The Old Chuckaroo

St. Louis radio's provocateur was a mystery in life -- and in death

Nick Kasoff, the most recently ousted host, contends that Wright is tainting Norman's legacy.

"That somebody who is totally unqualified to run the station manipulated and maneuvered her way in to take over and proceeded to really piss on Chuck's grave is very distasteful to those of us who respected Chuck and his vision."

A cloud of uncertainty hovers over the station's future. Norman had said publicly for the last decade that he was bequeathing WGNU to his "employees," whom he fully expected to preserve the "Radio Free St. Louis" format.

Whooping it up: the 1998 Chuck Norman Christmas Party
Whooping it up: the 1998 Chuck Norman Christmas Party

Ford, WGNU's general manager from 1986 to 2000, says he helped Norman compose a will in the mid-'90s, which specified that current or retired employees who'd been with the station at least five years when Norman died would receive ownership shares. The will also forbade management from selling the station.

Four months after Ford retired, Norman set up the Charles Norman Trust. He left all his assets to the trust and named himself sole trustee; Lisa Krempasky, a St. Louis County attorney, was named his successor. One of the more intriguing aspects of the trust was that it guaranteed payments of $10,000 to each talk-show host and engineer who'd been with the station at least three years at the time of Norman's death.

A redacted copy of the document filed with the Federal Communications Commission shows that the Norman Trust owns the station until 2007. Esther Wright and Charles Geer, WGNU's program director, are the station's chief officers but hold no shares or voting power. Krempasky and Wright, states the trust, will be company directors "as long as they shall live."

Ford now wonders whether the station can be sold. And will certain employees acquire ownership of WGNU two years from now?

Krempasky says she's not sure if the trust prohibits the sale of the station. Most current staffers won't divulge if they know who stands to inherit company shares. Some say they're still waiting to learn if they made the short list of owners. Others, including some talk-show hosts, feel misled and argue that Norman promised ownership to his employees. Hadn't Norman considered hosts employees?

"I kick myself for not asking Norman what he meant by 'employee,'" notes exiled host Gordon Lee Baum.

"I figure with ten years that I have a percentage of the station coming," says Frank Weltner. "I felt it was a condition of salary of me working there. If your boss says on the radio that he's leaving the station to his employees, wouldn't you think that you're going to get something?"

The whole thing has left a bad taste in the mouth of Ford, who claims Norman "wasn't thinking right" in the last year or two of his life. "Somebody snookered [Norman] into something, I'll tell you," he grumbles.

Penis Pride

Chuck Norman was known to flaunt young, attractive female company like diamond-studded accessories.

"The thinner the better," Art Ford laughs.

"Eighteen to thirty-five is what he liked," remembers pal Arnold Gilden.

Rare was the evening when Norman's Rolls-Royce would pull up to a valet stand without a babe in the driver's seat.

Norman found his women at assorted functions and through his eclectic circle of friends. Recalls old chum and former parapsychologist Gordon Hoener: "Chuck used to go see the psychic Mama Lil, not for her psychic abilities, but because she always had a lot of young lady clients around. She'd say to the ladies, 'A rich man is going to come into your life,' and there he was!"

Friends seemed to get a kick out of Norman's playboy persona. "I don't think Chuck was promiscuous," says Hoener. "He just liked to have women in his company."

One buddy, who asked not to be named in this story, says Norman was a sucker for "a feminine, sexy ass" and "big boobs."

"He was a horny bastard," the friend adds with a grin. Norman, he continues, was quite impressed with the size of his genitalia and wanted to share his prized possession with his female acquaintances. Of course, he sometimes had a waggish way of doing it.

"Chuck would say, 'I'm going to take a pee, I'll be right back,' then say, 'Oh my God! My zipper's stuck!' But it wasn't."

The friend goes on to describe an evening when Norman spotted a young, busty blonde while leaving a deli. He says Norman issued him a rather kinky order: "You tell her there's a guy outside that wants to give her $500 if she'll go to bed with him. Not screw him -- but under the sheets just hug him and kiss him for an hour, and say, 'I love you, Daddy.'"

"I think even though Chuck had a lot of friends, he was a lonely man," says old friend Earl Golliber, a former shoe salesman.

In Chuck Norman's world, money was best invested in entertaining fans and friends, and the station sometimes came second. He let work quarters run down and doled out meager wages. When Ford at last convinced Norman to institute annual cost-of-living raises, Norman griped, "When does it end, Art?"

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