Later on the same day of this improve radio spot, the station’s staff grouped together and gave Sweet Dick an on-air birthday
roast. After receiving a bottle of SunSweet Prune Juice from the news department, producer Barry Koff anointed the
proceedings with “It’s was so tough to find lines to put you down, amen with so many qualities”, he trips into a bad Georgie
Jessel impersonation and the roast began.
Just some of the roast highlights: sportscaster Joe Buteda: “Sweet Dick’s show is like a horns of a steer the way I look at it,
a point here and a point there and in between a lot of bull.” Joe McDonald (years before his ESPN job) “Seriously folks. You
can’t help but admire Sweet Dick. If you don’t, you’re fired.” Ed Ceil went into a series of Sweet Dick family tree through
history: “Jim Bowie Whittington: frontiersmen and chief cook at the Alamo. He was the one who prepared tacos and refried
beans for Sam Huston and the rest of the guys. Then there’s C. Richard Whittington Smythe, designer and first captain of the
Titanic. Just wanted to stop by and get some ice.”
After the smoke was settled, Dick was given the chance to reply and did so by jokingly complain that while laughing at the
“weak” material, it added extra lines to his face.
Near the end of that day’s broadcast Sweet Dick asked the listeners to call up during the show’s outré and tell him how
much of a good time he had. Which was when I quickly called the station and got in line. Not only was this was my first time
calling a radio station, it would turn out to be the first time getting on the air…in which I embarrassed myself by sing some
goofy birthday jingle. I made the experience even worse by actually recording THIS segment, too. I’m surprised I hadn’t
burned that part of the tape.
The next day was even more eventful. As the 4th of July landed on a weekday and the staff had to broadcast, they ended
having an outdoor daytime fireworks show. After a live broadcast from Alphy’s (supermarket Alpha Beta’s version of Denny’s)
and while Ed Ciel is flying around with Pamela, the rest of the staff did the fireworks show at the stations parking lot. For the
final piece of firework, Sweet Dick improvised a foot race to see who’ll set it off. Joe McDonald won and had his “cheap thrill”.
Fairly recently, I was very lucky enough to score additional Sweet Dick airchecks. One dated April 29, 1977 was the day
Sweet Dick officiated a wedding. Thanks to the Universal Life Church, Dick was ordained as a minister and planned to marry
a woman to 5 men, some of which worked for the station, including the ever suffering WENDEL!
After the bride bouquet was thrown from a plane onto the stations parking lot, vows were exchanged (“A! E! I! O! U!” and with
a handful of “blahs blahs blahs”), even though it was interrupted by a commercial break from JC Penny.
However, the real score was a two-hour excerpt from later that month. On April 27, 1977, Sweet Dick, Wendell and a few
witnesses drove down to the Van Nuys Airport to break a Guinness World Record for riding a taxing airplane wearing a
chicken suit “going slower than the speed of sound”.
When he arrived at the airport, Pamela was coming in and he suited up. After showing off a few brand new impersonations
that each ended with a “BOCK! BOCK! BOCK!” and felling ridiculous in his chicken suit, Dick got on the saddle that was
placed over the fuselage and was ready.
Soon after the plane began to taxi, Joe Buitita who gave play by play riding along side Pamela’s plane, all the while Dick was
“BOCKING” and flapping his arms awhile feathers where flying all over the place.
The stunt lasted no more than 10 seconds before Pamela first noticed the police sirens. As it turned out, the airport police
was chasing after Dick and the plane. Once the plane stopped and Dick got off, he was ticketed for riding a plane in a public
Once back at the radio station, Dick got a call from the airport security saying that since the stunt was for, as Dick earlier
proclaimed, “America, San Fernando Valley and against communism”, they’ll disregard the ticket….which included a fine of
$5,000 (1977 money, that is).
Recording my stash pretty much came to an end when I ran out of tape and listening to the radio show ended when I moved
out of KGIL’s limited signal. In late 1978, I ended up in El Segundo, which was a suburb just south of LAX, and getting the
weak signal on my old boom box was nearly impossible.
From there, I lost contact of Sweet Dick and went on to other distractions and obsessions. In 1980, while at LAX, I glanced
over a used copy of the Daily News and noticed an article reporting that Sweet Dick had just walked off the air. He had
announced that he couldn’t “work” with the stations new format, which had just switched to what they were calling in their
ads, ‘Ballads, Blues and Big Bands’. That was officially the last time I heard him.
I remember in the 1983 that KHJ-AM was trying to re-establish themselves as a top 40/oldies radio and compete directly with
KRTH-FM. Like many AM stations, KHJ had fallen rock bottom from their glory days and a brief last-minute gasp with a
country music format only made it worse. They were making some big noises about this last ditch effort, which included
local TV segments, one of which caught me off guard as it included a brief interview with Sweet Dick. Apparently, KHJ plans
included Sweet Dick as one of their featured DJ. Oddly enough, this was the first time I actually SEEN Sweet Dick in the flesh!
This run-in was the last I’d hear from him for a long time. In the late 80’s, I was digging through piles of old Billboard
magazines as research for a broadcasting class where I bumped into a more rarer sighting: an article on Sweet Dick. It got
worse as I pilled through old Los Angeles Magazines and bumped into another one. It was covering an earlier stunt of him
and the crew visiting the UK to give the queen a proclamation that the San Fernando Valley was willing to be “adopted” by her
Then, while blindly wondering around the radio dial, I bumped into Sweet Dick interviewing Al Lohman. The interview was on
the sad occasion of the passing of Al’s old radio partner Roger Barkley and both gentlemen talked for well over an hour
about Barkley and LA radio history in general. If only my tape recorder was paying attention at the time.
Then in 2002, The Museum Of Television & Radio had a LA Radio Day that featured local radio legends like Lohman, Stan
Freberg, Dr. Demento and, in a rare public appearance, Sweet Dick himself. I missed the Dr. Demento presentation but I did
arrive early to catch the tail end of Freburg’s and claimed my seat for the discussion that featured Lohman and Sweet Dick.
Each of the personalities were introduced with a video presentation. Sweet Dick’s video was a bit of a personal
astonishment for me as I saw many of his other stunts beyond my limited experience. The video contained filmed highlights
of Dick’s tap dancing invasion of Catalina Island and the elaborate wedding of the Queen Mary and a small dingy (complete
with a life saver as a wedding ring), while his outré theme (a lopped intro edit of Boz Scaggs’ Lowdown) played in the
background. When Sweet Dick walked out on to the stage, he got a thunderous applause.
The one hour program was so lively that it extended almost up to an additional 45 minutes and Dick was witty and warm with
his friends on stage and many in the audience.
Then came the Q&A session. This was the part I was looking forward to and dreading. Obviously, I wanted to ask Dick a
couple of quick questions, but, in those days, public speaking didn’t mix well with my low-key personality. Adding an extra
layer of nervousness associated meet a media figure that played dominantly during your childhood, you can guess the level
of stammering might have involved.
I survived that moment and managed to ask Dick that if he still has many of his old radio tapes and if he’s ever going to
finish that book of his. Dick said that he doesn’t dwell into the past and prefers to live in the present and he has two to three
editors looking at the book to “perk it up”. He then thanked me for asking about the book.
Sweet Dick fielded a few more questions from other more calmer radio fanboys and fangals. One was the origin of his
famous nickname (someone commented that he was a “sweet gentleman”) and another was what he doing now (as he a
private kinda a guy, I won’t go into details here, but he did mention investments and Central California).
The show had to stop against everybody’s wishes as there was a roof top party about to take place in a few minutes. So,
everybody got up and began to slowly scamper out of the theatre. I managed to make my way near the stage to shake Dick’s
hands and say my thanks, but I clearly wasn’t the only one doing the same and after a few minutes of bad crowd control, I
gave up and left for home. Hell, at least I finally get to see him in person.
Now it’s 2011, all roads paved through this story has ended here, this cheap web site, paying tribute to a personal media
hero who happens to be private human being…and who now lives near my own backyard, up here in Central California. I
often fantasize that I might bump into him and finally give that handshake and thanks, only without that damned stammering.
If that doesn’t happen, that’s okay, too. My guess is that he figures he suffered enough and that’s only fare.