Historylink, courtesy of Paul Dorpat
The resurrection this past week of Seattle’s Lake Union fireworks show by Dave Ross may end up becoming the defining moment for the KIRO radio host, and finally boost him to local icon status after more than 30 years with the station. In fact, if he’s not careful, Ross may be on his way to inheriting the mantel of that other crooning firework booster and master self-promoter, Seattle restaurateur Ivar Haglund.
Ross hasn’t exactly toiled in obscurity. He’s done 32 years at KIRO as a reporter, anchor, and talk show host; ran for Congress in 2004; made frequent appearances in local Gilbert & Sullivan productions; filled in for Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network (as well as done his own daily commentaries and occasional song parodies for the network).
But Ross has never quite been a Puget Sound household name like radio personalities of old (KJR’s Pat O’Day, KOMO’s Larry Nelson) or current TV folks with much shorter tenures and/or less stellar resumes (insert here the name of anyone doing news, sports or weather on 4, 5, 7 or 13).
Perhaps his Democratic politics and left-leaning “Crusader for Common Sense” persona don’t play well beyond the 206 area code, as evidenced by his defeat by Dave Reichert in a district encompassing much of the Eastside. That’s why taking on the fireworks crisis and handily raising $500,000 dollars via an impromptu radio-thon was such a brilliant move — is there anything more American, more Red State, than blowing things up on the Fourth of July for the whole family?
This old-time, Top 40 AM-radio-style effort by Ross (spurred on by KIRO’s former radio chef Tom Douglas, who’s also a board member of the not-for-profit One Reel, producers of the fireworks show), appears to have been sincere and spontaneous, and not solely a crackerjack publicity stunt of the first magnitude. That’s not to say that Ross, Douglas, KIRO Radio (and station owner Bonneville) won’t reap priceless benefits in listener and community goodwill, probably for years and years. Though not officially announced, it would seem to follow that KIRO will become the official radio sponsor of the event, putting their considerable marketing heft (plus Ross and other on-air personalities) behind promoting the fireworks this year. What happens in 2011, of course, is anybody’s guess.
In the meantime, while Haglund (whose restaurant chain ponied up money for the Elliott Bay fireworks until 2008) is remembered now mostly as a chowder salesman, many forget that he also was a fixture on Seattle radio in the 1930s and 1940s, singing sea chanteys and the occasional parody song.
Maybe Ross and Douglas, emboldened by their fireworks success and buoyed by the public outpouring of support, are already plotting a move for Dave into the restaurant business. Keep Clam, Dave.
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