CHICAGO — On Sunday, Steve Dale's career hit bottom. Or perhaps it has nowhere to go but up.
Dale, an animal behavior consultant whose "Steve Dale's Pet World" airs on WGN-AM Sunday mornings, heard a lot of similar quips Sunday after broadcasting from his building's elevator, in which he was stuck for the duration of his hourlong show, and then some.
His unusual day began about 5:30 a.m. as Dale was leaving his Wrigleyville building for WGN's Mag Mile studios to broadcast his 6:30 a.m. show. Normally, he said, he takes the stairs, but the elevator happened to be on his floor.
"It hit the basement, and the doors open three inches," he said. "Then I tried with all my might to force the door open. Much later I learned I could've been like Mr. America, and I still wouldn't have gotten it open."
Even his handy neighbor Russ — "the most adept person in our building at getting people out of the elevator" — couldn't help.
Shortly after 6, it became apparent he wouldn't make it to the studio. He called his producer who agreed to air the show live via cellphone via elevator, with in-studio help from Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Pearson, whose "Sunday Spin" show runs after Dale's.
Luckily for Dale and his listeners, his 120-year-old building has great mobile service — even in an elevator stuck in the basement.
Dale, who flew back to Chicago from a conference in New York to do the show, said he was determined to go on the air.
"I've never missed a shift, and I've never been late to a shift," he said. "It all worked out. You could tell I was on the phone, but other than that, it was a pretty normal show."
He even enlisted his wife, Robin, to print out and slip on-air commericals he reads through the crack in the elevator door.
There was one casualty, though. Dale's guest, a self-described inspirational talk-show host named Mr. Big, was bumped.
Throughout the ordeal, Dale said he never panicked inside the 4x4 elevator-turned-studio. Plus, he's pretty sure he made Chicago radio history.
"I was just determined to get my radio show on and do what I do," said Dale, who was sprung shortly after 7. "They say the show's gotta go on."