'WKRP' experts finally visiting Cincinnati
After months of talking about "WKRP In Cincinnati," hosts of the WKRP-Cast podcast will tour locations seen on the beloved sitcom canceled 40 years ago.
They won't be "living on the air in Cincinnati," but Allen and Donna Stare plan to record plenty of audio for their weekly "WKRP-Cast" podcast when they visit Cincinnati this week to explore the setting of their favorite situation comedy for the first time.
"Originally this was scheduled for us to be there for Opening Day. But by the time they decided to move Opening Day back (to April 12), we already had too many things in place so we decided to come. We're really coming there to see the city," says Stare, a retired radio DJ and advertising executive.
He's traveling Tuesday from Missouri with his wife Donna, a singer, actress and retired teacher. They started a WKRP in Cincinnati podcast in 2020, after re-watching all the episodes during the pandemic lockdown. They also have a WKRP-Cast Facebook page.
"The podcast has been growing steadily since the first week. Word has spread among fans, and the show has been promoted extensively through WKRP fan sites on Facebook and the internet," Allen says. "Quite a few" of the hundreds who download each new episode are Greater Cincinnati resident, he says.
While in town, the couple wants to see the locations they've watched on the opening sequence for the beloved sitcom which aired on CBS from 1978 to 1982: Fountain Square, the Roebling Suspension Bridge, Fifth Street, Fort Washington Way and the former Cincinnati Enquirer building at 617 Vine Street.
"We want to visit all these places we've been told about and that we've seen on the screen," Donna says.
The WKRP opening ended with cameras zooming in on the 14th floor of 617 Vine Street, where the fictional station was located in the "Osgood Flimm Building." The building was converted into a Hampton Inn & Suites in 2015.
"We're staying in the Flimm Building!" Allen says.
The Stares have asked me to give them a tour of the scenes shown in the opening credits. Back in 2013, Enquirer photographer Glenn Hartong and I had filmed and produced a side-by-side comparison of the original WKRP opening and what those places looked like then without Riverfront Stadium or the Fifth Street skywalk, and the addition of several Fourth Street office towers, The Banks and reconfiguration of Fort Washington Way.
I'm also hooking them up with Bob Gerding, the PPS Group (Post Production Services) CEO who shot most of the Cincinnati exteriors for WKRP.
On the WKRP-Cast they've devoted about an hour to re-watching and dissecting a half-hour WKRP episode. Donna provides some play-by-play describing the characters' actions, followed by snippets of dialog clips from the show. Allen adds historical background to the 1980's pop culture references.
They also have interviewed producer Max Tash from WKRP, the short-lived syndicated New WKRP In Cincinnati (1992-92), Frank's Place with former WKRP star Tim Reid and Easy Street with former WKRP star Loni Anderson. They've also spoken with writers (and former WSAI-AM DJ) Casey Piotrowski and Tom Chehak, and WKRP guest stars "Sparky Marcus" Issoglio (Young Arthur Carlson), George Wyner, Christian Seaborn and Eileen Barnett (Arlene the advice call-in host).
Allen started watching WKRP as a teen when CBS was broadcasting original episodes. In fall of 1980, three months before his 16th birthday, Stare was hired at a commercial radio station in his hometown of Taylorville, Ill.
"All I knew about radio when I walked into that station was what I'd learned from watching two seasons of WKRP. When my new program director introduced himself I said, 'Oh, so you're Andy Travis?' (referring to the WKRP program director) He smiled and said, 'Yes, I'm Andy Travis.'
"Everyone in the entire building was a huge fan of the show. We'd have extended discussions on Mondays talking about the new episodes," he says.
While earning a degree in Radio and Television Broadcasting from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he worked as a rock DJ and did mobile DJ jobs at weddings and parties on weekends. After graduation he worked for an advertising agency in Springfield, Ill., but continued to do DJ events for 23 years.
The WKRP-Cast "allows me to access some of the info I've accumulated from working in radio back when radio was fun," says Allen, who edits the podcast from their home in Rogersville, Mo. "It's loaded with solid information. We've had long-time fans tell us they learn something new every episode."
Since the launch in September 2020, the WKRP-Cast has been heard in 48 countries and in more than 2,800 U.S. cities, he says. Last December, it passed 50,000 total downloads, he says.
"We aren't planning on producing a full podcast while in town. But we do want to gather up audio, interviews, and actualities for use both while we are there, but also after we get back. We are also going to do some Facebook Live segments for our Facebook page followers to enjoy along with us," Allen says.
The podcast, Donna says, "is not about the original show. The original series is the gathering point. What's fun is the community that has grown up around WKRP. We've met some amazing people since we started doing this."
And they're expecting to meet many more.