Maybe I shoulda said yes --
Some years back, when I was on better terms with the station, KTRS Station Manager Fred Zielonko asked me if I had any interest in doing a weekday 9PM-12M talk show. I had (and still have) absolutely no interest in working again in radio on anything approaching a full-time basis.
Fred then made the best decision of his career and hired George Noory. Since then, George has, of course, moved into the realm of the super-talents, taking over for Art Bell and currently airing his Coast-To-Coast America show on over 500 affiliates worldwide.
Now, Art Bell fills in for George!
Noory was absolutely the best choice for the gig and he's made his bones every step of the way.
August 26, 2004, Inside Radio interviewed our homeboy. Here's the article, written by Mike Kinosian :
Ratings Go Bump In The Night
Despite the fact that it's been nearly 66 years after the fact, people in and out of the industry still discuss - with great reverence - one of radio's benchmark broadcasts.
It was Halloween night in 1938 that a then-23-year-old Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater terrified America with their adaptation of an alien invasion.
Some label "The War Of The Worlds" as a tremendous hoax or fraud.
It was, nevertheless, gripping radio and again reinforced our medium's unique power and impact.
Perhaps not necessarily the definitive Welles-crafted Theater of the mind, a similar sort of Mystery of the mind surfaces nightly on "Coast To Coast AM," which airs on approximately 500 Premiere Radio Network affiliates.
The highly intelligent and extremely articulate George Noory oversees the four-hour (1-5am, ET) program, with considerable aplomb.
Fiercely proud of his Detroit roots and exemplary 35+-year broadcasting career, this true radio communicator possesses a warm and engaging personality and boasts three regional programming and production Emmy Awards.
It's not uncommon for "Coast" programs to suggest that nearly five-dozen different extraterrestrial races are currently visiting Earth or that Oklahoma City bombers Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh had connections to Middle East terrorists.
Some "Coast" shows - like the one that focused on mysterious "hybrid canine"-type creature sightings in three states - may flat-out give some listeners the creeps, but as Noory states, "Whenever you can provide somebody the chance to dwell about things or let their imagination run wild, you've come across a very successful formula. Since its inception - when Art [Bell] created it - that's one thing Coast To Coast has been able to do. We're fortunate enough to continue that."
There've been some show adjustments since Noory took over as host on January 1, 2003, but he maintains the show's primary focus is to allow people to think. It's a perfect setting at that time of the night. "People might be driving home in a truck or listening in bed," he says. "It gives them a chance to reflect. It's just a perfect synergy for us."
The show wouldn't have the same sort of sexiness, he concedes, if aired in a different day-part. "Part of Coast To Coast's [appeal] is that nighttime feeling when we talk about ghosts or asteroids in space," Noory remarks. "You really feel as if it's nighttime. It just has that mood. Whenever we can time it to a full moon, we'll do special `Full Moon Friday Open Lines.' I went into broadcasting at the ripe old age of 19 to do these kinds of stories."
News Directors told the teenager he couldn't do things like that and to go out and cover standard fare like city council meetings. But as he states, "It was my love of the unusual and paranormal that just continued to push me in this business."
Heavily influenced by such Detroit radio luminaries as Dick Purtan, J.P. McCarthy, Jimmy Launce and Soupy Sales, Noory developed a love of broadcasting, but nearly veered off into a different career path. "Many of my relatives were dentists and my father wanted to push me into dentistry," recalls Noory, who originally wanted to go to Los Angeles and be an actor. "I didn't get my scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse at the time, so I went to the University of Detroit and [my father] convinced me that going into dentistry was more stable. I did two years of Pre-Dent and was bored out of my mind. I switched my major and went back into broadcasting. It was the best decision I ever made."
By the time he was 21, Noory was a cub reporter at then-WCAR/Detroit and worked his way up to News Director.
While there, he would meet the individual - Guy Gibson - who has probably made the most significant impact on his professional life. "Guy [previously] had worked at WCFL/Chicago and was a radio newsman," Noory notes. "He was a huge guy - he must have weighed 450 pounds. As a 21-year old reporter, I'd call in reports from the street over the phone, but it got to the point where he made me cry. He made me re-write my stories 15-20 times and re-voice them the same number of times, even though there were no mistakes. I hated him."
That tortuous scenario went on for about 18 months. "Then one day, it dawned on me that he was going to turn me into one of the best individuals in broadcasting," Noory notes. "A day doesn't go by that I don't think about what he did for me. We [eventually] became very close; Guy died several years ago in Dallas."
Three years after joining WCAR, Noory ventured into television as a producer, hiring Terry Murphy at WJBK-TV/Detroit. The fetching Murphy later anchored news at KCBS-TV/Los Angeles and hosted "Hard Copy."
In Minneapolis, Noory gave Ahmad Rashad (a four-time Pro Bowl selection for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings) his first television job.
It was during a stint as News Director at a St. Louis TV station that Noory decided he wanted to branch out into different areas. "CBS and NBC interviewed me at the network level, but my family was in St. Louis and I didn't want to move," recounts Noory, who felt his career was stymied. "I took a little hiatus, but missed the business."
Hawk Coasts To National Exposure
Venerable Full Service powerhouse KMOX/St. Louis picked him up in 1996 to do some fill-in work. "I didn't have a lot of experience doing Talk radio, but I understood how to package and produce shows," Noory remarks. "That's been my strength - I've always had the ability to build an audience. I did some Talk radio and news at KMOX for about a year."
That's when KTRS/Louis' Tim Dorsey hired him to be "The Night Hawk", and as Art Bell decided he needed an emergency replacement, Noory gained national exposure by doing his first Coast show in April 2001. "As Art's back problem became more severe, I started doing more shows, until he decided to retire from fulltime work," Noory states. "[Premiere] did cross-ratings every time I was on. Lo and behold, the numbers were equal to and in some markets better than what had been going on. They told me it was a great mix. Art's now back doing weekends."
Equating the experience of substituting for - and eventually succeeding - Bell on a fulltime basis to pinch-hitting for Babe Ruth, Noory humbly comments, "It's sometimes an unreal feeling and I hope I keep that attitude. I never showed it on the air, but replacing Art Bell was overwhelming for me. I realized there was no way I could replace him. It wouldn't work if I tried to duplicate him."
To make his version of Coast a success, Noory strongly believed he could attract a broader audience with different topics. "People who listen to us look for different twists and angles; that's what I've been able to bring to the program. We were one of the first to say there's a strong possibility that illegal aliens of Middle Eastern descent are crossing the border from Mexico. We've had some sources who know people at the border patrol who say it's happening and they're capturing some of them. But we were weeks ahead of what the mainstream media was reporting. We get a lot of information that may get overlooked in mainstream media."
At least one or two story ideas can usually be plucked from the 1,000 email messages Noory receives each day. "I can't answer all of them, but look at each one," he remarks. "I won't open those with strange-looking attachments, but they keep constantly coming in. We get two million hits a week on our [www.coasttocoastam.com] website, which just continues to grow."
Comfortable Cave Dweller
Each nightly broadcast requires 10-12 hours of preparation and as Noory - who tends to get about six hours of sleep a day - declares, "It just doesn't stop. From the moment I wake up, I quickly hit the emails and start sending notes to my producer."
It's then off to the Internet. "In 1997, I'd do my show with newspaper clippings and notes," he explains. "Nowadays, you can do 95% of your research straight from your computer. I'll usually go in about 12 Noon and leave about 3:30pm; come back about 7pm; continue preparing; and go on live at 10pm [PT]. There's not a day that I wake up where I'm not excited about the show for the night. It really is infectious for me."
About eight of every ten shows are done at Premiere's Sherman Oaks, CA studios, but Noory also has the luxury of broadcasting from KTRS/St. Louis. "I have a small facility Premiere has made available to me in what I call `The Cave' in St. Louis," he explains. "It's a hideaway and gives me the opportunity to see [my family]. I go there, work for a week or two, see them and then come back [to Los Angeles]. I'm going to WLS/Chicago in October for a major anniversary party. We can physically and technologically take the show on the road, but I don't like to do that a lot. I want it to be special."
Similar to "War Of The Worlds," "Coast" captures some old-time radio magic. "I like radio's one-on-one [nature]," Noory comments. "You can sometimes create a better mood in radio by not saying anything. A simple one-second pause will give someone exactly the idea or impression you're trying to [convey]. You really can't do that in television, which is so fast-paced now. It's short clips and action packed."
In his days as a television News Director, Noory would bring producers in his office and ask them to note the previous night's lead story. "Most of the time, they couldn't remember," he laughs. "That's the danger with television. You can really [get inside] someone's mind in radio, which is one of the things I enjoy so much about the [medium]."
A perfect first-hand testament to radio's incredible power happened to Noory years ago when he was talking on-air to a late night caller. "[The person] was on the verge of committing suicide," Noory matter-of-factly recounts. "But I was able to talk [the person] out of it. To this day, I know in my heart that they're okay wherever they are. It was a moment of severe depression for whoever that person was. They had a voice and they had someone who listened. To me, that's worth more than anything I've ever done. It was surreal and made me an even better Talk show host in this format, because I've seen how it works. There was no way you could hang up on that person until they tell you, `Thank you.' That was very important to me."
Many preach the power of positive thinking and Noory absolutely contends that it works. "You can, through the ability of your mind, do whatever you want to do," maintains the nine-year U.S. Naval Reserve veteran. "Somebody up there somewhere is pushing us all in the same direction. As long as you believe and push, it will be. I decided years ago to embark on a mission to be the best I could and to do it in broadcasting. When I went to sleep, I concentrated on wanting to do a network show."
The first time Noory heard Art Bell was in 1996 when he was driving to work at KMOX. "I said to myself that I wanted to do that program," confides Noory. "After I concentrated on the show, strange events occurred that made it all happen. Strange events have happened in my life and I go with the flow. Whatever's out there in the universe that makes things happen for people is real; it's happened to me."
Democratic presidential candidate Senator John F. Kerry and President Bush have been offered an opportunity to come on Coast, with the stipulation that they talk to listeners. Between the two candidates, Noory opines Senator Kerry is more likely to accept the invitation. "He'd probably love to [talk] to our millions of listeners. I think it would be very smart for him."
Provided that it's done differently from mainstream outlets, there's room for good news stories on a late night talk show, but as Noory acknowledges, "It's irresponsible for me to talk about the possibility of UFOs, if there's a terrorist bombing somewhere. Our affiliates welcome the fact that I'll be on live from 7pm-5am if something happens. The format will change accordingly. We're always ready to adjust our nighttime programming to whatever's necessary as long as it affects people not only in this country, but worldwide."
At least two - and possibly three - Noory-authored books will be released this fall. "Worker In The Light" deals with the paranormal and is based on an astral projection that occurred with him when he was 11 and how it fueled the direction he went in his career.
The second book is fictional and may be turned into a movie. "Many [other] Talk show hosts make their money and run, but I'm going to give some of the book proceeds to needy Coast listeners," declares a justifiably proud Noory, who also has a possible television drama show in the works. "That's a little pet project of mine that may very well happen in the next year or two on one of the networks and would be based on Coast stories. We also want to continue to grow Coast and make this a shining star in Premiere's basket of jewel programs. Once people get hooked into listening, this program becomes something that they [must] have on. I'm sure we're disrupting millions of people's sleep patterns at night."
WHO: George Noory
WHAT: "Coast To Coast AM"
WHERE: Premiere Radio Networks
WHEN: Monday - Friday 1-5am (ET)
HOW MANY AFFILIATES: Approximately 500