OFF-MIC: Brian Paruch


OFF-MIC #4: Brian Paruch





Meet Brian Paruch, an old friend who splits his Chicago radio airtime between two wildly different stations, Modern AC WTMX (“The Mix”) and Sports-talk WSCR (“The Score”).  His versatility, as evidenced by his ability to bounce between playing Rob Thomas songs at one station and then talk at length about Chi-cah-go sports on another, is one of his greatest strengths.

James VanOsdol:
Since the Zone closed its doors, you’ve been spending time at two major Chicago stations. How did you pull that off, given that the stations are owned by competing companies (Bonneville and CBS)?


Brian Paruch:
I really don’t know how I’ve pulled off working at the Mix and the Score, other than to say that they both have been very understanding about my work with the other. I believe the fact that we’re talking about two completely different audiences–one AM and one FM station, one talk and the other music, one male and the other female–and finally the fact that I use different names on each station probably helps a little bit.


JVO:
Do the time demands of both stations ever overlap?  There have to be times when they stretch your days out far beyond a “normal” work day.

BP:
I have a couple of regular shifts on weekends and I kind of work my schedule at both places around those. During the week, if the Mix needs me, usually I know pretty far in advance because it’s often vacation relief. At the Score, there are daily update shifts and certain “show” times that do not have a regular person. They use me and several other guys for those on a “Can you do this, this, this, this, and this?” basis. I try to say yes to whatever I can, with the added twist of arranging a babysitter–usually one of my parents or my in-laws, who have been invaluable in my being able to work at all, really–since my daughter, Tori, was born in October of ’07. I often stretch my days beyond a “normal” workday, but those are sometimes offset by days off.


JVO:
The common reaction from people who knew you as Brian the Whipping Boy was that they couldn’t believe how articulate, passionate, and intelligent you are about sports.  Was music radio just a means to an end for you?

BP:
Music radio was not just a means to an end. I grew up listening to music radio and always wanted to be on it. I still really enjoy it. I think that anyone who does one thing always has a part of him or herself that wants to branch out a little bit. I remember working with Marc Silverman of ESPN Radio a few times when he filled in at the Zone and he was giddy about working in a format that wasn’t sports, just because it allows for different thoughts to come out, and because it was a change from his normal routine. I always felt that way working on different morning shows, whether talking about sports or just about life things–and also, for that matter, doing a lot of “acting” on the Mancow show. So being on the Score is an extension of that. I might also point out that there are people at the Score who think it would be really cool to work at a music station, because the grass is always greener.

The one thing about talk radio versus music radio is that you must rely on yourself or your callers to energize you if you’re just not feeling into it that day; at a music station, the music can do that for you.


JVO:
How gratifying was it to divest yourself of the “Whipping Boy” title?

BP:
I’m still “Whip” on the Mix, which is a variation, but I didn’t mind being “The Whipping Boy” in my 20s. But being “Whipping Boy” in my 30s would’ve felt silly…to say nothing of (my) 40s, 50s, etc.


JVO:
Other than being a sports fan, what best prepared you for sports radio?

BP:
Being a sports fan plus being a radio guy equals being able to do sports radio, I believe. I think that one key to it is not trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel, or come up with the greatest concept anyone’s ever heard before; because chances are, people have heard just about everything before. Sometimes it’s best to keep it relatively simple, and if you want callers, ask a specific, pointed question, and they will usually respond. Also, I’m usually pretty nice to callers even if I disagree with them, mostly because I would sound like a real idiot if it turned out that I was wrong and had dressed down some guy who was right. And if you think about it, the entire concept of getting all geared up about sports is kind of insane anyway; it’s supposed to be an escape. So if some guy on the phone is an idiot because of some idea that he does or does not have, chances are, the host can just as easily be called an idiot too…if not on that topic, then on another one.


JVO:
You were the dependable workhorse of a handful of memorable Chicago morning shows, including Mancow’s Morning Madhouse, Sludge and Brian, and Wendy and Bill. What lessons did you take from morning radio to your Score shows?

BP:
I learned lots of lessons from those shows, in just about every way. From Mancow specifically, I think I became immune to just about everything.  There is no situation which could be as insane–in good and bad ways–as that show was. So I don’t let myself get all uptight and see no good in yelling at producers or throwing stuff, because, really, it’s just radio, and 99.9 percent of the time, the listener’s probably unaware of–or not bothered by–whatever’s freaking you out behind the scenes. Also, those shows taught me to be versatile: being able to do news, traffic, sports, or just be a plain old sidekick, and I use all of those elements now.


JVO:
Both Chicago baseball teams made it to post-season play in ’08.  What do you expect from them this year?

BP:
The Cubs will almost certainly make the playoffs again, as much because they’re still good as because no one else in their division appears to be trying. And it would not be a surprise if the White Sox are bad, because they’re a combination of very young players and aging veterans; very little in between. But their division doesn’t have a clear favorite, so winning it might not be impossible if a few things go their way. As for the playoffs, they’re basically a crap shoot, and so if you get in, you have a chance to win.


JVO:
What are your thoughts on A-Rod and and the overarching issue of steroid use in professional baseball?

BP:
I think that the simple answer is just to say, “Let ‘em do it, it’s more entertaining that way.” But here’s the problem: there’s virtually no question that the juicing helps you become better at certain things on the field; only a true moron would dispute that at this point. There’s also at least a good chance, although some dispute this, that steroid use is bad for your long-term health, not to mention illegal. So if you allow players to use whatever drugs they want, that forces other players to make the same deal with the devil if they want to, A.) make the big leagues, or B.) succeed once they get there. That also means that if you have a kid who wants to become a professional athlete, you essentially have to be prepared to get them on a juicing program unless this thing is policed extremely thoroughly. And take the chance that all the old football players and wrestlers who have died of varoius odd ailments in their fifties in recent years must’ve just eaten too many cheeseburgers.

JVO:
How do you work with interactive media?  

BP:
I use the internet and e-mail, obviously, but that’s about it.

JVO:
Really?  You can’t be found on the various social networking sites?

BP:
As far as social networking stuff goes, there is a Brian Paruch on Facebook, but it’s not me. I first heard of these sites as places where children and predators went–that was my first impression of them–and even though they are now very mainstream and just about everybody is on them, kind of like steroids, I still for the life of me don’t really understand why. I could just imagine being in high school and having my self-esteem ripped apart because someone else has more friends than me. That sounds like a recipe for psychosis. No part of my actual self wants to be on those sites, and if I were to join, it would only be because everyone else is doing it. And that is never a reason to do something, especially at the age of 35, so count me out.


JVO:
What kind of preparation do you do for both stations?  I’d imagine that doing prep for the Mix takes a lot less time than for the Score, simply by virtue of what the two formats require.

BP:
Preparation does differ, because it’s a little easier to do it on the fly when you’re playing songs. You can prepare during commercial breaks and phone calls during a talk show, but it’s much better to have at least a little of a plan going in, although sometimes just listening to the station for awhile before your show can be pretty good prep in itself.


JVO:
Of all the experiences you’ve had and celebrities and personalities you’ve dealt with over the years, which moments stand out for you?

BP:
I ate dinner at a sushi restaurant with Freak and Rob Halford of Judas Priest one time; that’s pretty weird, I think. Also, I remember meeting Duran Duran as an intern in 1993 and commenting to someone that Simon LeBon looked like an old woman up close. I shudder to think of what he looks like now. Also, Randy “Macho Man” Savage threw me across the stage at the World Music Theatre, to the delight of thousands.  Andrew Dice Clay’s bodyguard pinned me to the ground in anger at the Swissotel. That’s a real A-list, eh?


JVO:
How much has radio changed since you started at Q101 as an intern?

BP:
It’s hard to tell how radio’s actually changed versus how my perception of it has changed. But I’m pretty sure there are fewer people doing fewer jobs in the industry in general, and it certainly seems like people’s attention is so much more divided now. I believe it takes more effort from stations to really make its audience into a culture of its own, although–this sounds like a butt-kiss, but I really mean this–both the Mix and the Score have very strong identities and have very loyal, hard-core listenerships.


JVO:
What’s it going to take for radio to sustain itself?

BP:
The weird thing is, people may have thought that radio was dying a few years ago, but now, there’s really not a secure industry of any kind out there. Radio’s in a boat with banking, retail, cars, and just about everything else. If the economy fixes itself, I believe radio’s still a good place for advertisers–especially local ones–to be because just about everyone still listens to it at least a little in a given day. One place I would not want to be is pay radio…now that’s just silly.


THE HISTORY OF BRIAN PARUCH:

1993-2001, WKQX. Intern, promotions person, traffic person, night jock, news person, Mancow sidekick.
2001-2005, WZZN. Night jock, plus various morning roles.
2006-2007, Metro Networks. Traffic and sports anchor (WBBM). 
2006-present, WTMX. Weekend guy, morning fill-in.
2006-present, WSCR. Show host, update anchor.

About these ads
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 67 other followers

%d bloggers like this: