Patrick Reusse couldn’t remember the last time his boss at KSTP radio had called him at home. So when he heard that General Manager Dan Seeman was on the line earlier this month, he assumed the worst.
“Honey!” he bellowed to his wife before picking up the phone. “It’s OVER!”
Reusse was right. After more than three decades on the airwaves, the longtime Star Tribune sports scribe, 72, and Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray, 69, have been forced out, perhaps the strongest signal yet that AM radio in the Twin Cities is fading fast.
Listeners will certainly miss their daily dose of “The Ride With Reusse” and Soucheray’s “Garage Logic,” but it’s the hour of irreverent banter sandwiched between their individual shows — Minnesota’s version of the Muppets’ Statler and Waldorf — that is the most significant loss, a throwback to the freewheeling days of radio when planning ahead was considered a form of cheating.
“Logic” will live on through a KSTP-produced podcast premiering Sept. 10, and Reusse plans to fill in from time to time, but the duo’s current stand at the State Fair is being treated like a fond farewell to fans, with an in-studio finale coming Sept. 7.
During a conversation last week in Soucheray’s office at KSTP studios in St. Paul, the local legends looked back on their fun-filled and sometimes prickly run.
Q: When did you two meet? What were your first impressions of each other?
Soucheray: That predates radio. We were both covering sports.
Reusse: Joe’s great advantage as a sports columnist was that he wasn’t a hard-core sports guy. Joe had the great observational powers of seeing stuff the rest of us didn’t see because it was kind of new to him. My impression was that he was a hell of a writer and he didn’t know crap about baseball.
Soucheray: Well, I was there to write. I didn’t give a crap about baseball. There seemed to be quite a clique among the sportswriters back in the ’70s — I’d try to cozy up to them at a bar after a ballgame on the road, but I just wasn’t part of the fraternity. It was never my intention to be part of it. I thought I’d use sportswriting as a steppingstone to do something else. It turned out, sportswriting in the newspaper business is one of the great opportunities to write creatively.
Q: How did two newspaper guys end up on the radio?
Soucheray: Management here at that time wanted to create a series of nightly talk sports shows based on the excitement generated by the 1980 Olympic hockey team. They came to me because I happened to have covered that story and they said, “Can you get some sportswriters together, each take a night?” Of course, the first guy I thought of was Pat and he got on board. Everyone else eventually fell by the wayside except us two.
Reusse: They put us together on Sunday nights in the spring of ’81. Lasted a year. We got fired because we had a guy who didn’t think he could afford us. We were making the princely sum of $30 an hour. Then they brought us back Labor Day of ’83. We ended up doing shows on Mondays and Saturday nights.
Q: What do you attribute your success to?
Reusse: Never taking each other seriously, making fun of each other and everything else. Having a good old time. Rudy Perpich was a listener when he was the governor. He called us one Monday night from the governor’s car and said: “I just picked up the owner of an important company at the airport, and I was telling him that he should move here because Minnesota is the Brain State, and then we turned on your show, and you ruined my sales pitch.”
Soucheray: Until we came along, I sensed there was always supposed to be this reverence for these teams, the Vikings, the Twins. I really had no vested interest in their success. I think when we came along we were surprisingly candid to a listening public that was accustomed to what they had grown up with in the ’50s and ’60s and that just wasn’t our nature. You could even call it experimental radio, right?
Reusse: I remember when Bud Grant was still untouchable. We had a whole shtick that we’d like to go down to Vikings training camp and have Bud give us one of these (makes the OK sign with his fingers). We were making fun of Bud’s dour steely-eyed approach. Turned out he had some humor about it.
Soucheray: I think we were attracting the kind of people who maybe unknowingly were waiting for that. Of course, there was no other option for us.
Q: If they were teaching a class on how to do radio, I’m not sure you guys would be the model. Did you ever get any blowback on your approach?
Soucheray: We didn’t know any better. We had no one husbanding us. There was no one fluttering over us, saying you’d better be in here two hours ahead of time, planning out what you’re going to do. It was all off the cuff. There’s a little more content now, because we’re more aware of the stakes. But we didn’t know about the stakes back then. People just listened. We caught the tail end of the height of AM radio in a certain way.
Reusse: Honest to God, we had a run as the right-wing station when Rush Limbaugh’s show was on here. I was the outspoken leftie and no one ever said a word.
Soucheray: I remember we had to host Rush one Saturday in Maplewood. Before the show, Pat said, “Rush, you’ve got a hell of an act going there.” He got livid.
Reusse: Another time, I filled in for Joe and I did a shtick about how I used to know Rush when he was in Kansas City and we were two fat guys so we would sit around and eat longer than anybody else. Rush told me how he needed something to make more money and I said, “You know, I think you should become a conservative. They’re easier to do.” I made up this whole goddamn story. The phone lines went crazy. The Ditto Heads started calling Rush headquarters, which ended up calling back here and raising holy hell.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories of each other?
Soucheray: Lou Wangberg, who was lieutenant governor [in 1979-83], was throwing out a first pitch at a Twins game. Pat stood up in the press box and yelled out, “The family of Lou Wangberg can relax. He’s been found alive!’
Reusse: There was the time a guy thought he was calling the station’s home-and-garden show, so we put the caller through. There had been a horrible cold spell and his roof was cracking and he wondered what he should do. Joe pretty much convinced him he should get out of the house before it collapses. If you took a chance to call us, the odds were that you weren’t going to get abused, but you’d be made fun of.
Soucheray: In a way, that was really a revolutionary way of interacting with callers. We allowed the callers to become part of the deal and they did.
Reusse: One day about 20 years ago, we had a guy on air playing a buddy of ours, saying he had just broken a story that the Vikings were going to San Antonio. It was April 1. We ran it for the hour. Channel 5 was coming upstairs to film us. Finally, somebody called us around 10:58 p.m., a tough-sounding kind of guy, who said, “If this is an April Fool’s joke, I’m going to come down and kick the hell out of both of you.” We come back at 11:03 and said, “OK, it was an April Fool’s joke. Don’t hurt us.” We’re big wusses.
Q: You guys ever get on each other’s nerves?
Reusse: I was coming back from the Masters and Joe was looking to talk to me on air and I was flying, so I couldn’t do it. Joe had a great shtick.
Soucheray: I said, “I hope he sits in the middle seat between two large mothers with screaming children and oatmeal is poured down his back and it gets in his ass.”
Reusse: They started a whole thing. Oatmeal Ass. I went out to the State Fair with a can of Quaker Oats taped to my ass while walking around. I still have people call me Oatmeal Ass.
Q: How hard was it learning the shows were going away? It couldn’t have been a complete surprise.
Soucheray: I’m peaceful. It couldn’t run forever. You can count on one hand guys who have lasted 25 years doing one show. Doesn’t happen. I’ve loved working for these people. They’ve handled it very well. I’m going to be doing the podcast and Pat will still be available. He ain’t going away.
Reusse: I think for the last show, we’ll hug it out.