Suburban duo's positive WTTW kids show inspired by eating disorder tragedy
"How do you feel?" Dr. Cool says into the microphone to a gym full of dancing students at Rupley Elementary School in Elk Grove Village.
In unison, they yell back the response he taught them: "I feel good! Ooooo, I feel so good, HUH!"
Firing up kids with music and positive messages is what Dr. Cool, aka Deerfield resident Jeff Bizar, has done for more than two decades in his suburban school shows. Now his act has been transformed into a new Sunday morning TV show on WTTW, "Dr. Cool and Pride: The Big Show." It premieres at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.
The half-hour, hip-hop music show -- described by Bizar as "a movement and an attitude revolution" -- aims to build self-esteem and resiliency in kids ages 5 to 9.
It co-stars Barrington native Brandon Watts as "Pride," and a multiethnic party crew: "Hip" (dancer and New Trier High School alumna Danielle Gerbie), "Hop" (Arlington Heights native, dance/ice skating teacher and Chicago Blackhawks Ice Girl Cindy Godziszewski) and "DJ Sunshine" (club DJ Nikki Shallwani of Chicago).
Together, they sing, rap, dance and impart messages about things, such as good decision-making, healthy eating and dreaming big. They also have special guests, challenges and even lessons in foreign languages.
"Our show is a little different and a little more hip-hop and dance than other shows. I'm hoping that kind of urban style will appeal to the new-age parent and new-age child," said Watts, a former Chicago Slaughter arena football player who now runs Chicago's Hi-Five sports camps.
Although it's a positive show, "Dr. Cool and Pride" was actually born out of a tragedy. In 1992, Bizar's 22-year-old girlfriend, Amy Grimwood, died from an eating disorder. Knowing that a lack of self worth can contribute to that illness, Bizar set out to do something positive in her memory.
He decided to expand his DJ business, Bizar Entertainment, to include shows at suburban schools that taught self empowerment. He combined what he knew from his business -- how to throw a fun dance party for kids -- with self-esteem pep rallies that contained messages such as "I'm one of a kind," and "Do you think you're cool? Then you are! No one gets to decide but you."
"I don't know if I would have done this if it wasn't for Amy," said Bizar, now married with three children. "It really does have an impact and make a difference. I've received tons of thank-you notes from parents."
At the Rupley show, held on the first day of school, the sunglasses- and headphone-wearing Bizar played songs such as Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" and the popular line dance song "Cupid Shuffle" while interacting with the audience between songs.
"Dr. Cool and Pride" got on WTTW's radar after a friend of a friend passed their "The Feeling Good Concert" DVD to a network executive who was on the lookout for a new kids show.
The network loved the idea, and the first season of "Dr. Cool and Pride: The Big Show" was filmed this summer in Chicago. Since they can't use licensed music for the show, Bizar wrote 30 original songs.
The show will start by airing only in Chicago and a few other public television markets, but it has potential to spread nationally if more stations pick it up.
"The one thing that's super cool about this is that we're on a platform to reach potentially 90 million people," Watts said. "It's not necessarily that we're changing lives, but we're delivering these messages to potentially help them."
Bizar struggled to summarize what an incredible experience it has been to create the TV show. He compared it to someone who loves baseball getting an opportunity to play for the Chicago Cubs.
"It's been so great," he said. "I would love it if the concept became an international success."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Airs at 11 a.m. Sundays starting Sept. 13 on WTTW-TV, Channel 11