First thing one must know about Sweet Dick Whittington is that he’s a private person. Very private. I’ve heard small rumors to
this effect and have an aircheck of him mentioning a Valley Times (pre-Daily News) photo article on him and consistent claims
that he is “very private” in the article and during the broadcast whenever mentioning the article. (So much for being very public
about being very private…but, I digress)
Why such privacy? Could he be the real Howard Hughes or Jimmy Hoffa in disguise and hired warm bodied slackers to be his
body bag? Is the Bermuda Triangle buried under his home? Could he actually be controlling Dick Chaney through his brain
waves?! Again, who knows. However, there are enough hourly Payton Place episodes with today’s celebrities & politicians to
focus our attention to such nosey anal retentive meditations here. So, we’ll just respect his privacy and leave that part of him
The only real personal information that is generally known is he was born on July 2nd (no year given) and in Philadelphia. That’
s about it. Thus endith the personal lesson. Oh, and, according to a 1975 LA Times article, he started in radio in Delaware after
trying a career of boxing. His first radio gig was the same station his mother was working as a programmer….and a few
months later, she ending up firing him with the words, ‘I can’t disown you, but I can fire you.’
What is better known is his professional resume and this is where we come in.
Like any good radio personality that survives years of ownership, program and format changes, Sweet Dick was employed by a
long list of stations. The following list is compiled from two leading radio web sites: LARadio.com and 440.com:
|K?? (Stockton, CA) 1957
KROW (San Francisco, CA) 195?
KSFO (San Francisco, CA) 1958
KNEW (San Francisco, CA) 1959
KNOB (Los Angeles, CA) 1960-62
KLAC (LA) 1960(?)-1963
KGIL (LA) 1965-1975
KFI (LA) 1975
KGIL (LA) 1976-1981
KIEV (LA) 1982
KHJ (LA) 1983
KGIL (LA) 1985
KIEV (LA) 1988
KABC (LA) 1989-1990
KMPC (LA) 1990-1991
KNJO (Thousand Oaks) 1994-1995
According to the Internet Movie Database, Sweet Dick also had a long list of small parts and voiceovers in major
movies and TV series. TV appearances included Love, American Style, Almost Anything Goes (a personal favorite),
Sanford & Son, McCloud, Dallas and, possibly the biggest job he had, 5 episodes on Laugh-In in 1968. Movie gigs
include Fritz The Cat, The Candidate, Raging Bull, The Thing With Two Heads and Steven Spielberg’s movie debut
Duel (as heard over the opening credits). Last known appearances were an The Fall Guy episode and a 1984 movie
…and thus endith the professional lesson, from what I know that is. Deep subject, ain’t it.
This is probably where MY personal lesson comes in. The old fanboy who still remembers the man, who still
pointlessly hordes his precious Sweet Dick airchecks like crack and just has barely enough free time to slap together
a site on him.
Me! circa 1974.
Sorry, none of me
It was 1976 and while America was getting down for it’s grand 200th birthday, I was stuck in the
middle of a piss water town of Roy, Utah, where their celebration consisted of a few stands
selling Callaghan bottled water, a fireworks ban and a 8 pm curfew to us heathens under the age
Being a urbanite born in Santa Monica and raised pretty much everywhere else in the general LA
area, my year stay here felt more like a small desert town from a B-movie filled with nervous
outsiders and paranoid Mormons. Quite a test of tolerating humanity at a such a young age. Why
this town and this state? From what I heard, my Dad picked the town as it was the name of his
third son and he couldn’t stand living in the same state with his mother anymore. Gee, thanks
To cut this part of the introduction piece short, I “escaped” from Utah and landed into the bosom
of the grand urbanrama of the San Fernando Valley, mainly Northridge, with my mom. Thanks,
I wouldn’t doubt the hyper awareness of my immediate
surroundings was due to that one year stay in that “desert”. I was
in such a drought for a short time and now I wanted to soak in all
in all that civilization in at once, which probably made me an even
more annoying little brat…but, I digress.
Between Noble Junior High School, Northridge Fashion Center
and my home is where I bumped into Sweet Dick, I suspect this
habit developed during my mom’s boyfriend dropping me off at
my school. I think the first Sweet Dick memory that I still have
was during the end of the state gubernatorial race where he
played a audio cut and paste collage of all the political ads
during that season. (This turns out to be my first exposure to this
audio aesthetic as that I would fully bump into it with the
discovery of the group Negativland in the early 90’s)
Another audio memory during this brief time to school was when
Sweet Dick made an opened cast call for a young Polish girl for a
May Day tradition he wanted to perform. When one was located
in a school in Granada Hills, the whole crew jumped into the
station’s remote car and made a quick drive towards the school.
Once there and on the air, the staff performed a “May Day
Dance”, which I assume consisted of dancing and twirling
around the innocent embarrassed girl in front of her classmates
and, I’m very sure, a good chunk of the school.
Adding to my “hyper awareness” was the idea that a radio station
was broadcasting from my backyard (I was on Dearborn and the
station was on Lassen) and to have a DJ like Sweet Dick
performing his stunts in my neighborhood seemed quite a
revelation to me. It may not matter to a lot of people as they are
used to hearing stations coming in from the other side of town
or, in today’s case of limited locally produced shows, on the
other side of the country.
One of two interior photos from a rare postcard
of the Fashion Center.
My Sweet Dick Experience only increased with the arrival of summer vacation, which obviously afforded additional
time to listen to the man of the Valley mic. Additional bubbles of memories includes: 1) Dick giving his producer
“WENDELL!!” a hard time, 2) the Real Ed Zeil’s (or “Ceil”) Kicker Of The Day, 3) the latest incarnation of the weekly
“Clean Thoughts On A Dirty Wall” where pretty much everyone in the station participated (one episode contained a
classic running “bit” of James Stewart reciting the alphabet) 4) Larry Las Vegas segments (which fed well into my
growing Vegas obsession), 5) Sweet Dick trying to hit on Miss Pamela McGuiness while she gave her traffic reports
and her sponsorship (from Independence Bank) and 6) Sweet Dick trying to relieve his boredom while reading
endless commercial spots by tweaking and rewriting them.
Another memory was more on the serious side. While doing one of her traffic reports from her plane, Pamela had
noticed that the landing gear wasn’t working properly and couldn’t land safely. When Sweet Dick picked up on this,
he became personally concerned and spent a good chuck of that day’s program to this developing situation; talking
to the air traffic controllers at the Van Nuys Airport, calmly talking to and reassuring a nervous Pamela and giving the
By the time Pamela had to land her crippled plane, Sweet Dick was broadcasting close to the airport’s runway.
Fortunately, the landing wasn’t as bad as anticipated and Pamela exited the plane without injury. As she ran out the
plane in great relief (pretty much in tears), Sweet Dick was there to meet her. The incident was front page news on
the next day’s edition of the Valley News. As unfortunate this situation was, it was quite an eye opener for me to hear
such human drama unfold before my ears while Sweet Dick respectively and sincerely reported it.
For my birthday, I got a Sears “boom-box” and three blank tapes. This gift was the start of my personal project to
record many of Sweet Dick radio moments as much as possible. In between recording what else that was on the
LA airwaves, a couple of TV shows and, much later, Las Vegas radio commercials, the antics on the KGIL
airwaves were a priority.
Out of the three original tapes, only two survived from years of jealous roommates, moving all over the rest of “So
Cal” and metallic information oozing off the tapes like bad SFX of a zombie movie. However, there are some
highlights that survived.
As previously mentioned, Sweet Dick found reading radio commercials with a straight face a bore and “spiced
them up” with humor, 99% at the risk of their clients. Two of such moments remains: one was for ‘Mark’s Exotic
Birds’ “next to Pup ‘N Taco”. These commercials would have “Mark”, who probably was the show’s producer, visit
Sweet Dick with his large army of very noisy birds. One spot had Mark showing off a “Swallow named Linda
Lovelace”. However, the birds, who were performed by the station’s staff, would chirp and squawk loud enough to
drown out Sweet Dick and “Mark” by the end of the spot.
Then there was The Sizzler which, at that time, had just opened their second location and hired Sweet Dick to read
their announcement. From the moment Dick saw the script, he took a left turn by getting the some of the station’s
staff to stand behind him and sing Battle Hymn Of The Republic while he ranted off about the success of the
restaurant in spite of family tragedies like the owner leaving his wife for Mexico. “Well, there goes THAT account!”
blurted Dick as he tossed the script aside.
Another commercial moment contained two female employees from a soda store called The Pop Shop. Identifying
themselves was ‘The Popettes’, the ladies showed up during a broadcast to give Sweet Dick a birthday cake and
card. The card read the following:
‘Dear Sweet Dick, with your morning shtick.
Your humor is funny, but you’re sick sick sick.
With your thick wavy hair and you muscular form,
You help keep our little radios warm.
So keep playing those heavy hits, and don’t ever stop.
Here’s a toast to your birthday from the Van Nuys’ Pop Shop’.
During the reading, he stops and humorously belts “Thank you, POOPettes!” When asked the Popettes their
ages, he shocked to learn that not only where they 16 and 19, but, after adding their age up, he was still older…”