by AK - August 23, 2013
Friday Midday Bedtime Story: Giving Neil a Helping Hand
I’d be a real “jerk” if I claimed to know everything about this story; I can only give you my recollections, and I certainly don’t know everything and therefore, is not my finest story. So take it for what it’s worth…
As I’ve mentioned previously, very early on in my time there, one of my jobs was to run the board overnights from 11pm until 5am when the news started with Henry Barrow. The main purpose and requirement of this position in to stay awake. Every 20 minutes you press a button to start the cart sequence of 5 or so commercials, promos and a rejoin as soon as Larry King says “..on the Mutual Radio Network”, slide down the “pot” (which is a slider knob) to the muted position, slide it back up when the commercial break is done, and load up your next block of carts into the rack. It’s REALLLLLLLLY boring, and there are only 2 reasons the board-ops would stay awake; an opportunity to find a Larry King gem to cart up for Neil, and attempting to seamlessly play drops of Larry at inappropriate times. “Charlston, hello!” - “Larry, today is my birthday” - “Uh-huh”
At 4am the news peeps start coming in to prepare the news for the 5am hour and for the rest of the newscasts throughout the day. They’re reading the papers, scouring the wires, carting up clips our reporters are covering, carting up weather forecasts, etc. It’s a welcome break to the monotony of the overnight, and it means it’s time to turn up the lights in the control room from the darkness you’ve had it in while you keep one eye on the lights of the board and one ear on the audio monitor while the other ear and eye watch “Police Academy 38” on the cable tv.
So one morning at around 4:30am, Henry Barrow walks in and says “Didja hear?”
“Neil got arrested”
“He DID? For WHAT?”
“Masturbating in public”
I laugh. “WHUT??? No WAY. When? Where?”
“Last night. At some triple x theater in Miami Beach”
“O please. You’re kidding. Neil? In a porno theater?”
“And it’s our lead story this morning”
“I talked to Boy Gary and Chuck. It’s huge news, and we can’t avoid it or we look like we’re playing favorites because he’s on our station. It’s a credibility issue.”
Damn that Henry Barrow. He’s a REAL goddam newsman. And he’s “absolutely correct, sir”
So now it’s a 3 ring circus in the building. Once Henry blurts that out at the 5am newscast, the phone start ringing from people either calling to laugh at Neil because they hate him because he once ripped them for being a douchebag, or people looking for more information about the story. And I know as much as they do from hearing Henry tell the story. The hotline rings and it’s Boy Gary. “Neil won’t be in today”. Duh.. Okay.
“I assumed” I said.
“Jorge knows he’s playing tapes”
So I finish the shift, and drive home and listen the whole way to Uncle Mike Reineri the way I always do..he’s so folksy and grandpa-ish that it’s nice to hear him ooga-booga all the way home. And today he’s no different, same show, same pace… is there a chuckle in his voice today? I might be imaging it, but it feels like he’s got that same “C’mon… No way.. Not Neil…” attitude everyone else seems to be expressing. I get home, run in (the house is dark; I’m still living with mom and dad at the time… you can’t get your own place at $4.25 and hour for 29 hours max per week) and crawl into bed with the radio on.. Hearing Henry and Mike and Sonny Hirsch and Roger occasionally mentioning that Neil was out today… but tomorrow’s show was going to be a barn burner for sure, and people had better get their tape recorders “handy” if I can say that..…and I listen until I fall asleep. When I wake up, the radio is on, and Rick and Suds are doing their normal show, and taking calls from people, some of whom are talking about Neil, or doing their PeeWee Herman impressions, and making light of the story.
The next day, I’m not scheduled to work until 11pm, but I’m too wound up about the day, and Neil, and this whole story. So I go to the office and get there at like 9:30am.. I HAVE GOT TO BE HERE FOR THIS. There aint NO WAY I’m missing it. WIOD those days was like a high school.. You had the popular kids (Neil, Rick and Suds), the moderately popular kids (Jorge, Marvin) the hanger-onners (board ops and promotions coordinators), the bullies (Hank) the nerds/geeks (Sales Department) the Principal and Assistant Principals (Managers, Program Directors) etc. So when the Home”cumming” King gets busted for whacking it in a porno theater, everyone wants to look at him, talk to him, even if it means going to his shop class while you skip math class. But I digress…
So Neil “comes” in, with that big, fake, forced grin on his face. Not fake like he’s being fake nice, but fake like he’s letting you know he’s 100% forcing a smile sarcastically so you know how he feels and lets you in on it. And he addresses me that same way he often did, sing singing “How’s it GOIN’ Aaaaaahhh-dam?”
“Me? How’s it GOIN Neeeeeiiiiiil? You tell me” I reply. It’s just him and me in the talk studio; Reineri does his show in the control room, and Roger has already gathered up his stuff to get out of the studio.
“It’s a bunch of crap” he says. “Can’t talk a lot about it, but it’s not true, and it’ll get thrown out.”
“Yeah? Sounds like a bunch of BS.” I say, sucking around “hard”.
I go into the control room and sit across from Jorge, who’s doing his normal show stuff. He looks up from the telephone screen in his lap, raises one eyebrow, and says “This should be interesting”
The show starts and Neil launches right into the “Freedom’s Dead” song. He talks very matter-of-factly about what the news reported, and declines to be able to give much more details other than to say he’s not guilty of what they accused him of, and spends the rest of the day taking calls from listeners either supporting him or making feeble attempts to make jokes at his expense (fools… don’t they know who they’re talking to? It’s NEIL for crying out loud). Lots of “pigs” calls, and “fascists” calls, people giving spy reports about where cops are, and Neil doing what Neil did best. “Milking” the most out of the story of the day… it made absolutely no matter that the story of the day was him
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