Who We Are
Ben Manilla. A pioneer of contemporary audio production, Ben has been at the vanguard of creative radio since the mid ’70s. Recognized by professionals around the world for his award-winning programming and innovative production style, he has held executive positions at Radio Today, RKO Radio Networks, WOR Radio, WLIR Radio, and the Progressive Radio Network. Beginning with his work as a Top Ten metro market production director and morning man, Ben has initiated programming for virtually every format. He has directed or produced hundreds of features, specials, documentaries, ongoing series, commercials, and audio presentations. Ben teaches Radio Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Devon Strolovitch began working for Ben Manilla in 1979, on the floor of his bedroom in Montreal, Quebec, and last year finally introduced himself. He has lived, worked, and studied in Wales, France, New York, and Ohio, where he was the host of “Rags, Stomps, & Blues” at WOBC-FM in Oberlin. He is currently Production Coordinator of Philosophy Talk and The Sounds of American Culture, and Host of Fog City Blues, on KALW 91.7 FM. Devon is an amateur steel-drummer and speaks over a dozen languages, some used by more than .01% of the world population. He is author of “The Paris Cafe Chronicle” (2005), “Strolecisms” (forthcoming), and a much-cited Ph.D. thesis on medieval Judeo-Portugese. When he’s not ensconced in traffic on his bicycle, Devon can be found considering whether to sue BMP for back pay.
Jennie Cataldo is a graduate of San Francisco State University where she somehow eked through with a degree in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts. And an artist she is. Jennie brings her musical and production skills to Elwood’s BluesMobile and many of the other projects at BMP. Her alter ego – Honeycomb Brown – has been spied spinning discs and instigating wild Soul dancing throughout the Bay Area.
Merle Kessler is a writer, humorist, and performer, best known perhaps by his pen name, Ian Shoales. As Ian Shoales he has been churning out cranky yet strangely humorous commentaries since 1979. First heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, he has been featured on Morning Edition, ABC’s Nightline and the online magazine, Salon. In addition, his pieces have been published in the New York Times, LA Times, the San Francisco Examiner, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Minneapolis Tribune, among other publications. Merle (as Ian Shoales) recently co-starred in, and co-wrote (with composer partner J. Raoul Brody) Slouching Towards Disneyland, a wild story of the history of the world.
Andy Valvur is a writer, journalist and comedian who divides his time between San Francisco and Europe. He has written for the House of Blues Radio Hour starring Dan Aykroyd, PBS’s Emmy nominated “The Durst Amendment” starring Will Durst, BBC Radio 2, the California Music Awards, Deutsche Welle Radio and more. Other writing credits include the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlanta Constitution, The Philadelphia Daily News, Maxim, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and other national publications. He recently had a screenplay optioned by a big time Hollywood producer but isn’t moving to LA just yet. Meanwhile, he is working in comedy clubs and filing radio stories from Europe and working on his first book.