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Don & Roma Out; Wolf & Proft In At WLS-AM

WLS-AM today made official the temporary line-up it has been using for months. Effective immediately, the long-running Don Wade & Roma show is gone from mornings, replaced by Bruce Wolf & Dan Proft.

Don Wade, longtime morning show co-host along with his wife Roma Wade, have been off the air since early September. While away to New York to take part in their daughter's wedding, Don Wade suffered a seizure. Wade, who is 71 years old, then underwent a series of tests to find a reason behind the seizure. From those tests, doctors discovered a growth on his brain. Brain surgery was performed and the growth was surgically removed at the end of September. It was found that the growth was cancerous, so Don Wade then began weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Realizing that the recuperation process was going to take far longer than originally hoped, and knowing that waking up to begin his work day between 12:00-1:00am each morning was not the best way to speed up that recuperation, Don Wade chose to step aside.

A native of New York City, Don Wade came to Chicago in 1982 to WUSN-FM, after working as a music DJ in numerous other markets nationwide (and once in Canada). He joined WLS-AM as its midday DJ in 1985. The following year, WLS-AM flipped from a music format to a talk format. While most of the music DJs exited, Wade remained and tried his hand as a talker. His producer in 1986 was his wife of seven years at that time, Roma, who was often heard on the air with him, although the public was unaware they were married. (A secret they were able to keep hidden publicly until 1998.) John Gehron, the WLS-AM program director at that time, liked the chemistry he heard between the two and officially paired them on the air, renaming the show "Don Wade and Roma." In August 1989, Don & Roma took over the morning show at WLS-AM, where they have been ever since (not counting seven weeks in 2004, when they were off the air in a contract dispute). 23 years later, they are saying goodbye.

The Wades' current contract with WLS-AM expires at the end of this month.

The couple and the station are open to future roles together, perhaps as a fill-in or possible weekend show hosts.

Cumulus Co-Chief Operating Officer John Dickey said in a statement today:
"Don and Roma are Chicago and 27 years waking Chicago up is an amazing feat. The focus and strength it takes to do live radio every day on one of the world's biggest stages will serve Don well as he continues to heal. We wish Don and Roma the best and will always keep a mic open for them."

Since the Wades first left for their New York vacation in early September, Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft have been filling in. They will continue to work the morning hours, only now they will no longer be the "fill-in hosts," but rather simply, the hosts.

Wolf & Proft began as a team on WLS-AM in May 2010, working as weekend hosts. In July 2011, the station parted ways with late morning/early midday personality Cisco Cotto and promoted Wolf & Proft to that shift. Additionally, Wolf & Proft were the regular fill-in hosts for the morning show for the last two years.

With Don & Roma unable to return, Wolf & Proft were the natural replacements.

In a statement this afternoon, Roma Wade said:
"We are pleased to pass the Morning Show gauntlet to two of our favorite WLS hosts: Dan Proft who was a regular feature on our show ("Pundit" and "Fundit") long before he ran for Governor, and crazy Bruce Wolf who brings the perfect balance to start your day on WLS. We like to think we hand-picked our great replacements. They are terrific!

In 1985 the Bears won the Superbowl and we did our first Don Wade and Roma show on WLS. That's 27 years ago. To us, it's been like winning the Superbowl everyday!

Daily brain storms were Don's M-O. Then suddenly, a real brain storm comes along. Even with successful surgery, recovery is long. Attitude is key. Your encouraging, loving cards, letters and emails helped us maintain what Don's doctors describe as 'the most positive optimistic attitude in the universe!' Thank you for every single prayer and good wish.

The daily stress of rising each day at midnight to prep for our 5a show does not help the healing process. So we are choosing a different path and focusing on what's really important for us right now."

Bruce Wolf is a multi-media star in Chicago and a household name, thanks to his many years on Chicago radio and television. Wolf, an attorney by trade, began writing for Lerner newspapers and doing sports announcing on small radio stations while in law school. That led to Wolf being hired in 1976 to do the daily sports segment "Athletes' Feats" on WXRT-FM. In 1982, he moved to WLUP-FM to become the sports reporter for that station, most famously with Jonathon Brandmeier. It was there that Wolf developed his famous alter-ego, "Chet Chitchat", a hyper parody of Chet Coppock, Chuck Swirsky and sports announcer cliches. Wolf has also worked at WMVP-AM (as a co-host of the first morning show for the station with Steve Dahl), WCKG-FM, WXCD-FM, another stint at WLUP-FM, and fill-in jobs at WGN-AM. His radio work became hugely popular, thanks largely to Wolf's sharp wit and sense of humor. He started working regular weekend shifts for WLS-AM in the spring of 2010, doing political and current events commentary, instead of sports commentary, as he was more known for. The signature wit remains, though.

In addition to his radio work, Wolf worked for WFLD-TV for eighteen years as a sports anchor and show host. For almost two years, Wolf worked for WMAQ-TV as a sports anchor, traffic anchor, and for five months, an early morning news anchor. Since leaving WMAQ-TV as a full-time employee in 2008, Wolf had consistently been a freelance fill-in for the station, often working as a sports anchor on weekends and holidays.

Proft is not as well known as his on-air partner Wolf. Like other politicians with shaky pasts, Proft found his way into radio work. Before working at WLS-AM, Proft has worked with and in local and state government for many years. He may be most remembered for his failed run for Illinois Governor in 2009/2010. Before that time, he was a Republican consultant who worked on many political campaigns, including the failed campaigns of Jack Ryan and Alan Keyes. Proft became a highly controversial figure in 2008, when it was publicly revealed that the consulting firm he owned, Urquhart Media (named for Francis Urquhart, a fictional character in the Michael Dobbs novel "House of Cards," who was an exceptionally evil law-breaker), received no-bid contracts from the town of Cicero totaling $578,000, while serving as Cicero's spokesperson and after helping the campaigns of Larry Dominick to get elected as Town President. He has since closed down his Urquhart Media company and started up a new consulting firm called Starfish. He also serves Chapter President for Operation Homefront-Illinois, a non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance to the families of wounded Illinois military service men & women. His connection to WLS-AM began a few years back as Proft was used as a political commentator on WLS-AM's morning show with Don Wade & Roma, the very same show he now takes over as co-host.

Like Don & Roma Wade, Bruce Wolf & Dan Proft's contracts with WLS-AM expire at the end of this month. With today's announcement that the morning show job is going to Wolf & Proft, it is an easy guess that their contract will not be allowed to expire in just over two weeks. New contracts for both men are currently being worked out.

Since Wolf & Proft have been filling in each weekday morning from 5:00am-9:00am, WLS-AM weekend host Jake Hartford and Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass have been filling in for the late morning/early midday shift of 9:00am-11:00am. While it may not be permanent, for the foreseeable future, Hartford & Kass will now take over that two-hour time slot officially.

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