Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Jonathan Evans Meat Lover

It's not his real name. His real last name is short, but subject to some non flattering alterations on the air by callers with little minds. He was named after his Father, and I guess he was a "Chip" off the old block.
He started joining in on the " Personals of the Airwaves" show created on WREB in the 70's by a girl named Chris Plasse. Chris was also featured in the TV show I was on at the time, Odyssey, but I had never met her. Recently, I got a copy of an episode of that show featuring Chris doing astrological stuff. Funny how you know somebodies voice and be on the same television show with her, but never know what she looked like till 25 years later on a copy of an old show you have forgotten about. Also on that show was Alice Brock, from the restaurant fame. I have talked with her on the air a few times, as well as Officer Obie.
Although I never called her radio show, Chip did, and the first time I met him was at that little mall in Holyoke, and we struck up a friendship. When Chip got on the air at WREB, he was doing a daily show, when the Kielbasa Festival came up. Ah, The Kielbasa Festival. The town of Chicopee Massachusetts has a large Polish community, and in the 70's, somebody got the bright idea to have a festival honoring this wonderful little chunk 'o meat. Everything was kielbasa at this festival. Kielbasa pie, kielbasa sandwiches, kielbasa shakes. All Kielbasa, all the time. Hundreds of souls gathering yearly to worship and pay homage to this huge chunk of meat that the Chicopee Provision made every year. Each year it got bigger, and lived in a glass case full of ice for those hoards to marvel over and get their picture taken with it and Aunt Sophie at their side.
This was year number three for the old K-Fest. I was working for Hannon Security at the time. Hannons needed their best to oversee this three day celebration. Unfortunately their best had been arrested, so they sent me. I wore out a pair of shoes that weekend. Teddy Kennedy came to worship this meat. One of the Kennedy boys, the one who lost his leg to cancer, tripped on a rope going to see it, and I grabbed him. I were the hero. Sorry for the word " were" but this was the Kielbasa Festival. Richard Simmons showed up to marvel, and do his exercise routine he was just starting. Sweating to the Horseradish I guess he was doing.
Broadcasting "live" from the K-Fest was one Jonathan Evans on WREB. Joe Alfano gave him that name. He just found it in the phonebook, and a star was born. I would go on the air with Chip, and report no bombings, shootings, kidnappings or robberies had occurred since the last time I talked to him 15 minutes ago, so come to the K-Fest quick because Happy Louie was playing in an hour.
Chip and I had fun in those broadcasts, and he was looking for some ideas to promote the new bakery that was to be the new Langeliers Bakery in Holyoke. I went home that night, and wrote a battery of mindless ads for the place, along with a special, This Is Your Life Rene Baushman bit dedicated to the owner. A week later we recorded these things about halibut turnovers and square donuts and it was funny as it could be for the times.
Being in charge of security is not a task to be taken lightly when you talking about the Kielbasa Festival. You got your Kennedys, your Richard Simmons, and 300 thousand Polka Bands, with special guests like Bill Czupta, and Bob St Cyr, the guy in charge of the festival who rode around every day in an old firetruck.
The sausage itself weighed about 65 pounds the first year. By year three, it had grown to 85 pounds. The last day had come, the throngs had headed home to look for the Pepto Bismol, and the headlines in the paper the next day were glaring and ominous. "World's Largest Kielbasa Stolen!!!!" I guess I'll never get into the CIA now. This was the story of the decade. Forget politics or world affairs, hunger or crime. The worlds most worshipped hunk of meat had been pilfered from under the very noses of the entire city of Chicopee. I once got a lot of nasty calls from Chicopee residents when I asked one day, on the air ,how one would know when they got into Chicopee if there were no signs. Because you'd see maple syrup buckets on the telephone poles. Every area around any radio station has a city that is picked on for no reason really, and Chicopee was the one around here at that time.
The night the K-Fest closed, everybody, save 10 or 12 people, had departed and the question came up, " What do we do with this thing now?" Somebody said let's cut it up and we'll take it home. Sounded good to us, so we did just that. About an hour later, Bob St Cyr showed up, and there was me and some other guy there. He walked over to us and noticed the Mammer Jammer hot dog was gone. He went nuts. We told him we thought it was ok to share it. It wasn't.. He had to scramble to cover this up. So, viola, it was stolen.
The next day when I showed up at WREB with a chunk of this for Chip, I discovered he wasn't there, so I gave it to Tracy Cole. He referred to it as a nice gift from a listener, as he didn't want to be a principle in the great Kielbasa caper that left thousands speechless. So now the mystery is solved, and as the statue of limitations has run out, I think it is time the truth be known.
When I finally got my own show on WREB, Chip and I got to be the best of friends, and I would write a lot of scripts for our shows, in longhand. I would present these to him at various times, he'd scan them and we would record them, first take every time. After I left that station, we would pair up again at WMAS.
A lot of things are scripted on radio, but not on our watch at WMAS. I would dream things up, and Chip would roll with whatever I threw at him.. Listeners would always screw up his name. Jonathan Edwards was the most common, then it became the constant question to us when we did remotes ," Are you Murphy, or the guy that laughs?" Chip has a laugh that makes you laugh, and he laughed all the time. In 1980, I came up with The Top 10 List. Letterman is best known for it but I did it before anybody ever heard of it. So I brought it back during my stint at WMAS, and did it every morning with Chip. I knew it was good when he laughed, and he laughed a lot. One morning, I was reading a story about what one should do if you ever run into Bigfoot.
The words were, " If you should ever eye ball a Bigfoot" That came out ," If you should ever eye a big ball" He and I were on the floor for five minutes. Anytime I could make him laugh I would. We were a team, and it worked better than I could ever hope for.
We were sitting in my kitchen writing a skit for the air, the wives went shopping. I heard the car pull in, and said," Chip, take your clothes off!" Without hesitation we both got down to our undies, and the girls came in as we sat there calmly writing. They looked at us, walked by, and said nothing.
We both have strong ladies, and they grew to expect abnormal things from abnormal people. Chip and Me.
Chip and his bride run an herb shop in Chicopee now. http://www.theherbarium.com/ One day he came into the studio at WMAS. He said, " I have good news and bad news." He said, " I'm Leaving." I said, " So what's the bad news?" He laughed at that too. I knew at that moment that this amazing ride between two guys who had done so much together to make people laugh, was over. It was the beginning of the end, and I never did radio again in the same way. A few years later I was gone, but the spark that was there had left when Chip departed to work full time at his business.
Those days are now forever gone, and they won't come back. I still find a lot of laughter on the old tapes, but most important, I still have the friend that I shared time with one weekend when a huge chunk of meat was the catalyst for a lifelong friendship. I never could have done it without him. Thanks, Chaz. I love you, friend..

Radio Types are an Odd Bunch

I have worked with a lot of people who had the same desire as me. To have a career in radio. There are virtually none left on the air. Thank you corporate America..
The ones I did cross paths with had their own goals, there own ideas and their own dreams. Most were great, some were, well, let's say peculiar.
When I worked at WMAS in Springfield, it started out as a Sunday only gig from noon till six. I worked alone all afternoon, and built up a following just doing odd things on the air and telling stories. I used to listen to the station on Sundays, and before me was Bonnie Barnes. I don't know where Bonnie came from, but I worked with her before on WLDM in Westfield, which later became WNNZ. I was doing the morning show, she was in sales. When WLDM went dark, and WNNZ came on one minute later, I was the first "live " voice on the air. Fifty thousand watts. I got mail from Canada. Not long after, Bonnie quit, and I got fired, along with most of the folks there one day and that was that.
So one Sunday ten years later I turn on WMAS, and when she said her name I called. Hi, how are ya, the usual. Two weeks later, I called her again to hear I song I guess, and she tells me she's leaving, and I should work there. I wasn't interested, so I said no thanks. Bonnie could talk a lot, and that she did, because the next morning, Steve Williams, the program director called me and said he wanted me to do Sundays. I finally agreed, and six months later the morning guy moved south and I was plugged into the morning show for the duration. This went on till New Years eve, 98 into 99, when I was fired. This was a capitalism decision by the owner.
During my years at WMAS I had a ball, mostly because of two people, Chip Evans and Steve Williams. Steve is a tall guy with an amazing voice, and a go for it attitude, and as PD, he has the decision to reject any idea I ever came up with. He never did. There was a day I wanted to do a morning show from the roof of the station. This was three days setting up on the air. The concept was that my contract had expired, ( I never had a contract in my life on radio ), and the new one was in the mail, but due to the terms of the contract, I had to do my morning show as per my contract, but I was not allowed on the air without a contract. Joe Rizza our GM got in on this and went on the air with Steve and me. I was yelling off mic how stupid this was, Joe was trying to calm me down, Steve told me to be cool, and I slammed the studio door on the way out of the studio. Steve was doing his daily show as this went on, and the phones lit up demanding I be on the air next morning, and it went on all day.
At 5:30 the next morning, Steve started my show, and a lot of people were listening to see what was going to happen. Phones started ringing almost right away, and about a minute into the sports Steve was doing, another voice came on the air out of somewhere. It was the engineer Chuck Hurlihey and me talking. We were on the roof, and tapping into the signal. I was on the air, from the roof of WMAS. That morning had dozens of people stopping, hundreds of horn toots and waves. I'm sure a lot of people driving down that busy road tuned in to see what was going on up there especially when a local cop pulled his cruiser in the lot and left his flashing lights on for half an hour or so. Joe was using a bull horn to communicate with me, and Chip and myself were getting eaten alive by black flies from the river. It was one wild fun filled morning that got a lot of press, and more listeners.
There were weird things that happened to me on radio. When I lived in Southwick, I had about a 25 minute drive to WREB in Holyoke every morning, and I used to listen to the news on the way in all of the time. One morning, there was a story about some guy, despondent I guess, who was on the 25th floor of a building somewhere in New York, threatening to jump. After four hours of negotiations, he jumped. So I am thinking about this story, and was wondering what would you say to someone who was on a ledge like that. How would you get him to change their mind?
I found it far more interesting to assume roles on the air, rather that just ask hypothetical questions, so I became a jumper one morning. I told the audience I was on the 15th floor of a building in Holyoke, this was my last show and I was going to jump unless someone talked me down. I was sounding as serious as possible, and the calls started coming in. There were no 15 story buildings in Holyoke then, and wouldn't you think management would wonder how I possibly could have set up a broadcast from this alleged ledge? A lot of people thought it was real. So much so, that half way through my last hour, the Holyoke Police, six of them came rushing into the station. I took a break and buzzed the receptionist, as you could see the door from the studio. " What's going on", I asked. Judy said, " They're here to save you." Somebody called the police station and begged them to stop the guy on the radio from killing himself, and they believed it was true. The story made the front page of the Springfield Republican the next morning with the slug line, " Police Save Talk Show Host From Jumping". Who would have thought one idea would double the audience in one day.
Years later at WMAS one winters morning, I noticed about 25 hubcaps all over our parking lot from cars going over the North end bridge and hitting a pot hole about the size of a swimming pool. I called the DPW and had them on the air. There was only one guy who could get the hole fixed, so I got his car phone and called him as he was driving to Boston. He was on the air too, and said he would make sure it got done. I then got a remote mic, went out and lined all of these hubcaps up in a snow bank, and tried to sell them on the radio. Some how the local TV station got wind of this, and by the end of the day, the story was on the nightly news and the pothole was filled. More free PR and more listeners.
In my early days at WMAS, there was a regular crew of voices doing their shows every day. I did the mornings, Steve did mid days, Wayne Carter afternoons, followed by Frank Knight, and finally Art Lord. Almost every AM station on the dial had their own version of Les Nessman, ( WKRP in Cincinatti ). We had Art Lord, and Lordy this guy was scary. He looked Gothic all of the time. Reminded us of a vampire. He would come in every night with duffel bags full of whatever. He looked like he was taking a trip somewhere. When I came in for the morning show, he had this stuff everywhere, and it took him 10 minutes to get everything back into the bags. He was always in a hurry for some reason, maybe because the sun was coming up. When he left the station, he went to work at a ladies senior citizens home. He died a few years after leaving the station, probably from sunlight.
Frank Knight is an institution. He has been on just about every station around here that there is. A story I heard about Frank shows how some program directors just shouldn't be doing what they are doing. It seems that years back, Frank went from one station in the area to the FM side of WMAS. Frank is a Polka nut, and generally knows his stuff when it comes to big band music. Not so with the music in the 70's. He once played a song, then said he was going to take a break, and when he came back, it will be time for a great song by Alice Cooper, and SHE'LL sing it for you right after this. Not long thereafter, Frank was plugged into the AM side and entertained for many years.
Wayne Carter was a curious guy that could talk ad infinitum about anything. He was a marine, knew a million radio people, and was once a best friend to the guy who voiced the intro for the Superman TV series. He had a couple of failed marriages, and would up somehow on WMAS. He had no car, and not many friends.
When Joe Rizza left the station, he was replaced by a guy who started the ruination of that station. He had convinced the owner to go all satellite, except for the morning show on the AM side. He then told me it was my responsibility to dismiss everybody else on the air, as I knew them and he didn't. I almost lost my job in the argument over this, but I finally conceded as they knew me, and this clown had no tact or feelings. Steve had already left, and I had to tell Frank and Wayne. Wayne was devastated. He was older, and he knew that with the state of AM radio, this was the end of the line for his career.
They were given a small severance package, and Wayne decided that he would do the other thing he loved to do. Drink.. Somebody broke into his apartment and took his TV. I got him another one. He called me at home weeks later, asking me to come right over to his place. When I got there, all of his meager things were on the tree belt and he was on the curb. He had nothing.
Wayne lived with Linda and me for a few weeks. He slept on the couch, left early and just walked all day long because he didn't want to be a pest. We would give him money, and the one other person in the area he knew, stored what little he had in a garage somewhere.
Wayne got into some sort of AA program out near Boston. He would call from time to time. I had heard nothing from him for a few months, till one night I got home and listened to the answering machine. I wasn't sure who it was, the voice weak and barely a whisper. The booze caught up to him.. I pondered calling him back.. I waited a day or so and called. He was gone. Buried in some Potters field somewhere out on the Cape, I imagine there is no marker there.
About six months later, I got a call from the guy who was storing his stuff. He wanted it out of his garage, and wanted to know how to get hold of Wayne.
I never knew much about the man except that he loved radio and had a great sense of humor, and stories. Man he could tell stories.
In better days, the old crew was pretty tight. I went in one morning as usual, started the show at 5:30, when I heard some voice in my earphones, and traffic noise. I stopped, wondering what this was when Steve, who isn't on the air till 10, pushed the door open and took my picture. Stunned? I guess you could say that. So what was this all about? He told me to go home, then I realized the voice reading the sports, or whatever, was my wife Linda. She had set this entire thing up with Steve. The remote unit, the engineer, and the bride were on my front porch, doing the morning show. We did the whole morning from my house. When it started raining, we moved into the living room. An entire morning on the air with cops stopping in, members of the Air Force, sponsors bringing food, and strangers sitting on the couch. At one point, I was playing Tetras on the TV with somebody, and this was going out over the air. Could that happen in today's radio? no............no.
There was a cow in the area that got away from its owner and I found out about this. I managed to set up "Cow Central" on the air, turning this search into something huge. I named the nameless cow Elsie, ( of course ) and had half the community out looking for her. I had a cow in a can sound effect we used constantly.We had hourly cow updates and Chip always had this story in every newscast. I was in the woods with a phone talking on the air when I fell into a pond. Now this is good radio. This made the paper too. Cow Central. I had this goofy voice I played at all times throughout the day just before the update saying, " Where's The Beef?"
It went on for three or four days. It was a ton of fun, and listeners really had a good time with it. Then they found her dead somewhere. I never talked about that aspect of this whole bit. I just let it fade away.
Sometimes a caller would ask me to say happy birthday to someone and I would. One day a friend called me, and reminded me it was his wife's birthday.
It would have been easy just to say Happy Birthday, but I quickly scribbled some dumb notes and turned the entire morning into Liz Stones birthday bash. Chip did his news outside, I had parade sound effects, and people in the station calling in talking about this special day and the preparations they were making for dinner. I got calls all morning from people wondering who in the world is Liz Stone. I even had her on the air saying where she would be to sign autographs . When I got a weird idea , I went with it, and it always worked.
The morning I convinced Chip to announce he hit the lottery was a fun day. He said a lot of mean things about everybody, then I told him I looked at his ticket and although he had the right numbers, it was an old ticket from 3 weeks ago, then he started to retract what he had said. It was a hoot hearing him squirm.. Johnny never could have done the Tonight show without Ed, and I never could do my show the same way when Chip left. He was the best.
The format was big band music. One morning I had Chip announce, right as he finished the news, that we were pretty excited about the new format change. "Now we kick off the new WMAS!! All rock and roll, all the time." At 5:35 in the morning, people who were used to hearing Sinatra or Glenn Miller were treated to a nice little Dire Straits tune, Money For Nothin'. It was the long version and I pegged the VU meters. I never knew how many people were awake at that time, and how really mad they could be. After all, it was April first, but that never dawned on them..
See, we radio types are an odd bunch, as most of us ,then ,wanted you to laugh as we tried, oh so hard ,to keep that "theater of the mind" still alive , and make you wonder, what's going to happen today with those goofs on the radio?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Clap For The Wolfman

In 1969, I was sailing back to the Continental United States in the Fall. It was the worst year of my military life. A collision at sea between the HMS Melbourne and our own Frank E. Evans had taken 74 souls on the Evans, including 3 brothers from Nebraska, the worst family loss since the Sullivan brothers died on the Juneau in 1944.
I was standing out on a catwalk on my ship, at night with a radio I had bought the year before at an auction house in Long Beach. I was scanning the dial trying to pick up and broadcasts from the mainland, and I was barely even picking up static when all of a sudden a song was playing. I had no idea where it was coming from, so I listened...and waited. The announcer came on. " Hey Baby, you got the Wolfman right here on XERB radio wit cha" I knew I was almost home. Nobody had more fans then than the Wolfman.
Sure, till American Graffiti was released, most folks thought he was black, and virtually nobody on the East coast ever heard of him, but if you were in or around Los Angeles, you listened to the 500,000 watt XERB out of Mexico, and the man with that voice.
In 1985, I spent a week in Los Angeles with Howard Stern, and got to meet this guy. His name was Robert Smith, and he was dressed up like Waylon Jennings, complete with this huge cowboy hat. He wrapped his arms around my wife as I told him the story of me hearing him out at sea. He said, " Dats a nice story man, I'm glad you told me". A friend of mine videoed this encounter, and it has become a lasting memory in our home.
Recalling me meeting with him made me think about some of the people I have met or just spoke with on the phone. People I never would have encountered but for the fact I did a radio show. There were dozens and dozens of entertainers and just plane folks that graced the airwaves of Western Mass . Some were known around the world. Some were completely whacked out.
There were those that I interviewed and it turned out that I was the last interview they ever did. Dennis Day was one of them.
He was in Holyoke for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1987, and I met him in an old folks home one morning in Holyoke. As I never prepared anything for any interview I ever did, I just clicked the cassette recorder on and went to with him for about 15 minutes. Most of the conversation centered around the Jack Benny Show, and a touching story about Eddie Anderson not being allowed to stay in a New York Hotel because he was black. Benny was ballistic, and Eddie was allowed to stay when Benny was finished with the hotel staff.
Dennis marched in the parade that Sunday, but something happened to him before the parade ended. He was admitted to a New York Hospital, and died shortly thereafter. He was a kind man with an ever present twinkle in his eye.
In the late 90's, Mel Torme was coming to Springfield for a concert. I had him on the air the day before, and Ella Fitzgerald came up in the conversation.
I had met Ella 30 thousand feet up in the air somewhere over the country, spoke to her briefly, and kissed her hand. Torme said she was his neighbor and SHOULD go to see her, but at that time, she had lost her legs to illness, and he didn't want to see her that way. He never got the chance. He did the concert, got very ill, and died not long after.
The good news is, not everybody died right after they had contact with me. I interviewed some amazing people, many were people I really admired. Some of the best were: Noel Stookey, or Paul from Peter Paul and Mary. He has a farm in New Hampshire (?) and invited me there, but I never went. Andy Griffith, who is the same person we all know from TV. Frankie Laine, an icon I spoke with personally a few times at home. Johnny Tillotson, Tommy Roe, and Tommy James, all rockers from the 60's, all with no ego whatsoever. Tommy James told the story of how the name Mony Mony came to be. It was the initials on a building in New York, and stands for Mutual of New York. You can see what he saw at the time in the movie Midnight Cowboy. Then there was Jimmy Jones. The Handy Man. His other big hit was Good Timing. This one is so special because of his tales of growing up to be a black singer in those days. Movie writers couldn't come up with what these good people had to endure, and still do.
I had the Amazing Kreskin on the air one day. Somehow we got to talking about lasagna, and as my wife Linda is a cooking genius, she made a tray of it for him that we gave him back stage after the show. He was a great guy. There were a lot of others, and then there were those that were just regular folks, ( sort of ), that had a story to tell. One of those was Elizabeth Tajnian, the Nut Lady. I had read an article about her somewhere, and that she had even been on the Carson show. She had a museum in Connecticut dedicated to the "nut". Not me, not some goofy person, but specifically filberts, cashews, et. al. The spooky thing about her was that she was serious about it, and was convinced that nuts were ALIVE!!! THEY'RE ALIVE!! (insert Twilight Zone music here) She had penned the National Anthem to the nut and sang it on the air. People thought about this for days on the air.
I had an interesting conversation with a man who wanted to get into the record books as the first human flashbulb by strapping hundreds of flashbulbs, ( remember flashbulbs?), and setting them off all at once. Never found out how he made out..
Then there was the guy who got hold of some moon pictures, sent me copies and I had him on the air as he told me where to look on these photos to see things like houses, cranes and foundations that somebody was building there. I guess everybody needs a hobby.
There were times when I just couldn't get somebody to hang up, so I recorded a studio cart of static to use when it was needed. I recorded a needle scratching the paper label of a record and it sounded just like static. The first time I used it was the day Jerry Mathers, The Beaver called. Probably the worst interview I ever was involved with. This guy wouldn't talk, and the odd thing was at that time he was doing a radio talk show somewhere. I would ask him something, and all he would say was "yup" or "nope", and after five minutes of this, out came the static, that he heard down the line too, and I apologized and hung up. Now the guy calls back. Same deal with the conversation, and mysteriously, the static came back.
There were those I wanted to get on the air, but was never successful. Jimmy Stewart, but he wrote a letter to me thanking him for the request. Bill Cosby who lives about 20 miles from me. Never got an answer, but I know these folks are busy, and besides most of them are famous and no longer need radio to get out to the masses. At the top of my list, of all of the people I could speak with in the world, my biggest regret is not being able to do an interview with my idol. Sammy Davis Jr. I was driving a lumber truck one day in Connecticut when I head the news that Sammy and Jim Henson had both died. Another memory of where I was when.... There has never been a performer like him, and I had a million questions, now mostly forgotten, that I wanted to ask him.
When 1999 turned into 2000, I guess it was inevitable somebody would come up with the question, " Who was the greatest performer of the 20th century?" When I first heard that, I immediately thought, no question about it, Sammy was. So the masses voted. It was Elvis. ELVIS? All right, I liked his music, and sure, I wanted to look like him, but entertainer of the century?
Elvis could sing, that's a given. He was in 30 some odd forgettable movies, and he played piano and a little guitar. He was around about 20 years.
Lets look at Sammy. Oh yeah, he could sing, and he could dance like lightning. He was a brilliant actor on film and on stage. He played trumpet, and piano, and the drums like Ginger Baker. He did impressions and impersonations, and he was spectacular at it. He was a comedian. He was everything an entertainer wants to be, but can't be, and he had to do it all with a handicap. We had him for over 60 years. But Elvis was entertainer of the century. What's wrong with this picture?
Jim Brickman came into the studio one day when I was at WMAS. I saw him on the FM side of the station in the studio doing an interview, and got him to come over to the AM side where I was on the air. I was playing his music in the format at that time, but the FM side wasn't. He was a great guy, and in order to show his appreciation for the interview, he sent the FM folks a brick. Sort of a trademark for Jim, I guess. Just a brick with his name on it.. I never got a brick, Yes, it still hurts, but I will get over it someday. See, fewer and fewer people are listening to AM stations any more, but FM is big now, and just the reverse of what it was 40 years ago, so I guess a little audience doesn't deserve a brick any more. In the days of the Wolfman, on AM radio, he would have received an entire wall. You just couldn't not clap for the Wolfman. I'm so glad I got to meet him . He was one of those radio characters that fade slowly away day by day.
To all of those people who spent time with me on the airwaves, as Ed Nackey, owner of Ed Nackey Chevrolet in Holyoke used to say at the end of his commercials on WREB radio, " Thanks Folks."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

WREB Theme Shows

I found out yesterday from a man, Jeff Miller, that WREB radio in Holyoke went on the air in Holyoke in 1950, so I guess it is conceivable that there are still a few former announcers still out there who broadcast on the 930 AM frequency. I am aware of eight of them..
It would be fantastic to find out if some of the first broadcasts exist somewhere, or who the first people on the air were. I know of one who was there, Bob Berger. He was the sales manager of WSPR for a while, I worked with him, and just recently found out he was at WREB at the beginning. Bob passed recently, and with him went all of that information. I never got to ask him about it because I didn't know he was even there.
I don't know what the first format was, but I imagine it was 1950 music, town news, and special features, geared to the people of Holyoke.
In those days, every town or city had their own station, geared to the news of that particular town, so if you wanted to hear the local news, you tuned in your local station, and the news guy would expound on the fender bender at the corner of High and Dwight Streets, or the Mayor dedicating a fern at the local park.
I had heard that at some point in WREB's history, the station played country music. I don't know when, but it seems an odd format choice. In the early sixties, they played rock and roll, and one show I listened to there was hosted by an area D.J. named Dick Robinson. Dick started a little enterprise several years back and called it The Connecticut School of Broadcasting. The school is going strong still, and Dick lives in Palm Beach, Florida when he's not doing his weekly radio show, American Standards By The Sea, on his yacht, heard around the planet . Dick did OK for a WREB kid. I spoke with him about a year and a half ago, on the air, and I honestly have to say, he's still a nut case.
Sometime in the late 60's or early 70's, Joe Alfano bought the station, and it went to a talk format. I missed most of those years as I had to go play war in Vietnam.. When I finally got involved in the station, I was doing a couple of segments on a program called Odyssee, a childrens show airing Saturday nights on WWLP TV in Springfield. This was 1979, and I was looking for area people to talk with for the show. I thought of Willard Womack doing talk on REB, so I contacted him, but it never came to fruition for some reason.Willard had me as a guest a couple of times to talk about the TV show, and had me fill in for him one day when he was sick, and I was kind of in the door. I also listened to Barbara Heissler. She had a "theme" show on every Friday, and all it was , was trivia. Trivia back then was golden on the radio. Everybody listened to see how smart they were. I once recorded sound bytes from a bunch of old albums I still have, brought them into Barbaras show, and thus was born the first "audio" trivia show on the airwaves.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself doing the afternoon slot there, and with longer summer hours, someone was needed for those extra three hours or so, so Richard did the 5 o'clock addition to the 12:30 extention of the 8:05 news, and I was volunteered, by Joe, to close the place down. No extra pay, just more time on the air. Thanks, Joe.
The first week was a disaster. When people get used to changing the dial at 4:45 PM when we signed off in the winter, they continue to change the station when we are still on the air in Spring and Summer. Nobody called. By Wednesday of that week I had told my whole life story. Thursday I said I would give away a free album to the first person to identify the artist. I played the song. It was Frank Sinatra. Nobody called. I thought this might be a problem....HHMMM..AHA! How about theme shows? Something for everyone. It's an audience limiter, but any port in a storm.
Theme shows never work that well. If it's a cooking show, and you couldn't care less about cooking, you're turning the dial. Due to the disasterous first week, I decided to have Linda come in with me for some of these. Mondays: Helpful hints. We all need them.. Could be for anything. Call now....lines are open. Helpful hints....Nothing. Swell.
Tuesdays: ASK Linda & George. We'll talk about anything, with anybody, just Ask Linda & George. Nothing. I might add here that these two shows did pick up later in the Summer, but not by much.
Wednesday: The Tradeo Show. Buy, sell, swap and/ or trade. Call now....lines are open..just pick up the phone...nobody wanted to buy sell or trade anything. When they did call, it was for wierd things. One woman had a big pile of rocks. No charge. Free rocks, just come get them.. Another woman had a washing machine she wanted to sell. I thought, finally, this is good. She then said the following: "hardly ever used, because it hardly ever worked." I still have her voice on tape saying that. A regular caller, Joe Golen, better known as Joe from Chicopee, tried for weeks to sell a social security metal stamper to make metal cards. I think he still owns that thing. Joe always bailed me out on these theme shows. When the phones were dead, he'd call. He spent a LOT of time on the air with me.
I don't even remember what was on Thursdays, might have been trivia, but then came Friday night. Management thought the first four shows were ok to waste time on the air, but when I informed them I was going to do a talent show on the radio, they retired to Sweeney's Cafe for the duration. A talent show?? Are you nuts?
Friday : Talent Show, you're on the air. The phones lit up. This was bizzare. I would take as many calls as I could, and when time was running out, I would open the phones up to vote for your favorite of the evening. That days winner went into the finals at the end of the summer. Every week, the winner received a WREB Double R Record. What they didn't know was that the Double R stood for really rotten. Albums in the back room like the greatest hits of Charlie Weaver, or Margaret Whiting sings Tex Ritter songs. Not real popular, but the show was.
This thing took off like a rocket. With everything from jokes, songs, impressions, and poems to a lady who put the phone on her kitchen floor and tap danced to Hello Dolly. She had no music, so I sang the song while she danced. I wonder, to this day, if her husband had come home from work at that time, around supper, and saw her with the pasta cooking on the stove, the phone on the floor, and her in the tap shoes she hasn't had on for 20 years, tapping away with no music. He would have joined the others at Sweeney's cafe.
This show was so stupid, but Lordy it was so funny. I looked forward to this night all week . I shut the studio lights off, lit the place with candles and let the phones ring. I taped all of this stuff, of course, and the final show was all the weekly winners from the shows run back to back, and the audience voted. Joe from Chicopee won the season, doing, of all things, a heartfelt reading of something he wrote about his grandmother. There wasn't a dry eye in Hampden County. He was the first, and only WREB Idol, and for his efforts I amassed the most rediculous prizes from the station, including 10 records from the Double R archives, the actual plans for a parking lot that was to be built somewhere in Holyoke. I found them in the record room.. He also got a trophy I picked out, inscribed with his name, and talent of the year. It was the back end of a horse.
During the following winter months, I was pushed up to the morning show, so I never did late afternoons again, and I never did a theme show again.
Most times it's like a dream that I was involved with doing things like that on the air. At times I listen to those days on my old tube type Akai tape recorder and wonder how it changed from those days of wacked out radio to the same old things every day on radio. Todays talk radio is actually one big theme show. Proof of that was Anna Nicole Smith. A couple of years ago, Michael Jackson. Monica Lewinski. One world wide theme show at a time, so very little to laugh about, so far away from, "Talent Show, You're On The Air!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Day At Mountain Park

One of the benefits of being on the air is that you have the ability to help people in your area far and above what other outlets can do. On occasion, a situation would arise during my 25+ years on the airwaves that made me try to help people who's luck seemed non existant.
The first time I did this was in the summer of 1980, but it was not for a person. It was for a statue. Yup, I was trying to help a statue.
There is a park in Holyoke that once was called Hampden Park. I remember that name because I once worked next to that park at the Hampden Park Atlantic station. George Taloumis owned it, Pete Parenteau was the mechanic, Lester Holubecki and I pumped gas there, and generally ran the place into the ground as none of us, except Pete ,had a clue as to what we were doing. A great example of this was the night I backed a Transcript Telegram truck into the lift that I forgot to put down. George was so mad at that the next day, he whipped the Holyoke Provision truck around the gas island and accidentally ripped down the lights over the island. It was a wierd place. Back to the statue.
The park was completely refurbished by the city of Holyoke in 1980, and the only thing left to do was clean the statue, but alas, there was no more money to do this. What are the odds?
I started wondering how I, a little talk show host at WREB, could raise the needed funds needed to have said statue cleaned and made wonderful again.
The park looked spiffy, and after months of deliberation, the name Hampden Park went into the dumpster, and the name Veterans Park was instituted.
Now it was up to me to raise the funds to have the statue de-pidgeonized after 100 years or so. I recalled one of my radio heros from when I was a kid. There was Phill Dee, Jack Diamond, Al Gates, and the nut of the airwaves on WHYN, Bud Stone. Bud did nutty things for no reason really. Once somebody had him sit in a camper for as long as he could, and live there, do his show, and people would talk about it. Sounds easy enough, but for one thing. The camper was suspended by a crane about 60 feet in the air, over an asphalt parking lot. I think he lasted 6 days. Another thing he did was see how long he could ride the roller coaster at Mountain Park. I don't recall how long he stayed on it, but that was the original idea I was going to steal to raise statue money. So I went on the air, contacted all the principles for this feat, and had anybody that wanted to pledge any amount per trip around the old wooden circuit that was The Mountain Park Rollercoaster. Anybody that wanted to ride around once next to me had to pay a buck per ride.
That Saturday came and the old WREB sign went up at the base of the coaster With the determination of a mountain climber, I climbed aboard this thing, hoping to do at least 50 trips all to help an old statue in a rejuvinated park.,
The first trip of the day had 2 guys in the front car, me in the middle, and the park hadn't even opened yet. Off we went. I had been on the old coaster a few times in my life, and in all of my trips, the coaster never got stuck. This time it did. On the far end at the peak of the turn...nothing. The guys in the front got out, opened up a little box on the walkway, and proceeded to paint grease or oil on the rails in front of the ole' Cyclone. Then they started to push it, running along side. It started moving and they jumped in for the return back to the gate. I thought, " This is not going to be a good day."
Seems that every day they do this routine because over night, dew would rust over the remains of the rails and the thing always got stuck on that corner.
A lot of people showed up that day, and every loop was another six or seven bucks for the statue fund. Fifty times around, and I was still going strong. The Holyoke police had security there, and at one point, my wife Linda, who had done about fifteen rides with me, said she was through. The cop said she wasn't going to give up so easily, so he hadcuffed her to the car she was in for another ten rides. The mayor showed up, took one ride with me and told me to bill him..
So here it is, late afternoon, and I have surpassed the 100 mark. Updates for my progress were being broadcast hourly on WREB and some folks were getting pretty nervous, as they had pledged a buck a ride, never thinking this nut job on the radio would do more than thirty circuits.
Early evening came, and WREB, a daytimer, signed off for the day at sunset, as I was finishing about 135. Some listeners were writing their will. I had yet to get off of this thing, no breaks, no stretching, and amazingly, no need for the little boys room.. It was dark, and I was ridin' for the statue .
The park closed for the day at 11 PM, and as the last trek of the creaky old Cyclone came to a halt, the locking hand rails went up and I departed the monster that had carried me around its loop one hundred and seventy four times. One HUNDRED and seventy four times. I never got off the thing all day. I could barely walk. I've never been hit by a truck, but I could now identify with folks who had been. I hurt for weeks, literally. I never wanted to be on a roller coaster again, and I never had been. The old, heavyset gentleman who ran the Cyclone had been doing so for over 30 years at that time, told me what I did, no one ever did before. One guy once did 100, but had to get off. It might have been Bud Stone, but he couldn't remember. The following weeks saw checks roll into the station, but not as many as I had hoped. Some folks just couldn't afford 174 bucks, and the guy who offered 5 bucks a ride probably moved and changed his phone number.
It came to about twelve hundred dollars I had raised, all of it going to the Parks & Rec Department in Holyoke, in a special fund called the statue fund.
Within a year I was gone from WREB, and subsequentle forgot about the statue fund untill about a month ago. It seems there is a girl in the area who is trying to raise funds to get the statue cleaned. Today, the cost is about the same as a new Ferrari. Back then it was about two grand I think..
I have contacted her and let her know about the now 27 year old statue fund that was never used. If it's still there, and if it is an interest bearing account, she might be able to buy the park itself. Time will tell.
This radio fundraiser was the only sort of frivolous undertakings I started. The others were pretty serious, and I'll tell you about them in another post.
If you remember Mountain Park or the Casino in the Park, my old friend Dave Fraser produced a fabulous retrospective of the park in 2002. You can find it by going to www.wgby.org . When you get there, click local programs and look for Mountain Park Memories. You'll even get to take a trip, through the program, on the old cyclone, and if you ever rode it for real, you won't belive the feeling you get going over that first hill. I know, I did it 174 times one day. I was also fortunate enough to be part of the program, and I speak about what you just read here. It was no big deal in retrospect. It was just another day at Mountain Park..

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tallulah and Me

Tony Grillo has a site about this strange woman. It's a little early in this blog to get into the people I crossed paths with at the Mt. Tom Playhouse, or as it was known then as the Casino in the park, but this was a unique experience I had trying to impress some big movie star on a hot Sunday morning so I could save the day. If you're a fan, here's Tonys site http://home.earthlink.net/~tgrillo/index.html I sent him the following in 1999, and it's still on his site.

July 1964, and I was 16 years old. I had always loved the theater and having begged a Mr. Carlton Guild several times for the chance, I was granted permission to work as an apprentice for the summer at the Mt. Tom Playhouse in Holyoke, Mass. My father was rather upset that I had had to pay $30.00 (union fees) to work there, but after much ballyhoo, I convinced him that I would be in a learning place and not out somewhere on the town. Some shows had come and gone already that season, and as we headed into the month of July, great anticipation was prevalent as the Queen herself was on the way. My Gawd, ...Tallulah Bankhead!!..., coming to Holyoke.
That week arrived and naturally all shows were sold out; the sets were up and ready. The producer, a Mr. Hugh Fordin, was nervous, having heard that Ms. Bankhead was somewhat difficult. Everything must be as perfect as possible. She arrived at Holyoke on a Sunday, and went directly to her lodgings, a mere cabin hidden in the woods of Mt. Tom. It was en route to this cabin that my one on one with Bankhead transpired.
Mid-afternoon on Monday, July 13th, a limousine pulled up next to the theater. The driver got out and stood to the right rear of the car. I was watching from the outside rear of the theater...as he just stood there in the July heat. We watched and waited for about 15 minutes; another car pulled up, some people got out, went to the limo with the driver, and they all just stood there together. Finally, the driver opened the door... . And there she was!, dressed in a long flimsy/frilly sort of gown/lingerie looking thing, flowered if I remember correctly. My first impression was that she hadn't slept in two days or had been taking the Holy Water for most of that day. She had a sharp temper, and at times swore like a sailor, but she was Tallulah and she could and would do as she wished, when and how she wished it. Hugh Fordin warned us that whatever she needed, whenever she needed it... we were to "JUST GET IT!"
The show that week was "Glad Tidings," a comedy written by Edward Mabley, and although I watched it eight times, I cannot, for the life of me remember anything about it. The only other actor I remember in the production was Evelyn Russell, who was a real gem to most of us, and pushed us in the right direction when it came to performing services for La Bankhead. The show went very well that week, and she was loved by all who came to see her. Ticket prices had been raised from an average $3.50 to $4.50, but the audience had gladly paid even that exorbitant fee! There was the definite impression, and rightly so, that she was usually pretty much half in the bag all of the time, but this condition did not as I recall, affect her stage performance at all. There were many demands that week, and we adhered to them as much as possible. The theater was very hot and not air conditioned, a major bone of contention at all times! And, the one thing, above all else... she demanded to have her newspapers, as many different ones as possible, delivered to her cabin every morning.
As the week went on, we all towed the line. She had remarked several times that I had beautiful hair, somewhat of an embarrassment for me, as she would always muss up my then full head of red hair. On Sunday, July 19,1964: I arrived at the theater early that day; as this was strike day, after the final performance of the current show, the old set came down and the new one would be erected overnight. Van Johnson was scheduled to act in the play,"A Thousand Clowns." I was with the others outside the theater, busily painting flats, when a frantic Hugh Fordin came tearing down the hill, looking like a grizzly bear was after him. "Did anybody remember to get her papers?" Apparently, the answer was no, so Fordin handed me a $10.00 bill and yelled,"GO GO GO, hurry up and get 'em (before she wakes up and creates another row)!!"
The theater car was a brand new Rambler convertible, white with a red interior, on loan from Konner Rambler in Holyoke. It had about 600 miles on it. Now I was Batman, jumping into the Batmobile, taking off to save the reputation of the Mt. Tom Playhouse and all of the people involved with it. With unequaled speed, I raced down the access road from the playhouse to Route 5 and into the city, to the little candy and soda shop on Hampden Street in Holyoke; leapt out of the car, raced to the door to find the shop "Closed. On Vacation,"... damn!! Back in the car, racing up to the drugstore at the other end of town, I stopped to take a sample of every newspaper, that city paper, this local paper, that other one, The Racing Sheet; I didn't even know what she wanted, so I took them all. The guy at the counter just stared at me as I ran out of the store with an armful of newspapers, jumped into the Batmobile, emblazoned with the words "CAR OF THE STARS" on either side, and sped off into the sun.
The bottom of the dirt access road that lead to her cabin had a sign planted there that read "SPEED LIMIT 5 mph." I had never seen a 5 mph sign before as a speed limit, but quickly found out the reason for this, as I tore up the road at 40mph, straight up on one side, straight down on the other, Gallahad on his quest! I don't remember seeing the hill and the big dip right after it. But, I do remember being airborne and the nose of the new convertible smashing into the ground on the other side of the dip [and the brakes that didn't work while the car was airborne]. The explosion I heard was the front right tire. I got out, muttered a few words like "Golly Gee!" or words to that effect, grabbed the newspapers, and like a marathon runner, raced another half-a-mile uphill in the July sun.
I remember distinctly knocking on that screen door, and peering inside for movement. A lone figure came to the door, and I thought, "Oh man, please don't let her yell at me." The woman who came to the door was a black heavyset lady, and I informed her I had Ms. Bankhead's newspapers, as I stood there, shaken, soaked, and out of breath. Then the unmistakable voice echoed from somewhere deep in the cabin,"Who's there, Molly?" Molly may not have been the name called out, but I will use it here. Molly asked what happened to me, I told her, and she said please come in. I entered with the sweat-soaked papers, and Molly again asked, "Can I get you something?" And, before I could answer, I heard THE VOICE say, "How about a drink, Dahling?" [In the back of my mind I thought, wow, she really does say that.] At 16, I opted for ice water and was told to sit down, a few feet away from Tallulah Bankhead!! She was wearing a light blue colored nightgown and her hair was pulled back; she had a drink in one hand and may have had a cigarette (or 10) in the other. She looked at me while playing with her hair and said, "So, what do you do?" "I work at the theater," I answered. She said,"A MOOOVV-ieee theater?" I said: "No ma'am, the theater where you are performing." She put on her glasses and said, "Oh, I know you, you have beautiful red hair... ," then followed with," I HATE THAT GODDAMNED THEATER!"
I excused myself, announcing that I had to go back down the mountain and change the tire. She then abruptly asked me why I had come up there in the first place. I quickly said "To deliver your papers, m'am." She waved her hand, " Oh, that." I then did something I have never done again in my whole life, I impulsively reached to kiss her hand and thank her for the water, overhearing again the magical voice, dismissing me this time: "Anytime, Dahling! Anytime." Molly asked if I wanted to call anybody for help, I said no and started trotting down the mountain to the car.
I fixed the flat, and then proceeded back up the mountain, as you can only go one way, and that is the one and only way to turn around, up at the cabin. When I got there, Tallulah was outside, sitting at a table under a yard umbrella; she looked up at me. I waved, and she yelled out,"Back already, are we?" I explained to her that I was just turning around, and she waved at me like I was one of the neighbors. I went back to the theater and told them of my accident; the damage to the car was passed off as minor, as long as she had gotten her newspapers. The matinee and the evening performances that day went well ... . And , then, it was a wrap! I made sure to stand at the actors exit when she was to leave. She approached me, smiled, and without a word, walked by as I mumbled good-bye. (At least, I think she may have smiled; I really don't remember, though I do recall the delicious scent of her obviously expensive perfume, like an exquisite blue cloud that wafted around and trailed after her). I watched the slight stagger in her walk as she approached the limo... crushed out a cigarette and got into the car; then, she was gone.
I picked up the cigarette butt and put it away in a small paper bag with a note on the bag so as not to forget. Stupid, I guess, and now long lost somewhere forever, but I will never forget the Lady nor the time a 16-year-old kid had the distinct honor of sitting down (albeit, momentarily) with an immortal and hearing her call me: "DAHHHHHHLING!!!!"

What A Character

Occasionally, I would come up with a concept that required a certain sort of person to make the concept work. I could never find these people in the real world, besides if I did I would have to pay them, so I did the next best thing. I made them up. This is why there are casting directors in the movies. An idea can only be made to be funny if the characters are funny, and fit the part.
I think I'll introduce you to two long lasting nimrods that were on the air with me at WSPR, WLDM, and finally at WNNZ.
Felix Pernaverny and Clarence Fempter.
I had an idea in the mid 80's about traffic reports in the morning for my radio show, but like every other station I worked at, there was no money in the budget. Helicopter reports were becomming commonplace in larger markets. They always seemed stupid to me, for whenever you heard of some problem on the roads, you were already in the middle of the traffic snafu, or had just passed the exit that would have allowed you to get around it, or if you didn't have a job and nowhere to go to, you'd head to the spot of the incident to rubberneck, thereby furthur complicating the lives of cops and hundreds of angry people who are now late for work.. Now I was about to institute fake traffic reports around Springfield with two way out characters, but I couldn't make them sound too real. Lord knows there are people out there that believe everything they hear on the airwaves. So I created Felix Pernaverny's Discount Helo Service. Felix was the worst of the worst when it comes to deadbeats. He drank, gambled to excess, and was a schyster who got away with everything illegal and immoral, coming out of it smelling like a rose. His co pilot Clarence was not the brightest bulb in the silverware drawer either. Felix was married once to Clarences sister Shirley. When they were kids, Shirley used a staple gun to staple Clarences hat to his head so he wouldn't loose it. Clarence had to quit school in the third grade because he was getting too big to fit behind the desks.
Every day, I would send a signal to the helo to start the report, and every day there was a problem, so a traffic report was never given, just another story about some inane issue in the lives of Clarence and Felix.
I penned about 160 episodes of this bit, and did all of the sound. Every episode ran four to five minutes. When I wrote these episodes, the words just flowed, the ideas were endless, and I would laugh out loud, envisioning the episode in my mind. It was not unusual for me to get off the air, and spend the afternoon writing. I would go back to the station at night and bring the scripts to life. There was a constant loop of the sound of a helicopter in the background. I would grab a studio tape for each character and number the script so I knew what tape a character went on. I wrote this stuff so I already knew the inflections that were needed. When all of the lines were recorded, I started up a reel to reel tape recorder, started the loop, and then just pressed the corresponding tape to the script, and an episode came to life. The next morning the episode would air twice, and that was it. It took about 5 hours to do each one, and some were pretty complicated as there were episodes that had different characters, (ergo, different voices ) flying the WW2 army surplus helicopter. The whole family of the Pernavernys were nuts. Verna and Bernie Pernaverny his parents. Hortense and Laverne, the boys girlfriends, Clarence's brother Nestor Fempter, and a few others. Felix's family all operated "discount" services of some kind .Whenever there was call for a service of some sort, Felix always had a cousin who owned...for example..Ernie Pernaverny's Discount Law Firm, or Stetson Pernaverny's Discount Lawn Care.
All in all there were 22 different characters in this bit, and it got funnier and funnier.I would always use towns and streets in the area, and people would call me on occasion telling me that they looked for this helicopter and could never see it up there. I was amazed at those calls.
When I first dreamed this thing up, I had to be sure to get the proper names for the characters. I didn't want to use any name that could be associated with anybody, or religion, or ethnic background. One of my radio idols when I was a kid was a guy on WHYN. His name was Tom, but on the air he was Bud Stone, and he was funny. He started a radio club and if you wanted to join the club, you wrote a letter to him and you became an official member of " The Purn Club ". Myself and hundreds of others became Purns. In homage to one of my heros, the name Pernaverny was created some 20 years later. Clarence Fempter I just dreamed up. It sounded funny and as Clarence was a character who should'nt have been allowed on the street alone, it fit like a glove.
I was lured away from WSPR by the promise of bigger and better things. The station I went to was run by a husband and wife and she used to follow the helo reports like a soap opera. One of the conditions of me going to work for them was that I bring the concept to their station. About two months into my tenure there, he came into the studio one morning and said the helocopter sound effects in the reports was annoying, and I should stop using it. Helocopter reports with no helo sound. Well, now...this is brilliant. It then went from the Whispercopter report to the Whisperbugger reports, as I then had them in an old VW every morning. This annoyed him too. Eventually the daily reports went from daily to a Friday report from the tower site, and finally he told me to stop it all together.
When I was at WREB, I introduced to the public Mz. Clara Washington, the last living daughter of George. She was nuts and would pop in for Christmas time, Thanksgiving, or no reason at all. She ran a potato farm in Connecticut someplace. She was 107 at the time, and completely off the wall. I would write these scripts with my friend Chip in mind as he would always interview her,(me) on the air. I would give him the script, he'd scan it over. We went into production and taped it. First take, every time. The guy is a genius.
Chester J. Misque was an editorialist who came on weekly. In the 1980's, he did an editorial on aids. He thought there was a problem with eating too much of the diet chocolate that was around then.That character was also a moron.
One day at lunch I came up with an idea for a Dragnet episode. Chip and me again. He was Joe Friday, I was Bill Gannon. It was '"The Night Before Christmas". A report came in about a night time B&E, and they went to the house with the standard "just the facts ma'am.." What made it funny is that it was The Night Before Christmas verbatim. The whole poem, interjected with questions by Joe and Bill.. Of course, the boys got their man at the end. One Kris Kringle.
I remember hearing The 12 Days of Christmas on the radio one day. It occured to me that the only thing of value in that song are the 5 golden rings. Literally, 45 minutes later, I had written a script with 2 characters about this song. Till I left the airwaves, it was the most requested thing I had ever created for radio, and to this day people ask me for a copy of it. One day a woman called me telling me she was listening to it on her way to work, peed in her pants from laughing, and had to go back home..
Then there was Cozy Man. Fifteen characters. A weekly radio soap opera about a guy whose whole purpose in life was to go around and make everybody's life comfortable and cozy.This started out when a place called The Cozy Inn on Rt. 20 in Westfield started advertising with WREB. The salesman wanted me to come up with something funny to promote the little bistro. So Cozy Man was born, along with his trusty sidekick, Samuel. Horace and Shirley Glump were their arch enemies, and they once crash landed a plane in the Frinkleville jungle. Go figure. It worked..People loved this thing. Problem was that John and Joanie, the owners od the Cozy Inn, drank up the profits, and one night the farm they had that was in foreclosure mysteriously burned down, and they went back to New York.
It was always so much fun creating characters, and it transported people back to a time when radio was king and you got to make up who the people were and what they looked like. It was imagination, it was silly, it was funny, and I got to do this at a time just before the magic of radio faded away into a platform for selling prescription medications to the masses. Larry Glick replaced by Michael Savage. Cousin Brucie, replaced by Dean Edell . There's no fun out there for the most part, because there are no characters out there. When's the last time you heard the series "Chickenman" on the radio. In the sixties, this was one FUNNY show. I have the entire series on tape, and every few years or so I dig it out and it's still funny today. Find out how funny it is. http://www.danoday.com/chickenman . How many people record Limbaugh or Drudge off the air? In years to come, will these recordings be something to listen to and recall the good old days? Will we ever really look forward to hearing a great show everyday? Perhaps if you have some old reel to reel tapes your family might have floating around the cellar somewhere, and if you're lucky enought to have a player, you might find some recording of someone from years gone by that your father or grandfather thought was good enough to tape. Who knows? You might find an episode or two of Cozy Man or Clara Washington on them.. You'll never be able to hear those characters on live radio ever again, but when they were there, they made you laugh and feel better about things. That's one of our problems today. We listen to get angry, not to have fun.Thank you corporate America..

Friday, March 23, 2007

You're on the Air!

Nobody ever says that. It's the stuff of movies. Any broadcaster will tell you that all you have is this little lit up box that says, "ON AIR" and half the time somebody has stolen the bulb from it for the mens room light . I got nuts over radio when I was trying to become an actor. I got as far as Universal in Hollywood to meet Mark Malis, the then head of casting. He said, "Yeah, I can help you kid, but you gotta move out here." Great. I have 5 kids and a house, and a low paying job at a radio station, and I'm just going to pack up and move. Hindsight says why the hell didn't you go, and common sense at the time said you can't possibly do this.
I read somewhere that Bob Crane started out in radio and worked his way to Hollywood, so that was the path I would take. Little did I know how the radio business was changing. I worked at it all the time, and waited for those great successful days to come, but radio changed and I was one of the last of the "local" radio shows to go down in flames.
I worked with some amazing talent, some super egos, some talentless morons, and made a lot of friends along the way, but in hindsight again, the only names folks might remember were the names from my earlier years as opposed to the latter part of my career.
I had a short but amazing ride at WREB in Holyoke. I was bringing home a whopping 145 dollars a week from there, so I would get up at 4AM drive 20 miles to the station, turn the transmitter on, and do two hours alone on the air till Richard showed up for his 8:30 block of news. I got off the air at 10, then went to my second job driving an oil truck till about 7, went home, ate, scanned newspapers for items for the next mornings show and was in bed by 10, day in and day out. When you're done wiping your eyes, I'll continue.
I worked with Richard and once with Tracy Cole at WREB. Imet my best friend Jonathan Evans there. I got to know one of radios first sucessful black broadcasters there, Willard Womack, and I got to know the first lady of talk radio there, Barbara Heissler. Now that was a grouping of people. One of the first black hosts, one of the first woman hosts, and a news guy more popular than anybody else on a 500 watt daytime only radio station. I did afternoons and evenings sometimes, Jonathan, (Chip) did mornings, Willard did mid days, as did Barbara. Then we got moved all around. Me to mornings, Chip followed me, Willard folled him, and Barbara finished up the day.
Talk radio today is always the same host and some citizen of the world that calls once and is never heard from again. In the days of WREB, some people would become,"regulars", and everybody new their voices. Take " Sweet Lelani" for example. A woman named Tanya who was on the air more than the hosts were. Like any port in a storm, when the calls were light, she was there. She got the name Sweet Lelani from The Personals of the Air show with Chris Plasse where everybody made up CB names for the show.
This woman had a one track political mind and would head in one direction every time she called, and as I didn't do politics on the air, ( that was Willard's forte ), I tried to figure out how to get this woman from bugging me so much.
One day, for no reason whatsoever, I started talking about diets. "How do you lose weight" I queeried to the masses. A few calls came in, and I had fun with the people calling, because that was my style. Make it funny. Then Tanya called. Step up to the plate as a political pitch is about to be tossed at me.
She starts about some Boston politico and goes into her tirade about taxes, government spending, the moon landing and on and on, so I jumped in with the following question:
" How do you lose weight"?
She said, " Excuse me "?
I said, " How do you lose weight"?
She said, " Simple, you just keep your mouth shut."
I said, " You must be one big woman."
She stopped calling me after that.
Then we had Dagmar. To this day, I do not have a clue what this was. On Saturday Night Live there was a character who was this androgenous person who could be mistaken as a man or a woman. Nobody was sure what it was. This was Dagmar. This person would call with comments that would make a third grader look like a Harvard graduate, and sounded like a man doing a poor imitation of a woman. At the end of the call, he...or she..or whatever broke into this maniacal laugh and would hang up. If we did remote broadcasts outside the studio, Dagmar would call the next day and tell us what we were wearing, but we never, ever saw he/she/it (please pick one). This went on for years, and nobody ever knew what Dagmar was, and it was never seen, as far as we know, by anybody at the station.
There was this legislation going on in 1980 concerning the Bottle Bill in Massachusetts. The biggest story of the year, a stupid bottle bill. A nickle to return your bottles, and Massachusetts was up in arms.
One day I got a call from a guy who was loaded. It was about 9:30 in the morning. He was tanked and started rambling on about the bottle bill.
He couldn't afford the extra cost, at least I think that's what he was slurring about. Next day he calls back, even in worse shape. Somehow I got him laughing so hard he said he was crying. I asked him his first name. He said it was Bill. That was the beginning of several months of the funniest calls I used to get on my program, from some guy I nicknamed Bottle Billy. He would call twice a week or so, and he built up a following. He'd tell stories, and I would interject comments during those stories, and he would start laughing. This was genuine laughter, and the stories became hysterical.
I thought that this guy had to be some sort of entertainer, so one day I invited him to the studio to do a show to see for myself what I was dealing with. He hopped on a bus from Springfield and showed up on time, drunk as a skunk. A little old unkempt man with a wild sense of humor an a problem with the bottle. He was genuinely funny, when you could understand him, and one of those people nobody would have ever known of if I didn't take the time to talk to him..Bottle Billy got his 15 minutes of fame, and he felt wanted. That's what talk radio used to be. When you called, the guy on the air answered. You got to know voices, and you felt important.
There are no more Dagmars or Tanyas or Bottle Billys on the air. Now you are screened, given instructions, say a few words, and you fade away in a heartbeat. Nobody remembers your words, or know who you are.
Arthur Godfrey was one of the first to try talk radio in the 50's. Back then, a caller would call the number given, and Arthur would answer the phone like you do at hime. Not on the air, but on a regular phone, and he would repeat what you said to the audience because the audience couldn't hear the caller. When somebody figured out how to put the caller on the air, it just took off. Now, you could call your hometown radio station, be ON THE RADIO....holy cow...I WAS ON THE RADIO!! Your friends and people at work heard you. When was the last time somebody said to you I heard you on the radio? Probably the last time you used a hula hoop.
Radio was owned by somebody who lived in the town where the station was. The hosts read the commercials. There was always a PERSON live and local on the air.
Those days are gone, but they don't have to be. Radio is one of the few things left that will still work today like it did yesterday, but the question is, is there still a market for that style of radio? There's that word, market. Bottom line...not the listener, but the bank account. Of course there's a market. If there wasn't, why would people spend thousands of dollars to get a flat screen TV, and cable, and sound system to watch TV Land?
Years ago, there was an episode of WKRP in Cincinati, a spoof of Dickens Christmas Carol. The part of Christmas future featured Herb Tarlick walking into this pure white quanset hut. There was an eerie fog, Herb was dressed in white. Everything was in white. You knew he was the only person still working at the station. The SALESMAN. But of course. He spoke into the mic and said," This is WKRP in Cincinati. Till tomorrow morning at six , Good Night." He threw a switch, and the station was off for the night. When I saw that when it aired for the first time, I thought, " Yeah, like that's going to happen some day." Well it has. Stations don't sign off for the most part at dusk any longer, but there's no people left. Rush Limbaugh will boast about being heard on some 700 stations or so, but did he ever apologize to the 700 plus people whose jobs he took? No.... No.
Go into any radio station after 10 AM and look at that little box outside the broadcast booth. The one that says "On The Air"
It will be dark.
Not because somebody swiped the bulb.
It's dark because nobody's there.

Tracy Cole

To women, he was the "monster" on the radio. Long before anyone knew the name Howard Stern, the WREB airwaves were filled daily with the voice of the first shock jock in New England. People thought Joe Pine had an attitude, but in the afternoons in the 60's and 70's, Tracy Cole blasted anything and everything, not by yelling. He never sounded angry, but he was. He often spoke in a monotone voice saying unbeliveable things to unknown thousands of people and generally getting them angry.So who was this guy, and what was his problem?
A man by the name of Chuck Crouse first hired Cole somewhere in Vermont in the 60's, and he had migrated down to Holyoke to do a talk show in the afternoon. Sounds simple enough, but Tracy was a different sort of character. At a time when you couldn't say "poop" on the airwaves, he figured out a way to use no bad language, but manage to insult people on a daily basis, usually one on one on the airwaves, and he got away with it.
The first time I met him was on the steps of the Chicopee radio station, WACE.. My mother was a talk show junky, and she listened daily to the rantings of this man with a very distinguished voice, and decided one day she wanted to meet him and present him with a gift. We hopped in the car, and headed to Chicopee so she could personally hand this guy a happy face smile button. I have no idea what she was thinking or why something as inane as a smile button was so important to her, but she was Mother and she wanted to do it. At that time, Tracy had been fired from WREB for something...sacrificing a puppy on the air or something like that.
People who listen to the same voices on the air for a while tend to develop a mental image of what that person looks like. Several times over the years, folks were amazed when they met me, as they always seemed to have a different impression of who I was. I guess I sounded taller on the air. This was the case with the first meeting of Tracy Cole. My mother had an impression of this man to look like Robert Goulet or Tony Bennett .When we got there, we rang the bell, and were told to wait a minute. When Tracy Cole came to the door, my mother didn't think it was him.. Where was the Tony Bennett look alike? Standing there was her idol, the man she listened to every day, and never missed a word. He was bald, had a scraggly beard, cross eyed, coke bottle glasses, a pot belly and clothes from the Goodwill bin. She introduced us to him and gave him the button, then asked for a picture of him, I guess so she could show her friends and say, "You'll never believe who this is".
To say she was taken aback is an under statement. He was not a good looking guy. I face for radio never rang mre truthfully.
It seems to me that Tracy was fired or lured back to WREB because when he left for WACE, the entire listening audience went with him, so back he came to the 930 frequency and settled into his old habits.
Let me tell you a little bit about Joe Alfano. He owned WREB, and was a very well known character in Holyoke. He was about 5 foot 2, and a dapper dresser if there ever were one. If you saw Joe as a regular on the Sopranos, you'd think he was perfect for the part. His opinion of air talent was, "have fun, do a good show, and don't get me sued". Not a difficult set of rules to live by. He prayed daily that Tracy Cole would abide by those rules. So, it's a warm summer day in the early 70's, Joe tells his daughter Judy, the secretary, that he and a salesman are having lunch at the Yankee Peddlar on Northampton street, and if he is needed, that's where to get him.. He and the salesman go to the Peddlar, Tracy Cole starts his program, and all is right with the world. This was the day, Joe later told me, that he knew even God hated Tracy Cole. As he recalled that day, they had a window seat at the Inn, and it was sunny and clear. Tracy was starting some diatribe on the airwaves, and because he could never really figure out how to use the tape delay system in the studio, he was on every day absolutely live. What went out over the airwaves was heard as it happened, not 7 seconds later. Joe never knew this. So now on this brilliant summer day, Joe and the sales guy are having a meal, and Tracy is taking a call. At the moment of the call, a huge black cloud passes over the Inn, and torrid rain and lightning obliterate the sunshine, and for three minutes Armegeddon falls from the sky. The black cloud passes, the sunshine returns and a waitress comes to Joe's table. "Mr. Alfano, there's a call for you from the station". Joe takes the call, then departs the Inn immediatly.
There were several dozen calls to the station going on as Joe raced back to the "scene of the crime". It seems there was a heated argument transpiring over the airwaves between Tracy and some woman. After a few minutes, about 3 minutes to be exact, the caller posed the following question to Mr. Cole. "Is it true you f### dead dogs", to which Tracy answered, " Yes, better than f###### you". That's it, lights out, game over.
That was the second time Joe had to go on the air to apologize to Western Massachusetts, and the first time he found out that Tracy never used the delay system. Tracy not using the delay was like Russian Roulette, and the gun finally went off. It wasn't bad enough that the caller used the word, but he did too, and that's what freaked out Joe. Tracy kept his job somehow and never did another program without the delay.
A few years later during a commercial break, Tracy went to the mens room and with dead air being broadcast, Judy alerted her father that Tracy disappeared. Joe found him, unconscious wih his head in the toilet. He had a stroke. A bad one. They sent him to the hospital, and a week later, I was doing his afternoon slot on the air. It was not an easy transition.
About a year later, Tracy was seen zipping all over Holyoke in his motorized wheelchair, somewhat of a rare device in those times. You could always see him coming because he had this triangular orange flag on a 10 foot pole flapping in the breeze. His voice was affected by the stroke, so he never spoke very much. Ironic how someone who made a living with his voice didn't want to speak any longer.
I ran into him on High Street one day and introduced myself. I'm not sure to this day if he even knew who I was. I begged him to do a show with me, and for some reason, he said he would.
The day he came into the studio, he rolled up to the consol and just stared down, spoke very little. It was the first time he had been back since the day of the stroke. I opened up the show, told the audience he was there, and the phone lines lit up. What was I getting myself into? What if people started to rag on this guy, saying things like it couldn't have happened to a nicer person? The calls started, and everybody was nice. I was stunned. A community that was driven insane by the tirades of this guy was honestly concerned for him.. What I didn't expect was Tracy's stroke had altered his reasoning and thought patterns. He gave strange answers to questions. "Do you miss the radio, Tracy?" "I think I went to the races that day" he would reply.
He barely used more than ten words, and what I had expected did not happen. He wasn't even sure why he was there.
That was the last time I talked with Tracy. He continued to fly around the streets of Holyoke in his chair, most likely coming from nowhere and headed to nowhere. He died in the summer of 1989 with little fanfare, I didn't even know he was gone till weeks later. I still have a tape of one of his shows. A slow deliberate banter, a sort of kettle you were just waiting to see boil, but it never did. He left that to the audience.
Joe Alfano had an illness also. Started with a lactose intolerance thing, but became something else. Shortly before he died, I went to see him at his house, but for some reason I could not physically see him. I never found out why. I sat in the hallway of Joe's home and talked with him through a partially opened bedroom door.. His voice was weak and scratchy, he was very ill. Tracy Cole came up in the conversation, and I asked Joe why, perhaps, he thought Tracy seemed so very miserable all of the time. Joe told me a story that might have been the beginning of Tracy's anger.
It seems that Tracy was a sort of gypsy in life for a long while. His youth was average, and after High School, he went on to college to study whatever it was he was pursuing at the time. Tracy had a roommate who was a go getter, and this roommate in the 1950's wanted to start a new magazine. He was sure this mag would work, told Tracy all about it, but said there was one problem.. He needed 600 dollars, and he wanted Tracy to loan him that amount, in return for a percentage of the magazine. Tracy told him it was a foolish idea, but the roomie said, " I'm going to do this. If you won't lend me the money, I'll get it from somebody, or I'll sell my furniture, or something". Tracy laughed at him, and told him someday he'd thank him for not lending the money.
Tracy never got his thanks, and his roommate did raise the money. Not lending that 600 dollars, in hindsight, was a big mistake for Tracy Cole, but for his roommate it was the start of a magazine empire that goes on to this day, and it is still headed up by Tracy's old college friend, Hugh Hefner.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Richard Lavigne

He was the first radio personality I ever met, and I was so excited, I thought I would pee.Very few people probably remember him, but before there was a Paul Harvey, there was Richard Lavigne.
I was about 10 years old when I first met him. My mother worked at the Holyoke Daily Transcript, and had met him before. Richard was the voice of Holyoke radio. He was always on our radio, the old brown bakelite thing that sat on the kitchen table. So one day, I went with my mother to Newberrys department store on High Street for something. There was a big popcorn machine in the front of the store, and in front of that popcorn machine, I first met Richard, the owner of the voice on our radio at home. Richard was a diminutive man, but I remember looking up at him. My mother said, " George, this is Richard Lavigne." I think I broke into the Ralph Kramden humina, humina, humina stutter when I met him. I remember he was wearing one of those ties like a shoestring wrapped around his neck, and clasped in the front with a medalion of some sort. He always wore them, never a normal tie.
I don't know why it was such a thrill for me to meet this man, years later, I would work with on the radio. Why do we remember things from so long ago, so precisely, that we know where we were standing, or who we were with when we met someone. Richard never pronounced his last name the standard way, like Lavine. He used Lah-ving-yay. I never knew why. He was a curious little man who knew every person in the city, every thing that was going on around town at any time, and most importantly, he had a mind like a vault. He rarely forgot anybody or anything. Let me say here that when I worked at WREB radio, it was a talk show format, the first in the area, so there was no music. You relied on callers to get you through your show. If nobody called, well, you had to be prepared to talk about anything for as long as you could or the dreaded "dead air" thing would happen. When you got to the point of not having a clue of what to talk about, you asked Richard to come in the studio. After all, he was there all day every day doing whatever it was he did.
When Richard came into the main studio, all you had to ask him was what's new. Bam.. You were all set. This man was amazing. He just went, and one thought led to another, and that thought to another, and he never failed. He did a half hour news cast from 8:05 AM till 8:35 AM every day and just talked. No sound bites, no guests, one 2 minute break, and he never had enough time to finish.
Probably my best friend ever in life is a guy I met through that radio station, Jonathan Evans. WREB was a daytime only radio station, so in the summer months, the station could stay on longer, so the owner, Joe Alfano hired a girl named Chris Plasse, and on those summer nights, she hosted a show titled, "Personals of The Air", a talk show where callers used CB handles when they called in, as the CB craze was in full force during those days in the late 70's. I listened to that show every night. I never called, but I got hooked on it. Jonathan, a.k.a. Chip, called all the time, and he became such a good caller, Joe hired him for his own show. I met Chip at a little tiny mall in Holyoke during a "live" show that nobody was listening to, and we became friends.About a year later, I got hired at WREB. The place Richard Lavigne worked! During my first week, Chip showed me around, gave me the do's and dont's of the place, and one of the dont's was.."Don't watch Richard when he does his news". I thought that quite odd, as Richard did his news every half hour, then the 8:05 half hour news cast, then the 12:30 extention of the 8 O'Clock news, (I swear, that's what he called it), so why can't you look at him? Phobia? Nervousness? No. Polident. Yup, Polident. Richard had false teeth, and a bizaare life style do to illness that caused him to eat breakfast at 5PM or supper at 2 AM, and he slept strange hours, so when he did his half hour news blocks, it was commonplace for him to lean on his elbow, talk, and start to close his eyes. He did this all of the time, and he was never aware that all of that talking would make him drool. A puddle on the counter under his mic was what Chip was referring to. A puddle of Polident and saliva. Ergo, nobody looked at Richard when he read the news. One day, a flourscent bulb burned out in the news room while he was on the air. He talked for 15 minutes about that bulb, and he made it interesting.
Richard drove around in an old brown Buick, emblazoned wit a licence plate that read,"AM 930" the frequency of the station, and his travels would take him to some daily or weekly stops for news of the community. One of those stops was a visit to an area hospital, for a medical news update, or something like that, that he thought might be interesting. After one of these hospital visits, I was on the air when it came time for Richard's updates, and he started to talk about patient proceedures in the hospital. Richard just had some notes. On everything. He never read news verbatim, he just expounded on his notes, and I must say, there were times he would ramble, and I think just make stuff up because he thought it was interesting. So he's going on about the hospital and starts to go into a story that he"thinks" is based on facts, but he can't reveal his sources, (of course),and that doctors and nurses at this hospital allow folks to die if they believe it is in the best interest of the patient. They ignor the patients. The hospital was listening and every phone in the studio lit up. WHAT THE HELL IS HE TALKING ABOUT??? The station owner came racing into the studio from lunch. I was sitting there with the monitor off as usual, but the reel to reel tape recorder was running. Joe ripped the tape off of the machine and told me that tape never existed. I said OK.
Then the Transcript Newspaper called, and the 163rd call from the Hospital administrators. It was a nightmare. Richard's response? " I was only reporting the news". It was a rare occurance, and one of the few times the owner went on the air to apologize to a large organization for what surely was," factual error".
Richard was at that station for years, once getting fired for some other infraction, but the public outcry for his return was so enormous, he was hired back, something inconceivable today.
He never missed a day unless he was very ill. The diabetes he suffered with for years with finally took it's toll, and on a cold January morning in 1986, Richard's voice was forever silenced. There's nothing to be found of him on the net. Except for Mike Dobbs "Out of the Inkwell" blog, you can find few references to that great Holyoke station. I don't even have a picture of Richard. Just some old tapes of he and I chatting it up on the air, or him breaking into the studio one morning to tell the audience Reagan had just been shot. Richard coined the phrase, "The best little town by a Dam site", a reference to the dam between Holyoke and South Hadley.
When he finished his daily broadcasts, he would always tag the last one with this: "Untill tomorrow, God Willing, this is Richard Lavigne, hoping you all have a pleasant evening, and a better tomorrow".
Thanks Richard. God Bless you Richard. You were and always will be the radio voice of WREB.

Voices from the past

For the longest time I have wanted to share a lot of things about my career in radio in Massachusetts. I have climbed all over the internet trying to find sites directly related to radio of years gone by in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. I believe this is the only one available on the web now, and I have a lot of memories to share about my tenure behind the microphone at old stations such as WREB in Holyoke, WSPR in the 80"s, WLDM which became WNNZ, and WMAS in Springfield, a station I was fired from twice.After coming back from Viet Nam in the early seventies, I had but one goal in life. To become an actor. Before my time in the military, I had been in a half dozen ot so stage shows, the first was in a show named, " Scarecrow Dick", a performance at the Joseph P. Metcalf school.in Holyoke, about a thousand years ago. I played a tree. As my Father always referred to me as a knot head, this was the perfect roll for be. I recall stepping on one of the branches of my costume and crashing to the stage, and the audience roared. That laughter was the Genesis of my career. I made people laugh, and I liked it. I liked it a lot.So here it is, over a half century later, and I still love to make people laugh, but I have lost the outlet to do so till today, when I created this blog.I will share with you stories of radio days gone by, my summers working at the Mt. Tom Playhouse, on the grounds of Mountain Park in Holyoke, where I had odd relationships with Tallulah Bankhead, Merv Griffen, Cesar Romero and others. I'll describe what it was like making the only movie I was ever in, and getting blown up in that movie. I also have a few stories about a television show I was part of on WWLP in the early eighties, but most of all, how and why I got involved in radio, and the way the radio business became the business of radio.I invite you to share any memories or questions about the stations above, or any people you might remember from those times, and I will probably start later today or tomorrow to let you know how radio was and why it can never be that way again. It was an amazing ride, and I would love to do it all over again, but I can't. Fortunately, I have hundreds of audio tapes to relive some of those times, and if science is correct, the residents of Alpha Centauri are listening to me right now. Some of them will send back hate mail, and I assure you, it won't be signed. Welcome aboard.