Mark Thompson reveals much in 'My Adventures With Mark and Brian'
OK, listen up, all you youngsters out there. I need to tell you about a time when the noise coming out of a radio — whether it was in your car, or your bedroom, or even in a public place — actually mattered.
Before there was an Internet and streaming and podcasts and all that other digital crap, we learned about the important things on the radio.
The latest songs and comedy bits, and maybe even important news, came to us on the radio — and from 1994 until 2012, that meant Portlanders were listening to KGON 92.3 FM in the morning because that's when the "Mark and Brian Show" was on.
Don't believe me? Well, I've got proof, because Mark Thompson, one-half of that dangerous, loony twosome, has written a book about it called "Don't Bump the Record, Kid: My Adventures With Mark and Brian," which comes out Dec. 6.
OK, full disclosure time. I was a huge fan of this show — which, by the way, did not originate in the Pacific Northwest, but in Los Angeles, Calif., at KLOS, a classic rock station so far away most of us didn't know exactly where it was located.
Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps were a couple of wiseacres who were brought together in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1985. Brian was a comedian/musician with a penchant for improv from Chicago who was paired up with Mark, already a veteran radio jock with several southern states on his resume.
In no time, they ruled the Alabama airwaves. And not long after that, they were looking around to see where they might take their show next and — guess what? — they landed in L.A. In no time at all, they were hobnobbing with the Hollywood stars, organizing fun events and staging hilarious sketches, and reaching a captive Portland audience (starting in 1994) until they went off the air on Aug. 17, 2012.
Just for the record, in the autumn of 2020, they were inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, which is a major deal for people who work in radio.
Something you ought to know, if you were not a huge fan of the "Mark and Brian Show," these guys were the OPPOSITE of cool. They were drawn to former child stars, underdogs of all kinds — and they positively worshipped the "Andy Griffith Show." He was kinda like their messiah, and all the other cast members (Barney, Opie, Aunt Bea, Gomer, Helen Crump, Otis, Thelma Lou, Goober and Floyd the barber, among others) were his disciples. It was because of that show that fans often began their calls to M&B with "hooty-hoo!" â€š in the same way Gomer did about 70 years ago.
The book goes on sale Dec. 6. It can be preordered on myadventureswithmarkandbrian.com, and (here's the good part) all proceeds from the sales of the book will go to Allison Eastwood's Rescue Ranch in Southern California, where the money will be used to keep abandoned animals from being killed and for the building of a facility where animals can be kept, visited and rescued by members of the public.
Now, here's another couple of shockers for anyone expecting this book just to be a happy romp down memory lane: Mark Thompson does not pull any punches. He went pretty dark and pretty deep. As it turns out, after five years as No. 1 in the L.A. radio market, they got knocked off their perch by Howard Stern, and their Southern California fans turned on them. They got nasty phone calls and they got booed at public appearances, much of it caused by lies told by Stern himself.
One of the effects of this was a deterioration in Thompson's mental stability. He began suffering from panic attacks and depression and inability to sleep, which only makes things worse when you get up at 3:30 a.m. every morning. Eventually, he went through therapy to get better.
"When I started out to write the book I wanted to tell the real story about what was going on behind the scenes," he said. "When I first started going through it, I thought, 'I'm the only one,'" but, of course, he was not. Meanwhile, he kept all of this private from his radio listeners. "One of my biggest fears was that people would find out what I was going through."
But, there was another secret he was keeping from all of us. For seven years, he and Brian did not talk to each other outside of the studio. They came in, did the show and then went their separate ways. And Portland listeners may be surprised to learn that this estrangement began before any of the syndication to other cities began.
When they added Portland to the lineup in 1994, he said, all the signs that this train was going to run off the rails were already clearly visible.
"We had already lost our No. 1 position in L.A.," said Thompson. "We were syndicated in 25 cities, and without question, the very best response we got was in Portland."
When he was at the microphone or writing a bit for an upcoming show, he said, "I always had the listeners in Portland in my mind." Here, he added, they were kings. Fans greeted them at the airport and hung around their hotel hoping to get a glimpse of them. "In Portland, we were like Elvis," he said.
A special Live Launch Party/Show for the book (with special guests in the vein of the M&B Christmas shows) is planned for 8 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills (again, with proceeds going to the animal rescue project).
See myadventureswithmarkandbrian.com for details.
So, what does Mark Thompson, who turns 67 Dec. 1, do now for fun? He sees plenty of his kids and grandchildren — and he sleeps in. After 35 years of getting up before the chickens, he's happy to take it easy.
"I achieved everything I set out to achieve, and more," he said. "Every morning when I wake up, I just lay in bed for an extra 45 minutes."
He does not miss the radio world, he confessed.
"And the truth is, I couldn't keep up with my old self back in the day, if I wanted to."
Mikel Kelly is a former writer and editor with Pamplin Media Group and he, like Thompson, has the opportunity to sleep in every morning during retirement.
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