Tony Perkins on being back on air with Donnie Simpson and what happens when you make listeners laugh~
“Here’s what Donnie has said for many, many years. When we used to work together, one of the things that he liked about it and I liked about it and the listeners liked about it was we could make each other laugh. We worked with a news guy at KYS who we just lost last week, unfortunately, John Irving, who also could make us laugh. That’s infectious. It’s infectious in the room and it’s infectious to the audience. Now, we will have that again. “
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town with the at one time the premiere weathercaster in the city of Washington. A very, very, very dear friend who shall always be known to me as
Tony Perkins, morning weatherman. Tony, welcome to Our Town.
Tony Perkins: Thank you very much, I’m very happy to be here. This is an honor, really, this really is. To sit here and talk to you and to Janice, this is great.
Andy Ockershausen: Tony, you flatter us and we are trying to do something for Our Town, which was almost lost as names and dates of people that we had a chance to talk to because they sort of disappeared from daily action, like Mark Russell, a name like that, an artist, various people. We consider Our Town to be everything within 100 miles of our signal. We don’t have a signal anymore.
Tony Perkins: Well, now we’re signal-less and with a podcast there’s no, it’s not 100 miles, it’s worldwide.
Andy Ockershausen: Anywhere.
Tony Perkins: You can say you have international followers.
Andy Ockershausen: I like to have people I can call in California and tell them and say, “You got to listen,” and tell them how to get it because they can, like you say. Janice is the one who discovered podcasting and put me on it, but who discovered Tony Perkins. I recall ABC discovered you for a while.
Donnie Simpson and Tony Perkins Meet at The Comedy Café and The Rest is History
Tony Perkins: Well, yes, they did for a while, boy, but who discovered me? That’s a great question. Okay, I’ve got a couple of answers to that. When I started doing all of this that I do, it began in earnest in the early ’80s and I was doing stand-up comedy. I’d had a couple of little radio jobs. One of my first jobs was for Cathy Hughes at WOL and now I work for her again, which is amazing but-
Andy Ockershausen: Fourth and H, I remember it well.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, that’s right, absolutely right, absolutely right. I had a couple of early radio jobs but I did stand-up comedy, and I met two people who were key to everything else that happened for me. First, Donnie Simpson.
Andy Ockershausen: A legend.
Tony Perkins: A legend, dear friend who I’m now back with at Majic 102.3.
Andy Ockershausen: We’ll get into that later.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, but a friend of mine, a guy named Jeff Newman who worked with Donnie and I went to college with, Donnie was looking for a comedian to work on his show to write lines and a producer. Jeff said, “Well, you should meet my friend Tony, he’s a comedian, he’s really great and I think you would hit it off.”
Donnie came to the comedy club, it was The Comedy Café, doesn’t exist anymore, came down on a Saturday night, saw my set. It was one of the best sets I’d ever had, luckily.
Andy Ockershausen: Jackpot.
Tony Perkins: Jackpot. And he hired me on the spot. What’s cool about that is, he said, “You’re the guy. I want you to come in and I want you to work for me.” I said, “I would love to because I’m a fan but I’m booked. I’m doing comedy and I’ve got three months of bookings.” He said, “I’ll wait.” Now, you know, that’s amazing.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, he deferred to you because he knew you had to do that. If you make a commitment you stick to it.
Tony Perkins: Absolutely right, absolutely right. That was very cool and that was the beginning, as they say, of a beautiful friendship.
Andy Ockershausen: Everything began.
Tony Perkins: Everything began then.
Andy Ockershausen: When did you begin in Our Town? Were you born in Our Town?
Growing Up in Our Town – Mt. Vernon High School and American University Alumnus
Tony Perkins: I was born in New York City but I’ve lived here since I was five, so this is my town.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, this is your Town.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, this is my town.
Andy Ockershausen: And you grew up in it and you saw what it was, what it wasn’t and watched it grow.
Tony Perkins: I went to elementary school in Washington, D.C., junior high in Maryland and Virginia, high school, Mt. Vernon High School in Virginia
Andy Ockershausen: Know it well.
Tony Perkins: American University.
Andy Ockershausen: U.S. one.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, right, absolutely. So this is my town, this is home.
Andy Ockershausen: Having this experience in Our Town has made you what you are. You got the talent from Our Town, correct?
Tony Perkins: Well-
Andy Ockershausen: Observing people. To do comedy, you got to be a people person.
Tony Perkins on Why Our Town
Tony Perkins: Absolutely. Here’s the thing. I love this town, I really do. I spent some years in New York at “Good Morning America,” came back because I loved this town so much.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s an amazing story in itself.
Raising a Family and Having a Successful Career in Media
Tony Perkins: Well, it is. It’s an amazing story but we wanted to raise my son here. I have a 14-year-old boy. He was two when I left “Good Morning America.” New York City is wonderful, you know New York, it’s great. Culturally very rich but we just didn’t want to raise him in the city. You can live outside of the city but then you got to deal with the bridges and the tunnels and I didn’t want to do that so we came back here.
The great thing about this area is, man, there were some giants here that you could learn from whether it was by watching, or listening to them, or if you were lucky, getting to meet them. I’m talking about people like Jim Vance, Harden and Weaver, Willard Scott.
A friend of mine, my friend Richard and I, when we were teenagers, we started a Willard Scott Fan Club. Little did I know I would become a national weather forecaster later, but Donnie Simpson, Glenn Brenner.
Andy Ockershausen: Great talent, not just for Our Town, for any town.
Great Talents – Integral Parts of the Community
Tony Perkins: For any town and all of those people, not only were they great talents or are they, they were also integral parts of the community. I learned from watching them and, in some cases, meeting them, as well. What kind of impact you can have and what kind of life you can have, a very rewarding life and I’m not talking financially right now, but that can follow, too. But a very rewarding life being part of a community like this.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, I always admire you coming back to Our Town because you can deny it, Tony, but you gave up money because New York pays big bucks than Washington does, and it’s a fact. It’s the size of the market has to do with advertising costs, you know all that.
Tony Perkins: Yes, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: But you gave that up to come back to Our Town. I was so impressed with that.
Tony Perkins: Well, thank you very much.
Andy Ockershausen: And they put you on the morning and doing news. I said, “The guy’s a natural newscaster.”
Tony Perkins: Here’s the great thing. When I came back, and it still happens now, but I’ve been back for 12 years now.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s hard to believe.
Community Ownership and Appreciation
Tony Perkins: It is hard to believe, I still get this, but when I first came back, the comment that I would get from folks meeting people on the street and what have you, and I think this is the nicest thing anyone can say to you, for someone in our business, people said to me, “I was sad when you left to go to “Good Morning America” although I understood it, but I’m so glad you came back.” That means people take ownership of you.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, no question, Tony.
Tony Perkins: They understood it’s a big deal, “Good Morning America,” big stage, national TV, big money, they got it, but they were very happy that I chose to come back.
Andy Ockershausen: GMA.
Tony Perkins: GMA.
Andy Ockershausen: But they made it, too, Tony. They’re still going strong. You’re doing very, very well. You remind me talking about Willard, because Willard never moved to New York for the same reason. He didn’t like it.
Tony Perkins: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: He had that little place. He grew up in Alexandria.
Tony Perkins: Yes, he did, yes, he did.
Andy Ockershausen: A local guy, went to school here. But that gave him some experience in life and you’ve gotten that, too. But, Tony, why would you give up your television work at this point in your career, which you have become a well-respected newscaster, which is a little higher calling than a weatherman, correct?
For Some – Questionable Career Moves
Tony Perkins: Absolutely right. I think there are people who would look at some of my career moves and go, “What is this guy doing?” I was at “Good Morning America” for almost seven years. I did come back. It was very much a lifestyle thing, and it was also … At “Good Morning America,” and it was a great opportunity, I’m so glad I had that opportunity.
Andy Ockershausen: You had a great bunch of people to work with.
Good Morning America Could Be Frustrating for Creativity
Tony Perkins: Great bunch of people to work with but it could also be very frustrating. At the time I was on, it was Charlie Gibson, best in the business, Diane Sawyer, best in the business, Robin Roberts, superstar in her own right, and me.
Listen, I did very well. I’m very proud of the segments I did there and all that kind of thing but it was very frustrating. I would pitch an idea, my producer and I would pitch an idea for a segment and we would get no’s nine out of ten times. That got to be frustrating.
We would do a segment that everyone would love, and then the next day it was like starting all over again. I was the low man on the totem pole, I was paid very well. Some of the folks there treated me very well, but it was frustrating so it was time to come back. In terms of leaving Fox 5 at night, you know this, my entire career up until four years ago had been mornings.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Fox 5 at Night Not a Good Fit for a Morning Person or a Family Man
Tony Perkins: I’m a morning person, morning radio.
Andy Ockershausen: That cast died when you left the show. I thought they were all crying, they said, “Tony’s going nighttime.”
Tony Perkins: It was tough.
Andy Ockershausen: Allison went to pieces.
Tony Perkins: I love Allison. We love each other dearly.
Andy Ockershausen: Local girl, Our Town.
Tony Perkins: Allison Seymour.
Andy Ockershausen: Montgomery Blair High School.
Tony Perkins: That’s right, you know your stuff.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, yeah.
Tony Perkins: They moved me to nights. That was not something I was looking for. It was a challenge. It was an honor to be asked to be paired up with Shawn Yancy.
Andy Ockershausen: Number one news show in the city of Washington.
Tony Perkins: Yes, it is. We became number one at 10 and number one at 11, which is unheard of because Channel 4 had always been number one, so I’m very proud of what we did. But working at nights meant I got off work at about 11:40, I got home at 12:10, 12:15. My wife was in bed, my son was in bed. Most weeks I would see my son through the weekend, Sunday night when he went to bed. I wouldn’t see him again until Friday at midnight when I got home. That has not set well with me.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s not want you want for your life.
Tony Perkins: No, and I have one child, you have one chance to do this.
Andy Ockershausen: He needs you.
Tony Perkins: He started high school and that’s an important time.
Andy Ockershausen: A vulnerable time.
Tony Perkins: Right, so.
Andy Ockershausen: Tony, that’s so great that-
Tony Perkins: I had to make a change.
Andy Ockershausen: . . . yourself to do that.
Majic 102.3 – The Perfect Storm
Tony Perkins: Once again, I think a lot of people think it’s a curious move but now instead of working from 3 until almost midnight every day, I’m on the air at Majic 102.3 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Last night I walked in the door at 7:55, sat down with my family.
Andy Ockershausen: They say, “Who’s this man?”
Tony Perkins: Yeah, it was great, it was great.
Andy Ockershausen: Uncle Tony’s home.
Tony Perkins: So that’s why the change.
Andy Ockershausen: But you’re not lost in radio. Radio is still out there 24/7.
Tony Perkins: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: People know you and they know you’re listening. I’m so enthusiastic still about radio because it’s a very important part of people’s life. You can’t put that TV set on your steering wheel.
Tony Perkins: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: People try to do it and it’s dangerous.
Tony Perkins: Here’s the thing and I know you know this. Radio, yeah, radio has changed a lot. It’s become very corporate. I think it’s the reason podcasts such as this are thriving because-
Andy Ockershausen: I think you’re absolutely right.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, but for me to go back to radio, I have the best possible opportunity. It’s with Donnie Simpson who controls his own show, plays what he wants to play, so it’s like doing old time radio. We talk when we want to talk, do what we want to do. It’s great.
Andy Ockershausen: You do your own thing but you’re doing it for the public and the public loves it, obviously.
Tony Perkins: Yes, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Donnie, well, much talent together, it’s sort of like a Harden and Weaver group to me. Simpson-
Tony Perkins: I wish. Simpson and Perkins.
Andy Ockershausen: Perkins and Simpson, Simpson and Perkins. S&P.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: The whole onus for this podcast was to bring it back to the radio that we liked and where there’s no management looking over your shoulder telling you what other people want you to say or feel or do.
Podcasting – The Tony Perkins Show Featuring Gary Stein
Tony Perkins: Like you guys, I have a podcast. It’s called “The Tony Perkins Show Featuring Gary Stein.” Gary was my dedicated producer at “Good Morning America.” We became very good friends. He’s a former actor and comedy writer, one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.
Andy Ockershausen: Did he move to Washington?
Tony Perkins: No, he-
Andy Ockershausen: He’s still up in New York.
Tony Perkins: He’s in New Jersey. He comes down every couple of weeks. We record some shows-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Tony, plug your, give us your web address.
Tony Perkins: Tonyperkinshow.com. It is a fun, it is freewheeling, it’s an hour long. It’s comedy and music and interviews and exactly what you just said, Janice. We own it, we do what we want to do. It’s great.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Tony Perkins, this is such a delight to have you in our studio. I wish you had been here all the time but I’m not here much anymore either. But this is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town.
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Daughter: That’s good.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, this is Our Town, and we’re talking to Tony Perkins about his desertion of our market to go to New York, but he came back. Now he’s working with Donnie Simpson. I know those people you work with at Channel 5 and it’s a local, to me Channel 5 is local and that’s why I watch it. I’m not interested in all that New York talk, or all the shows but, Tony, you felt that and they’d love to have you back in town at Channel 5.
Weekends on Fox 5 with Annie Yu
Tony Perkins: Here’s the great thing. Yeah, I left the night show but we have worked it out so I’m now a part-timer at Fox 5, I will be on Friday mornings on “Good Day DC” from 9 until 11, puts me back on in the mornings.
Andy Ockershausen: Love that.
Tony Perkins: I’ll be on Saturday mornings from 7 until 9, co-anchoring “Fox News Morning” with Annie Yu.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Oh, that’s great.
Tony Perkins: I’ve actually, I’ve wanted to work with her, I love Annie.
Andy Ockershausen: She’s cute isn’t she? I love Annie.
Tony Perkins: She’s great.
Andy Ockershausen: I guess you can’t say cute anymore.
A New Era – “If we have to give up some comforts of saying, “Hey, sweetie,” that’s okay.”
Tony Perkins: You can’t say cute anymore.
Andy Ockershausen: She’s a doll.
Tony Perkins: Someone said to me the other day, oh, Donnie said this, Donnie said, “Oh, Annie is, she is gorgeous.” He said, “Well, I guess you can’t say that. She is good.” So good is the new gorgeous or hot.
Andy Ockershausen: Donnie’s aware of it. It’s all in our head now. You can’t say to somebody-
Tony Perkins: Well, it’s a new-
Andy Ockershausen: You look so good in that dress. You’re dead if you do that.
Tony Perkins: It’s a new era.
Andy Ockershausen: It really is.
Tony Perkins: I think that for the most part that’s a good thing, but I do think we’re now going through a transition period, particularly for older folks like us, where it used to, not being misogynous necessarily, but talking a certain way. You see a pretty woman at work and she looks at you, you say, “Oh, my God. You look great today.”
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Tony Perkins: Now you got to be very careful about it.
Andy Ockershausen: Can’t do that anymore and that’s a shame.
Tony Perkins: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: Because it’s a compliment from the heart. If you didn’t feel it you wouldn’t say it. I always said, and Janice knows this, I like to compliment people. It makes me feel good.
Tony Perkins: Right, right. But I-
Andy Ockershausen: That you recognize something.
Tony Perkins: But I know why this change is happening and I think that’s a good thing. If we have to give up some comforts of saying, “Hey, sweetie,” that’s okay.
Andy Ockershausen: Now would you ever go back to stand up again? Would you do some gigs now and then? Charity work because they’re big in that, Tony. What has made you? You get out in the public. You not only perform on the air but people see you, like John Bowis was leaving. He knew, he did something with you at a public event.
New Schedule Will Allow More Involvement in Community-Oriented Events
Tony Perkins: I do as much community-oriented stuff as I can. It’s funny, the last four years working at night I have not been able to do as much because some of it is nighttime and, obviously, I can’t leave the anchor desk to do that.
Then because I didn’t see my family during the week, the weekends became that much more precious, so I turned down a lot of stuff. I think I’ll be able to do more with this new schedule.
Andy Ockershausen: Will your guy in New York help you with that stand-up work?
Open Invitation at DC Improv
Tony Perkins: When I did stand up years ago, I wrote all my own stuff. If I do it again, I’ll write my own stuff again. The folks at the DC Improv, they’re so great. They have, for years, they have said to me if you ever want to get back on stage, you have an open invitation. That’s the nicest thing in the world for someone who hasn’t been on stage doing comedy for 25 years. It’s pretty risky.
Andy Ockershausen: But they got people that remember, Tony. People remember you.
Tony Perkins: Right, right. I would like to do it at some point and I think I will.
Andy Ockershausen: The public wants you back, that’s a good way to … Your listeners are your viewers. You can touch them and they can touch you, that’s important.
Live Podcast Shows at DC Improv
Tony Perkins: You should do this, you should do this. My podcast with Gary that I mentioned, we’ve done live shows at the DC Improv.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow.
Tony Perkins: We’ve done, I think, three live shows there. We did at Carolines in New York City so that’s-
Andy Ockershausen: No time restraints, you can just do it?
Tony Perkins: Well, you do about an hour and 15 minutes. We’ve had guests on the show come up.
Andy Ockershausen: Great idea, Janny.
Tony Perkins: People come out, they see it and you don’t even have to do … Our first show, we really jazzed it up and put on a show show. But really what people want is they want to come see you do the podcast. Obviously, you play to the crowd more and you try to … We had Tom Bergeron on one of our shows so you want to have a good guest for people to watch. But it’s a great thing to do, you should do it. You would love it.
Andy Ockershausen: You’ve got a great idea. Our friend who just started to work with us, her first day on the job, Liz, had been working at Chatter with Tony Kornheiser with his show.
Tony Perkins: Yes, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: She’s now back in radio where it counts, not this podcast thing, she’s in radio, without transmission, without pricing. So, Tony, you going to do it on the weekends?
Tony Perkins: Yeah, I’ll be on weekends.
Andy Ockershausen: Not every weekend. Don’t give up your life now, you’ve done it twice.
Tony Perkins: And you know what, here, this is the other great thing about Our Town. I’ve had probably 15 people that I don’t know, viewers, listeners, write me notes, tweet to me, whatever, say, “Don’t work too much, you know, because you want to …” but here’s the deal. My weekdays are radio, four hours a day. So I’m there maybe five and a half hours, prep and all that kind of stuff.
My TV work is Friday mornings, Saturday mornings. So Saturday is kind of a half day. People keep saying, “You’re working six days a week.” I’m working like five and a half days a week. I think I can handle it.
Andy Ockershausen: Still have the family.
Tony Perkins: Still have the family.
Andy Ockershausen: Got to remember that son now. He’s going to need you more than ever.
Tony Perkins: Well, this morning I got to have breakfast with my wife and last night, dinner. And on Saturdays here’s what’s great about the Saturday schedule. Instead of sleeping super late now because I got home Friday night after midnight, now I’ll be up early in the morning, get dressed, go to Fox, do the show. I’m done at nine. So I’m up and ready earlier. If my son’s got a ball game I’ll be there.
Andy Ockershausen: And you’re a morning guy.
Tony Perkins: I’m a morning guy.
Andy Ockershausen: Make it easy for you.
Tony Perkins: So that’s cool.
First Day Back on Radio with Donnie Simpson
Andy Ockershausen: Now, yesterday was your first day back on radio full time?
Tony Perkins: Yes, it was. Yes, that’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: With Donnie.
Tony Perkins: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: And we should have listened to it but I didn’t know yesterday was the first day. I knew you were back but we’ll have to listen tonight, JannyO. It must have been great.
Tony Perkins: It was completely-
Andy Ockershausen: Tons of phone calls.
Tony Perkins: Tons of phone calls. JB, James Brown called in.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, my guy.
Tony Perkins: Isn’t he great?
Andy Ockershausen: We love JB. You know I advised him years ago. I said, “JB., you’re not going anywhere with Xerox, you ought to get in radio.” He had a great voice.
Tony Perkins: He was with Xerox?
Andy Ockershausen: He worked for Xerox.
Tony Perkins: I didn’t even know that.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s where I met him.
Tony Perkins: I didn’t know that.
Andy Ockershausen: I said, “He has such a beautiful voice.”
Tony Perkins: Great voice.
Andy Ockershausen: So he said, “Well, I didn’t do radio.” I said, “Well, you got a face for radio.” So he ends up as one of the top broadcasters in America.
Tony Perkins: Absolutely. He called in, that was very cool. We just had so much fun, laughed a lot. The show was very lively, and I think that’s what it’s going to be every day.
Andy Ockershausen: And you’re doing it at the studios now, it’s not in that trailer anymore?
Tony Perkins: No, it’s at Silver Springs. They got a very nice setup.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I love it. Janice does a lot of business over there and we went over to see Donnie and we recorded him. Thinking about Jim Vance and all these great stars we’ve had in Our Town, you’re right up there with them, baby.
Tony Perkins: Here’s the thing-
Andy Ockershausen: Yes, you are.
Tony Perkins: Well, I don’t see myself that way but-
Andy Ockershausen: You know Vance had a lot of chances to leave town and didn’t do it, too, you know.
Remembering Jim Vance
Tony Perkins: Man, Jim Vance is one of my heroes. Yes, you’re absolutely right. He had many opportunities and he wanted to stay here and he was the man. That’s the last time we all saw each other, at his funeral.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Tony Perkins: He was the man. Here’s my Jim Vance story. Here’s how long Jim Vance was in that chair and once or twice I teased him about this. When I was in college at American University studying communications, one of my assignments was, identify someone in the business that you look up to, try to get an interview with them. And so I reached out to Jim Vance. This is early ’80s and he was the anchor at Channel 4 and he was great.
Andy Ockershausen: Thirty-five years ago.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, yeah. I went to Channel 4, went into his office. He spent maybe 30, 40 minutes with me. Great advice, he didn’t know me from Adam. Great advice, good guy, and then that was that.
So then I’d see him over the years and I worked with Donnie, then I’m at Channel 5, then I’m at “Good Morning America.” I would see him and I would say, “Jim, you’re still doing the same thing.”
Andy Ockershausen: Which was his charm.
Tony Perkins: Right and it was his choice, it was his choice. But he was great and always gave time to people, he was wonderful.
Andy Ockershausen: To young people, that was special with Vance. He was very, very community oriented and young people oriented. I’d see him around, too. But he was a neighbor of ours and he had a big old dog. I’ll never forget, and we had the same, what do you call, nurse or-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Trainer.
Andy Ockershausen: Trainer for our dog. But we had a little dog but he had this huge dog but we shared trainers with him. He’s such a special person, and so are you. You’ll have your opportunity of people say, “Can I talk to you and find out …,” and I’ve lived through it for all these years.
Everybody wanted to be in broadcasting, wanted to be. You’d tell them the truth, you start at the bottom. This is Washington, D.C., you ain’t going to start at the top here.
Tony Perkins: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: Start at the bottom.
Tony Perkins: I get the chance to talk to lots of young folks and part of the reason that I do that, I think it’s in me naturally, but Jim, watching Donnie work all these years.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s incredible.
Tony Perkins: If someone says, “Can you give me some advice about breaking into the business?” He will spend time with them. So I do the same thing. People looked out for me, people helped me out, I do the same thing.
Andy Ockershausen: And you’ll be the reward, you’re the one to get the reward for doing that.
Tony Perkins: Absolutely right.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen, and we’re talking to the Donnie Simpson convert who’s now back in radio where he belongs, Tony Perkins.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, this is Our Town. Talking to Tony Perkins about his illustrious career and the best part about it, he’s back in Our Town, full time, doing special radio. I’m so delighted that you are doing that.
Completing the Circle – Back to Radio
Tony Perkins: Listen, I’m delighted that I’m doing it. Here’s the thing. People have been saying to me, “Well, you’re returning to your first love.” And when I first heard that I thought, “I don’t know if it’s my first love.” But it really is. When I grew up, my father worked in radio, he worked at WOL.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow.
Tony Perkins: He worked at OK 100 back in the day, and then I had an uncle who worked at WFIL in Philadelphia. I remember I was a teenager, we went to visit him, my uncle, G.T. everybody calls him. He was the engineer for a guy, I think the guy’s name was Joel Silver, one of the top jocks in Philadelphia.
Andy Ockershausen: Heard the name.
Remembering Harden and Weaver
Tony Perkins: This was back when radio really was part of the community and was exciting to listen to. I still remember my uncle took me to the studio, it was at night, it was not unlike this studio we’re in now. It was bigger but the lights were down and the microphone was sitting there and you got the board. I just remember being fascinated that someone could open that mic and be talking to the city.
That got me and so I loved radio. You have the great pleasure of working with Harden and Weaver and we’ve been talking about them a little bit during the breaks, let me tell you this. Here’s the great thing about radio and great talent on the radio.
I’m a 10-year-old black kid living in Southwest Washington, waking up every morning to listen to Harden and Weaver, these two. I don’t know how old they were at the time but at my age, they seemed old, these two old white guys. And he’s still in the little voice and all that kind of stuff.
But it was magical, it was magical. I think people now spend too much time trying to think about demographics and-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, boy, you’re so right there.
Tony Perkins: We can’t play this song because the audience won’t tolerate it. When we grew up, we listened to everything. There was Top 40 radio and if me, a little black kid in Southwest Washington is listening to Harden and Weaver, that tells you that if talent is talent and it doesn’t matter-
Andy Ockershausen: Entertainment is entertainment, that’s what it’s all about.
Tony Perkins: That’s right, absolutely right.
Donnie Simpson, Harden and Weaver and Two Dozen Red Roses
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Donnie Simpson, Harden and Weaver, I think it was their 30th anniversary as a team on the air, and they did the show from The Kennedy Center. We had everybody there. Ronald Reagan and the vice president was there, and Gladys Spellman was alive. Donnie Simpson sent two dozen red roses to Harden and Weaver.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: He brought them.
Tony Perkins: He brought them. I remember he left his show at KISS to come do that. That’s right, that’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: What a guy, I mean this-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: First class.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s such a class … He did a TV show when I was at Channel 50. He worked for us there with, I call her Mrs. Hughes but Cathy I know real well when she was married to Dewey and the offices were at Dupont Circle, but I think Cathy Hughes has also done a great thing for radio for Our Town.
Tony Perkins: She sure has, she sure has.
Andy Ockershausen: She put the Post to their knees. We all loved that in those days. That was Cathy.
Tony Perkins: That’s right, that’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: And you’re fortunate enough to be associated with these people. Donnie and Cathy, I think, have a great relationship now.
Tony Perkins: It’s funny. I’ve known her my whole life because my father was good friends with Dewey Hughes.
Andy Ockershausen: He was an engineer there, right?
Tony Perkins: He worked in promotion, he was a deejay. He and Dewey Hughes were very close so I’ve known them forever. It’s funny, I call her Mrs. Hughes and it’s interesting because she gave me one of my first jobs. She gave me my second radio job.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that right?
Tony Perkins: WOL.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, my, at WOL.
Tony Perkins: And has hired me back.
Andy Ockershausen: 1450.
Tony Perkins: 1450, that’s right, on the AM dial. And she has hired me, again. I saw her yesterday, they had a nice little luncheon for me.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, did they? Oh, boy.
Tony Perkins: Yeah. And we just-
Andy Ockershausen: Was Alfred there?
Tony Perkins: Alfred was not there but she was there. We hugged and she said, “I can’t believe this.” She asked me how old I was, I told her. And she said, “That doesn’t make any sense to me.” I said, “I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me but here we are.”
Andy Ockershausen: I call her that little girl from Omaha. What are you doing in Our Town? But she’s a pioneer.
Tony Perkins: Yes, she is.
Andy Ockershausen: She proved that you didn’t need a booming signal because she didn’t care about the suburbs. She wanted the people in Our Town listening to WOL radio.
Tony Perkins: Listen, talk about not a booming signal but, and especially back in the day, WOL was it.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, we know that.
Tony Perkins: That was it. Shoot, WOL, WMAL, which was AM 630. These stations were powerhouses but it was partly because they were so vested in the community.
Andy Ockershausen: Talent, whatever.
Tony Perkins: And talent.
Andy Ockershausen: When Cathy started doing the morning show, I’ll never forget that, and she did so much for Our Town, as Tony Perkins has done. Just think about you’re back now with Donnie who doesn’t need your help, you understand that.
Tony Perkins: That’s right. Another reason I’m grateful that they brought me on. It’s not like he was hurting.
Andy Ockershausen: What you brought to him now is going to be enthusiasm. He’s enthusiastic anyway but you’ll drive him to enthusiasm. I love that.
Make ‘Em Laugh
Tony Perkins: Here’s what Donnie has said for many, many years. When we used to work together, one of the things that he liked about it and I liked about it and the listeners liked about it was we could make each other laugh. We worked with a news guy at KYS who we just lost last week, unfortunately, John Irving, who also could make us laugh. That’s infectious. It’s infectious in the room and it’s infectious to the audience. Now, we will have that again.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you enjoy each other, right?
Tony Perkins: We enjoy each other’s … And we genuinely, Donnie does not think of himself as being a funny person. I think he’s hysterical. He has me laughing all the time.
Andy Ockershausen: And that’s infectious. The audience will pick up on that.
Tony Perkins: Absolutely right.
Andy Ockershausen: If you laugh and they’ll laugh.
Tony Perkins: Absolutely right.
Changes in Radio – Talent and Programming
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, my. When you talk about changes to our business and what has happened. I recall that many years when Harden and Weaver would play a religious song every morning. We had to stop it because of protests from people saying that was-
Tony Perkins: Really?
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a true story.
Tony Perkins: Really?
Andy Ockershausen: Is that true, Janny?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: We stopped and then we restarted it.
Tony Perkins: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: For the public.
Tony Perkins: You probably got more people upset that you had stopped playing it.
Andy Ockershausen: We did.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: We did the hymn and the march every day. The hymn at 6:55 and the march at 7:20.
Tony Perkins: Oh, I remember this. Yes, I remember this, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: It was all part of old time radio but the world has changed. You guys can do it now in the afternoon time, it’s such a perfect time.
Tony Perkins: The whole time I used to work with Donnie at KYS he ended his show every morning with “Jesus is Love” by the Commodores. And I remember the first morning he said, “You know what? I’m going to play something different.” I think it was “Say Amen” by Howard Hewitt. People are like, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Don’t change.” That’s what he did every day.
Andy Ockershausen: Great ending though.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: We had Tom Gauger do the national anthem at 12 noon every day.
Tony Perkins: Yep. How about that? You know what? That would work again. That would work again.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re probably right. It could come back.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And then somebody else picked it up after 9/11 but we don’t hear that anymore. That would be a great addition.
Tony Perkins: That would work right now.
Andy Ockershausen: Radio is making a comeback and you’re going to do that, you’re leading the way, Tony.
Radio – Hiring Personalities Again – Back to Entertainment Philosophy
Tony Perkins: Well, here’s what I think is happening. And this is, listen, what you’re doing here, this is part of it. I think radio shot itself in the foot for years. It became very corporate, very safe and so a lot of the talent went to podcasting. You’ve got some huge podcasts, people like podcasting, they like this kind of thing. I think this is starting to drive radio where you’re starting to see them hire personalities again.
Listen, Majic 102.3, Radio One, you’re right, they didn’t have to hire me. They’ve got their thing set up. But the fact that-
Andy Ockershausen: A little more entertainment, it pays off though.
Tony Perkins: A little more entertainment, personality driven.
Andy Ockershausen: Tony, you’re a good salesman, too. You can sell a product. How many years you been doing commercials?
Tony Perkins: I haven’t done commercials. I have not … Well, because I’ve worked in news. I haven’t been able to.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, your back now, baby.
Tony Perkins: Yeah, I’m-
Andy Ockershausen: Tell. . .
Tony Perkins: Here, I’ve got a bottle of water. Bottled water, it’s fresher than out of the tap.
Andy Ockershausen: Remember, you’re selling somebody something. Tony Perkins, it’s amazing, your career. A guy that tells New York goodbye is my kind of guy.
Tony Perkins: Thank you.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And I think you’ve got one, two, three, four more listeners.
Andy Ockershausen: This is . . .
Tony Perkins: Thank you, thank you. That’s what we want, that’s what we want.
Andy Ockershausen: We knew you were back. The Underground Railroad said you were back.
Where to Find Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins: Check out. I’m on Majic every day Monday through Friday, 3 to 7, on “The Donnie Simpson Show.” I’m on “Good Day DC” Friday mornings 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., “Fox News Morning” Saturday mornings 7 to 9, and “The Tony Perkins Show Featuring Gary Stein,” you can look it up on iTunes, free to subscribe. iTunes, Google Play, it’s once a week, comedy, laughs, you’ll love it.
Ken Hunter: Is that all?
Tony Perkins: Yeah, that’s all I got this week.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: The guy’s not doing much.
Tony Perkins: As Johnny Carson used to say, “What? You didn’t put an album out this week?”
Andy Ockershausen: They’ll never be another one, Tony. Well, thank you so much.
Tony Perkins: Thank you. This is great.
Andy Ockershausen: We just enjoy you so much. You’re always in the public eye. When I see you in public you always got a smile. Makes a big difference. This is Andy Ockershausen and this has been Our Town with Tony Perkins and a cast of three.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town Season 3 presented by GEICO. Our hometown favorite, with your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions, see us on Facebook, or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director and WMAL radio in Washington, D.C. for hosting our podcast. And thanks to GEICO, 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.
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