One of Chicago radio’s longest running mysteries — “What’s Up with Kathy Hart?” — could be reaching a conclusion at last.
Hart has been missing since late April from the top-rated morning show she co-hosts with Eric Ferguson. “The Eric & Kathy Show” has been a ratings and revenue juggernaut for Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9 for more than 20 years.
Since she’s been gone, Hart has not communicated with Ferguson or their co-workers at The Mix, according to multiple sources, nor has she made any public comment despite repeated requests. (That was the case again Thursday.) Her Facebook account has been deactivated.
So what’s new? This week marked the end of Hart’s personal leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which permits employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons.
Officials of Hubbard Radio Chicago declined to comment, but sources said the company is hoping to resolve the matter once and for all in the coming days. With Hart’s contract up in December, there’s strong speculation of a financial settlement and a parting of the ways.
It’s not known who is representing Hart in dealing with Jeff England, vice president and market manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago. But all signs point to a final separation in the offing.
Even with Hart out of The Mix for three months, ratings for the morning show have not suffered. If anything, there’s been an easing of tension in the studio that’s been discernible to longtime “Eric & Kathy” listeners. Ferguson leads a seasoned ensemble cast that includes Melissa McGurren, Brian “Whip” Paruch, John Swanson and Cynthia DeNicolo.
Ferguson declined to comment Thursday, but previously has said he wished Hart well and was hoping for “some kind of understanding” about what was going on with her.
It was only last November that the duo was inducted in the National Radio Hall of Fame. Now their partnership appears to be kaput.
People at the station seem as baffled by the turn of events as everyone else.
“Whatever has happened has been Kathy’s choice,” one insider said. “It’s a scenario that she created — leaving, not coming back, not responding, not having contact with anybody. No one did that to her. It’s all been a strategic choice on her part. And nobody here knows why.”