Monday, July 30, 2018

Thanks Dad, For Everything

Hello friends, family, acquaintances.   If you are reading this my father, Dave Zorn, has passed away at the age of 73 from a short, but tough battle with liver cancer.  He is having a reunion with my Uncle Pete and my grandfather, along with many of his friends and family.  I wish I could hear the stories.  Many of you knew my dad, whether you worked with him, grew up with him or were family.  If you didn't know him, now you will.  This is my dad from my eyes.

It started in 1972 when I came into this world.  My first memory, go figure, is sports related.  The only thing that is clear as day, is sitting on our sofa watching Game Five of the 1976 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns.  The Suns wouldn't die and it took a shot "heard around the world" from Gar Heard to send it to triple overtime.  I watched that game with my mom and dad and it freaked me out when Heard hit the shot and my dad yelled in excitement.  The Suns lost the game, but my love for sports had begun.  As I got older, my love for sports grew.  See, my dad had the hook-up.  He was the news director at KTAR Newsradio 620 a.m. in Phoenix.  Which to me at the time was kinda meaningless, until I found out we got free tickets to games.  We went to many Suns games in the 80s, not the best of decades for the Suns, but it was fun nonetheless.  We went to Phoenix Inferno games.   They were the Indoor Soccer League team in town at the time.  Those games were a blast.  Going to ASU football games as a kid with him was the best.  To this day I remember sitting in Sun Devil Stadium and watching the Sun Devils and finding out what hate was when they played the Arizona Wildcats.  It was a healthy hate.  Still is.  While at KTAR I met legends like Al McCoy, Preston Westmoreland, Roger Downey, Dave Tunell and more.  It was also during that time I started listening to the radio more and....doing my own sports reports.  Yep, as a kid I would get the sports page, a tape recorder and read scores into the machine.  I'm sure a tape exists somewhere in a box.  Little did I know that would lead to something later on in life.  Life was pretty good in west Phoenix.  I had so much fun with mom and dad, had great friends in the neighborhood and was making a ton of memories.  Then at age eleven it all changed.  My parents got divorced and dad moved to Los Angeles.  Soon after, we moved from Phoenix to this small town far away from Phoenix.  St. Johns, Arizona was now my new home and I knew no one.  That's where I lived from seventh grade through high school.  The town had 5,000 people and everyone knew each other, including teachers and police.  Couldn't get away with anything, not that I tried.  To this day I consider that small town my hometown and cherish the people and memories I made there.  I'll be honest, it was tough at the beginning, but the town shaped me and gave me great values and friends who I cherish today.

Dad started working at KNX 1070 Newsradio in Los Angeles, the best news radio station in the west in my opinion.  He worked afternoon drive at first, which was kinda cool because when the sun went down, I could actually hear him in Eastern Arizona.  Even though he wasn't there physically anymore, he still could talk to me, sort of.  That made me happy.  Summers and sometimes on Christmas I would go over and stay with him for a while.  It was pretty cool honestly.  I got to take a flight, and once a train, over to see him.  The sports never ended.  We went to Dodger games at Dodger Stadium, went to Laker and Clipper games, and cheered for the other team because c'mon, i'm not rooting for the Lakers.  The best is we went to both Rose Bowls ASU played in.  I was there, behind the Michigan Marching Band in 1986 when ASU beat Michigan 22-15.  I was also there in 1996 watching ASU battle Ohio State.  Even though it was a heartbreaking defeat for ASU, it was great being there with him and going through that experience.  Both amazing games, both with my dad.  We even went and saw arena football at Staples Center.  Arizona Rattlers and the LA Avengers.  Rattlers won of course, but it was a lot of fun.  We hit Disneyland, Magic Mountain, the beaches and a lot more. I remember a couple of times getting to walk through KNX when he was working.  Meeting many of his co-workers and seeing the history that was that building just off Sunset Boulevard.  It was the place where they recorded a ton of old radio dramas and comedies. Pictures on the wall told a story of some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood coming into that building.  It was quite the working museum.  He even got to deliver the final newscasts from the famed building before the station moved to downtown LA.  Here's a sample of that night, with the "pipes on loan from God." 


The trips to LA continued when I was high school.  I played football my senior year, wait...check that, I was on the team and wore the uniform.  I stunk.  No way around it.  He never saw me play, but that's okay, but he did come to graduation and brought my grandparents with him.  Seeing them in St. Johns and taking that town in was pretty funny.  They had looks like: "this is it?"  Yep...sure was.  It was that time that I had BY FAR my biggest, stupidest thing happen to me.  After I graduated that night, I decided to take a trip out east of town with my best friend Brandon and my friend Anna with me and thought: "Sure, I can drive down these set of railroad tracks!!"  After Brandon trying to talk me out of it, I did it anyway and yep, got stuck.  I stayed with my truck all night while Brandon and Anna walked back to town to get help.  It was about 15 miles.  After getting the truck off the tracks and getting back to town, I had about an hour before meeting my Dad and grandparents for breakfast.  I didn't want to go, but my Mom made me to punish me I think.  After all is said and done, it's a memory I'll never forget that's for sure.

At this point I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  Not a clue.  Soon after graduation we moved again. This time to Holbrook, Arizona, the city the time forgot 20 years prior.  Little did I know that it was there the career light bulb would go off.  I immediately started to work at McDonalds and started college at Northland Pioneer College.  I upped my work game and took my talents to Burger King.  It was there I met my buddy Darrin, who also worked at the local radio station.  One day he asked me to go with him to Springerville to broadcast a basketball game with him.  I thought about it.  My first thought was it was our high school rival Round Valley and that could be fun.  So I went, with St. Johns letterman jacket on.  Yeah I probably went there initially to talk trash to the fans during breaks.  But, I knew players on both teams so I thought it could be fun.  After the game was over I was offered a job a day or so later with 1270 KDJI in Holbrook.  They were going to pay to not smell like grease every day, which pleased my Mom, so I took it.  When I told my dad about my sudden career change, I could tell by the sound of his voice he was surprised.  It was later in life my mom told me they had a conversation once and my dad told her "whatever you do, don't let him get into radio."  Too late.  I was hooked.  I did newscasts, ran programs, cut commercials, did more sports radio.  It was a blast and I knew that's what I wanted to do.  I think when Dad came to grips that radio was I wanted to do, he was all in with me.  After about a year, I was ready to start my adventure.  After waiting for Brandon to graduate so we could go to college together, I transferred to Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona and worked at 1230 a.m. KATO.  That only lasted a few months, but I learned a lot there and appreciated the time spent at that station.  Brandon also lasted a few months and went back home.  I stayed and met great people along the way.  My next stop, Flagstaff for the first tour of the city and enrolled at NAU.  I did a lot of radio there.  Never came off the air at KRCK, our campus radio station at the time and worked overnight weekends at KVNA.  Oof, that was rough, but it's what you did back in the day to get experience.  It was also there I met my wife Nicole, who has been a rock for me since day one.  Dad liked her right away too and they got along great.  I think even Nicole and my stepmom Carolyn bonded, which is great as well.

After graduation, this time with no train tracks involved, I moved to Phoenix to start my radio journey in earnest.  After a brief stop using my newly-acquired Bachelor's Degree in Science-Broadcast Journalism to get a job at Baskin Robbins, I was hired by Metro Networks to be a part of a start-up division called Metro Source.  It was a product billed "broadcast copy, written by broadcasters, for broadcasters."  Catchy right?  I was the third-ever employee and I was pumped.  I stayed with it for 18 years with three different owners: Metro Networks, Westwood One and finally Clear Channel/iHeart Media.  Through those 18 years, I came across many that worked with Dad over the years.  From guys like Frank Asbury, God rest his soul, to Bart Graves and countless others, I got a wealth of advice and warm wishes from many of his former co-workers and friends.  The best time during this stretch was when I got to cover the 2001 and 2002 World Series.  After the 2001 series, the first person I called after the Diamondbacks won was Dad.  I don't know what I said or how, but I remember I wanted to share all of my energy with him.  During my run at iHeart, I started to be involved with high school football broadcasts.  I went from being just a reporter at games to hosting a Friday night wrap-up show, where we went around the state to check in on how teams did.  It was a blast and I was able to formulate the show how I wanted it to be heard.  That will come in handy later.  We started doing the show on AM 1060 KDUS for a couple of years.  But then, it happened.  We moved to...KTAR.  Yep, for two hours on a Friday night another Dave Zorn was that station and it was me.  I'll be honest, the first night there got to me.  I realized what that meant.  I told Dad when the decision was made and he thought it was pretty cool too.  I think that first segment on the air I mentioned it.  I had to, it was a legacy thing.  At the end of my time at iHeart, my boss was Dad's former intern at KNX, Chris Berry.  I remember telling Dad he was going to be my boss.  He said "Great.  He's a really smart guy and you'll learn a lot from him."  He was right, I did.  Both good and bad, which I took on to my next and best job of them all.  Before we move on though, during my 18 years in Phoenix, my son Ethan was born.  Dad and Carolyn were there, well at least for the most part.  See Ethan was pretty stubborn and didn't mind waiting more than 30 hours to arrive.  They decided to go back home to Avondale at the time and come when he was here.  Ethan and Dad got along great.  We spent quite a bit of time with Dad and Carolyn when they were at their Arizona place in the winter and Ethan always had a blast with "Grandpa Dave."

In June of 2014 things were falling apart at iHeart for me and I decided enough was enough and I needed out.  I was spent.  Again, one of my rocks during this time was Dad.  I told him what was going on and that I was losing the love that I had for this business and he agreed that I needed out.  I started to look around with hopes I could land somewhere else in Phoenix.  However, one place popped up first and it was perfect.  KAFF Radio in Flagstaff.  KAFF had always been the powerhouse in Flagstaff, unbeatable.  So why not?  It was a possible chance to go back to where I went to college.  I asked Nicole about the idea and she was all for it.  It's where we met and have tremendous memories.  So I put in for it, figuring something probably wouldn't be right, but it never hurts to ask.  Within two days I got a call back, they wanted me to go up to talk.  I took a day off and headed north.  After two hours, spending most of it with the general manager who together we knew about ten people, I was giddy.  About two days later I got an offer and accepted.  Actually, I accepted and then was offered.  That's how excited I was.  So, about a day later I talked to Dad and told him the news that we were moving to Flagstaff to become news director/anchor/reporter/the sole news guy.  I felt I was ready for it, but still a little scared.  Dad reassured me that I was ready and it was the perfect spot for me.  Boy was he right.  I've been in that position for four years now and it was the best decision I've ever made professionally and my radio family has been incredible.  I've built the news department into something pretty special and I've added high school football and basketball play-by-play to my list and I'm also the halftime show host for Northern Arizona University football and basketball radio broadcasts.  I don't know how to say no, but enjoy it all.  A few years ago I gave him the station tour and went through what I do on a daily basis.  I remember him being confused a lot by all I do, which is okay because that was me the first few months there.  When we were in one of the studios, one of my newscasts came on, which made me a tad nervous.  I mean, not only was he my Dad by also an award winning radio news guy.  It was a little bit of pressure.  Ironically that was the first time he heard me do what he did for so long.  He took it all in and smiled and immediately told me good job and started to break down what he liked.  It was like the couch invite from Johnny Carson to a comedian on the Tonight Show, kids YouTube that.  It was validation and all I needed.  A couple of years ago, Dad and Carolyn decided to move to Michigan permanently as they got worn out driving across country every year to their place in the Midwest.  It was a sad time, but understandable.  We got one last stop in Flagstaff and waved them goodbye.

So we fast forward to now.  A couple of weeks ago he had a massive drop in blood sugar and a few days later he was gone.  Over the past few weeks I talked to him a lot.  As Zorns, we have the knack to try and find the best out of bad times and we did.  We joked a little about how he went to the hospital and what was going on.  The last time I saw him it was by phone.  My stepsister Christine hooked us up by Facebook video chat.  This first thing I told him was he needed a shave.  He grabbed his chin and agreed.  We then opened up.  I emptied my heart to him and he did to me I felt.  It was the single most difficult thing I ever had to do.  I told him I appreciated all that he's done for me, personally and professionally, because I'm not doing what I do without his constant advice and knowledge.  I had a radio beast as a Dad, "pipes on loan from God" and I tapped into that every chance I got and I'm so grateful for that.  Dad wasn't perfect.  He made mistakes and paid for them.  Our relationship wasn't your typical father-son relationship, but we made the best of it.  He made the best of it.  I have life-long memories that I've told many times and I'll take with me forever.  That's all a kid can ask for from his Dad.  We had a great time.  Thanks Dad.  I love you.