Hurricane Andrew Part 3
by AK - July 31, 2013
Part 1 - Part 2
Friday Midday Bedtime Story: HURRICANE ANDREW (part 3. After the storm, and the Bryan Norcross myth)
In the day that followed, with the return of Neil, Rick and Suds and Hank, things remained steadily focused. Now it was on recovery. We’d set up a hurricane hotline (now every TV station does it the first sign of a cloud coming off the African coast) to take calls from people to get information like where ice, and water was being trucked in or had run out, or that they needed help, where gas stations or food markets were open or closed or to report looting or price gouging. And everyone on staff who wasn’t on air pitched in. Even Bob Soper’s wife Susan came in every day to answer phones. They’d get information and make the appropriate calls to whomever should have that information, like FPL, or the police or whatever. They also kept a growing list they could run in to the folks on the air. So when callers would call in and say “I need baby formula!” the host could ask “Where you at?”, look at the list and a see if they could find somewhere close to them that might be open. The dry erase board that usually only had Camillas House/Center One totals became the board of # people without power list.
By the end of a day or so there would be PILES of note pads in the studio with additions and scratches off as new information about ice and water and open and closed gas stations would come in. And on the air, in addition to having the news team come in frequently to talk about new information, a mix of callers pleading for help or tailing about the destruction we were all about to really learn about.
For most, before the power started to trickle back on for them, they’d only really heard about what was happening by the descriptions we were hearing from callers and our reporters on air. “It’s gone. The whole neighborhood is gone. It looks like a pile of matchsticks” our reporter said about Countrywalk in South Dade. It was still hard to even imagine. And when the tv stations started to come back on for people either because the TV stations got their shit together or because power started to return, it became painful obvious that the scope and scale of Andrew was devastation. We all remember seeing those first few pictures; entire neighborhoods wiped off the map.
After that, as far as work for me was concerned, I was back to doing overnight shifts as Marvin and Jorge and Roger and Manny went back to producing the shows of Rick and Suds, and Neil and Mike Reineri and Hank, albeit their shows were nothing like the pre-storm ones. The fun and games were gone. It’s hard to wanna play “Trouser Trout” or plan a PayPhone challenge when the Army National Guard is building a tent city, and people are swarming trucks of water and fighting over bags of ice like we were in some 3rd world country.
The Promotions Department, of which I was still a part of, started doing battery and water drives. So I spent my days listening to the shows like a listener would, all day, non stop, driving the van and rolling radio store all over Broward and North Dade to collect batteries and water. Every day, 4 different locations, for 3 hours each.
Little by little as weeks went by and things started getting back to normal, and the mood got a little lighter, and the callers started feeling a little better, the shows about where and when ice and water and food and power and all that started to, a very little at a time, be interspersed with a little humor… mostly by the callers. You could feel it that people started to want to have a little something to take their minds off the fact that things were bad and they realized it would be decided before they were back the way they were pre-Andrew. And since the TV stations were just non-stop, around 3 weeks after the storm, we stopped doing non-stop hurricane reporting, and started to s-l-o-w-l-y get back to normalcy a little at a time. That’s about the time when Hank told Boy Gary to go do something to himself that even a Cirque de Solei performer cant do. I wasn’t there, so I only know what I’d heard though the grapevine. Hank was still doing hurricane stuff like the rest of the shows, but because his was primarily an interview show, he did interviews with newsmakers and columnists and such… Hank wanted to totally drop and hurricane stuff and do his show about the Dolphins or something. Gary wanted him to continue talking storm recovery (local and state officials on recovery, yadda yadda), and Hank was like “everyone is tired of this crap”.
“Do it. The audience needs to be reassured and talk about this”
“No. They wanna have sports”
“I strongly request that you continue to inform your audience about the challenges the community is facing in this difficult time.”
“And I strongly request you go have sexual relations with your own ear”
“No. You’re fired”
Ok, so maybe it didn’t go down exactly like that.. But that’s the gist of it as far as I know. And thus, not long after that, we were blessed with Randi.
About 4 weeks after the storm we loaded up all the vans and the station made a trip to tent city to deliver all the water and batteries and blankets and clothes and things we’d had donated. On the way down the turnpike towards our destination, you could see the damage get worse and worse. The piles of debris get higher and higher as we passed neighborhood after neighborhood of blown out homes. I think I’ve cried maybe 3 times in my adult life. One was the death of my dog. One was during the end of the movie “Mystery Alaska”. And the other was the day we went to tent city in Homestead. People who a month before had been middle-class families of 4 going to nice schools and parks on the weekends and living a normal American life were now in used clothes living in army tents. It was like a scene from Mad Max; rutted hard earth, dirty tattered children running and chasing each other between the tents. Mothers trying to keep it together. Fathers sitting on folding chairs, heads in hand. And in nearly every tent, in nearly every army vehicle, WIOD was playing. …
Now here’s where I talk about the manufacturing of the Bryan Norcross myth.
When people lost their power, back in 1992, 99% of the people around here didn’t have generators. So unless you had a portable unit, you didn’t have tv. And when the TV station Bryan was on went off the air, you couldn’t see him anymore. AT. ALL.
And when the Florida public is faced with a Cat 4 bearing down on them in the dead of night, I’m 100% goddam sure they ain’t tuning in to their favorite pop music station, Y100.
So when roofs were blowing off houses, and people were stumbling out of the shadows the next day and for days afterward, NOBODY WAS WATCHING GODDAM BRYAN NORCROSS, okay? It’s. A. FACT.
Lemme also point out that Bryan’s performance on Y100 was a laughable joke. It’s not like he suddenly became a radio guy. He just kept doing his normal TV broadcast, being simulcast on a radio station. So here’s Bryan, pointing to maps, showing where the red part of the storm hit, talking about the footage he’s watching, showing graphics on the screen.. For PEOPLE LISTENING TO THE GODDAM RADIO!
And despite the storm not happening until the end of August, WIOD was the top AM station, and came in THIRD place behind only WEDR (hippity hoppity rap music) and WLYF (doctors office music).. in the category of 12+ (everyone older than 12 listening to the radio).. And back in those days, Arbitron measured based on people mailing in a survey. Who after Andrew, in Dade County, the LARGER of the two “South Florida” counties, bothered with their surveys???? NO-BODY. So where did Bryan Norcross’s’s’s appearance on Y100 land them? 12th place.
So what happened? NBC Network National had Bryan on the days leading up to and following once they got back on the air. And then they made a TV movie about how Bryan Norcross single handedly saved the lives of everyone in South Florida, even though nobody saw it. Pure marketing. That’s how.
And how are Chuck Meyers and Bob Soper and Henry Barrow and Elaine Ettore and Katherine Lister and Andrew Kalb and Beth Adams and Robert Pankau and Jennifer Rehm and Halcyon Salazar and Steve Zeigler and Manny Munoz and Marvin Rawman and Alex Rodriguez and Gary Bruce and Neil, Rick, Suds, Hank, Mike and me remembered?
Nowhere on the books or on tv… only in the memories of the people who lived thru it, like us, and truly know better.
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