Monday, August 21, 2006

good bye

Robert Baron, 1944-2006: Listeners sought out Madman Moskowitz


Robert Baron, better known to radio listeners in the region as Madman Moskowitz, died Friday after a brief illness. He was 61.

For more than two decades the self-proclaimed "maniacal maestro of malodorous melodies" entertained audiences with a radio program on which he played comedy routines, musical satire, novelty tunes and songs that were intentionally or unintentionally funny, along with classic country tunes from what he called his "nostalgia bin."

Over the years his show aired on just about every country station in the market, many of them now gone. Most recently "Music With Moskowitz" aired at noon Saturdays on Everett community station KSER-FM (90.7).

In his day job Baron was a middle-school teacher in the Edmonds School District. He retired at the end of the most recent school term after 35 years teaching here and in Los Angeles.

"He was a tremendous asset to the station," said Ed Bremer, the former manager and now news and public affairs director at KSER. "His was one of our most popular shows. He just made Saturday afternoons fun. He enjoyed coming in and doing his show, and we enjoyed having him."

A native of Pasadena, Calif., Baron got an early start in entertainment as an extra in such films as "Rebel Without a Cause." His radio career started in earnest in this region in the mid-1970s at KRAB-FM, but he had stints at KMPS-FM, KRPM-FM, KKBY-FM and KYCW-AM. The Moskowitz name came from an artist's signature on a poster of a rabbit.

Continual shifts in station formats forced Baron repeatedly to seek new homes for his show. It was an effort his listeners appreciated. "People were always seeking out his show" and were constantly calling to find where they could hear it, said Becky Brenner, the program director at KMPS-FM, who worked with Baron.

In the mid-1990s "Music With Moskowitz" was the No. 1- rated program among listeners 25-to-54 in its Sunday evening slot on KRPM-FM, said Nathan Judson, who as "Nathan Detroit" served as Moskowitz's on-air sidekick and took listeners' calls.

The phone calls for song requests and votes for the show's top song mattered greatly to Baron, Judson said. "Their feedback was critical to Robert," he said. "He felt that to be disconnected from your audience is the worst thing you can do."

Baron's show was virtually the only on-air outlet for the works of legendary musical comedians such as Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Allan Sherman, Spike Jones and Weird Al Yankovic. But his show also featured many local comedy songs that would otherwise have had no airing, from Stan Boreson to "Godzilla Ate Tukwila" and "The Aroma of Tacoma." All were drawn from a huge personal library of 50,000 records, 2,000 reels of tape and 2,000 CDs, all of which he referred to as his "little flat friends."

"He was just so dedicated to making sure there was an outlet for that music," Brenner said, adding that Baron did extensive research on the material "to have great stories to tell" about what he was playing.

"I just loved his passion for everything that was wacky and crazy" in music, she said.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 26 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle. Judson and Catherine Sinclair, Baron's longtime close friend, plan a tribute on today's show at noon at KSER.

KSER's Moskowitz dies at 61

DJ Robert Baron gave offbeat music a home on the dial

By Scott Pesznecker Herald Writer

EVERETT - Robert Baron, known by many in the region as radio host Madman Moskowitz, died Friday after a sudden illness. He was 61.

Baron, who lived in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, entertained listeners with his shows for more than two decades. His most recent show, "Music with Moskowitz," aired from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on Everett public radio station KSER (90.7 FM).

His show featured a mix of comedy routines, musical parodies and songs that were "unintentionally funny," said Nathan Judson, who produced Baron's radio shows and assisted him on the air as "Nathan Detroit."

On Wednesday, Baron met with Judson at the radio station in Everett and asked him to handle Saturday's show. He was admitted into the hospital later that day.

Judson made good on his promise. Saturday's show became a tribute to Madman Moskowitz, he said.

"He will be sorely missed," Judson said. "His greatest strength was his commitment to his listeners. His show was all about them; it wasn't just something he wanted to do. It was really connected."

When Baron wasn't in the radio booth, he was often in the classroom. Baron recently retired after teaching math, journalism and English for more than 25 years at Alderwood Middle School.

"He was such a giving person," Judson said. "It was his way of trying to give the world more than he took."

Baron, who was from Pasadena, Calif., got his start in show business at a young age.

He was 10 years old when he appeared in the classic 1954 Christmas movie "White Christmas," the last child on the right listening to Bing Crosby sing near the end of the film.

His mother was a Ziegfeld Follies dancer, and he loved show tunes.

Baron carried his eclectic taste for entertainment with him to the radio booth, coworkers said.

"He was a nice guy," said Van Ramsey, who is the host of "Pull the String" on KSER. "He had a great sense of humor, and he was a fun guy to work with."

The station will air "best-of" moments of Moskowitz's shows during its next two Saturday slots, station manager Bruce Wirth said.

"He's pretty irreplaceable," he said. "It's kind of hard to imagine continuing on. He was a great asset to the station."

No comments: