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WMVP-AM Releases Harry Teinowitz

WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 have made a major change to their line-up by releasing longtime employee and afternoon show co-host Harry Teinowitz. The move happened at the end of "Carmen, Jurko & Harry" show yesterday.

A memo was immediately sent out to the rest of the station's staff following the release of Teinowitz. As provided to CRM, that memo said:
"At 6pm this evening Harry Teinowitz signed off air for the last time at ESPN Chicago. Throughout the many years that Harry has been with us, he has served in many different roles and has helped to establish the ESPN brand in Chicago.

Harry’s contributions will be felt for years to come in every department at ESPN Chicago. We wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."

In confirming the news to CRM, ESPN 1000 Program Director Adam Delevitt echoed that sentiment, stating "We all wish him the best, and appreciate all his contributions to the station."

No specific reason was given for the dismissal of Teinowitz. However, for the last year, WMVP-AM's afternoon show ratings have been a big disappointment for the station, as ratings have crept downward rather consistently.

In the most recent Arbitron radio ratings for the January period, WMVP-AM's ratings were tied for 26th place with only a 1.5 share in the all ages numbers. In comparison, the station's competitor, WSCR-AM was #12 with a 3.1 share. In the demographic of Persons 25-54, WMVP-AM's afternoon ratings could only reach a tie at #21 and a 2.0 share. Once again, in comparison, WSCR-AM reached #7 with a 4.1 share. Most importantly, in the station's target demographic of Men 25-54, WMVP-AM was down to #17 with a 2.6 share, while WSCR-AM was #1 with a 6.5 share. A change to the afternoon line-up was inevitable.

For now, no other changes have been made to the afternoon show. Co-hosts Carmen DeFalco and John "Jurko" Jurkovic will continue going forward on the show, now-renamed as simply "Carmen & Jurko."

Harry Teinowitz has been on Chicago radio close to non-stop since 1994, when the stand-up comedian did a funny, sports-themed show with fellow comedian Spike Manton, called "The Harry & Spike Show" on AM 1000. He has worked at WLUP-AM, WLUP-FM, WCKG-FM, and been with WMVP-AM since October 1998, when ESPN bought the AM 1000 frequency. As a youth, he was also an actor, appearing in a handful of small cinematic comedies.

Teinowtz's role on ESPN 1000 was to bring a light-hearted, comedic touch to the sports conversations. Although quite knowledgeable about sports, it was his jokes and wise-cracks that set him apart from other hosts on the air. For more serious sports talk fans, the joking around didn't work well for their tastes. For less serious sports fans, the comedy helped break up the occasional monotony of the sports talk genre.

While no stranger to comedy, Harry Teinowitz was also no stranger to controversy and making headlines for off-the-air incidents, either.

He had been suspended from the station in the past for fighting on and off the air (both verbally and physically) with then-on-air partner Dan McNeil.

In 2009, Teinowitz made headlines after he had done a stunt at Hawthorn Race Track, where he was racing his on-air partner Jurko on horses. He had never raced a horse before that day. Although he won the race, he and his horse crashed into a fence, throwing Teinowitz hard to the ground. It was the second time that day he had fallen from the horse. He suffered a concussion and had bleeding on his brain.

In May 2010, Teinowitz was forcibly removed from the Chicago White Sox clubhouse for disturbing behavior, thought to be alcohol-related. He has had a reputation for drinking heavily at station remotes, especially ones located at taverns and bars, often staying afterward for a long time, drinking with fans & friends.

The biggest controversial incident came in spring 2011. On the evening of March 4, 2011, a motorist and a Skokie Police officer observed Teinowitz's vehicle making improper lane changes and driving erratically. The vehicle was pulled over on a residential street in north-suburban Skokie, where Harry Teinowitz failed a field sobriety test and was arrested. The Skokie Police also smelled the overwhelming stench of marijuana in the car and found marijuana residue on Teinowitz's shirt. He was charged with two counts of improper lane usage, one count of DUI and one count of DUI greater than .08%. He was not charged for marijuana usage, but details of what the officer observed was made public soon after the arrest happened.

After a seemingly heartfelt on-air apology on Tuesday March 8th, followed by a regular show, ESPN1000 suspended Teinowitz, first for three days, which then became extended to an indefinite suspension. Teinowitz voluntarily entered and completed a rehab program and pleaded guilty to his DUI charges. He was warmly welcomed back on the air on May 11, 2011. Perhaps due to sensitivity to Teinowitz's problems, WMVP-AM dropped "The Afternoon Saloon" as the name of the afternoon show, renaming it "Carmen, Jurko and Harry."

Last night's release of Teinowitz from WMVP-AM seems to be more connected to the afternoon show's poor ratings performance than any past controversy or incident.

Teinowitz has four weeks remaining on his contract with ESPN and will be paid through the remainder of it.

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