Radio DJ-actor-singer Dave Wingert, in the spotlight


Microphone stands in spotlight

Image by kjeik via Flickr

 

UPDATE I: I have been noticing a major uptick in views of this Dave Wingert profile and I think at one point I even Googled his name to see if he was in the news, but I didn’t find anything. But the views kept right on aggregating. I just happened to email him Oct. 17 about something totally unrelated to this and he informed me he has been summarily let go by KGOR. Obviously a lot of you out there who listened to him knew about the situation. Apparently the dust-up had to do with an FCC violation – a listener calling-in unloosed a forbidden expletive on air that seems pretty tame to me and my ears, “bullshit,” and Wingy let it through and tried covering his ass just as you or I might do — and after serving a suspension he got canned for his trouble. Please explain how the many obscenities (and I don’t just mean words) of reality TV and shock-jock radio are acceptable, even in prime time, and yet its producers, writers, and hosts only seem to get richer, but a stray “bullshit” said over the radio is grounds for termination? He tells me he was fired without severance, only a goodbye and good luck. He wants to stay put and continue doing his radio gigging in Omaha. He and his agent are busily testing the waters. I hope he gets his wish and perhaps a measure of revenge against the station that dismissed him by killing them in the ratings.

UPDATE II: The story finally made the news, though the reports have him uttering the expletive. Does it really matter? I find it interesting that I broke the story via my blog Monday morning and yet that there was no mention by the Omaha World-Herald or other media of getting a lead on this news from this source and/or from readers of this blog, but I assume that’s precisely what happened.

UPDATE III: After fielding dozens of comments and questions about Wingert’s firing, I am happy to report what some of you probably already know – he’s landed at a new radio home in Omaha, KOOO-FM, 101.9, where he will be the morning host beginning Monday, Jan. 30.  The station plays hits from the 1970s through today and targets a 25-54 demographic.  Does this mean his loyal listeners from KGOR, many of them upset by the way he was let go, will follow him to the new station and boost its ratings?  I wonder how many listeners spurned KGOR in the aftermath of his firing?  Oh, well, all water under the bridge now.  He’s back in the saddle again and if his fans want to hear him they know where to find him.

In my 52 years in Omaha, Neb. I am aware of only a few entertainers and personalities who can compare with Dave Wingert, a multi-talented gentleman who makes whatever medium he’s working in, whether radio or television or theater or cabaret, appear effortless. Those of us who have been around the block a time or two know from experience that things only appear effortless from the outside looking in, and that that apparent ease is only arrived after tremendous study and work. After admiring Wingert from afar for so many years it was a delight to finally meet him and get to know him a bit.  I trust you will like the man I portray in this article for The Reader (www.thereader.com) as much as I do.

 

Radio DJ-actor-singerDave Wingert, in the spotlight

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)

 

The words fearless and morning radio personality don’t usually jive but they do in the case of Clear Channel KGOR 99.9-FM wake-up man Dave Wingert. Far from the madding crowd of shock jocks the veteran broadcaster and stage actor is brave enough to simply be himself on air. Enervating, effusive, empathetic, effeminate.

He’s gallant enough to have accepted the fact his biological father no sooner saw him as a newborn infant than went home and killed himself. His mother laid that messed-up heritage on him when he was a teenager.

“What do you with that?” Wingert asked rhetorically in an interview. What he did was learn all he could about his father, a man who was the love of his mother’s life but who also suffered from manic depression. The revelation of how he died came just as Wingert began pursuing radio and theater at Ohio University. That’s when he discovered his father had worked in those same fields in New York. Weird.

Wingert’s resilient enough to have survived a bullet to the chest in Omaha’s most famous shooting spree until the Van Maur tragedy. In 1977 he and Larry Williams had just begun their cabaret act before a packed house at now defunct Club 89 when Ulysses Cribbs opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun. In a few seconds rampage that seemed to last forever the gunman killed one and injured 26, including Wingert, who luckily had the round deflect off his chest.

Superman went on the air the next day helping a city heal. He did the same after the Van Maur shootings. The earlier experience was a lesson in how precious life is. “Since that day I try not to take that for granted,” he said. A recent stalking incident made him relive some of that chaos. “Mr. Crazy” made veiled threats before being arrested. Wingert never missed a show.

A triple-threat actor/singer/dancer, he’s daring enough to take on demanding roles requiring huge commitments of time and energy. “I’m drawn to material, content,” he said. Recent roles in Six Degrees of SeparationUrinetown and The Goat fit the bill. Blue Barn Theatre artistic director Susan Clement Toberer, who directed him in Six Degrees andGoat, said, “His work ethic is purely professional yet he is very willing to try anything at least once. I love working with actors like Dave who are fearless and willing to jump off a ledge and not worry if they look the fool.”

 

 

Dave Wingert

 

 

He’s courageous enough to be an openly gay announcer in Omaha. Not in a flaming, militant way but with a breezy, emotive patter and Jewish motherly demeanor. By addressing, on-air, overtly heterosexual newsman Rich Dennison with, “Oh, honey!,” or female callers with, “Dahling.” He doesn’t use the show as a coming out platform but rather as context for being true to who he is.

“I have come out — if you listen for it. But it comes out in conversation. I haven’t made it a banner,” he said.

Three years ago Wingert showed the courage of his convictions by abandoning his dream for large market radio fame, which had led him from Omaha to the west coast, to venture back here in search of a permanent home to call his own.

More recently, Wingert proved he has the guts to leave a prime gig as a protest. In a show of solidarity with Omaha Community Playhouse artists who’d earlier resigned he and two fellow cast members deserted a production of Moonlight and Magnolias days before its scheduled opening last month. He, Ben Burkholtz and Connie Lee refused to go on in response to a dispute at the theater that led to the temporary departures of Playhouse artistic director Carl Beck, who directed Moonlight, and associate Susan Baer Collins. When Wingert and Co. exited, the show was canceled and Billy McGuigan booked as a fill-in.

Beck appreciated the gesture.

“I was terribly surprised and terribly moved. It received a lot of varied reaction around the city. Some people very much horrified actors would do that. Others, understanding what motivated the actors. I know those actors were taking an uncomfortable positiion and so I admire them seeing it through the way they have.”

Some may view what Wingert did as a grandstanding ploy that undermined the theater. Others, as the loyal action of a man guided by integrity. Either way, Wingert didn’t sit idly by while Rome burned.

Prompting this soap opera was a blunt force effort by executive director Tim Schmad and board president Mark Laughlin to bridge a budget shortfall. The pair reportedly told Beck and Collins their duties and salaries would be reduced. Beck and Collins balked and submitted their resignations. Insiders say it was a classic case of bean counters versus artists.

Once the story broke angry theater supporters deluged the Playhouse with calls and emails. Schmad and Laughlin faced the music at an April 16 open forum that announced the restoration of Beck and Collins to their original posts.

Wingert attended the session, which saw people rant against OCP administrators for what many viewed as their insensitivity, but the actor remained silent. Aside from a comment to a television reporter about Schmad’s well-publicized and much-derided lack of arts experience, Wingert let his actions speak for him.

“What’s really behind this is I keep a list of what I want to be here and do here and one is to make a difference, and this made such a huge difference as it played out,” said Wingert. “I think of that. I guess you could call it a protest. It was saying, ‘You can’t treat my friends this way, this is wrong, you can’t do this.’ It was all about people for me,” said Wingert, who’d worked with Beck before.

 

 

Wingert at a script reading

 

 

What impact the Wingert-led walkout made in causing Playhouse leaders to rethink their decision no one knows. While Beck and Collins are back on the job Moonlight never made it to curtain, unless you count the fully-dressed and lit but empty set that served as backdrop for the rancorous public forum. A fitting symbol for a show that would not go on in a house divided. Wingert equates what happened to a dysfunctional family airing out some issues.

“I think it’s much like a family having a blowup.”

He said “going to the brink” may have been just the “cathartic” awakening the complacent theater, which has lost much of its membership, needed in order to get both the business and art sides on the same page.

“I see this as all really good for the Playhouse, I really do,” said Wingert. “If this is a situation that has been brewing for some time than the place deserves to implode, it needs to get its shit together. Only time will tell.”

He feels the events that led to Moonlight being canceled sent a message to the Playhouse administration.

“It was more important not to do this show for the reasons we didn’t do it than to get on stage,” said Wingert, who refused overtures from management he reconsider his walkout. “Maybe it wasn’t meant to live.”

Still, he rues losing Moonlight. The play looks at a frantic few days in the making of Gone with the Wind. Wingert went after the plum role of screenwriter Ben Hecht, whose biography’s telling of these true-to-life events inspired the stage comedy. There’s discussion of finding new play dates for Moonlight but that may be difficult given the theater’s tight schedule. Wingert can hope though.

“I would love to play that part,” he said. “It’s so rich and fun.” Wingert said he initially had trouble finding Hecht’s voice, the instrument the actor relies on for fixing in on his characters. Once he did, he said, he “nailed the part.” What he hit upon, he said, was a wry, Woody Allenish, New Yorker smarty pants whine. “That voice had never come out of my mouth before.”

 

 

His real-life voice is a warm, mellifluous, inflection-rich concoction hinting at his Bensonhurst-Brooklyn background. It’s not hard to imagine this same voice charming listeners, especially when married with his dynamic personality. He seduces without resorting to blow-hard political agenda, cutesy alter-ago or phony banter. A more theatrical voice comes out for dramatic-comedic affect. “Well, radio lends itself to that, especially if you’re telling a story,” he said. “I mean, it is of course a little bit of extenuated realism there. There’s a bit of schtick.”

He projects a vaugely Jewish vibe, too, as the friendly mensch who says, “let’s check the morning schlep,” or, “love to schmooze with you.”

Filling time between playing what KGOR tags “the super hits of the the ‘60s and ‘70s” he indulges in canned jokes provided by a syndicator of prefab material. Most commercial stations subscribe to such services. The bits, mostly satiric pot shots at headline grabbers like OctaMom, stand on their own but work best when a host can riff on them. If nothing else, Wingert’s an extemporaneous whiz whose decades of live radio and theater experience make improvisation second nature to him.

It’s why he does his show, not from a chair but standing up, moving around, much the way he works on stage.

“I do my show standing up because I think best on my feet. It gives me more more energy.

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  1. Pam Primm
    October 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Ok, I must be the only in the world that is wondering what happened to Dave Wingert. I couldn’t listen last week and now find that he’s gone. Couldn’t get an answer at KGOR. I really miss him. Will he be back on air?

    Like

  2. Edna Keffer
    October 18, 2011 at 1:48 am

    I miss him, too. When he was first off the air about two weeks ago, they said he was on vacation. It is now going into the third week and he is not back. His bio is off KGOR and his voice is no longer on any commercials. The morning show isn’t the same without his lively voice.

    Like

  3. Dan
    October 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Whatever happened to the 8 second delay to avoid things like this?

    Like

  4. Gayle Nelson
    October 20, 2011 at 4:14 am

    I thought he was on vacation last week. Then when I still heard the droll of the morning news man trying to fill in for the energetic Dave Wingert I knew something must be up. I understand that there are rules to be followed. But common, he did not use the expletive, it was a caller. Shame on them! I hope he gets a new gig and I will gladly change stations. Oh and by the way – I just happened to have been chosen to fill out a radio survey this week by Arbitron! Guess who will not get my positive rating – KGOR!

    Like

  5. beth brase
    October 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you for clarifying for me exactly what the circumstances are surrounding the idiotic firing of Mr. Wingert. I was a faithful listener and fan of his morning show and was actually listening when the word was aired. I have to admit I didn’t reallly give much thought to it other than thinking for a second ” I didn’t know you could say than on air” but it was such a minor word compared to all the words one hears on TV and in the movies that I didn’t give it much credence….until the 2nd and then 3rd week went by and no Wingey…I finally googled his name and was shocked and saddened to find out he was let go. By then I couldn’t even remember the whole circumstance and was wracking my old brain to remember what was said and who said it.. I have since emailed my support for Mr Wingert and advised KGOR I am no longer a listener. I hope some station in Omaha will have the good sense to give Mr. Wingert a job, as my days have been dark and dreary without him…he gave me something to look forward to getting up at 4:30 am for.

    Like

    • Jeanene
      November 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      I so agree with you…I sent a nasty letter this morning (again). How stupid is Lester St. James???

      Like

  6. Teri
    October 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    The firing of Dave Wingert is rediculous! I am blown away that he’s no longer on the morning show to pick me up every morning. I will NOT be listening to KGOR anymore. They let Wingy go for something a caller said?……WTF? I feel sorry for Rich Dennison. He used to be so talkative and funny! Now he’s just quiet. I am really upset about this and I WILL be giving KGOR a piece of my mind. I’ve found a new station to listen to. KGOR can kiss my butt until they bring Wingy back!

    Like

  7. Brenda
    October 25, 2011 at 1:18 am

    I too miss the fun entertaining banter that Dave offered the morning radio crowd. I hope a Omaha radio stations has the sence and forsight to hire him so I can move to that station as soon as possible. As far as the situation that occured, it was a big mistake! KGOR has lost my business.

    Like

  8. October 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Dave just got screwed over by stupid Clear Channel and we listeners also get cheated.
    Clear Channel did not have the guts to tell the truth, just the normal bs corportate answer of nothing. Hope ACLU sues Clear Channel as Dave got screwed.

    Like

  9. Rhonda Brinkman
    October 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Well this answers my question on what happened to Dave, but I am shocked and ready to utter my own little expletitive…Dave brought a breath of fresh air to 99.9 and I know I have quit listening. He and Rich made an awesome pair in the morning and that zip is gone. I hope he does find another station as this listener will follow him. Rhonda

    Like

  10. Steve
    October 26, 2011 at 2:27 am

    I truly believe that in order to conduct good business in radio today you have to weigh the factors like “slip ups” against, in this case, an FCC fine to determine if firing a very popular DJ like Dave Wingert is worth the consequence. In a competitive radio market like Omaha, I suggest paying the fine is worth more than losing what Dave brings to the Clear Channel table. The loss of listeners will be huge. I personally have stopped listening and I know businesses that have turned off KGOR because the new morning show just isn’t very good now. I would take a close look at the current management at Clear Channel and determine if there aren’t some changes warranted in those ranks. The decision of firing Dave Wingert was not an intelligent one and usually one bad decision is not the last one that is made by poor management. Dave Wingert is a professional and is very good at what he does in radio. He will land on his feet in a much more stable condition than Clear Channel’s KGOR morning show ratings will ever be in the future.

    Like

  11. Kathy
    October 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    The firing of Dave was a big mistake in my opinion. I loved listening to him & Rich every morning .. they were a GREAT team and I miss hearing them ! I will NOT be listening to KGOR any longer now that Dave is gone … I can’t wait to find out where he will be next so I can tune in and hear “Wingy” again !!!!! Hopefully Rich will join Dave again !!! MISS HEARING YOU DAVE !!!

    Like

  12. Laurie
    October 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    How do we get Dave back on the air! The morning show is certainly NOT the same without him! As you said so well, there are far worse things said on the air that what got him in trouble. Hard to believe there were complaints about the word and/or the managers felt an apology was not sufficient!

    Like

  13. Bev
    October 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    I, along with other listeners, thought Dave was on vacation. As the vacation seemed to go on and on and on, I was determined to find out what had happened to Dave. Now that I know what transpired, I, too, will be finding a different radio station. The morning show is seriously lacking personality without my “Wingy”. I hope that he is picked up by another radio station and that I will find that lucky station. Until that time, I will be surfing the airwaves.

    Like

  14. Bob
    October 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Many of my friends and family have left as loyal listeners of KGOR and what was the best morning show in the country. The decision made by the station and their owners is exactly what the word that was said is “BULLSHIT!!!” There has to be more to this story than is being disclosed. What else was going on between Dave and his employer that they were looking for a reason to can him. Look around you and I’m sure you can relate to someone you know of who has been targeted and fired by their employer for some insane reason after being a loyal employee for a long time. It seems to be the new business culture ever since the whole “Right to work state” has been introduced to the work place. Funny how they named it being it gives employers the right to fire you for any reason they deem worthy. Dave will sadly be missed by Omaha’s morning listening crowd. KGOR will sadly miss the huge number of listeners that have left because of their decision. We can only hope that another channel is smart enough to get Dave back on the air and attract his huge listening audience.

    Like

  15. November 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    We miss Dave Wingert and will not listen to KGOR anymore. We will follow Dave and hope he becomes affiliaed with a station here in the Omaha market soon.

    Like

  16. Teresa
    November 4, 2011 at 2:24 am

    I have had to search tonight to find out what happened. I emailed KGOR today to ask when Dave would be back. They were very vague and said because of privacy laws they could not devulge the facts. They also indicated that the social media was falsely reporting and their competition was not helping the matter. Not knowing what that meant I decided I had to find out for myself. I am stunned at this story. Will this blog update when Dave is picked up by another radio station? I hope so, because that is what I will be listening to. KGOR is no longer a preset in my car. I need to replace it with his new station!!

    Like

  17. Marie
    November 9, 2011 at 1:38 am

    We all have the rights to Freedom of Expression – you see worse on Cable TV and our regular Omaha Channels and we hear worse “swear words” from than what was said. Making assumptions that “ALL” of Omaha was offended by a “swear word” is ridiculous! We have worse issues in our city than to become “reactionaries” to “swear words” – GROW UP OMAHA!

    As with the reader who stated on November 4 that KGOR is no longer present in her car – KGOR is no longer a station I listen to in my car –

    Like

  18. John
    November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I hope that another Omaha radio station is smart enough to hire Dave. I left Omaha a few years ago and when I returned and heard his voice on the air again it was the best “welcome home” that I could have been given. Let’s face it–he is as good as any morning radio personality anywhere! Dave we cannot wait to have you back on the radio in Omaha! Shame on you KGOR–try thinking about the wishes of your (former) listeners!

    Like

  19. Jeanene
    November 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I, like so many others, thought that Wingy was on vacation. I kept waiting and waiting for him to come back. I finally checked the KGOR page online and lo and behold, no Dave Wingert listed! WTF??? Then I Googled “What happened to Dave Wingert?” I must say, I am flabbergasted! “Bullshit?” Come on, already! I miss “my Dave” and I want him back! I pray that some other station in this town picks up this precious jewel and gives us our Wingy back. I have since written a couple letters (and not nice ones,either) to Mr. Lester St. James and let him know in no uncertain terms (with a few expletives of my own, much worse than “bullshit”) how stupid he and the powers that be at that station are! I’m 62 years old and have heard much worse…even the f-bomb doesn’t phase me anymore. This whole situation is just BULLSHIT!!!!!!!

    Like

  20. Jeanene
    November 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Dear Jeanene,

    Thank you for your note about Dave. We certainly regret the situation and its outcome, as Dave is someone we all care about. Unfortunately due to privacy issues I can not go into details, but I can tell you that your source of info has given you very little of the entire story. Thank you for listening.

    We have begun our international search for Dave’s replacement, and greatly appreciate the difficult job Randy Mack has had to do hosting in Dave’s absence, trust me he knows he’s no Wingy nor does he want to keep getting up at the wee hours of the morning, but someone had to do it since we weren’t expecting this situation.

    Sincerely,

    Lester St. James
    KGOR Program Manager
    lesterstjames@clearchannel.com
    (402) 561-2069

    Like

  21. Rhonda Brinkman
    November 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    HA…now that is funny as that is the same exact message I got when I e-mailed the program manager, of course not to Jeanene 🙂
    Rhonda

    Like

    • Jeanene
      November 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      Gee, do you think they just send out a pre-formatted email to us all?? Idiots!

      Like

  22. L. Lee
    December 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    so what is dave doing now????

    Like

  23. Rhonda Brinkman
    January 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Ok….just curious….has anyone heard where Rich Denison is at now? I am still hoping that he and Dave have been reunited on the radio waves!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

  24. Marilyn Standerford
    October 4, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Any idea where Dave Wingert is now? I miss him a lot! I refuse to listen to the KEG, as I can’t stand Crash Davis’s voice. I miss everything about Dave’s morning show. I’ve followed him since he returned to Omaha. I need to know where to go to listen to sanity in the morning!

    Like

  1. September 11, 2014 at 6:10 am
  2. October 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

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