Update 01/12/09: Click here to read a related article on Ohio Media Watch, along with a review of the book.
Cliff Note: It's the second article in the OMW post.
I spent a good portion of my Friday nights while I was going through my preteen and teenage years watching a television show called "The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show." In high school, I was on the wrestling and football teams. One of my teammates was a quiet young man named Mike Schodowski. His father is Charles Schodowski, also known as Big Chuck. The book I'm about to review chronicles his 47 years as a part of Cleveland television history.
The book tells how Chuck come from a family living in the Slavic Village neighborhood in Cleveland, how he went from working in a foundry on Cleveland's east side, to going into Cleveland television, first at KYW, channel 3 to WJW, channel 8, and how he became a Cleveland icon.
Chuck started out as a camera man and went into directing. He was a part of the phenomenon called Ghoulardi. Ghoulardi was Ernie Anderson, who went on to fame as the booth announcer for ABC. Most of you would remember hearing, "Saturday night, on the Looooove Boat." That was Ernie. He and Tim Conway attempted for years to get Chuck to move to California, but Chuck is Cleveland born and Cleveland bred and wanted to stay in Cleveland. We Cleveland area people are richer for that.
Big Chuck! also tells about the all star teams in softball and basketball, how they would play games to benefit the representatives of the places they were playing. I recall when the Hoolihan and Big Chuck all stars played the faculty of Highland High during my senior year of high school. One of the players was "Lil John" Rinaldi, who would later become co-host of the Friday night show. This particular evening he was lip syncing and doing a mock striptease to Tom Jones' "She's a Lady." That night I was running the scoreboard and heard Lil John tell the announcer that he could barely breathe and was suffering from bronchitis. I doubt if anyone else that paid to see this game knew.
Big Chuck also was involved in much of the technical side at WJW for years. This included during the early years running the sideline mic during Browns games and producing news. While running the mic at a Browns game during the 60's, Chuck was run over by Jim Brown, who was running out of bounds. Now that's one heck of a story to be able to tell your grandchildren. Another of Chuck's accomplishments is producing a film of boating safety for the Coast Guard, which leads me to another personal story: Highland had a program they called Experiment in Free Form Education-EFFE. During this one day event, the school, in cooperation with student council, invited people from many areas of the community. One of the classes was film production, taught by Chuck Schodowski. During the class he showed the film on boating safety. He had included in this film several of my classmates as extras. And though the film was produced over 35 years ago, the Coast Guard still shows it.
At his count there were over 2000 skits done during the Ghoulardi/Hoolihan and Big Chuck/Big Chuck and Lil John years, over 40 years in all. Most of the time I never payed much attention to the movie. The skits were what we all talked about, and still talk about. Ben Crazy, Soulman, Certain Ethnic Guy, all these skits are heavily viewed on You Tube, and will be for years to come.
In Big Chuck!, he introduces us to his co-workers, people like Art Lofredo, Dick Goddard and others. He tells us about his family and how he's proud of the way they all turned out. He tells of folks, like Tom Hanks, who were big fans of the show. Chuck Schodowski also pays homage to the fans, and to Cleveland.
I say that if you've not read the book and you are a Cleveland television fan, or even a broadcasting geek, you owe it to yourself to get a copy. Click here to order your own copy from Amazon.
Read a sample chapter by clicking here.
The book was an easy read and hard to put down. I had originally started writing this review on Christmas Day, but circumstances took this blog in a different direction.