By Jack E. Anderson Herald Radio and TV Editor
THE DEATH of Jack Sandler, the diminutive and bustling general manager of WQAM, Thursday night was one of those strokes of ill fortune that has left all of us who knew him dazed and hurt. It will be some time before we can reconcile ourselves to the tragedy.
He was only 50. His health had not been top rate since last December when he was hospitalized for three weeks, presumably for a rest but actually for treatment of an ailing heart, but there was no reason to believe he hadn't made an excellent recovery.
When I had lunch with him just two weeks ago and toured the station's new quarters on Arthur Godfrey Rd., he seemed as dynamic as ever. He was being cautious about his diet and activity, but there was no hint that he wouldn't be right there out in front, scrapping for his station almost indefinitely.
The station was his life and he fought for its success like a bantam rooster. It had been entrusted to him in 1956 when the late Todd Storz, whose protégé he had been, bought it from this newspaper. Within a year, with a format of rock 'n' roll that hit this area like a thunderbolt, he had the station on its way to a long preeminence in listenership.
Jack was no devotee of the raucous fare his station dispensed. He was in fact a classical music buff. He and his wife, Gail, had an impressive library of classical recordings. But if the Top 40 was what attracted listeners to his station, then Top 40 was what he gave them - in spades.
"Todd used to say, 'if the listeners want Chinese music, then we'll give them Chinese music,' and that's my theory exactly," was always Jack's answer to musically offended critics.
His business enthusiasm was infectious and it communicated itself to all who worked for him at WQAM, from the receptionist at the front desk to the ad salesmen and his hip team of disc jockeys. There was a gung-ho and esprit de corps about the place that was the envy of other stations.
There was never a letdown in the Sandler pride in his station. Several years ago, by coincidence, he and I got on the same airliner on a trip from New York to Miami
In addition to the inevitable movie camera he carried everywhere like a pre-war Japanese spy, he had a portab1e transistor radio fitted with a suction cup. This he proceeded to fasten to the window right next to my ear so that I, to say nothing of him, would be able to catch the first stirring strains of WQAM as the plane neared home territory.
Then he was off down the aisle, alternately taking movies and promoting WQAM listenership among the startled passengers. He was the despair of some of his competitors who attempted to fight back with less enthralldom and dedication.
Our friendship had been a long and enduring one. While I was no more addicted to rock 'n roll than he was, I admired and respected the ingenuity and vigor with which he provided it to listeners who are.
His premature leave-taking has created a void in local broadcasting that it will almost be impossible to fill