Documentary spotlights DJ Dick Biondi, growing up in Chicago in the '60s
"The Wild I-tralian" is about to hit the big screen.
The finishing touches are being put on "The Dick Biondi Film," a documentary about the legendary WLS radio disc jockey and the experience of listening to him while growing up in Chicago in the 1960s.
The film, expected to debut sometime next year, is the passion project of lifelong Biondi fan and Villa Park native Pamela Pulice.
This is the first documentary by Pulice, 69, who spent her professional career making video memoirs.
Since 2014, she's been slowly compiling interviews about Biondi with dozens of celebrities, including Bobby Rydell, Brian Wilson, Frankie Valli, broadcasters Bob Sirott and John Landecker, Chicago saxophonist Walter Parazaider, and former New Colony Six member Ronnie Rice.
In these interviews, the stars talk about Biondi's profound impact on rock 'n' roll as one of the nation's most powerful and popular DJs in the 1960s. They also share stories about what it was like to listen to him on WLS or WJMK 104.3 FM, or be the recipient of his kindness back when they were unknown musicians.
A few fondly recall Biondi's high energy and on-air antics, including his "On Top of a Pizza" song.
"It's a nostalgic piece on what it was like to grow up with Dick Biondi. It's from the standpoint of the fan," said Pulice, who now lives in LaPorte, Indiana. "It's how that voice on the radio touched us and affected us."
Biondi, who turned 85 on Sept. 13, still lives in Chicago and deejays on weekends at WLS 94.7-FM. He's been off the air since April while recovering from a leg ailment.
While he declined an interview request, his close friend and former producer Scott Miller, who saw him at his casino-themed birthday party last month, says he's doing well and "is still the same Dick Biondi." He's just waiting for his doctors to give him the OK to return to work, Miller said.
Biondi said in a statement: "I want nothing more than to get back to entertaining the greatest radio audience in the greatest city in the world!"
During Biondi's six-decade radio career -- which landed him in the National Radio Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, among other accolades -- he's been the subject of many TV segments and feature stories. "The Dick Biondi Film" is by far the biggest, Miller said.
"He has such a great story," he said.
"Who didn't grow up listening to Biondi? The reason he is who he is, and why he has such a storied career in this town, is that he cares about the listener."
While Biondi has a reputation for being difficult with radio station program directors, Miller said, he's also known for his extreme kindness to fans, charities and musicians. The band Three Dog Night, for example, became famous because Biondi used to bring band member Chuck Negron around with him, Miller said.
And Biondi held so much power that The Rolling Stones invited him to Chess Records studio in Chicago to hear them record the song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," hoping he'd play it on the radio one day. (He did.)
"(Biondi) was front and center for launching rock 'n' roll. He helped make rock 'n' roll happen," Miller said.
Pulice first met Biondi in 1961, when she was an enamored 13-year-old fan of the popular Chicago DJ. She'd take the train into the city to go to WLS studio, dance hops, music stores, or wherever Biondi was appearing. She was president of his fan club for a while.
"I couldn't believe what a nice guy he was," Pulice said. "People still love this man. It's just amazing. He's one of those rare people that you just don't want to forget. He's just a wonderful human."
Pulice is raising money to complete production of the film. Donations can be made at the Dick Biondi Film Go Fund Me page, at www.gofundme.com/xh9xgg.
"I'm really honored to be doing this film," Pulice said. "It's really been an adventure."