Friday, November 24, 2006

Three Minute Hero

Our friend and ex-radio comrade Paul Mick sent us a link to an article concerning local radio DJ Pierre Robert, a veritable institution celebrating his 25th anniversary in broadcasting.

Mr. Robert, every inch the jolly and ebullient hippie, goes into some detail on his 25 years in the biz and its various highlights, meeting Bono, Jagger, etc. He’s the sort of guy whose natural charm seems to make him new friends everywhere he goes.

He’s not, however, the only person whose status as disc jockey has allowed him to build a fan base and meet celebrities. As he and I are the same age, and considering that there may be some value in comparison, I present a handful of the highlights from my mercifully brief radio career. Look on these works, ye mighty, and despair:

1. Interviewing Penn Jillette

When Penn and Teller come to town, we leap at the opportunity to interview the veteran funnyman and music fan. Perhaps presaging his documentary on The Aristocrats, Jillette spends much of the interview extolling his fondness for the “c-word,” the use of which seems to be the quickest way to impress him.

When he begins to criticize poet Charles Bukowski because of the fans he attracts, Sheva points out that a lot of morons probably like Penn and Teller.

2. Annoying Eugene Chadbourne

Sure, you say, you know he’s annoying, but what’s important here is the time we annoyed him.

After giving his music weekly exposure and beating the bushes to convince a local club to book him, we promise to drive the guitar virtuoso from his NY gig to Philadelphia. The NY show runs long and we ask if he wouldn’t mind skipping the second show so we can get moving, as we have to work the next day. Chadbourne repeats this request to an associate, mimicking my voice as he does so. We drive home alone and skip the Philly show, but make the mistake of going to see him the next time around. After mocking us from the stage, he takes time out after the show to yell at us, flecks of his spittle flying through the air. The next week we do an on-air interview with “Hugene Chardbrain,” poking fun at the guitarist’s not-so-girlish figure and fondness for controlled substances.

3. Getting kicked off the air

After trying various ruses to get us to leave the local community station (dropping crates of records on the floor while we’re on the air so our records will skip, etc.), the Program Manager, whose persistent requests to “soften” my playlist only succeed in making it more irritating, sees an opening when I write a letter to the local paper complaining about them. The same guy who the week before was telling me “This is real radio!” fires me over the phone and can be heard the following week doing a bad impression of our show.

4. Rebuked by College Radio

Moving to College Radio, we’re there for some time before they finally ask for a tape of a recent show, just so they have some idea what we’re up to. The tape we turn in unfortunately features the use of the popular phrase “kiss my ass” and we get back an unhappy note from the management. It reads, in part, “You can’t just say whatever you want on college radio!”

5. “Dog” Days

Subbing for a friend, I juggle the original version, an instrumental version, and a rap version of George Clinton’s Atomic Dog, cutting back and forth between them to create a seemingly endless version of the track that lasts for well over half an hour. No one asks me to sub again.

6. Ho Ho Hum

When we arrive to do our marathon Christmas Eve program one year, we arrive to find the DJ on duty busy wrapping presents he’s just purchased from the local convenience store, pausing only to flip the cassette tape of bad Christmas music he’s brought with him as his “show.”

7. Theater of the mental

As many on-air personalities given carte blanche eventually do, I create a roster of memorable “characters” that I use in a series of comedic sketches. The sheer number of fictional names and institutions, given generous amounts of time via fake commercials, etc., and their various interconnections almost threaten to engulf the show. During one particularly long and Byzantine excursion, an appreciate listener tells me the show would be greatly improved if I’d shut up once in a while and play a record. I tell him, on the air, to switch to another station.

8. The love you take is equal to the love you make

Doing a live remote from a local car dealership, we end up talking to the station’s oldies DJ and they seem surprised when we tell them that we’ve played a record that they’d actually heard of.

“So,” she says without a trace of irony or sarcasm, “you like good music, too?”


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