Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to wake up the mayor of Chicago with a prank call at 2 in the morning. But it did make for some unusual radio.
Patti Vasquez, the Chicago standup comic who hosts late nights on Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720, featured a bit in which she’d call local celebrities in the middle of the night. Mostly they were folks who had to get up early, like morning TV anchors and reporters. Usually she’d just get the person’s voice mail and leave a funny message. WGN bosses didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
In the early morning of September 2, Vasquez had three guests in her studio — Illinois State Senator Dan Kotowski, Chicago Tribune political cartoonist Scott Stantis and Gregory Seal Livingston, founder of the Coalition For A New Chicago. One of them slipped Vasquez the home number of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. So she placed a call. It was about 1:55 a.m.
After three rings, a male voice answered the phone with a sleepy “Hello.” Vasquez identified herself and asked if it was Rahm Emanuel. The man hung up. A discussion then ensued among Vasquez, her guests and producer about whether it was Emanuel who had answered and whether she should call him back. All agreed it was indeed the mayor and that Vasquez should call him a second time.
Vasquez called back and Emanuel answered after one ring. Here is their exchange:
Vasquez: Hello, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, this is Patti Vasquez from WGN Radio.
Emanuel: Yeah, but it’s 2 in the morning.
Vasquez: That’s what time my show is on. I appreciate that you answered the phone. We were honestly expecting to get your voice mail, so I apologize for waking you up. I wanted to say hello and thank you for answering the phone. Now I have to invite you on the show sometime. Apparently . . . were you awake?
Emanuel: I was sleeping.
Vasquez: I know. Why do you answer the phone? I don’t answer the phone when I don’t recognize the number. So I actually appreciate that you answered.
Emanuel: I’m going to bed.
Vasquez: OK. Good night, sir. Thank you so much and we hope that you can come on the show sometime. We have a lot to talk about.
Vasquez: Thank you.
Vasquez: Bye bye.
And that was it. Everyone in the studio reacted as if it were hysterically funny. So did some listeners, including one fan of the show who described it as “a home run” and “very compelling radio.” The recording soon was posted online.
But not everyone was laughing.
The next day an aide to the mayor made it clear to station management that Emanuel did not appreciate the calls.
Even before City Hall weighed in, sources said, WGN bosses already were in damage-control mode: They deleted the audio of “Wake Up Call to Rahm Emanuel” from their website, canceled the bit for good, and suspended Vasquez and her producer for one night.
In response to a request for comment Thursday, Todd Manley, vice president of content and programming at WGN, said: “It was an action everyone involved regrets, and we have apologized to the Mayor. This unfortunate incident doesn’t reflect the kind of show Patti has worked so hard to build.”