Four decades later, Gary Sandy wins award for 'WKRP In Cincinnati'
The WKRP star was honored by Radio Ink magazine at its Radio Masters Sales Summit at the Cincinnati Airport Marriott 45 years after the sitcom premiered.
It turns out that actor Gary Sandy, star of the beloved WKRP In Cincinnati sitcom, was living on the air in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, long before the situation comedy premiered 45 years ago.
The 1964 Kettering Fairmont High School graduate says he was recently reminded about being part of a Junior Achievement club at Dayton's WING-AM during high school.
"So I guess I was part of radio more than I thought," Sandy said before accepting an award from Radio Ink magazine at the Radio Masters Sales Summit at the Cincinnati Airport Marriott Wednesday evening.
Sandy told stories about WKRP, his stage career, Dayton childhood and Wilmington College with fellow Dayton native George Wymer at the radio sales gathering before being presented with a special "influencer award" for his portrayal of WKRP program director Andy Travis.
The actor confirmed his portrayal of a radio staff boss inspired many to pursue radio careers.
"I've been to hundreds of radio stations, and I hear it all the time. A lot of program directors said, 'I got into radio because of you,' " said Sandy, 77, who owns a farm in Northern Kentucky.
After winning an "all-state actor" award his senior year at Kettering Fairmount, Sandy attended Wilmington College until a professor urged him to go to New York and study acting. But first, to appease his family, Sandy attended an Atlanta broadcasting school before going to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
When desired Broadway roles went to actors with television credits, a frustrated Sandy moved to Los Angeles and ended up on WKRP In Cincinnati, a sitcom about a fictional low-rated Cincinnati radio station which switched from easy listening "elevator music" to rock 'n' roll. The situation comedy premiered on CBS on Sept. 18, 1978.
His Andy Travis was the normal one on a staff of eccentrics which included crazy morning man Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman), laid back late night DJ Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), uptight newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), deal-making sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), sexy receptionist Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson) and bumbling general manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump). Former Atlanta advertising executive Hugh Wilson created the show without ever visiting Cincinnati.
"WKRP was the greatest of all worlds for me. It combined my love of acting, my love of music and radio. I loved all kinds of music, especially big band," he said. "But it was the writing. It was all in the writing. Hugh Wilson was a genius."
After WKRP, Sandy returned to New York and realized his dream of performing on Broadway. He starred as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, replacing Treat Williams in the role. His stage credits include Chicago, The Music Man, Arsenic and Old Lace and The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.
Today he enjoys doing radio dramas, "because you can read it. You don't have to memorize a script." He has done some radio drama performances on stage based on Agatha Christie's radio mysteries and Mickey Spillane's "Mike Hammer" books.
"I'm pretty good at the Mike Hammer thing," he said.
Much has been written about Sandy and Gordon Jump both being from Dayton since WKRP premiered 45 years ago. But Sandy ended his chat with Wymer, who started his career at Dayton's WING-AM, with a story I hadn't heard about Jump showing Sandy an old photo.
"It was a picture of me in kindergarten. And he says, 'See that kid you're sitting next to? That's my nephew Greg Jump.' "