The Changing Face of the News Industry

Obviously, the talent is the face of the business.

But true talent possesses far more than stage presence. While that’s an absolutely necessary component, there has to be far more than that.

That’s why talent agent Mort Meisner finds it depressing that the industry is moving away from hiring singular talent and replacing it with teams.

And when it comes to recognizing true talent, he’s one of the best in the country. He’s found more than his fair share.

Success Stories

Craig Nigrelli

Craig Nigrelli

When Mort first started his agent business, one person who stood out among others was Craig Nigrelli. When Mort met Craig, he had aspirations to become an anchor. He also had an agent who didn’t believe in him. As Mort recalls in his book, Enough to Be Dangerous:

I recognized he was rough around the edges, but believed he could do it. So he fired his agent and I got him a morning anchor job quickly. Of the large pool of talent I now represent, Craig continues to be with me. Today he is an anchor in Wichita.

As he became more established as an agent, he was frequently approached by those not in the broadcasting industry looking to change jobs. Irika Sargent was one of those people.

Irika Sargent

Irika Sargent

She called me a number of years ago and said she was an attorney and was interested in becoming an anchor woman. I recognized that she had all the necessary elements in place to make it as an anchor, but it would take some time. I told her she would have to be okay with taking a major pay cut. She was. Irika started in a small market in the south, moved up to Houston, then eventually Miami. She is now in Chicago where shes the top female anchor both in background and credibility. 

Not everyone has been as great as Irika, though.

And the Not-So-Success Stories

Mort once repped a reporter in Cleveland whom he got an anchor job in Las Vegas that paid $100,000 per year. At one point, she owed him $7,000 and as months went by, she kept giving him excuses as to why she wasn’t paying. He finally got her on the phone and asked when she was going to make her first payment.

Im sorry, Mort,” she said. My grandma has been sick and Ive just been overwhelmed with everything. I will pay you next month.”

Well, I wasn’t about to come down on her and demand payment, given her situation.

But the next month, she gave me the same excuse. This went on for several months until she told me her granny died and she would have to pay for the funeral. I didnt want to challenge it because, what if she really had died? 

But six months passed and she still hadnt paid. So I contacted her again. She said she still couldnt pay me. Granny had her other leg amputated,” she said. That clinched it.

They must have dug up her body to do it,” I said to her.

It was amazing. She wasn’t even able to keep her lies straight. So he sued her and eventually prevailed.

Straight-Shooting “Shatterer of Dreams”

As an agent, Mort always shoots straight and tells it like it is. One day, he received a call from a man who was inquiring about becoming an anchorman. He was a bank manager in Detroit and had been watching Mort Crim and Bill Bonds for years, and didn’t think it would be “all that tough.”

Mort agreed to meet with him because he likes people and is always hoping to find the next Bill Bonds or Diana Lewis. The man, probably in his late 30s or early 40s, confidently handed him his demo reel. Mort popped it in and started listening.

Now, I generally have an 18-second rule, whereby I can tell if someone has the right stuff, so to speak. So after that 18 seconds, I popped it out and asked my visitor if he had a thick skin or thin skin.

Id say its thick,” he said with confidence.

Good,” I said, looking him straight in the eyes. That was one of the worst, if not the very worst demo, I have ever seen.” I then held the reel in two hands, snapped it, and dropped it in my garbage can. I suggest you keep your job as a bank manager and I truly wish you well.”

It sounds cold, I know. Yet, he took my words surprisingly well. He stood up and thanked me. Then as he walked to the door, he turned and said, Thanks so much for your time.”

Two hours later, Mort received a call from the man’s sister, who had some choice words for him that amounted to what a son of a bitch Mort was and how he’d shattered her brother’s dreams. The next morning when Mort came into his office, his assistant at the time posted a sign on his door that said, MORT MEISNER – SHATTERER OF DREAMS.

It’s still displayed to this day.

Mort Meisner – Agent of Change

Today, Mort continues to be a champion for news talent all over the country. In spite of the changes in the industry, he fights every day to ensure they get the benefits and the pay they deserve.

Read Enough to Be Dangerous to find out more about Mort’s life experiences that brought him to become a true agent of change.

Due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, you can pre-order your autographed copy by clicking here. And subscribe to our blog to keep up with all the latest and scheduled events around the release.

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A Nod to the Mentors Who Planted the Seeds

Nobody makes it to the top alone.

Mort Meisner is quick to acknowledge this fact. And he is ever grateful to everybody who fostered him along on his path to success. There were two people who were especially pivotal in his upward climb.

Over the many decades in the business, Sportscaster Dave Diles and News Director Phil Nye were truly inspirational to Mort in so many ways. And were it not for them as his mentors, he believes he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Dave Diles

Dave Diles

Dave Diles, ABC Sports and WXYZ TV Channel 7, Detroit

When Mort was a child in the 1960s and 1970s, sportscaster Dave Diles had a show on WXYZ AM 1270 that was the precursor of today’s sports talk radio. And Mort didn’t miss a single episode.

He particularly loved that Dave invited listeners to “Dial Dave Diles” and try to stump him with questions. Mort called many times per week in an attempt to outsmart him. He was pretty confident in his knowledge of sports trivia, thanks to his older brother who ate, slept, and breathed football. From his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous:

The excitement of sports provided a soothing refuge from the chaotic violence of our household. At night, I would crawl under the covers with my powder blue, nine-volt transistor radio and listen to games, whether they were played locally or on the West Coast. As I fell asleep to these games, I absorbed the information like a sponge. 

All of this gave me the ability to stump Dave and go toe-to-toe with him, even though I was just a young kid. As a result, they always put me on the air— which, by my estimation, made me something of a radio personality. And in a way, I was. Dave made jokes about me and called me Morty in the Morning.” The more he joked, the more I loved him. I frequently sent him letters about how much I longed to be in the business someday.

One glorious day, Dave invited Mort to have his dad bring him to the studio. Completely out or character for Mort’s dad, he agreed to take him. More in character, he refused to accompany his nervous 12-year-old son into the studio.

So Mort entered the studio alone with sweaty hands and a pounding heart, certain he was going to be interviewed. It quickly became clear that wasn’t the case. It didn’t matter, though. Dave let him soak everything in, and fall more deeply in love with the idea of being a broadcaster.

Mort always remembered the amazing opportunity that Dave had made a reality. Over the years, he would call in and write letters to him. Dave almost always responded, encouraging Mort to follow his dream of becoming a sportscaster. “There is no short-cut to your dreams,” Dave said to him. “Just make sure you pick a good university to make them happen, though.”

And that’s exactly what Mort did.

Phil Nye

Phil Nye

Phil Nye, Legendary ABC News Vice President and News Director, and Mort’s mentor

Mort would end up having a lot of great instructors at the University of Detroit. But it was Phil Nye who was the biggest motivator for his eventual move to broadcasting. He met Phil in 1974 when he was a student in his News Writing for Broadcast class. As Mort recalls in his memoir:

Kid, youre a terrific writer,” he told me. Stick to it, follow your dreams.”

So I did.

When I finished college in 1975, Phil was the legendary news director at WXYZ, ABC Channel 7 in Detroit. Hed been a newsman at local AM WKNR, and was later credited with being one of the men who started and proliferated happy talk” with the ABC-owned- and operated-stations. He was brilliant, well-respected and intimidating enough to manage Detroit news anchor legend, Bill Bonds. Only a small handful could lay stake to that claim.

Since he’d so wholeheartedly encouraged Mort to follow his dreams, he started to ask Phil for work. He wrote him letters and called him regularly. Sometimes he responded.

In August of 1976, Phil informed him that he expected a bottom-rung position to open up soon at the station. Mort took this as a free pass to show up at the station three to five days every week and sit outside Phil’s office. Then finally, in late December, Phil walked out and said, “Morty? If I hire you, will you leave me the fuck alone?” To which Mort was completely amenable.

When he walked into the station lobby that first morning, he thought of the day so long ago when his father had taken him to meet Dave Diles, but wouldn’t join him inside the station. This wasn’t the same place, of course. But he was just as excited. It was 11 years later and he was finally on his way.

Life Long Lessons

Over the years, Phil Nye would remain a fixture in Mort’s life. He would provide Mort not only with new opportunities, but with sage advice.

For instance, while Mort had the good fortune to win many awards over the years, they were never what mattered. He kept his focus on the viewer. He knew what the viewers wanted because he talked with them and, maybe more importantly, they talked with him. They kept coming back again and again. Phil Nye had always counseled him, “Take it to the people, to the neighborhoods.” Mort carried that theme throughout his career.

And while he wouldn’t encounter Dave Diles nearly as much, shortly before he left Detroit for Chicago, Dave Diles and Jim Herrington threw him a going away party.

Just before the party, I went to Dave and told him, Its been incredible. Youve been such a great mentor and even gave me relationship advice—even though youve been married multiple times. Why were you always there for me?”

To my surprise, he grabbed me by my shirt and shoved me up against the wall. What the fuck is the difference why I did it?” he snarled. I did it, didnt I? And you better fuckindo it, too.”

Though Mort was a little shaken, he never forgot the gesture—or the lesson. Any time someone needs 10 minutes of his time, he remembers this. He can honestly say that any time someone has asked to meet with him over the years, he’s always said yes.

Even on days when maybe he felt like saying no.

A Shout out to All the Mentors

Dave and Phil were among the mentors that showed up in different shapes and forms through Mort’s career.

If you’re interested in learning about some of his other inspirations, pre-order your autographed copy of Enough to Be Dangerous today – due for release on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.

And until then, be sure to subscribe to our blog to get all the latest info on the launch party and other events!

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Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

If you lived in the Detroit area in the 1980s, you may remember the WJBK FOX2 branding campaign with the “It Takes Two” jingle.

The song was originally made famous by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston. Mort Meisner hired Kim Weston and Marvin Gaye’s brother Frankie Gaye to perform the WJBK version. In doing so, he helped to revive Kim Westin’s career and give Frankie some exposure as well.

Mort has always been drawn to opportunities to answer the door when someone knocked on it for a second chance. As such, he not only succeeded in reviving some careers, but was able to apply it to his own life as well.

John Noel

John Noel

John Noel

Given his upbringing, the odds were stacked strongly against reporter John Noel. Growing up in New York, he was an addict by the time he was a teenager. He quit school and made a habit of holding people up at gunpoint. Then he decided to clean up. From Enough to Be Dangerous:

From that point forward until the day he died, he never touched an ounce of alcohol or took a single drug. He also became proficient in the martial arts. Philosophically, John and I were aligned.

When I left KSDK to come to Detroit in 1988, I was in desperate need of others who bought into my philosophy. By that time, John had made himself into a singles hitter. So I brought him on. It wasnt long before hed become a doubles hitter, and then after ten years, a triples hitter.

No stranger to a tumultuous upbringing, Mort had seen something in John that others missed. Years later when Mort was asked to leave WJBK and became an agent, John didn’t want to stay there without him. He was going to go back to New York and asked if Mort would rep him there. When Mort got him a job in New York, he didn’t ask for a contract from him. He was that special to Mort.

WLS-Chicago Reporter

When at WLS in Chicago, Mort worked with a reporter who always aimed to please the rough and tumble management team there. He had a good voice and he could write. Mort struggled with his lack of motivation, though, and couldn’t tolerate anybody just phoning it in. The fact was, Mort didn’t like him, and he didn’t like Mort. Even so, Mort was about giving second chances.

There was a heat wave in Chicago one summer and people were dying. Mort called the reporter into his office and told him he wanted him to cover the story about what people were doing to stay cool. He challenged him to come up with a strong angle – give the viewers something different. The reporter said he’d do the broadcast from the lagoon in Lincoln Park. Pretty hackneyed location, but Mort gave him the benefit of the doubt:

So the night of the broadcast, the camera panned to him.

He said, When I got to work this morning, my boss man told me to do a story on what people are doing to beat the heat.” The boss, of course, was me.

He ran through some of the things people were doing. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. But then at the end of the story, he looked directly in the camera and said, Mort, heres what Im going to do. This ones for you.”

Stripping down to just his boxers, he jumped into the pond.

Everyone assumed Mort would be mad. But when the reporter entered the building, Mort stood up and applauded him. The reporter’s attempt to make Mort angry had actually forced him to do a great story.

Twenty years later, the reporter called him to tell him how he had hated Mort then, and that he still didn’t like him. But he did admit to Mort that that particular story had changed him and his career for the better.

Second Chance at Love and Family

It took some time for Mort to be lucky in love.

Although he had a son he adored with his second wife, their lives were riddled with drug use and when she moved away, he rarely got to see him. He would do his best to visit Jason, but it was never enough.

Then he met Leslie and they were married in 1984. He whisked her away to a romantic wedding in Italy and they’ve been married ever since. Children did not come as easily, though.

After several attempts, they decided to adopt a child – their daughter Nicole. And as is so often the case, Leslie became pregnant with their son Mark soon after. Mort finally had the chance to be the father he wanted to be. And he loved it. Upon being let go at WJBK, he embraced the silver lining:

I now had time to coach Marks baseball team, which only further strengthened the bond I already had with my son. I would throw him batting practice 46 weeks per year. I watched him blossom into a great player and he eventually was able to realize his dream of playing Division One Baseball. Hes a Major League Baseball agent.

Meanwhile, Nicole was proving to be a gifted runner. Although I was not able to coach her in her sport, I was able to travel to see her run at meets throughout the country and even the world. She was one of the best sprinters ever at University of Detroit Mercy and broke records on both the national and international levels when she competed.

Mort has even had a second chance with his oldest son Jason, a successful restauranteur whom he visits regularly and with whom he has a strong relationship.

And with his two grandsons, Tony and Bruce, those second chances just keep on coming…

Get Your Copy Today

Enough to Be Dangerous isn’t just an action-packed memoir about working in the music and news industries. There are plenty of heart-warming stories too.

This dynamic memoir is due out October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, but you can pre-order your autographed copy today right here.

And remember to subscribe to our blog for updates on the launch party and other book-related events. See you soon!

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Some of the Big Stories – Part Two

In our previous blog post, we talked about some of the big stories in Mort Meisner’s career that boosted ratings.

But some of the other big stories in his career were those that truly moved him. They were the stories that made him want to get involved on a deeper level.

And at the end of the day – or the newscast, as it were – they were the stories that made a difference.

Some of the Big Stories That Truly Mattered

Spend any time with Mort and you’ll hear a wealth of fascinating stories about his years in the music and news industries. But the following stories are among the ones of which he is most proud. They are the stories that enacted change.

Viola Liuzzo

Viola Liuzzo

Murdered Detroit Civil Rights Worker, Viola Liuzzo

In 1965, when Mort was just 12 years old, Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights activist from Michigan and mother of five, was murdered along with two black men while on a freedom fighting mission in Selma, Alabama. Her murderers were members of the Ku Klux Klan.

There was no investigation, however. From Mort’s memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous:

  1. Edgar Hoover was the head of the FBI at the time and served only to besmirch Liuzzos image. He was determined to portray her as a whore who just wanted to have sex with black men. Her case was sealed for years until her family sued the FBI in the late 1970s. At Channel 7, we did news stories to try to force those files unsealed. And finally, the family won the case to open them.
Viola Liuzzo Crime Scene

Viola Liuzzo Crime Scene – Image courtesy of Historic Images.

To this day, Mort continues to have relationships with Viola’s adult children. Her murder put a tremendous strain on the family though. While her son, Tony Jr., delivers powerful lectures on civil

Viola Liuzzo Memorial Stone

Viola Liuzzo Memorial Stone

rights, some of his siblings developed drug and alcohol problems. And their father died a broken-down alcoholic.

The Palm Leaf Murders

Mort had been just two years in the news business in 1979 when there was a series of prostitutes being kidnapped, raped and murdered. The assailant always left behind palm leaves on the bodies of the victims as his mark.

The story didn’t get much coverage for two reasons. One, the victims were prostitutes and therefore considered second-class citizens. And two, the Republican National Convention was coming to Detroit the following year and Mayor Coleman Young wanted to keep the story under wraps.

It was horrifying.

Then one day, a woman called the assignment desk at WXYZ and reported that she’d been a victim of the assailant. Mort had taken the call.

On my urging, she went to the police and met with the head of homicide, Robert Hislop. The whole venture was pointless, though. He sent her away because neither he, nor the rest of the police, believed her.

So I went to Kathryn Kiefer, a female reporter who worked for me and whom I highly respected. I told her what was happening. We decided to collaborate on a series of stories about these prostitutes who were being raped and murdered.

Kathryn invited the woman to tell her story on the air. She told her near death story, how shed faked her death, and how when she went to police, they turned her away. Of course, this didnt go over too well with the police or the mayors office.

Of course, Gerald Hale of the Detroit Police didn’t take too kindly to this. He put out a notification that Kathryn and Mort were engaged in deceptive practices. They were sure they would get canned.

They didn’t though. The GM put out a news release that supported them while attacking the Detroit Police Department. Hislop was forced to retire a short time later.

It would be quite a few years before the man, Carl Watts, was caught and dubbed “The Sunday Morning Slasher.”

When Brother Kills Brother

Sick and tired of seeing young black men and women shot to death – often by members of their own community in their community – Mort decided to do a story called, “When Brother Kills Brother.”

He called in one of his top reporters and told him his idea. He wanted the reporter to go into the neighborhood and knock on the door of every small, medium, and large undertaker.

Mort hoped that the reporter would be able to find an undertaker – preferably an older man or woman – who would be willing to wear a wireless mic and be interviewed while embalming the body of someone under 16.

The reporter found the story, but no one who was willing to wear the mic. And then one day, he did. As Mort recalls:

This was a man who was no stranger to embalming. It was a routine part of his work. But to hear his voice shake, shiver, and crack while embalming a young black man was powerful and emotional. And it was precisely what I wanted to get. The result was an award-winning piece that was so moving that it brought the story home. It didnt change things in the neighborhoods. But it informed and shined a spotlight where it had not been shined before.

In the late 1980s, Time magazine ripped off the story. They even used the headline When Brother Kills Brother. Mort saw it as homage though. To him, the crucial part was that they were able to shed light on a very dark situation.

They made a difference.

Looking for More Stories That Matter?

Enough to Be Dangerous is chock full of them. So get an eyeful of the big stories and triumphs, as well as the hard times and defeats that have woven the fabric of Mort’s life.

The book will be available October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.  But you can pre-order your autographed copy today by clicking here.

And be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay in the know about the launch party and other events surrounding this unforgettable memoir.

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Some of the Big Stories – Part One

At the publication of this post, the Democratic National Convention is in full swing. Without going into detail, it’s making all of us aware of just how much things need to change.

Yet, as the old adage says, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mort Meisner is no stranger to this concept.

Back in 1980, he happened to be working in Detroit where he covered the Republican National Convention. Things needed to change then too.

And while the current Democratic National Convention is certainly a different scene, it does make one wonder what folks are up to on this green and blue sphere?

After decades in the news industry, Mort can tell you it’s a lot.

Just a Few of the Darker Stories

Mort is the first to admit that broadcasting is largely focused on stories that will generate ratings. And in his career, as in many others’, a lot of those stories involved rapes, murders, breaking and entering, and armed robberies.

Still, Mort always felt he was doing more than just boosting ratings. As someone who is quick to make friends out of random strangers, he quickly  recognized you can’t put a price on having friends in the right places. And that gave him a specific edge.

Operation Greylord

Mort Meisner Field Producing

Mort field producing for CBS in Chicago, President Ronald Reagan’s visit, September 2nd, 1981. That’s CBS reporter Frank Currier with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth over Mort’s left shoulder.

For example, one of the biggest stories out of the courts in the history of Chicago in the early 1980s was Operation Greylord that involved a full-blown investigation of corruption in the judiciary of Cook County in the Chicago jurisdiction. Mort had a friend who was a source in the U.S. Attorney’s office who gave him inside information. From his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous:

I went to my boss Bill Applegate at WLS in Chicago and shared what my friend had given me.

He gave me a dead serious look. In terms of accuracy, are you willing to place your career on the line?”

I had the utmost confidence in my friend, so without missing a beat I said, Absolutely.”

Once he was satisfied that my source was good, we broke the story. It was huge in Chicago, and had both local and national repercussions.

In the end, over 92 federal officials were investigated, indicted, thrown off the bench and even went to prison – along with some attorneys.

Air Canada Flight 1983

Another amazing story happened when Mort was at ABC in Chicago and the Air Canada flight had to make an emergency landing in Cincinnati. During the flight, a fire started behind the lavatory and spread between the outer skin and the inner panels.

The plane began filling with toxic smoke. The fire also burned through electrical cables that disabled most of the instrumentation in the cockpit:

Ninety seconds after the plane landed, the doors were opened. The heat of the fire in combination with the fresh oxygen from the open exit doors created dangerous flashover conditions. The planes interior was immediately engulfed in flames – killing 23 passengers who had not yet evacuated.

I had a source with the FAA based in Atlanta named Jack Barker. He was able to provide me these grim but crucial facts. But the network newscasts were reporting there were few or no injuries. Even in my own building, ABC nationally was reporting that.

In other words, because of Mort’s connection, they were reporting the facts and not fake news. This underscores the importance of having impeccable sources. Especially now when a lot of bad information is getting rolled out as fact.

Prostitution Ring

You hear the term prostitution ring and you likely think of young women in the wrong place at the wrong time. And in Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort talks about the way the industry would ignore stories about prostitution. We’ll tackle that in another blog.

This particular story is about a gay male prostitution ring in St. Louis upon which Mort was partially responsible for putting the kibosh.

At the time, I was good friends with two cops who told me they were having big problems in one of the parks. So we put wires on them and sent them into the park. I dont recall if we cleared this with the police department or if we were working with our own unique brand of vigilantism. Either way, we did it.

One of the cops – a heavyset guy named Jim – went into the bathroom and got someone to solicit sex from him. A man approached him and said he was looking to get sucked and fucked.”

Jim pulled out his handcuffs and said, Well, you got one of them. You just got fucked.”

Powerful stuff. And once again, it came down to Mort having friends in the right places.

Stay Tuned for More…

While reading Enough to Be Dangerous, you’ll be taken with all of the different layers and complexities of the broadcast industry as well as with Mort’s life.

The book will be available October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, but you can preorder your autographed copy today.

And in our next blog post, we’ll look at some of the stories that mattered to Mort on a very different level. So be sure to subscribe!

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Egos Aplenty in Enough to Be Dangerous

It seems in the past few years (let’s say a little over three and a half), many of us have had the experience of trying to stomach the antics of a raging ego-maniac.

In some respects, at least, navigating the trails of the ego-maniacal has been familiar territory for Mort Meisner.

Working in the world of broadcasting certainly afforded him a family-sized sampling of blustery and bigger-than-life personalities. And dealing with them first-hand became something of an art form for him.

In his new memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, he takes the reader into the newsrooms and other venues that were populated by these characters.

The Legendary Bill Bonds

Bill BondsIf you lived in Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s, you’ve heard of Bill Bonds. He was a brilliant and tough-as-nails anchorman whom Mort regards as one of the five greatest anchormen of all time.

Mort worked with him in his early days of broadcasting when he was at WXYZ. He remembers Bill as a passionate man. This passion wasn’t always pretty.

After each newscast, Bill would hold up the scripts in the newsroom and ask, Who wrote this? Who wrote this piece of shit?”

Someone would meekly raise their hand and Bill would stare them down and say, We are better than this. This is terrible.” Then for dramatic effect, hed sometimes fling the scripts into the air and walk out on his way to dinner or, more likely, the bar.

It was no secret that Bill had done more than a dozen stints in rehab for drinking and had lost a daughter to a drunk driver. Yet, no matter how hard a day he was having, he’d end every newscast with, “Have a peaceful evening.” His outbursts were just par for the course. As Mort says, “That was just Bill. I loved him. We all loved him.”

The Not-So-Nice Al Ackerman

Mort did not share the same affection for sportscaster Al Ackerman and considered him one of the most negative guys he’d ever met.

During Ackerman’s tenure, Mort was running the evening assignment desk where one of his jobs was to be traffic cop for the crews getting moved around. If a big news story was breaking, he’d have to pull a crew for it. One night, he pulled Ackerman’s crew.

Let’s just say, it didn’t go well.

You dirty mother fucker, you took my crew last night,” [Al] seethed. Youre a piece of shit!” he yelled and stormed off.

I wasnt going to take that. So I went into the sports office.

You need to apologize to me!” I said.

Fuck off!” he answered.

The guy was so determined to not apologize that he tried to leave, but I blocked the door. So he turned around and tried to crawl out the first-floor window. It came down on his hand and severed a tendon in his middle finger.

As Mort says, “Al was a curmudgeon who, given the chance, would have kicked Mother Theresa in the ass rather than walk around her.” Yet despite his boorish behavior, he was very popular, knowledgeable, talented, and even feared by many in management of our professional sports teams.

The Blowhard Walter Jacobsen

While working in Chicago, Mort had the distinct (dis)pleasure of working with Walter Jacobsen. Walter had a Napoleon complex and was quick to fly off the handle.

Jimmy Carter often came to Chicago during this time to visit his grandchildren. Stations sent crews, just in case there was something newsworthy. There never was. So Mort made the decision to not send a crew. When Walter discovered there would be no story on his visit, he blew his top. He stuck a finger in Mort’s face and began yelling at him.

Do you like working here?” he finally asked with a threatening tone. 

Not in particular,” I said, feeling heated, because I dont like you.”

Oh yeah!? Well, Ill call Gene Jankowski and make sure you get fired then!” he yelled. Jankowski ran CBS News and was one of the people who could easily get me fired. I didnt care.

Get the fuck out of my face,” I yelled back, waving him away.

He stared into my eyes and tweaked me across the nose!

You just alienated the most important man in journalism,” he said. Then he turned on his heels and walked back to his desk, where his assistants sat behind him like a pack of rats. 

I was approaching a rage. And even though I had a broken leg from a tackle football game, I hobbled over to him. To do what? Honestly, I was ready to beat the shit out of him for everything hed ever done to anyone at all. I got right in his face.

If you ever touch me again,” I growled, Ill put my foot so far up your ass, it will come out of your mouth.”

It’s certainly a provocative image.

Of course, Mort never got the chance to actually do that, since the general manager had been warned that a brawl was about to break out and came to settle it. And in spite of Walter’s massive ego, Mort always regarded him as an outstanding journalist and for that, he respected him.

The Dismissive Mike Royko

Mike RoykoDuring Mort’s time in Chicago, one of his goals was to meet Mike Royko, the late Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the city’s papers. When he was  out at a local watering hole with his friend Jim, the opportunity presented itself.

Theres Royko!”

Jim warned me not to approach him, but nothing was going to stop me. I went up to Royko.

Hi Mike, Im Mort Meisner,” I said. Assignment Manager at WBBM. I think youre the greatest columnist ever, anywhere.”

With a drink in his right hand, he looked directly at me. He made a circular motion with his left hand and said clearly and succinctly, Who gives a fuck what you think.”

So much for first impressions. Even so, Mort still considers Royko the greatest columnist that ever lived.

The Mayhem Doesn’t Stop There

Of course, not every behind-the-scenes story from these major newsrooms is quite so chaotic or mean-spirited.

But there are still plenty more to explore in Enough to Be Dangerous – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing. Pre-order your autographed copy today.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to stay in the know about the launch party and other book-related events.

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Choosing What Goes into a Memoir

WJBK, FOX in Detroit sponsored local legendary team. That’s Mort top row, 6th from the left with oldest and dear friend Larry Foote to his left. Daughter, Nicole also in top row and son, Mark in bottom row.

Mort Meisner has had a full life.

So when it came time to write his memoir, determining what would make the cut was a feat. To say the least.

Right now, the baseball season is in full swing. (Whatever “full swing” means in this era of the coronavirus.) And it has recently left Mort nostalgic for this beloved sport.

Yet, in his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, there isn’t much about his favorite American pastime. How come?

Did Baseball Strike out?

Not exactly.

Baseball was actually a huge part of Mort’s life. He played the game himself and was, in his words, “pretty darn good at it.” He still recalls his first Tigers game in 1960 when the Tigers played the Yankees. It was a bright sunny day with an impossibly blue sky that contrasted the emerald green of the field. The smell of hot dogs and sound of the ball cracking against the bat was intoxicating.

Over ten years later in 1971, 1972, and 1973, he was a vendor at Tiger Stadium. He had to wear a wig to cover up his long hair, but it was worth it for the money he earned and, more importantly, the women he met.

He kept lucky peach pits he’d hold during Tigers games and rallies. That might sound a little odd, but true sports fans are susceptible to unusual superstitions. And as fans go, Mort was the real deal.

Being so passionate about broadcasting, he obviously remembers the first time he heard Ernie Harwell and how from the first day he met him, Ernie always remembered Mort’s name.

And it is Mort’s passion for broadcasting that took precedence to baseball in his memoir.

It Was a Difficult Decision

As we mentioned above, Mort has had a rather large and illustrious life. So it would have been impossible to include every story in his vast menagerie of tales without overwhelming readers.

Thus, when pulling together information for Enough to Be Dangerous, it was necessary to stick with the essentials – which broke down to his life in broadcasting, as a rock and roll promoter, as a talent agent, and his family.

Baseball is not completely MIA, though. In fact, it is in the chapters that speak of his family – both of origin and the family he created – that baseball and softball make cameo appearances.

Bonding with His Son

For example, he discusses a period of time after he was let go from a job and suddenly had time on his hands.

As the kids continued to grow, I loved being a father. I now had time to coach Marks baseball team, which only further strengthened the bond I already had with my son. I would throw him batting practice 46 weeks per year.

I watched him blossom into a great player and he eventually was able to realize his dream of playing Division One Baseball. Hes now a Major League Baseball agent.

So while exiting stage left from broadcasting was difficult, it was certainly a mixed blessing in that it enabled him to foster the same love of the sport in his son.

Saying Goodbye

On a more melancholy occasion, there was a night when Mort went to visit his mother in the nursing home where she spent her final days. By then she had disconnected from the world and when Mort went in to say hello, she merely turned over in her bed and turned her back to him.

The next morning, I was playing softball when I received the call that she was gone. Oddly, I felt the need to I return to the field to finish the game.

It was a dark and overcast day. But when I ran out to left field, the sun briefly came out. It still sends goosebumps down my spine when I think about it.

So even though baseball is largely absent from the memoir, it was certainly woven into the fabric of his life. And right now, while he’s missing those hot afternoons and balmy evenings at Comerica Park, he’s happy coaching his grandson Tony’s Little League team.

And he’s looking forward to the days when he can take his grandsons “out to the ballgame.”

They’ll be here soon enough.

So What’s in the Memoir?

You’ll just have to read it to find out.

Fortunately, you can pre-order your autographed copy of Enough to Be Dangerous by clicking here – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.

We promise you it’s a home run of a read.

And subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on all the events around the launch of the book.

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Enough to Be Dangerous – Thank You, Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen and MortMany of us remember the first time we saw a musical act that transformed us. For Mort Meisner, it was Bruce Springsteen.

In fact, Mort would hold the record in Michigan for attending the most Springsteen concerts, were it not for 97.1 The Ticket radio personality Mike Stone. Stone is such a diehard fan that it’s written in his contract that he gets time off to see Bruce when he’s in town, as well as when he’s on tour to go see him out of town.

Of course, it’s not a competition. They both share a fierce passion for both Bruce’s music, and for the musician. And this is no more apparent than in Mort’s new memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, where he committed not just one, but two chapters to Bruce Springsteen.

He even goes so far as to call him his hero.

You Never Forget Your First Time

Mort had never heard of Bruce Springsteen that fateful night he went to see him in September of 1975:

I was 22, but felt like a young teenager—sitting there, front and center, waiting for this Bruce Springsteen guy to come out on stage. I had no idea what to expect. And before I knew it, there he was, playing Incident on 57th Street. He went through his array of songs—none of which Id heard—including Born to Run.

Hearing them that night changed my life.

It was a transcendental experience for him.

Working as a rock and roll promoter at the time, he knew immediately it was essential that he book Bruce at the Michigan Palace. So he went to talk to Bruce’s manager and booked him two weeks later.

And so began Mort’s journey toward becoming a Bruce Springsteen groupie.

Following the Boss

Mort’s friend Nelson was equally as swept up by Bruce Springsteen as Mort was, and they were soon traveling to see him perform.

On one occasion, they went to Asbury Park, New Jersey, in hopes of catching Bruce slumming at the famous Stone Pony. After a visit to sax man extraordinaire Clarence Clemons’ home, and several more attempts at the Stone Pony, they finally scored.

Bruce treated them like royalty. He was genuinely interested in them and curious about why they’d come all that way. Then he proceeded to play there for an hour and a half in what was almost a private concert.

Listening to him perform, I felt profoundly different. I cant really explain it. I thought, this guy is like Bob Dylan. But different. More upbeat. More spiritual, maybe?

The way I interpreted his songs resonated with something deep inside me. He ran sentences and words together which I didnt understand, but I had no need to understand. He got me.

It became another life-changing night for Mort.

Still Loving Bruce Springsteen

Throughout Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort recounts a childhood riddled with violence and abuse. He lived his young adult years hard and fast, eventually succumbing to drug use in an attempt to outrun the demons that haunted him. But there was always one thing he knew could bring him back to center.

Over the years, from then until now, Ive seen Bruce Springsteen 131 times. It seems that in my tormented life—as its often been—hes always been there as a salve or balm to bring me relief.

Even when I had tragedies and losses in my family, I always took solace in listening to Bruce.

His abiding faith in Bruce Springsteen remains to this day.

What Makes Bruce Springsteen Mort’s Hero?

You’ll have to read Enough to Be Dangerous to get the answer to that question. Don’t worry.

Just click here to pre-order your autographed copy of this action-packed yet emotional memoir – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.

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Enough to Be Dangerous – When a Guidance Counselor Truly Guides

Harry Weberman, Mort’s Oak Park High School Guidance Counselor, 1970-1971.

Most of us know the adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” And chances are, a great many of us have experienced this.

Sometimes the teacher is an actual teacher – the English teacher who introduced you to an amazing author or the science teacher who shared your passion for chemistry.

Maybe it’s a coach who encouraged you to dig deep and give it your all. It could be a friend, a family member, a child, a pet. Perhaps a stranger on the street. The teacher can take on many forms.

For Mort Meisner, it was his guidance counselor, Mr. Weberman.

The Misguidance Counselor

By the time Mort landed in high school, he wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do once he graduated.

He’d had more than a handful of experiences by then that had sparked a passion for broadcasting. But he’d had an even bigger handful of experiences that left him feeling deflated and stupid –  one of which was delivered by a man who was supposed to be his guidance counselor.

In his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, he recalls the day he was called down to the alleged counselor’s office:

 Youre a nice boy, but I just dont see you amounting to much,” [the counselor] said, glancing down at a pile of papers. I could only assume that at the top of that pile was a sheet that displayed my grades.

He lifted up that sheet to partially conceal his face. I recommend you go into the military or into a good trade like plumbing, or you could become an electrician,” he said, looking at me from over the edge of the paper. This suggestion was beyond laughable—if it werent so sad—because of my inability to work with my hands.   Hell, I had struggled to pass shop class and art.

I didnt know what to say. Yeah, I knew my grades werent stellar. But did that really mean I had no future? All I could do was nod, then get up and leave. Utterly humiliated.

Of course, Mort was no stranger to being told he wasn’t worth much. His father regularly dealt him verbal blows such as, “If you had two brains you wouldn’t be a halfwit,” or, “I do more accidentally than you do on purpose.” And his mother had told him countless times when he was younger that he was not her little boy and she wished she’d never had him.

Yet, in a surprising turn of events, his parents did not take to the counselor’s words kindly. In fact, they had quite the opposite reaction. In a rare demonstration of protective parenting, they charged into the school and demanded that Mort be given a new guidance counselor.

And when Mort’s 350 lb. father made demands, people didn’t take them lightly. Not if they knew what was good for them.

Enter Mr. Weberman

Mort’s parents had finally made a significantly positive impact on his life because the next day, he was assigned a new counselor.

His name was Harry Weberman, and he would be one of the few highlights of my high school tenure. He acknowledged that I didnt have the best grades. But he nevertheless encouraged me to apply to Wayne State or the University of Detroit, then pursue whatever interested me.

That interaction with Mr. Weberman made me realize that I really had believed I was stupid. But I also realized that my grades didnt truly reflect my intelligence. Truth was, the only subjects that really interested me were English and speech. I simply wasnt interested in other topics, and therefore didnt try very hard. But language and speaking made me tick.

This fact, along with Mr. Webermans words, gave me hope.

Mr. Weberman was truly an amazing man. He challenged me to follow my dream of becoming a journalist—which I did.

Whatever it was that enabled Mort to hear Mr. Weberman’s words with clarity and, even more importantly, without the echoing reverberation of the rage-filled sleights and slurs from his parents over the years, no one knows.

Least of all Mort.

He just knows that to this day, he is eternally grateful for that day in Mr. Weberman’s office and how it would change every day that followed.

For years after that, every time he saw Mr. Weberman, Mort reminded him what he meant to him. The year before he died was the last time he’d see him. He thanked him one final time and his last words to him were, “Mr. Weberman, you are everything that is right with education.”

The teacher came. And the student was indeed ready.

Read More About Mort’s Fascinating Life

For anyone who knows Mort as the confident and successful person that he’s become, it’s tough to imagine he had such a rough start.

But his fight, his spirit, and his resilience are undeniable – in every aspect of his life from his abusive childhood, to his days in the rock and roll scene, right up to his years in TV news broadcasting and now as an agent.

Read about them in Enough to Be Dangerous – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing – by pre-ordering your autographed copy today.

And in the mean time, subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on all the buzz around the book, the launch party, and other exciting events.

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Enough to Be Dangerous – Mort Continues to Address Racism in Broadcasting

In his new memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort Meisner chronicles the blatant racism that permeated the television broadcasting industry.

As we discussed in previous blog posts, racist behavior during those years was widely accepted as business as usual. Mort never saw it that way. He was troubled by such gross improprieties and fought tirelessly to be an agent of change – going up against racism in broadcasting.

These days, he continues to rally for that cause as an agent who represents stellar talent – regardless of their race.

Good News in the Sports Radio Sector

Given that the sports industry celebrates many talented black athletes, it makes sense that sports radio would include a robust roster of black broadcasters. That hasn’t been the case in Detroit though.

So when producer and on-air contributor Mike Sullivan at 97.1 The Ticket (WXYT-FM) announced he would be leaving the station, it was the perfect opportunity to bring on Rico Beard. Represented by Mort, Rico is an immensely talented and highly experienced broadcaster and the epitome of professionalism. And it just so happens that he’s also black.

Because of his vast experience, it was obvious to Entercom, a leading media and entertainment company and the top leader in sports radio, that Rico Beard would be the perfect fit. He was clearly the most qualified candidate and the station would benefit from his experience.

Thus, Entercom has announced that Rico will join Mike Valenti on 97.1 for the number-one sports radio afternoon drive talk show in the country.  “The Mike Valenti Show with Rico” will air weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., beginning August 3, and he is certain to add some new flavor with his highly opinionated views.

Mike is thrilled to have him on board. “I’ve wanted to work with Rico for several years now and it is simply fantastic the occasion has arrived,” he says. “Adding Rico to our show represents a massive opportunity to not only stay at number one, but to evolve and become even stronger.”

Who Is Rico Beard?

Rico is a native Detroiter with more than two decades of experience covering local professional and collegiate sports. He was co-host of “The Ryan and Rico Show” for Detroit Sports 105.1, and held on-air roles for local television stations, including FOX affiliates WXYM-TV in Lansing and WJBK-TV in Detroit, where Mort worked with him.

Rico has covered an impressive array of events, including nine Final Fours, three Stanley Cups, two NBA Finals, five college football bowl games, and two World Series.

In addition, he is a Michigan State University alumnus, Heisman Trophy voter, and has also served as a college professor and instructor.

“I am extremely blessed and honored in becoming a host on ‘The Mike Valenti Show’ on 97.1 The Ticket,” said Beard. “I was flattered when Mike Valenti himself asked me to join his show. My job will be to bring in a new voice and opinions to a show that is already one of the best shows, not only in Detroit, but in the sports talk radio industry throughout the U.S.”

Chipping Away at Racism in Broadcasting

It’s a step in the right direction to see that the industry has made some headway when addressing racism in broadcasting. At one time, a highly qualified black man like Rico Beard wouldn’t have even been considered.

It’s clear, though, that the industry still has a ways to go.

Fortunately, people like Mort are making a difference. Both now, and as evidenced by the many stories in his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous – which will be released in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on October 1, 2020 from Two Sisters Writing & Publishing.

Click here to pre-order your autographed copy today. And be sure to subscribe to our blog to get more stories and stay up do date with the latest information regarding the launch party and other exciting events.

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