Ron Irwin talks about his history in radio
For nearly three decades Ron Irwin hosted radio and TV talk shows in Chicago and Los Angeles. Then due to a convergence of events he stopped early in the new century. Now he is back with the Universal Broadcasting Network operating out of the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. David Hamilton had an opportunity to chat with Ron about his new venture.
Hamilton: So Ron when did you first get started in radio?
Irwin: Well there is a somewhat long and also a short answer to that …
Hamilton: Let’s go with the long one.
Irwin: From about age 4 my dad would sit me downand together we would record an actual record to send to his sister my aunt Merle. Soon the idea of speaking into a microphone was comfortable even appealing to me. So much so that by age 9 I had a gig calling softball games at a park near my home in Oak Park, Illinois.
Many years passed as I became a Marine and served two tours in Asia including 13 months in Vietnam. After that experience I became highly motivated and completed undergraduate school earning my Bachelor’s Degree and then my Juris Doctor degree after completing law school. After passing the bar exam I very soon found myself in a lot of court rooms which absolutely requires a significant degree of acting skill.
Then one day I filed a very significant lawsuit against a local school board. It involved a school’s responsibility to provide adequate education for gifted children something that they rarely did. It got a great deal of attention and very soon I found myself on television on the Phil Donahue Show in Chicago and the McNeill Lehrer News Hour in New York. I also did a lot of radio interviews and to my surprise I discovered that I really enjoyed the experience.
I was so intrigued that I arranged to launch my very own TV Talk Show on a cable outlet in suburban Chicago. It was an absolute blast with several top guests but it didn’t last long because my life soon took a sharp turn. I got divorced and soon moved to Southern California.
I had no desire to take the California Bar Exam and soon found myself working in radio. At first it was with an extremely humble operation called the American Radio Network but while working there I soon found an opportunity with KFOX 92.5 FM with studios located at Redondo Beach on the pier.
Hamilton: How did KFOX work out for you?
Irwin: It was absolutely fantastic. My biggest break came when I was able to secure a one hour afternoon drive time strip from 5 to 6 pm immediately following sports talk legend Bud Furrilo who moved from powerhouse KABC to KFOX bringing with him a huge audience that I was able to tap into. I also came to realize where I was and so quickly had a string of top celebrity guests such as Mel Gibson, Barry Levinson and others. It was truly more fun than I had ever had before in my life. But then the owners of KFOX sold the station to a group of Koreans who would change the station to a Korean language station meaning I needed to leave.
Hamilton: Well that had to hurt. So what did you do?
Irwin: Well fortunately I had befriended a longtime radio talk show master Dick Spangler. Do to somewhat similar circumstances Dick was also looking for a new place to hang his hat and together we got ourselves on KIEV radio. Unfortunately, that gig only lasted about a year and Dick and I went our separate ways.
Hamilton: So then what did you do?
Irwin: Well fortunately I also had a fairly brisk corporate PR business that I focused on and for a while, too long awhile I just walked away from radio.
Hamilton: How was it that you found your way back?
Irwin: A couple of years ago now I happened to run into a guy by the name of Ron Brewington. We were attending a stage play produced by Ted Lange, formerly of “The Love Boat.” Anyhow Ron and I began talking and we shared several common interests. Then some months later he invited me to be a guest on his TV show and it was a blast.
Several months later he moved his TV show to Universal Broadcasting Network at the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood and he once again invited me to be on his show. Yes I had a great time as Ron’s guest but I also became instantly fascinated with the Universal Broadcasting Network.
They have these somewhat small but very professional studios for both radio and TV. I also discovered that their broadcasts are what is generally called podcasts but it struck me that podcasting was very much a wave of the future. And unlike typical old school broadcasts the podcasts remain available essentially forever on several different internet outlets.
Hamilton: True enough. So what did you do next?
Irwin: Well as I was mulling over all of the possibilities of perhaps starting my own show I was befriending two very interesting neighbors. We would meet up almost every night and have a ball just chatting about all manner of things. Rick Perry was one of the gentlemen and Victor Onuigbo was the other.
Victor I learned came from Nigeria and he had fairly impressive acting credits. Rick hails from Texas and is also into acting as well as screen writing. We had I thought a very unique chemistry and so I proposed that we start our own show at UBN. I suggested we call it “The Three Amigos” and it happened.
Hamilton: But as I have learned that show no longer exists, what happened?
Irwin: It only took a couple of months maybe ten or possibly twelve shows before it became abundantly obvious that our street chemistry did not easily transfer to the radio studio. Also we learned that the qualities necessary to be an excellent screen or TV actor or script writer do not necessarily transfer into being a skilled radio talk show host so we folded “The Three Amigos.”
Hamilton: That had to be disappointing.
Irwin: It was but by no means devastating and I am happy to say we are still friends. But by then I was once again hooked so I took a couple of weeks off and then launched “The Dr. Ron Show.” Unlike “The Three Amigos” “The Dr. Ron Show” is totally focused on promoting health and wealth and happiness.
Hamilton: How exactly do you accomplish that vision?
Irwin: One way is by interviewing celebrities that have demonstrated a real capacity to succeed in the art through a positive attitude and plenty of hard work. Just recently I was very happy to have in studio the amazing Jaki Nelson. Here was a young woman who clearly has no idea what it means to quit. With her dedication and her skills she has produced several Top 40 songs and her future looks extremely bright. My goal with wonderful people like Jaki is to spread that kind of dedication and vision to a larger audience because it clearly speaks loudly to both happiness and wealth.
Hamilton: So then you are still focusing on celebrities.
Irwin: To some extent yes, but not exclusively. I will also be introducing successful businessmen and businesswomen to share their experience, wisdom and knowledge. Il will be aggressively seeking a variety of people who have positive things to offer on matters of good health. But in each case the guest must also have a real ability to entertain as well as inform.
Hamilton: That sounds very ambitious and very strong. How is it going so far?
Irwin: So far it is going far better than I at first thought. I have a large and rapidly growing number of top notch guests and my schedule is booked almost two months out after just a few weeks.
Hamilton: Well it certainly sounds like you are fulfilling a life long dream and a true passion. I wish you the greatest possible success and thank you for your time. Just one last thing where can people hear your show?
Irwin: It is broadcast live every Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Pacific time and you can “tune in” here: http://ubnradio.com/channel-2/.
David Hamilton attended Northwestern University and his a freelance writer who has written article, scripts and short stories for a variety of publications, including Time Magazine, National Journal, the South China Morning Post and others. He now resides in the Los Angeles area.