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Shore Vs. City: Phyllis Klein

by Dustin O'Regan • April 2, 2019

Entertainment TV and radio host Phyllis Klein —”Front Row Phyllis”— provides a look behind-the-scenes with some of the country’s top music artists, concerts, and festivals throughout Chicagoland. Her interview roster includes Imagine Dragons, Fitz and the Tantrums, Foo Fighters, Alessia Cara, Bon Jovi, and many more. While regularly featured on FOX TV and WGN Radio, her platform covers the liveliest happenings, reaching millions of viewers and listeners around the country. Here are this music maven’s city and shore favorites.

What’s on the horizon? The festival and outdoor concert season. I’m covering Chicago’s country scene at Lake Shake and Windy City Smoke Out and serving as a brand ambassador for Celebrate Highwood’s big events

Mantra? Listen to your voice in your head and your heart

Best grooming tip? Mascara, lipstick and a great foundation

Guilty pleasure? Cookies and penny candy

Favorite foods? Green juice from Joe and the Juice—my healthy treat! Pasta with marinara sauce

Music you love? All genres

Best advice ever given to you? The world is your oyster and you can do anything

Best advice you’ve given? Be true to yourself

Earliest memory? My grandmother saying “you can be anything as long as you work hard”

When you wake up, you…? Take out my three dogs—it gives me peace and clarity before my hectic day

Before bed, you…? Kiss my kids

What’s on your bookshelf? Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Elin Hilderbrand’s Beautiful Day

You can’t live without? Music, earpods, and Cool Mint breath strips

Love to escape to? Anywhere with sunshine, water, and warm temperatures

Advice you would give to your younger self? Just breathe and it will all work out

ON THE SHORE

Your style is…? Great pair of cowboy boots and jeans

Can’t leave the house without? Ray Ban sunglasses

Driving music? A mixture of Country, Pop, and Latin in the morning and later in the day, Broadway musicals

Place to eat? ArivvaDolce, Slyce, and Hole in the Wall

Best thing about the Shore? The beauty and serenity, people, Ravinia, and Chicago Botanic Garden

Worst thing about the Shore? The restaurants close too early

The perfect day is…? Great workout, cooking a wonderful meal, and hanging out with my family and dogs

IN THE CITY

Your style is…? A fabulous fitted dress and high boots

Can’t leave the house without? Earpods and sunglasses

Driving music? My Spotify playlist

Place to eat? Beatrix, RL’s, and The Langham

Shop? Michigan Avenue and Wicker Park

Best thing about the City? Music, we have some of the best venues in the country

Worst thing about the City? Summertime smells

The perfect day is…? Running on the beach, stopping for a juice, meeting friends for lunch, and stopping by Lincoln Park Zoo

Klein front and center–as a backstage …

by Bill McLean • March 21, 2019 

Phyllis Klein and I meet on a winter day, early afternoon, in Deerfield. An invitation had been extended to chat over breakfast at a restaurant, anywhere along the North Shore. The radio/television entertainment host known as “Front Row Phyllis” had checked her busy, busy, busy schedule and chosen the spacious lobby of the Hyatt Regency for our get-together.

No time for food.
I understood.
Thirty to 35 minutes in, Klein gives me afront-row ticket—the figurative kind—to one of her favorite childhood memories: time with her grandmother Minnie.

“Four times a week, I’d visit her at her home in Chicago,” recalls Klein, a graduate of now-defunct Niles East High School in Skokie. “I loved being there, loved being around her. We’d hold hands as she spoke and I listened. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her. She was brilliant and old school. So spiritual, too, yet so real. She was easy to talk to, encouraging, and she spoke fluently in six languages.”

Phyllis Klein speaks fluent English and is ultra- adept at entertainment-speak, especially if the entertainment has anything to do with a musician or a band that is scheduled to perform in the Chicago area. Dolly Parton, Cher, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, Frankie Valli, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, Jim Peterik of Survivor, Brett El- dredge, members of the bands Bon Jovi, Fifth Harmony, Imagine Dragons and Panic! At the Disco, Peter Bjorn and John … some, just some, of Klein’s interview subjects.

“Front Row Phyllis” segments can be heard on WGN Radio and can be seen and heard on FOX 32-WLFD (“Good Day Chicago”). The segments disseminate information about concerts, festivals and events. They share enlightening tidbits and personality traits that Klein had elicited from the music giants during backstage interviews.

“I’ve been crazy-blessed to have been able to talk with people, well-known artists, who didn’t have to be interviewed but agreed to be interviewed,” says Klein, a Highland Park resident since 2004, a mother of two, an owner of three big dogs, and a big fan of the rock band Styx in her days at Niles East. “Musicians aren’t accustomed to being interviewed; they’re accustomed to performing in front of thousands of people.Their comfort zone is on a stage, not in a one-on-one situation.

“The trick I use, to get them to talk, to make them feel 100- percent comfortable? I bring up something casual or fun, some- thing you’d bring up at the start of a conversation with your best friend.”

More than 10 years ago a former colleague of Klein suggested Klein and a radio career would be a good fit. Klein had worked in finance for nearly 20 years. One radio gig led to another. Work at WGN Radio led to additional television work at FOX 32-WFLD. Her niche as a music maven established, Klein needed something catchy and alliterative to identify a viable brand for listeners and viewers.

“Front Row Phyllis” was born in 2013.

“Somebody,” Klein says, “recommended that. I loved it right away. Got it trademarked. When I met Dolly Parton before interviewing her backstage [at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, in 2018] and told her about it, she said to me, ‘You can’t use that! Everybody will ask you to get front-rowtickets for them.’ She laughed. We laughed together. Dolly was great, a real person, sweet and down-to-earth. We hugged before and after the interview, which lasted maybe 10 minutes; not much time. I’ve found out in this business that you have to make every minute count.”

Spending a minute or two in an interview with either Elton John or Usher would make her day. And her decade. Klein realizes a sit-down with John or at least a stand-up interview backstage with the multiple Grammy-winning singer/pianist/composer f rom the United Kingdom is highly unlikely, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.

“I’d ask Elton about the early years in his career and the differences he’s experienced in the music industry,” Klein says. “I’d also ask about where he sees the industry going. Usher? I think he’s one of the most talented musicians out there.” Her favorite outdoor venue is Ravinia Festival. Her favorite all-time concert at Ravinia Festival, to date, is a Train performance. One festival she’d recommend in a heartbeat is the Windy City Smokeout BBQ & Country Musical Festival ( July 12-14, at its new location, United Center’s parking lot).

“Music makes people happy,”says Klein, who works out six days a week to music—pop or country or theatre—she plays as loudly as she can.“Listening to music can turn a dark, dreary day into a happy one in a hurry.”

The professional life of “Front Row Phyllis” gets harried at times, challenging. There’s that concert at Ravinia Festival, followed by that concert in Chicago, followed by that concert in Rosemont. All in one day. North, south, northwest. Hustle, hustle, hustle. Klein almost needs a full-time logistics assistant at her side. But the ex- citement level that accompanies each opportunity to interact with a superstar in the entertainment world thrills the attentive granddaughter of Minnie, keeps her going. “I’d like to be the go-to person for entertainment information in the Chicago area, maybe even be considered ‘The Ryan Seacrest of the Chicago area,’ ” Klein, her everpresent smile widening, says. “Wait. Can I change that? I wouldn’t mind being considered ‘The Ryan Seacrest of the Midwest.’”

Interview: Phyllis Klein/Front Row Phyllis

By James Wood, AXS Contributor | Nov 7, 2017 

Since making the transition from the financial world to the entertainment industry, Phyllis Klein (Front Row Phyllis), has built a strong and loyal following in the Chicago market featured on FOX-TV’s Good Day Chicago and on the nationally syndicated WGN Radio.

 

Widely considered the region’s “go to” personality for all of the inside scoop on the hustling Midwest entertainment industry, Klein’s interactive segments, which include interviews with artists like Imagine Dragons, Fifth Harmony and Cheap Trick, have reached more than twenty million viewers.

 

AXS recently spoke with Front Row Phyllis in this exclusive new interview.

 

AXS: Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment?

 

Phyllis Klein: Although I've always loved music, a career wasn't something I originally thought about. I actually worked in the financial world for almost twenty years. Then when things changed with the market I suddenly found myself waking up one morning to find that 60,000 people were being laid off in three days. I quickly realized I had to change my lifestyle.

 

AXS: How did you get into radio?

 

PK: One day, I ran into a girl who I used to work with and told her I was looking for a new career. She told me that she had some connections in radio and thought I’d be a good fit. I was a bit skeptical at first but wound up getting the job. That's when I decided to create a niche. I realized that people love content, music and entertainment, but everyone is on information overload. I wanted to create something where they could gravitate to. Somewhere where they can find out about all of the concerts coming through

 

Chicago, where to get tickets and to see interviews with the artists. A place that’s easy to access and a one-stop shop where they can get all the information they need.

 

AXS: How did you make the transition to FOX and Good Day Chicago?

 

PK: Television was the next logical step, so I presented my idea to FOX-TV's Good Day Chicago about coming in each week to talk about concerts and interviews. At the time, they were mostly news and were trying to be a little bit lighter. I've been there for five years now as their music maven.

 

AXS: What makes the Chicago music scene so special?

 

PK: The Chicago area (and the Midwest in general) is so huge and with so many people that just want to be entertained. The politics around it are all about entertainment. They’ve also taken venues that have not been in very good shape and made them even better. From theaters to arenas and outdoor venues, it’s a place where all of the artists want to come through and perform.

 

AXS: What would you say is the biggest challenge about what you do?

 

PK: There aren’t enough hours in the day [laughs]. Geographically, it can also be challenging because sometimes I'll need to cover two or three shows in one night and have to get from point a to point b really quickly. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

 

AXS: What have been some of your most memorable interviews?

 

PK: Dolly Parton was one. She couldn't be any cuter and is absolutely stunning. She's such an incredible, sharp woman who has it all. Another was when I interviewed Fifth Harmony. I remember pulling up to the theater and the line was literally eight blocks long. I’d never seen anything like that before. They have very loyal fans.

 

AXS: What’s next for Front Row Phyllis?

 

PK: I’ve been honed in on the Chicago and Midwest markets and now the biggest thing we’re doing is looking at how to take it on a national level and bring it to some of the bigger cities.

 

AXS: What gives you the most satisfaction?

 

PK: Getting a chance to work with some of the most amazing, down to Earth people in the entertainment business. I've been hanging out with some of the most incredibly talented artists and have gotten to know them on a personal level. But it's almost like when one door closes and another door opens. Only when you're going through that first door you don't think any other doors will open. Then you start thinking about how to change your mindset, find a new career and start over. A lot of it comes from just challenging yourself and figuring out how to survive. You just have to do it.

 

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