Someone You Should Know: Tom Danheiser
Tom Danheiser is the Senior Producer of Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, a late night radio show with three million listeners at any given time. It can be heard in the U.S, Canada, Mexico and Guam.
Ok, let’s get started, here’s our first question. Obviously you’ve been in radio for a long time, producing several Los Angeles radio shows on your way to Coast To Coast AM. Did you always want to be a radio person?
Tom: No, I worked at a linen company until I was about 19 and my job was paying the bills but I wasn’t really happy, so I decided I wanted to pursue radio. It’s something I wanted to do. There were these two new jocks on the radio, it was their first day. They were asking for jokes, so I called with a joke, they didn’t use it on the air, but they told me how to volunteer down there, so I immediately got a volunteer position at KLOS radio in Los Angeles and that is the first job I got in radio.
Rick: It seems like you’ve come quite a way from being a volunteer to being the Senior Producer at a radio network.
Tom: I’m lucky.
Rick: Well there must have been a lot of steps in between.
Tom: I volunteered for a while at KLOS; I then got a job in the Community Affairs Department where we put on station events that would make money for charities. I did this for KABC and KLOS which are sister stations. Along the way, we added ESPN radio and a station called the Zone, so I actually worked for 4 radio stations in one job, and I did that for many years, and then a longtime friend and great guy named John Ramos told me that Premiere Radio Networks (later named Premiere Networks) wanted somebody to help produce a radio show called the Motorized World of Leon Kaplan. I came over to the network to do that while still working at ABC radio. Disney eventually bought ABC which put a bunch of people out of a job, including me, and that is when I came over full time to Premiere.
Rick: How did you get hooked up with Coast to Coast AM?
Tom: It’s funny. The first year I was at Premiere they were looking at cancelling all 3 shows I was working on, so I and a group of other guys were faced with no employment at the end of the year. Then I was told “ hang on, we’re working on something”, and they called me in one day and said at the first of the year we are bringing this show called Coast to Coast AM down to L.A., would you like a spot on the show. It took me all of a second to say yes.
Rick: So you’ve been working on Coast To Coast AM now for how long?
Tom: For about fourteen plus years.
Rick: I’ve been an avid listener for a very long time and have heard your name for, well, forever; it’s why I call you the Gateway to Late Night Paranormal, because anybody who wants to be on the George Noory show has to go through you.
Tom: It’s a phenomenal show, the people are great to work with and the listeners are great. I originally wanted to get into radio because I felt that it touched people and I wanted to help people. I was a big band disc jockey at my college and it was a pretty big signal so I was heard from San Diego to Santa Barbara and all in between. People would call me and they would comment on the music I played, and I realized that people really listened to their shows and really bond with them; and the people they listen to on the radio and behind the scenes become their friends. Everybody that calls in are like family. It’s kind of crazy.
Rick: I always like when the guy calls in, and it’s almost inevitable, “long time listener, first time caller”
Tom: There have been people that have actually told me they have waited five years to get on the show.
Rick: I’ll bet! I‘ve listened for quite a while, and I’ve actually picked up a lot of knowledge from listening to the show. Now that you are the Senior Producer of Coast to Coast AM, did you have an interest in the paranormal before you got on the show?
Tom: Probably the short answer would be no, but it’s pretty interesting how I got intrigued. I remember that it was maybe the first month that I worked on the show and somebody had called in and they said “I got to tell you this; I got to talk on the radio. I woke up in the middle of the night, and I had an old lady sitting on my chest”. Now for people who know this story, that’s called the old hag syndrome, it’s kind of interesting. I didn’t really believe it at the time but it was kind of interesting. They told their story on the air, and then about a week later somebody called with the exact same story, states away across the United States. In the course of two or three months there were several calls from other people totally in different areas of the United States who had the same story. I remember that was the story that really got me going “wow, this is kind of cool”, and then I just became Mr. Curious.
Rick: That’s why I like the paranormal, I’m curious about everything, UFOs, Bigfoot.. Actually I want to ride around in a UFO looking for Bigfoot. Let me ask you this, has there ever been a story you’ve heard on the show that changed your mind about anything?
Tom: This guy called in who was incarcerated, broke the law in some way, and one day they brought in some new prisoners and they brought in a child molester. Now picture a wall that is chipped away and has pipes exposed and sticking out. The caller said he was sitting in his cell when the new prisoner was put in a cell. Suddenly the new prisoner’s head started jerking back and forth, almost as if he was having spasms, and his head went straight through that pipe. So the guy that called in and told us the story said that he really believed that was pure evil, the guy was pure evil. Boy, what a story!
Rick: There is no doubt there is pure evil in the world, all you have to do is watch the news.
Tom: I have another one, there was gentleman who had twin daughters, and one Sunday they were looking for grandma and they couldn’t find her. Now Grandma had a routine, she would go to church, then go get something to eat with her friends. Well, nobody had seen her, so they knew they better keep looking and looking, and they finally went to her house. No one was home. They decided to check the attic. The way they told it, they found her lying on her back unconscious with a burlap sack on her chest, and in that sack was a Ouija board. That’s another story that sticks in my mind.
Rick: Every once in a while I hear on your show about people using Ouija boards, I just want to drive over to their house, knock on the door and then smack them on top of the head.
Rick: Let me ask you this, have you ever been on a ghost hunt?
Tom: I have, the one that comes to mind is Penn State Penitentiary, and that was really a good experience, very creepy, really fun, there were a lot of people there so you had a comfort to it. The other one wasn’t a ghost hunting, but they took me and two other guys on a tour of the Mansfield Reformatory, where they shot the Shawshank Redemption movie and that was creepy, it had a vibe that was very creepy. I asked them to put me in “the hole”, and they shut the door, and thirty seconds later I asked them to please get me out.
Rick: We were doing a movie there and that’s when we started the Hollywood Ghost Hunters. Tell me about this new about this new business venture you have going?
Tom: About four years ago I thought to myself it would be really neat to bring radio to stage, so I formed an entertainment company with a great partner I have, her name is Lori Wagner. What we do is we literally bring radio to stage; we go to different cities and put on a three hour live stage show. We bring in guests, add a little bells and whistles, and create “Radio to Stage”. It’s a really fun evening for people. We’ve done Toronto, Vancouver, Boise Idaho, St. Louis, Mo, Asheville, NC, and Everett, Washington to name a few. We have a show coming up in June in Las Vegas, NV.
Rick: That reminds me of when we did the Queen Mary with you guys.
Tom: I can’t forget that, I loved that night! Was that the first time I met you?
Tom: You and Ra Mihailoff, that was a great night and a lot of fun for me.
Rick: Being on the Queen Mary, you had the audience sitting there, and just the feedback we were getting from the people sitting there, I can see how good the live stage show would be.
Rick: I know you do a lot of charity work, could you talk about that?
Tom: In 2014 I was driving around; I do a lot of thinking when I’m driving. Christmas time is my favorite time of year and I was trying to think of something to do to give back a little because I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I thought you know what; I’ll do a Christmas charity CD. It was February, so I had time to put this together correctly. I started another company with a longtime friend of mine, Carrie Clarke. We started to look for guests who had been on the show and can sing or play an instrument. I wanted the CD to have a traditional feel with traditional holiday songs. It was quite an adventure, and it took a lot of work, but we found some guests who were phenomenally talented. We pulled this all together and Christmas 2014 we launched the “Holiday Magic Coast Style” CD. This lives on Amazon to this this day and 100% of the proceeds go to Veterans hospitals throughout the United States. Rick, you were tremendous in helping by putting it in the magazine, so thank you. Full disclosure we made our costs back for doing it, but we took no profit, I didn’t take anything, my partner who did it with me didn’t take anything, we just let it live on Amazon and when we are able to cut a check, we do so. It’s funny, the more you dive into charities, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, the more you see how they make a lot of money. I’m pretty big on when I give; I want it to go to the right place. Every time we are able to cut a check, I drive it down personally so I know it gets to the hospital we choose. I hand it to the guy in the veteran’s hospital in Los Angles and have him get the funds to the hospital we choose. We pick a different state very time.
Rick: That is very cool.
Tom: That way I know it’s going to the right place.
Rick: I don’t know if you know this or not, but we have t-shirts and hats on our website, and all the profit, actually more than all of the profit goes to St. Jude’s Hospital.
Tom: I didn’t know that.
Rick: The other thing is that I’m such a sap, I’ll get people who hit me on Facebook that say I’m so excited that I found these t-shirts and I’m saving up to get one. I’ll answer them “what’s your address?” And they’ll say “Why”
and I tell them that I am going to send you one and it’s on me.
Rick: What are you doing in the future?
Tom: Well, I’m lucky enough to produce the radio show, and I also really want to concentrate on my entertainment company. Both provide a lot of fun for me; I have to have an aspect of my life where I have fun because if I don’t I’m just dying.
Rick: What is the name of your entertainment company?
Tom: Danheiser/Wagner Entertainment; you can find us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always open to taking on new clients and new projects.
Rick: Thanks so much for the interview!