|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Jul. 07, 2012 - 5:32 p.m.
Is This Thing On?
I haven't written much about my job (or anything else) in a while, so a bit of catching up is in order. And I'll throw in an anecdote.
When I opened this diary oh-so-many drinks ago I was a lowly radio traffic reporter working a wee-hours shift that had such long gaps between mic breaks that I'd sometimes miss my cue because I was snoring. I started writing silly stories to keep myself both amused and awake.
For a couple of years that worked just fine. But then...I got famous. Well ok, not FAMOUS! famous. But I did get busier.
I was moved from overnights to morning drive, a seismic move in this business. And more stations were added on to my roster, which meant less time to scribble stories while on the clock.
Then one day I got noticed by a BIG station in NYC and asked to join their morning show. That meant LARGE amounts of time at work were now spent doing actual work. The diary suffered even more. Of course in return I got to shoot my mouth off at 50,000 watts, had a bunch of free food, and even got to see my name on a billboard in Times Square. So it was a good tradeoff.
Two years after that the BIG station decided to try a new morning show and I was sent back to the traffic desk and anonymity.
Then came The Crash.
Remember when the car manufacturers and financial institutions all did a Chernobyl in 2008? That economic crash thing? Great Depression Pt.2?
Guess what companies are the major buyers of commercial time on network radio shows?
Right. Car manufacturers and financial institutions.
In early 2009 our company's stock went from $36 dollars per share to 5 cents a share. That's belly-up territory, kids. In desperation the Mother Network sold our division to another network to raise capital. It worked. They stayed afloat.
We, then, had a new overlord. And the first thing they did was fire 75% of us and close all but 6 or our 34 national network hubs.
I was one of the lucky 25% they kept on the payroll, in return for which I agreed to two pay cuts, loss of benefits, and a heavier work load.
Please don't get me wrong: I mean it when I say I was lucky. For one thing, I still absolutely love what I do for a living.I don't know too many other people who come home from work and think 'Wow, I can't wait to go back to work tomorrow! I sometimes get a pre-orgasmic dribble just pulling into the parking lot. Being on the radio really is that cool. I can't imagine doing anything else.
For another thing, more work at reduced pay and no medical or dental is still better than no work at no pay. Especially these days. Needless to say, it's been tough. We've heard the wolf at the door a number of times. But I have at least been able to keep Casey the Wonder Corgi in CorgiChow, and NewWifey(tm) in WifeyChow(tm), if sometimes at reduced portions.
On the upside, even though I'm making less than when I began as a wee-hours part-time traffic reporter I can now say I'm an honest-to-god lamestream-media Network News Anchor, and therefor not to be trusted. Seriously. During the pogrom of '09 they fired so many REAL news anchors that they had to rely on a few of us traffic reporters to take up the slack. Turns out I'm pretty good at making up facts and keeping a straight face, so the gig stuck. Gullible masses in a number of markets around the US can now hear my golden pipes informing them of the latest pimple on LiLo's butt, and other headline stories. I still do traffic reports on a few stations, but really the majority of my time is now spent writing, editing, and spewing news.
Now the anecdote:
One of the stations on which I still provide traffic reports is a little AM community station in the hills of Northwest New Jersey. I love little community radio stations, having started at one myself. Sadly, most have been swallowed up by large networks (like my own) and now pump out formulaic crap produced at some central location thousands of light years away. They all sound the same.
But this particular station is a holdout, probably because it's owned by a billionaire businessman who enjoys telling people he owns "a media outlet".
I've been a part of this station's morning show for something like 14 years. Originally I was just "the traffic guy", but when it became apparent that I was I was quick on the mic the DJ started using me in more and more bits. He was a real pro, one of those guys who stayed hours after his show to produce stuff for his next day's show. His shifts always sounded tight no matter how many elements he threw into it. If you're in radio you know how tough - and rare - that is.
Unfortunately, he retired two years ago. I was genuinely sad.
The guy who's replaced him is...nice. Really a nice, nice fellow. Good voice, too.
But...he doesn't have it.
It's no slur to say that about him or anyone else when it comes to handling a full-service morning radio show. You practically have to be part octopus and part Cirque du Soleil flaming unicycle rider to coordinate it all smoothly. All the while not letting anyone know from your voice that you have 8 suckered arms and a unicycle blazing away beneath your balls.
It's a rare person who can do that.
And this guy is not a rare person.
One of the great indicators that a radio host can't handle his show is, of course, that they say stupid things on air. Things which, to their credit, they wouldn't say off air. That is, when their minds weren't racing ahead to the 42 things they have to do in the next 18 minutes involving 130 buttons, slide pots, phone lines and commercial copy. Not to mention loudmouth traffic reporters.
Every hour at the top of the hour on this guy's radio show he plays a 2-minute national news feed from ABC. At the end of the news the host introduces me, I give a traffic report, then throw it to the local news anchor. It's all very straightforward and uncomplicated: come out of national news...throw it to the traffic guy..who throws it to the local news chick...who throws it back to the host. Boom. Every hour, every day.
He messes it up almost every. single. time.
I kid you not when I tell you he's gotten his own name wrong at least a dozen times during these top-hour breaks. He forgets what day it is, what hour it is, who he's tossing it to (I've been intro'd as the weather guy, the station manager, various musical acts, and once as his guest, the newly crowned Mrs. New Jersey) and even sometimes forgets to speak altogether. Dead air is a regular feature of his show. Although even that's preferable to the non-nonsensical, inadvertently inappropriate, or just plain stupid comment he'll often make about the final national news story of the break before throwing it to me.
Like this one from last month:
The national news segment wrapped with the story about Philadelphia being named the most bedbug infested city in the United States.
The news ended.
My host came on with, "I guess Philadelphia should be re-named 'The City of Buggery Love', huh Danger?"
I sat there in stunned silence for a second. And I'm never stunned into silence on the air.
I actually broke character and said, "Host, did you just say 'Buggery Love'?"
"Yeah...didn't you hear the...oh no -"
"Mr. Host man, do you hang out with priests a lot by any chance?"
"Alright, ALRIGHT. Just shut up, will you? Do the traffic.
So I did. Bugger all.
Bonus radio anecdote!
It's actually in a similar vein.
During the news portion of my shift I have to rip through stories filed by field reporters all over the country, edit and assemble the ones I want for each 'cast, and rush to get on the air at a time that's determined to the second. Then I have to read the copy out loud - often for the first time - while simultaneously watching a countdown clock because I know when it hits zero my mic will be automatically cut off and every client station carrying my report will return to local programming. I have to adjust my tempo starting about a minute before that so I finish my outcue right at that cut-off point and not a second earlier or later. To do that my mouth goes on autopilot while my brain gives priority to everything else. Which is why I know exactly what happened when this (female, btw) ABC Network anchor wrapped up her top-hour national news feed the other day with:
"...as announced today by the American Board of Obgins. I'm ______, ABC News."
It took me a second. "Obgins"? (She said it almost as a rhyme with "hopkins".)
Then it hit me. Probably about the same time her head hit the control board when she realized what she'd just said.
I've been there myself, though. Seeing that clock tick from 3...2...1.... does funny things to your composure.
Well, time for me to wrap up this latest installment of DangerSpouse Radio. Thanks for listening kids, and be sure to tune in again same time tomorrow.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get me some of that Philadelphia love I heard so much about....