|"I'm 97, I don't take no stinking requests!"|
After further investigation I found that Maruja Venegas actually no longer shows up at a station to do her show and, in fact, her show is only a half- hour long and is on at 6PM on Sunday night. Oh, and she also works for NO dough. That explains it. In fact once they find out about her lack of a compensation package every major broadcast group in America will be calling her agent. Wait, she probably doesn't have an agent; that's ten percent MORE for the company! That's the kind of "bottom line thinking" that will endear you to management every time.
This story got me thinking about the business of radio and how weird it has always been. Some wag, I forget who, once opined that running a radio station was like trying to manage both a dinner theater and a used car dealership under the same roof. On one side of the building you had sales people interested in making money and screwing clients while at the same time a stable of mentally unhinged ego maniacal degenerates with only the next cocktail, cocktail waitress and record company freebie on their "to do" list. In other words, a task not unlike herding cats. Ferrel cats.
In radio's second Golden Age, the one where disc jockeys and powerful stations ruled the world of popular culture and music, the business was made for guys--and some gals--who loved to continue their class clown existence via an exciting yet extremely insecure profession. People job hopped, got fired frequently and were pretty much paid well to show up for four hours of so called work dressed just as they had in high school. It was high school with money, booze and a bad attitude. A job not conducive to steady employment until age 97.
One station on my resume, which shall remain nameless--KCBQ, was located near a large field that was home to the six tall towers needed for its 50-thousand watts of power. Licensed to serve San Diego, the blow torch blasted an East/West signal that could be heard as far away as Oklahoma and Hawaii. It was a fun place to hold forth. In the neighborhood nearby there were several retail outlets including more than a couple of cocktail lounges within walking distance of the studios. Often times jocks would finish a show and repair to one of these liquor dispensing emporiums. On at least one occasion, after becoming "over served" an announcer decided to take a shortcut from the bar to the station by perambulating through the field of towers. In broad daylight this was a fairly easy task, but after dark and a meeting with old pal Jack Daniels it was more like Columbus setting out for the new world. Fortunately the night was warm and, after catching a couple of winks in the weeds, the sun came up and our hero was able to make it to the parking lot, find his car and prepare to travel safely home.
Returning to the almost always adversarial dynamic between sales and talent at most stations I am reminded of an incident that occurred during my time in Tampa. Most station managers come from the sales department and have a built-in animosity toward anybody on the air. Shortly after I started hosting the morning show at WDAE in 1975 a memo was issued by the general manager that stated: "All disc jockeys are full-time employees and as such will put in an eight hour day at the station…blah blah blah." This memo was followed, less than a week later, by another which said: "All disc jockeys should leave the premises within one half-hour of the completion of their show…blah blah blah." Apparently this stooge had received so much grief about guys harassing secretaries, messing with the sales department, insulting clients, practicing their golf game in the hallways and just plain wrecking havoc throughout the station that he knew it was time to cut his losses. The four hour workday lived on! The bar around the corner was very appreciative. Their business had taken quite a hit because of his misguided philosophy.
I have more, but think I'll save them for the book. Some folks are going to have to die first.