Daily Archives: 05/08/2004

Tigers On Ice

There’s a little blurb in today’s Pacific Daily News about the Sandcastle opening a new show next week. Instead of the Las Vegas style dinner show, Fantastique, that the Sandcastle ran for the last decade, the new show will be Magic On Ice, featuring ice skating magicians and figure skaters.

My favorite quote from the story concerns the fate of the Sandcastle’s performing tigers, long a staple of the revue. “Saad said the tigers will be incorporated into ‘Magic on Ice’ though he wouldn’t say how because he doesn’t want to ruin the surprise. Saad does say that the tigers will not be ice skating.” Damn, I was really looking forward to figure skating felines.

Modus Operandi At Air America

I’d like to say I didn’t expect this, yet somehow I knew it was going to happen.

Evan Montvel-Cohen and Rex Sorenson resigned from Air America Radio this week according to a story originally reported by the Chicago Tribune (sorry, registration required). The AP picked up the story and several media outlets are carrying it now. But the original Chicago Tribune article is more in depth, revealing deep troubles at the fledgling network.

Chairman, partner leave Air America

By John Cook
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 7, 2004

In yet another sign of trouble for Air America Radio, the liberal talk network’s co-founder and chairman, Evan Cohen, resigned Thursday along with his investment partner and vice chairman, Rex Sorensen.

The company also failed to make its scheduled payroll Wednesday, leaving its staff of roughly 100 writers and producers unpaid until Thursday.

The radio network has been on the air for only five weeks. On April 30, it was pulled off Chicago’s airwaves because of a payment dispute.

“We’re on a wild ride,” said Jon Sinton, the network’s president, acknowledging that Air America has suffered “the typical bumps and bruises faced by any start-up.”

“But the bottom line,” he said, “is that we are on the air to stay.”

The departures of Cohen, a former Republican political operative from Guam who was among the network’s initial investors, and Sorensen, an investor, mark the second executive shake-up at the fledgling network in as many weeks.

Last week, co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Walsh resigned (he remains a senior adviser), and programming chief Dave Logan was forced out.

Replacements for Walsh and Cohen have yet to be named. Asked when those positions would be filled, Sinton replied: “I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Sinton said Cohen was forced to resign by investors unhappy with the way he handled a clash with Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc., owner of Air America’s Chicago and Los Angeles stations.

After an acrimonious and public dispute, the two companies severed their relationship, leaving the network off the air in two of the nation’s top three markets. (Air America remains on the air in 16 markets, including New York City.)

“I think that other shareholders were upset with the way that escalated so quickly,” Sinton said. “I don’t think that needed to be handled in such an argumentative fashion.”

Cohen has previously said that Air America’s investors include former broadcasters Thomas Embrescia and Norman Wain, TV pioneer Norman Lear, and Sheldon Drobny, the Highland Park entrepreneur who originally founded the company before selling most of it to Walsh and Cohen in November.

Sinton said he was unaware whether Cohen and Sorensen will retain their ownership stakes in the company. Cohen did not return phone calls.

Last week, according to two sources familiar with the matter, paychecks to some of the network’s talent–a group that includes Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, and Randi Rhodes–bounced, and Rhodes joked on the air about not being paid.

A scheduled payday for the staff on Wednesday came and went without checks, though the staff was paid on Thursday. Sinton chalked up both cases to “technical issues.”

Copyright &copy 2004, Chicago Tribune

I’d like to say I am surprised by this turn of events, but frankly I’m not. Hopefully Air America can survive and stay on the air.