What can I say about Lan Roberts? Even though it sounds trite and very inadequate . . . but it’s true: Lan was definitely one of a kind. I remember Pat O’Day saying that it was impossible for Lan to sound silly, corny or dumb on the radio. But most of his “material” in other hands would probably make that person sound silly, corny and/or dumb. Lan was totally unique and no one else sounded like him before or since his 7 year reign as the KJR’s morning man (1962-1969). And, since I saw all sides, I can say without hesitation he was just as entertaining off the air as he was on the air.
There are two KJR Lan Roberts air checks below. The 1965 audio has been around for a while. I think I have posted it at a couple places. But the 1968 track is a rare gem I found in my private collection.
NOTE: I edited out the Charles C. Bolland news cast and “The Story Lady” from Lan’s 1968 morning program to make them stand alone segments. I encourage you to listen to the Bolland air check to get some context on the fall of 1968 and to hear another legendary voice of KJR.
KJR, Lan Roberts, September 1968
KJR, Charles C. Bolland, with the news, September 1968
KJR, The Story Lady, September 1968
KJR, Lan Roberts, 1965
Some ten years ago I asked Lan to write a short bio. Maybe include some of his favorite bits / events he created doing the KJR morning show. Here is Lan, unedited, in his own words.
Wednesday, September 19, 2001 3:23 PM
Hi Norm . . . Here’s some of what I remember. Not sure if this is what you want or not..If not let me know.
Lan Roberts was on the air in Seattle from early 1962 through 1974 with two brief stops at radio KOL across town.
Lan started out in radio at a small market in North Texas and during college worked as the youngest jock ever at radio station KLIF in Dallas, one of the nation’s first top 40 personality stations. He later moved to New Orleans where he was morning show host at WTIX owned by Todd Storz who is credited with inventing Top 40 radio.
Some of the characters on Lan’s show included: The Hollywood Reporter, Phil Dirt, Clyde Clyde-The Cow’s Outside, W.A.L. Street Senior, Manuel Dexterity (a decorative soap salesman), Mr. Science of Mr. Science and Jimmy fame, and others.
A few of the radio promotions that Lan developed and executed were:
1. 1969 – The World’s First Slug Race Festival staged on the then giant parking lot of a WhiteFront store. Reigning over the festivities was the Lan Roberts Slug Queen, a U of H costume designer that won the contest when her room mate poured a box of salt on her during the Slug Queen auditions. Over 5000 people showed up for the racing event in Burien.
2. 1969 – The Slug Queen Cannon Shot staged a year later at KOL where the Slug Queen was shot from a homemade cannon at Pacific Iron and Metal Company. The event was a disaster. It was raining heavy but the event went on with a local all tuba band playing Nearer My God to Thee as the Slug Queen was fired from the cannon. The home made cannon looked like a giant black penis on the back of the flat bed truck so attempts were made to hide the symbolism by painting the word “cannon” on the side of the home made cannon. It didn’t help much.
3. 1970 – The Lan Robert Sky Circus was an all day Saturday event that took place at Seattle Sky Sports near Issaquah where Lan had been an avid sky diver for the previous year and a half. The event was totally staged, unlike your average air show. Stunt planes, World War Two aircraft making low level runs with powder charges buried and detonating as if the planes were strafing the audience. The pyrotechnics were excellent. Hot Air Balloon rides, sky diving demos, a dog fight between Snoopy and the Red Baron with 3/4 scale replicas of the Fokker Tri Wing airplane and a Sopwith Camel aircraft were all part of the 4 hour show.
4. 1971 – World’s First Buffalo Chip Throwing Contest took place at the football stadium at Issaquah High School. Lan and four friends parachuted in with the chips to start the festivities after a big Buffalo Chip parade complete with a Buffalo Chip Queen. The Queen was an 80 year old local Issaquah resident with an incredible sense of humor. Ammunition for the event was picked up at a buffalo/llama ranch Southeast of Tacoma. The pick up committee included Lan, his current girlfriend at the time, and the buffalo ranch owner’s daughter. It seemed that the ranch owner knew nothing about the pickup committee coming. His daughter invited the committee to the ranch without his approval. It turned outto be almost deadly. While picking up the poop and putting it in plastic bags, buffalo bull number one started slowly coming over to check it out. The pick up committee later found out that the bull had almost killed several people. At the same time the pick up committee was attacked by a raging llama. Films such as “When LLamas Attack” had never even been thought about at that time. The committee ran to safety with their prized buffalo chip throwing ammo. 5 members of Hell’s Angels led the Buffalo Chip Throw Sunday in Issaquah. Political activist Tiny Freeman and the Issaquah Mayor were the Buffalo Chip targets during the contest. During the contest the mayor’s wife was hit in the head with a large ripe chip. When told about the incident, the mayor just smiled and continued to be one of the targets. It was amazing what Lan could talk politicians into doing back in those days.
One event that wasn’t really a promotion but caused a lot of talk happened in 1965. With the help of UFO investigator Major Wayne Aho Lan asked on the air for any UFOs in the vicinity to answer their plea to communicate via KJR’s frequency. After asking for them to answer Lan turned the transmitter signal off to see if contact could be made. Nothing happened for five days. On the 5th day Lan and Major Aho asked any UFOs in the area to land at a designated landing site which was Seattle Sky Sports grass runway.
At 8:00pm that evening about twenty people were gathered at the skyport looking up. At approximately 8:15pm there was a glow from the east over the Cascade mountains that moved slowly toward where they were. When it got directly over the area it began to zig zag back and forth. All of this was caught on film. After descending what looked like a couple of thousand feet it shot off to the north at an incredible speed. It was amazing that with all the observers watching this to verify what had just happened, not many people believed Lan when he reported it the next day. In order to get into the act Pat O’Day started the story that he had hired a sky diver to perform and that was what Lan and his followers had seen. Pat was even quoted that he had hired a sky diver from Issaquah. “That’s funny” Lan said, “The owner of the Sky Port was there with us and was also astounded by what had happened.”…..None of the skydiving planes were in the air at the time and hadn’t been since the previous weekend. Other sky diving drop zones in the area were shut down that day.
Lan’s final disappearing act came in 1974. At the peak of his career he decided to do what a lot of guys wanted to do but never had the guts to do it. Take off and sail to Tahiti. He finally settled in Honolulu about a year after his journey and worked on the radio for over ten years. He was offered a job he couldn’t refuse in Taiwan in 1985 at radio ICRT, the only English language radio station on Taiwan. He eventually became general manager and left to return to the states after a seven year sojourn.While in Taiwan he flew to South Africa on numerous occasions, as an official ambassador of goodwill for Taiwan, to do the morning show at Radio 5 in Johannesburg.
Lan Roberts is now retired in North Texas where he is raising his youngest children age 10 and 13. He writes a daily editorial on his website and answers all email from former listeners.