Michael O’Shea, is a top broadcaster in the U.S. He has done it all over the years: major market jock, Program Director (PD), group PD, general manager and radio station owner-operator. Michael and Charlie got to know one another when they launched the new KUBE, known as ‘the New 93,’ in July 1981. They became close friends, later working together at KJR-FM. On social media, Michael posted some funny personal stories of his life and times with Charlie Brown. With his permission, I am re-posting three of those stories and I have added some timely photos to his text.
“We lost Charlie Brown yesterday (May 11, 2020) in a heart-breaking loss to the Seattle community and the global radio industry. Charlie was the lynch-pin in the building of KUBE, Seattle, where I (as a rookie GM) put it on the air, literally from scratch, in 1981. Let me tell you why I hired Charlie for the KUBE PD/Morning show job. Little known story:
“I had never met him, just knew of his reputation as a wild and zany morning jock at KJR, who in a dispute with his boss over owed-vacation time actually ‘retired’ from KJR in his mid-thirties (‘that’ll show ’em’!) in mid-1980.
“I came into Seattle in late 1980 from Los Angeles Radio (KMPC), as the rookie GM of ‘the New 93,’ later to take the KUBE call letters. I had already decided I’d hire a PD I’d had my eye on from Houston to come to Seattle. But those first four months or so were just to get the station built, as we (First Media Corp, owned by Richard Marriott…yes of the Hotel family) had acquired KBLE-FM a monaural FM religious talk station at 93.3, with a good signal from Cougar Mountain.
“It was just me and our new engineer I’d hired from New Hampshire. We were literally carrying STL racks up the stairs at 110 Lakeside (‘on the shores of Lake Washington’) during this build-out period.
“I started receiving voice mail calls from Charlie Brown. I knew why he was calling, wanting to be hired as the PD (He’d never been a PD), and I figured his ‘ask number’ would be quite high for being an established Seattle radio star. So, I kind of back-burner-ed getting back to Charlie…until about his fourth call, when I felt it was rude of me to ignore him.
“So I called Charlie and set up a cursory lunch for the next day…again we could never ‘afford him’ being a new startup radio station. We met the next day for what, to me, was to be a 45 min courtesy lunch meeting…but which ended up being a four-hour gab-fest at a tavern in Madison Park. We simply ‘bonded.’ We were both the same age, with similar journeyman ‘jock-jobs.’ He in Bellingham, Spokane and Seattle. Me in Dallas, Miami and LA…but we shared so many things in common.
“He told me he wanted to be a PD. I told him that I wanted a morning jock…so we agreed that he’d do both, and his ‘number’ (salary) was negotiable for the opportunity. We sealed it with a handshake at the table, no liquor involved. That was it, the New 93 had a Program Director, but no studio.
“Now, a sidebar: Charlie’s former employer, KJR, was going to be our ‘target competitor’ and our plan was to go music-intensive top-forty with a big morning show (the formula for the era). We still had no studio, no way to even voice liners or promos. Our initial on-air (as ‘The New 93 FM’) format was wall-to-wall top-forty music, from two big Ampex Machines on with ten-inch tape reels, prepared and fedexed to us from our sister station WPGC, in Washington DC. We hired a bunch of radio-school students from Ron Bailey to literally rotate between the two tape decks, with legal ID’s embedded by the production guy at WPGC. We did not even have a mic in our make-shift control room! But one day I tuned in and heard ‘Charlie Brown’s voice’ on new promos and liners that were embedded within the music mix! ‘How’d that happen’?
“A few days later I found out (after a few glasses of wine with Charlie), that after his years working at KJR, he knew the jock bathroom, at their studios in the Harbor part of town, had a broken, unlockable window. In the wee hours, he would tip-toe to the KJR studio/tower site, push open the broken bathroom window, crawl through it and wait until the all night jock was doing a live break. Then he’d crawl under and past the big glass window, so the jock wouldn’t see him, and make his way into the production studio. He’d rack a tape and quickly record a bunch of liners and promo liners that he’d scratched out on a notepad. Charlie would wait until the jock went into another live break, then he’d reverse his crawl past the big window, into the bathroom and back out the defective window. Poof! Instant fresh, topical liners in Charlie’s voice. I KNEW THEN I’D MADE A GREAT DECISION TO HIRE CHARLIE BROWN AS PD and MORNINGS ON KUBE. That is a 100% true and un-adulterated Seattle radio war-story!!
“Here’s another side-bar: Charlie, at the time, was ‘single and mingle.’ He met Mary White on a blind date lunch…he decided within a few minutes he wasn’t interested in their romantic future, which she clearly sensed. At one point, as Charlie’s gaze was mostly on the waitress, Mary asked the cute young girl for her name and phone number. The waitress asked ‘why,’ to which Mary declared: ‘Well, we’re on a first-date here and this man has no interest in me … but he would like to ask YOU out.’ To which Charlie sneezed his mouthful of coffee out his nose. He called me that afternoon and said: ‘Michael, I went on a date with this ballsy chick who I don’t want to date, but I want to hire her as our traffic reporter.’ Mary White joined KUBE the following week and became a significant Seattle radio and TV personality for years thereafter. That’s another 100% non-enhanced Charlie Brown story.
“Here’s the final side-bar: It was the late ’80s that Charlie got his pilot’s license and a rotor (helicopter) endorsement …and he bought a two seat Robinson R-22 helicopter. In his first week of flying it, Charlie crashed it into a lake in the Olympic National Park. He and his brother swam ashore while the copter sank in 200 feet of water. They two of them spent the night in the woods on the lake shore, after leaving an SOS message in rocks in the sand. They were rescued the next day. First thing Charlie did when they got back to Boeing Field, was to promptly get into the mail the sealed stamped envelope with his check made payable to the aircraft insurance company. The most memorable thing for me was that I first heard this story on the radio. I had just landed from a vacation and was driving to my house while listening to Paul Harvey on KOMO radio. As Paul ended his broadcast, the local news guy broke in with the bulletin: ‘Well-known local radio personality Charlie Brown is missing and presumed crashed in a helicopter accident in the Olympic National Park.’ This being before cell phones, I rushed home to get on the landline phone and saw that my answering machine messages light was blinking. I punched it up and heard this, in a nonchalant voice: ‘Hi Michael, This is Kimberley Brown…if you hear anything about Charlie being missing in a helicopter crash…don’t believe it…he’s here with me and he is OK.’
“I got that message the day Charlie was rescued, but the news had yet to reach the news media. He was pretty embarrassed and at first actually tried to tell reporters that it ‘must have been another person named ‘Charles Brown.’ That story was debunked as soon as the news media ran the N number (aircraft registration number) visible on the side of the helicopter once the divers had pulled it out of the lake. Then Charlie fessed up, but he never flew a copter again…although his insurance company did pay out for his total loss. That’s today’s final 100% non-enhanced Charlie Brown story. I love ya Charlie….and will miss you forever.” ……..Michael O’Shea
Editor’s Note: A link to the FAA report on Charlie’s helicopter accident in ’89 can be found in the comments below.
Michael O’Shea is doing well and living in Wine Country CA — Sonoma County, Santa Rosa — where he is the GM and President of a five station market-leading group.
Story credits: Micheal O’Shea’s facebook page, The Morningmouth.com website