Robservations: New deal for Lou Manfredini expands WGN Radio show

Lou Manfredini

Robservations on the media beat:

Lou Manfredini, the handyman extraordinaire known as “Mr. Fix It,” will add a fourth hour to his Saturday morning home improvement show on WGN 720-AM under a four-year contract extension announced today with the Nexstar news/talk station. Starting January 2 “HouseSmarts Radio with Lou Manfredini” will air from 6 to 10 a.m. Saturdays. The additional hour coincides with the retirement of agribusiness icon Orion Samuelson, who now hosts a one-hour Saturday morning show with Max Armstrong. (“Outside the Loop Radio with Mike Stephen” will move to 5 a.m. Saturdays.) “We are excited to continue the legacy that Lou has built at WGN Radio the past 25 years,” Mary Sandberg Boyle, vice president and general manager of WGN, said in a statement. “While his media empire looks a lot different now than when he first started here, one thing remains the same: Lou is here to serve the audience. He is patient and kind with every listener, while keeping his genuine sense of humor. He truly is the definition of the ‘helpful hardware man.’” Manfredini was inducted in the WGN Radio Walk of Fame in 2015.

Tom Skilling

A newly svelte Tom Skilling says he’s lost 110 pounds since he underwent gastric bypass surgery in March. For Chicago TV’s superstar meteorologist, it’s been a life-changer. “I used to be embarrassed at the promotional ads they would run on TV because I was so overweight,” Skilling, 68, told colleague Dina Bair, medical reporter on Nexstar WGN-Channel 9. “And I thought: ‘You look awful. That’s an embarrassment not only to yourself but to your station.'” (Here is the link.) He’s down eight suit sizes, three inches on his collar, and 14 inches on his waistline. “I’m a different person psychologically and otherwise,” Skilling said. “To be able to walk and not feel like your life is coming to an end or you’re sick, the high you get out of getting into clothes that in sizes you remember as a college student or a teenager is stunning. I’m a different human being, and I really am very surprised at how differently I feel. . . . And I think I may stick around a little longer as a result of all this, you know?”

Emmy Awards

It’s a big weekend for virtual award shows in the Chicago media community. At 8 p.m. tonight the Chicago Journalists Association will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to David Jackson of the Better Government Association and its Dorothy Storck Award to one of three finalists — Burt Constable of the Daily Herald, Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune, and Laura Washington of the Sun-Times and ABC 7. At 7 p.m. Sunday the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will present this year’s regional Emmy Awards. Emceed by comedian Pat McGann, the event will honor first responders/essential workers in the academy’s eight markets — Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, South Bend, Wausau, Rockford and Peoria.

Jane Byrne

Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company is collaborating with Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM to present a world premiere audio production of “Her Honor Jane Byrne. Written and directed by J. Nicole Brooks, the play will air on WBEZ from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and from 2 to 4 p.m. November 28. Dramatizing the move of the late mayor into the Cabrini-Green housing project in 1981, the production opened on the Lookingglass stage in March — just five days before the theatre closed due to COVID-19. “We are thrilled and grateful to WBEZ for giving us a new platform to share J. Nicole Brooks’ timely and brilliant play in its new audio form,” said artistic director Heidi Stillman.

Jeff Davis

Jeff Davis, the longtime Top 40 personality at WLS 890-AM who became the signature voice of countless radio stations across the country, was inducted this week in the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. A native of Apex, North Carolina, Davis worked on his grandparents’ tobacco farm as a boy and began his career at the campus radio station of Virginia Commonwealth University. Citing John Records Landecker as a major influence, Davis joined WLS in 1974. He later moved to Hollywood to form Jeff Davis Productions, a leading voiceover and station imaging studio.

Aria Vivian

It’s a girl, Aria Vivian, born November 12 to Irika Sargent, news anchor at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, and her husband, Dorian Orr. “No question, she is our everything!” Sargent wrote on Facebook. “Near the start of 2020, we were told this would be a high risk pregnancy. Then the pandemic officially hit. Add to all that some complications during 46 hours in labor . . . and what a journey it’s been to meet this incredibly perfect gift . . . our angel!”

Thursday’s comment of the day: Joe Kaczynski: OK, the only thing left for Geoffrey [Baer] is to go to the Museum of Science and Industry, dust off the U-505 [submarine] and take us on an underwater tour of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River and other waterways in the city!