questions would you enjoy asking Prince?

A: You know Prince had a line once, he talked about traveling the world, playing concerts all over and then a feeling came over him when the plane would arrive over Minnesota. He's see the lakes and the green. There was this real beautiful description of this sense of coming home. That part of Prince I would love to talk to him about, connection to this area. Clearly he's one of these guys who should have taken off and never looked back a long time ago. The way most people would have.

Q: Would your chat with Symbolina be a more fawning interview?

A: No. In fact, the one thing we wouldn't talk about is music.

Q: What's the last romantic date on which you took your wife?

A: Oh boy. She's going to be a little upset with my inability to come up with that. I tell you what a romantic date for my wife and I happens to be. In St. Paul, this is pretty typical. It's a lovely evening, about twilight. There's this park across the street from my house. Grab a glass of wine, walk out the door and go for a walk into the park. Watching the sun go down. Pretty simple stuff.

Q: You do not find the music of Journey very romantic?

A: No. I heard a little bit of that played earlier and I would rather have been hit with a two-by-four, several times.

Q: Who else can't you stand to hear, music-wise?

A: Oh, if you play an Air Supply song, you could probably get a suicide out of me. Clearly, there is something going on when you get up to those real layered pop songs that just, ugh, a dagger. Foreigner doesn't work for me. All of these people are quite qualified and they play their instruments well, but the songs they put together are painful. Music delivers pain in a way other art doesn't. If I see a painting I don't like, it doesn't hurt me.

Q: Big Bob Dylan fan?

A: I am. I was just up in Hibbing for Bob Dylan Days. There's another guy who if I got together with him I wouldn't talk about music, even though that's his favorite subject. His life is as interesting, if not more interesting, to me than his art. I know he still has a place here and comes and hangs out. On some summer days he could be on a motorcycle next to you with a helmet and you don't know it's him. That's his favorite way to get around locally. Let's face it, you can take all the famous people we put out there together and they are not as well known on planet Earth as Bob Dylan.

Q: You do recognize that Dylan does not have a good voice?

A: He doesn't although in the early years there are certain songs that no other voice would have done for that song. If a woman had a voice like that she'd be out of work. [And he knows that's unfair.]

Q: Do you think he still would be married to Mavis Staples, if they had gotten married?

A: I didn't know that. It doesn't surprise me. Fascinating thing about Bob and girls. He's moved through a lot of them, but you can't find one who'll dish dirt on him. When I think of restless and needing to move on and go to the next things, he personifies that. I can't believe anything would stick with him. He leaves them all respecting him and that's something very few can say.

Q: You acknowledge that there's a creepy element to your personality?

A: Did I say that? I said there is a creepy side to Wayzata I would like to expose. Anytime you see a lovely, wealthy, lily-white community like this, all you have to do is wait until 2 in the morning and look in the basement windows. That's what I want to expose.

Q: Worst guest ever?

A: Some would say Tiny Tim. But I would call that my best guest ever. That's when I learned about his hygiene. All I knew him for was "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." A caller said, "Tommy, why don't you ask him about hygiene?" We went down the weirdest road I've been down with a guest in my life. I learned he wore Depends regularly and not for the reason other people do but just for cleanliness. There were some other things that were said that were very disturbing. Sometimes the ones other people would consider going south, that's when it just starts getting good. There have been some guys inebriated. I won't name names. Because of the late-night hour they were already gone.

Q: Do you cook?

A: No, and my friends are amazed by this. I don't know how to cook anything. All the guys I hang out with cook and they are all great at it. If I'm on my own, I just go to a deli.

Q: How many books do you read in a week?

A: When I was on the radio, three. When I quit radio last summer, I took a serious break from that. I associated books with work. It wasn't fun reading.

Interviews are edited. To contact C.J. try cj@startribune.com and to see her watch Fox 9's "Buzz."

___

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