In a throwback to one of the longest-running and most bizarre contests in Chicago radio history, Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano are challenging listeners to guess the name they have locked inside a safe on display in their Michigan Avenue studio.
Whoever calls in to their WGN AM 720 midday show with the correct answer will win everything the Tribune Media news/talk station is giving away that day, along with all the DVDs, CDs, books and apparel in Sirott and Murciano’s office — and even the safe itself.
Kicking off “Bob Sirott & Marianne Murciano’s Mystery Box Contest” Tuesday, the husband-and-wife hosts described the hidden name as that of “a person — living or dead — who’s known to the public.” That’s the only clue they provided.
Sound impossible? It pretty much is.
Acknowledging that it was a “nutball idea,” Sirott said the open-ended contest was paying homage to the late, great Wally Phillips, the Radio Hall of Famer who hosted mornings on WGN for 21 years. In 1975, Phillips wrote the name of “a moderately famous living person” on a piece of paper and locked it away. Day after day after day, he challenged self-proclaimed psychics to identify the name in “Wally’s Black Box” and win a fabulous cash prize. No one ever did.
On February 24, 1982, Phillips finally disclosed the mystery person as Jean Rogers, the actress who played Dale Arden in the “Flash Gordon” serials in the 1930s. Sirott, then a young reporter for CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, was in the WGN studio that day to witness the long-awaited moment of truth. (Here’s a link to Sirott’s CBS 2 report, courtesy of the Museum of Classic Chicago Television.)
On Tuesday, the first two guesses called in to Sirott and Murciano’s show were Pat Hughes and Bob Collins. Both had connections to WGN. Both were incorrect.