TONY: So, tell me how you got started here; how did all of a sudden – I mean, I know it wasn’t all of a sudden, but how did you become a writer and a talk show host?
MICHAEL: You know, it’s really interesting – it probably was forced on me. A lot of people don’t know that. It’s when your last name is “Reagan,” it’s like something you can’t get away from. No matter what you do it’s something that is hard to get away from. I was in the boat business for years. I was their top unit salesman in Los Angeles for about 10 years running. Then dad became President of the United States and my life changed. All of a sudden, I’m selling boats with 10 secret service agents around 24 hours a day. So it makes it a little tough to be able to sell and have agents with you when you go on demonstrations. You come back from demonstrations and they’re with you. So I had to get out of the business. Interestingly, I could not find a job. My dad was President of the United States and I could not find a job. I used to joke and say “the democrats think that your parents take care of you and the Republican parents say, ‘take of yourself.’” My wife and I started a company called “MCR International.” She had been in sales and I’m in sales and we thought “maybe what I should do is go out and go back to boat racing.” I had been boat racing back in the sixties. I was champion in 1967 and inboard rookie of the year. So I said “why not go back to boat racing but this time do events that are long in distance and are done as fund raising events.” So the first one I did was on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and St. Louis. I raised half million dollars for the U.S. Olympic Team, sponsored by Budweiser. So, I did that for more than half of the 1980s. We had one for Cystic Fibrosis, and one for the U.S. Olympic Team, and one for Juvenile Diabetes, as examples. So I created all of that and figured “the press is going to come after me if I’m raising money for charitable causes,” because the press is looking to find a Billy Carter in every first family. They were really kind of coming after me in that way. So we did that during the 80s – during that time I had dabbled in doing talk radio – guest hosting, but I saved all my tapes.
TONY: But how did you dabble in that? How did you get started?
MICHAEL: I went over to KABC Radio in Los Angeles. My wife, when she moved out here, moved out with her best friend who was working at KABC and was in charge of the syndication for Michael Jackson, for that whole operation when they got syndicated. We went over to have lunch and I met him there and . . .
TONY: Met who? Michael Jackson or…?
MICHAEL: My wife’s best friend, Kittie, who was assistant to George Green, who was the general manager at the time, so we went over to meet Kittie for lunch. She introduced me to George Green and George and I started talking. George said to me “You’ve got a nice personality, ever thought about doing talk radio?” This was July 12, 1983. And so George Green said “Michael Jackson is taking Monday off, why don’t you sit in for him?” My first interview I ever did on talk radio was with Charles Curalt. Charles said to George Green after the interview, “George, that’s the best interview I have ever had on radio. You had better find a way to keep this guy.” So I started doing Saturday and Sunday shows on KABC for a while and I kept all my tapes. In 1989, I got a call from KSDL Radio in San Diego to come down and guest host down there, which I did. And they ended up offering me a contract and I went to work for them for three years. I never moved – I lived here and I went down Monday, came back Wednesday, went down Thursday, came back Friday. I started my national show in 1992 on September 7th. Then I got fired when some guy by the name of Rush Limbaugh became available. I had no money. I had to find work –a couple of guys (who?) said “let’s do something, we’ll find a studio,” but the only studio they could find was in San Diego. So I drove from Sherman oaks (where I lived) to San Diego and back every day, 262 miles every single day doing this radio show and there was no money coming in. We were selling time for about $3.00 a minute.
TONY: How did you get an outlet?
MICHAEL: They actually got some outlets. I had one live station. It was – I think it was KBIF in Seattle, but I had one live station, but the live station had Monday Night Football, so on Mondays when I was going down to do the show, I was doing 3 hour monologues. I was basically reading the paper. And I remember calling my mother one day and just whining saying “This is nuts, I’m driving 262 miles a day, there’s no money coming in, we’ve got the two kids, they’re in school, we can’t afford to put them through school, Coleen’s going to work what do I do mom?” And my mom says “I’ll tell you what you do, you shut up and keep driving.” She said “So, you don’t have to pay your dues? Everybody pays their dues. You’re paying your dues and some day when it’s a success, you know, you’ll feel good about it, but to sit there and whine that you’re working too hard to put it together is ridiculous, so just shut up and keep driving.” She then hung up on me.
TONY: Good for her. Wow, tough love.
MICHAEL: Geesh, thanks mom. [Laughter] And so that started my national show in 1992 and so now we just started our what – 16th, 17th year.
To be continued in next week’s issue of the Tolucan Times.